Shaking & Dancing in Dharamsala


A Group of Tibetan Refugees Find their Inner Guides

November/December 2013


The skinny streets of Dharam­sala in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, where the Dalai Lama lives with his Tibetan government in exile, are carved along a steep mountain slope. Crowded with people and animals and clogged with sputtering vehicles, the streets rise and dive between thatched stalls of vendors selling scarves and beads, curry and tea. Across a deep valley, peaks green and brown in the summer march toward the horizon. The bright colors of this daytime scene, however, are shadowed by the dark terrors of flight that haunt the refugee Tibetans.

Recently, I was invited to Dharamsala by the Men Tsee Khang Institute, a school of traditional Tibetan medicine sponsored by the Dalai Lama, to give a talk on the scientific basis of the mind–body connection and the techniques of self-care and mutual help that my colleagues and I at The Center for Mind-Body Medicine are using with war- and disaster-traumatized populations. In my talk, I described the ingredients of our approach: several forms of meditation; biofeedback; guided imagery; self-expression in words, drawings, and movement; and small-group support. I presented evidence that shows people who participate in 10 weekly mind–body skill groups reduce their level of post-traumatic stress disorder by as much as 80 to 90 percent. I emphasized to the audience—250 Tibetan doctors, Buddhist monks, and academics—that I believe anyone can learn and use our approach, and explained that our work—in Kosovo, Israel,…

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