Zapchen is a collection of simple and often playful breath, sound and movement techniques, aimed at helping you feel “as good as you can in spite of everything.”
Zapchen is rooted in a fertile mix of Tibetan Buddhist and Western somatic psychology, and was developed over many decades by Julie Henderson, an American who is also a Tibetan Buddhist lama.
The title of Julie’s (self-published) book says a lot: Embodying Well-Being: How to Feel as Good as You Can In Spite of Everything. The book is available for sale through Blue Heron Wellness (in person only, no online sales).
What does the word mean?
The Tibetan word zapchen has a whole range of meanings: from the funny and mischievous energy of lively children, to the sometimes unpredictable behavior of very wise and compassionate Teachers, to a depth of growth and change we can only begin to imagine.
Why the photo of the blue-footed boobies?
Many zapchen exercises are quite playful. I chose these two birds to represent zapchen because they are actively moving--and absurd. Even the expressions on their faces seem to poke gentle fun at our tendencies to take ourselves a little too seriously.
A Sample Zapchen Exercise: Horse Lips
Take a deep, easy breath, then blow it out somewhat slowly through loose but semi-pursed lips, making a sound just like a horse. Written out phonetically this sound would probably look like: bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb!
It’s a sound many of us make spontaneously at times, when we’re frustrated or tense. And that’s the point. This silly little exercise can help if you are feeling like “I just can’t!” Or your mouth is all tensed up, or possibly even a little pouty.
Don’t worry if you can’t do it right away—sometimes it takes several tries, even if you’ve been practicing for a while. This is all about loosening up and letting go of tension, so try doing it playfully.
If you find yourself making “raspberries” you need to loosen up your lips. If all you can do is laugh, well—that’s not a bad thing, is it?
Do it for several seconds at a time, though you can experiment with short snorts as well—they can also be fun.
Do it just a few times, then pause…and rest. This is perhaps the most important zapchen concept of all—taking a rest after doing an exercise. This allows body and soul to assimilate the new information and, hopefully, the new state of ease. Taking a rest after learning something new is almost always a good idea. Take a nap if you can.
As with all zapchen techniques, there is no need to make yourself do it! Relax, have fun, let it be something that brings ease, not tension. And if you don’t want to do it, don’t! Never force yourself to do any of the zapchen exercises. In fact, "Moaning and Groaning" is one of the exercises. And a "No!" response is always welcome in my practice.