Tibetan medicine: support in case of cancer

- through Henry Oudin

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Against cancer, research is making giant strides. If Western treatments are always more effective, Tibetan medicine could also provide valuable support. How, and how far?

"At the crossroads of several Ayurvedic, Persian and Chinese influences, Tibetan medicine - or Sowa-Rigpa - developed around the 1th-XNUMXth centuries", recalls Dr. Christophe Massin, psychiatrist, who devoted his medical thesis to it. (XNUMX). "The lamas articulated the founding spiritual texts with the various contributions of these traditions, including the study of the pulse (see box), astrology, plants, minerals or animal substances. From then on, Buddhism and medicine have become inseparable, even in current practice. The caregivers of the body are also those of the mind, logically offering a global approach to suffering and illness, conceived as the result of imbalances of humors (wind, bile, phlegm), as much physiological or energetic as emotional and existential. Everything is connected ! This holistic medicine can meet the expectations of the current Western public in search of meaning and empathy in the therapeutic course, and in the context of cancer. It is also for the monitoring of this pathology that great progress has been made in recent years, allowing patients to harmonize their body and their mind, in connection with the development of complementary care including psychology, sport, homeopathy, dietetics… But what place for Tibetan medicine?

Discreet radiation and caution

If it is not recognized as supportive care, Tibetan medicine attracts caregivers and patients via associations or training institutes, such as that of Sorig Khang France, based in Saint-Raphaël in the Var, founded by Dr Nida Chenagstang . We offer consultations and lessons on dietetics, massage, breathing, moxas (see box), visualization or mantra therapy (2). But in the absence of an official academy in France, it is not easy to identify practitioners.

Doctors have, however, been made aware of this medical and spiritual tradition, and are spreading its spirit in their practice, such as the Dr. Cathy White, general practitioner, homeopath and acupuncturist on the one hand, founder of the association and Ecoé training institute on the other. “Many patients are referred to me by their specialist. Some know my link with Buddhism and oriental medicine, from which I especially retain the meditative practice and the conception of illness in my approach. But I keep my different centers of interest separate while respecting French secularism. The main thing is to avoid all proselytism.

If the practice of Tibetan medicine spreads in this way, it does not encroach on the lands of Western medicine and does not claim to be able to “cure” cancer, for example. The precautionary principle is clearly stated on the site of the center of Dr. Nida Chenagstang: “Under no circumstances will a Sowa-Rigpa practitioner advise you to stop a treatment in progress or to replace conventional medicine. This is indeed a holistic approach for prevention and treatment support. And it's already huge!

Smart ways to help

How then to act on the body and the spirit without pretending to cure? “It's all about adapting to the person affected by cancer, explains Élise Mandine (3), manager of Sorig Khang France. For example, we make little use of massage or other external practices such as moxibustion or cupping, particularly because it is essential to avoid any interference with Western treatment. We work more on stress factors through meditative sitting, breathing and visualization, on metabolism through dietetics, and on the meaning of existence. Inseparable from Tibetan medicine, Buddhist philosophy helps to consider life and death in a different, more peaceful way, by taking a distance, in particular by learning to put one's mind at key moments. The daily life of the person, Buddhist or not, is very often improved, she says. Dr. Cathy Blanc makes the same observation: “Disease offers the opportunity to change and think about what is essential. But you can only lead this reflection alone, by calming your mind. Without teaching meditation, I help patients in this process, by showing them how to breathe better, let go of toxic thoughts… Anyone can do it. »

“Buddhism has the capacity to restore confidence in oneself and in the other, and believes in the resources of the patient, which thus establishes a virtuous circle. » Dr. Cathy White

Practitioners of Buddhism can also recognize themselves in "mantra therapy", associated with meditation, as it is still proposed by Dr. Nida Chenagstang, which is based in particular on sounds considered curative or deities. “But if he gives teachings on the Buddha of medicine and offers the corresponding mantras, this practitioner does not invite anyone to do without surgery or chemotherapy. We leave Western medicine to work, and then we offer the resources of the Tibetan medical and spiritual tradition. More than hope, it brings, perhaps, strength”, recognizes Sofia Stril-Rever, co-founder of the center Jardin de la Paix in the Eure, where Dr. Nida also intervenes (4). She herself was able to benefit from it in the context of a debilitating neurological disease.

More resources used

Developing serenity, listening to oneself and to others, opening up to the world, this is what Tibetan medicine and meditation offer. “This meditative approach is valuable in the context of serious illness. I observe the benefits in patients”, recognizes Dr. Christophe Massin, who adds: “Less stress is necessarily better for the body, which can draw more on its own resources”. Caregivers who practice Tibetan medicine, or simply meditation, generally develop a particularly benevolent and empathetic way of listening to their patients, which helps them through the announcement and follow-up of the disease. "Buddhism has the ability to restore confidence in oneself and in others, and believes in the resources of the patient, which thus establishes a virtuous circle", affirms Dr. Blanc.

However, the doctors do not encourage the people they accompany to become Buddhists, of course. Care and practice are two distinct paths. And, if a pathology like cancer encourages reflection on what one is, on life choices, and sometimes on the discovery of Buddhism, this decision is always personal. Everyone is free to follow their thread

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Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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