This is the second of three inaugural posts for Sowa, each by one of the co-founders.

I am asked by nearly everyone to whom I tell that I practice Tibetan Medicine “how did I get involved?” Here I’ll answer that question for the many of you that have the same thought.

It began with my interest in the Dzogchen teachings of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu. I was living and working in the North American center of the International Dzogchen Community in Conway, MA when the School of Tibetan Medicine started its first class.The school classroom, the meditation room (for Dzogchen Community practices), my bedroom, a dorm for visitors and the rooms of Dr. Phuntsog Wangmo were all housed in an old yellow schoolhouse.

My room was right next to that of Dr. Phuntsog (or Gan-La, as I and my classmates call her. A term, with an affectionate and respectful connotation, meaning teacher). Gan-La and various of her family members lived together in two small rooms. In traditional Tibetan style they sat and ate all their meals together. I was almost irresistibly drawn to the delicious smells and warmth of this grounding and nourishing tradition.

I was a bit caught in the American style of eating alone, on the run, skipping meals, eating at many varying times of day. I realized that from their rhythm of sitting for 3 meals a day, all together, wafted an enticing air for which I was HUNGRY. Sitting with them fed me on many levels. This was one of my first experiences of healing from the wisdom of Tibet and the great healer Dr. Phuntsog Wangmo. I believe my collaboration on this project of Sowa largely began here.

I also met Matthew at that time when he came for the Tibetan Medicine program. One of the first experiences I remember with him was walking through the yellow school building with a burning container of cedar and saying some mantras, a traditional Tibetan (and other indigenous cultures) method for clearing and bringing positive energy into a space. That was in 2005.

It was not until 2008 that I began my studies of Tibetan Medicine. I spent a few months wondering if I would study the medicine. Upon continually looking inside and contemplating the idea, my question transformed from “Should I study this medicine?” to “Wow! I really have the opportunity to study this medicine?!”. I was in.

November of 2014, six years after I embarked on my studies, I accompanied Gan-La to Russia for continued clinical internship. Again my decision to embark on this journey came from a “YES!” from looking within. Matthew was also in Russia with his wife, Katya Schmookler and their new baby. Gan-La, Matthew and I met to work on some Tibetan Medicine related projects and for some advanced external therapy teaching sessions. Directly after this I lived with Matthew and his family in Tenerife, Spain. We set up a temporary Tibetan Medicine clinic in Dzamling Gar which is the International center for the Dzogchen Community and helped to organize and speak at a Tibetan Medicine Conference there.

Through these experiences of collaborating with Matthew and Katya – and in other contexts Adam – a “medicine connection” was formed.
In what I feel to be a shared spirit of deep love for our teacher, Dr. Phuntsog Wangmo, and the desire to share the treasure of this precious healing wisdom, Sowa has been born just as love conceives, nourishes growth and then births new life.

Through Sowa my wish is for each of you to feel the enticing warmth of the healing wisdom and nourishment to body, heart and mind that so enticed me and has provided me deep nourishment through many years of study and application of Tibetan Medicine and the lineage of Dr. Phuntsog Wangmo.

Leela Whitcomb-Hewitt
Tibetan Medicine Practitioner & Vajra Dance Instructor | Sowa
Leela is co-founder of Sowa where her focus is in women’s health with Tibetan Medicine and simple, wild, wise woman ways. As a graduate of Shang Shung Institute, completing internship and exams in the Qinghai Medical College and Hospital in Tibet, she is one of the few certified Traditional Tibetan Medicine practitioners in the US and an authorized instructor of the Vajra Dance. She currently lives in Boulder, Colorado where she enjoys dancing, gathering in circle, continuously studying the body and mind and experiencing this awesome gift of life.

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