Activities of the School of Tibetan Medicine in USA

Interview with Katya Schmookler, SSI STM Administrative Manager

The Mirror: Katya, can you tell us about the history of the American branch of the School of Tibetan Medicine?

Katya Schmookler: Shang Shung Institute of America was founded by our teacher, Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, with the help of his students, in 1996.

In 2005, Dr. Phuntsog Wangmo was invited by Rinpoche to teach Tibetan Medicine and became the director of the SSI School of Tibetan Medicine, with the first school located in Conway, Massachusetts.

Dr. Phuntsog Wangmo

Since that time, Dr. Phuntsog has been playing a key role in developing our school and its programs. She was the one who organized and instructed our four-year Tibetan Medicine program, the first full-length Traditional Tibetan Medicine training offered in the West. We are infinitely grateful to her for her wisdom, compassion, and dedication to the School and helping people all over the world to learn about and study traditional Tibetan Medicine.

M: Who are the people on the current team of the School?

K: Along with Dr. Phuntsog, there are currently three SSI School of Tibetan Medicine alumni and collaborators who comprise the Board of Directors – Matthew Schmookler, Adam Okerblom, and Yeshe Tsomo. They make strategic decisions and work together to ensure that the School is functioning well to fulfill its mission – sharing and preserving authentic knowledge of Tibetan healing arts for the benefit of all beings.

We also have an Administrative Manager (myself) who is working on day-to-day operations, administrative and marketing tasks, and Shang Shung Bookstore Manager in the US, Helena Bankovic.

Will Shea has been collaborating with the School for many years and is still kindly offering his time and support to help as a financial consultant.

Over the years, we have also worked with guest teachers from Tibet and the School of Tibetan Medicine alumni including Leela Parker, Yeshe Tsomo, Matthew Schmookler, Anasuya Weil, Adam Okerblom, and others.

M: Do you have a center or do you carry all your activities virtually?

K: Since 2020, we transitioned into carrying out most of our activities online, including our main 4-year Tibetan Medicine program. At that time, we also started offering free online webinars with special guests and short 1–2-day online workshops which was our way to stay connected during the lockdown period and offer support to people all over the world.

We still have a physical center of the Tibetan Medicine School in Conway, Massachusetts – the Schoolhouse where Dr. Phuntsog Wangmo lives when she is in the US and where current students of the 4-year Program come once a year for intensives.

M: What are the main activities of the School? 

K: Right now, our main activities include a 4-year Tibetan Medicine Program (we have two colleagues who are in the middle and at the end of their studies) and online weekend workshops on various topics.

The 4-year program covers the entire body of the four classical texts of Tibetan Medicine, known as the Gyud Zhi (“Four Tantras”) and is directly modeled on the formal training curricula of traditional Tibetan Medicine schools in Tibet and India. Even though we paused new enrollment for this program in the US to implement new and exciting changes, we are still planning to offer the full training in the future.

Rinpoche awarding the School of Tibetan Medicine’ graduates the First Level Tibetan Medicine Teacher diplomas in Dzamling Gar, 2018.

As for the workshops, we often collaborate with our two sister branches in Russia and Tenerife and organize them together so we can offer Russian and Spanish translation and make the workshops available for more people.

We also try to offer free online webinars every few months so more people can learn about Tibetan Medicine and related health and wellness topics.

 M: Can you tell us about recent events at the School?

K: Dr. Phuntsog has just offered the first online workshop on Tibetan Self-Massage in August which went extremely well. Over 110 people learned about various acupressure points and Kunye methods to work with insomnia, pain, indigestion, and many other conditions.

Our next workshop, Balancing the Wind Element for Mental Health, will take place on September 16 and will be held in English with Spanish and Russian translation. We are very happy to have Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Fabio Andrico, and Matthew Schmookler to lead this program.

In general, we are really fortunate to welcome special guests who agree to collaborate with the School and are very happy that we can help more people learn about Tibetan Medicine, Tibetan Buddhism, and healing in general. 

On November 18, we are planning an online program with Garchen Rinpoche and Dr. Phuntsog (topic to be announced).

A very important piece of news is that after a couple of years of pause on accepting new people for the 4-year Tibetan Medicine Program, we are finally opening our doors to new applicants and are excited to start a new program in January.

The first graduates of the School of Tibetan Medicine (2009) during their journey to Tibet.

The new program is called Tibetan Medicine Diet & Lifestyle Counselor and will go for a year and a half rather than four years. This program will cover the first part of the complete Tibetan Medicine training as well as additional studies with Dr. Phuntsog and guest teachers. Upon completion, graduates of the program will be able to put their knowledge into practice as Tibetan Medicine Diet & Lifestyle Counselors and can also choose to continue their studies and complete the second part of the training to become a Tibetan Medicine Doctor.

The program will be held primarily online with one 2-week intensive required onsite in Conway, MA.

We are currently gathering all the information and are planning to open the application process in October. If any of your readers are interested, they can email me at katya@shangshung.org and I will add them to the list to be notified when the application process begins.

We want to thank The Mirror for this opportunity to share the latest news about Shang Shung Institute School of Tibetan Medicine in the US. We are very happy to continue presenting the treasures of Tibetan Medicine and Tibetan culture for the benefit of all beings.

Here are some ways to get in touch with us and stay up to date with our programs:

Our website: 
https://mass.tibetanmedicineschool.org/

Our online learning community:
https://community.tibetanmedicineschool.org/ 

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/ShangShungInstituteofAmerica/

Instagram:
https://instagram.com/tibetanmedicineschool/

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