As an intellectual tradition that codeveloped with Tibetan Buddhism for over a thousand years, Tibetan medicine has cultivated clinically-focused knowledge around tracking individual differences related to cognitive-affective patterns and their contingent contexts that impact health and illness in body and mind across the life course. In particular, Tibetan medicine places specific attention on the role contemplative practice types play as skillful antidotes to afflictive conditions and habits, as well as consequent health outcomes. This study will employ a Tibetan medical theory-derived assessment of cognitive-affective and physiological constitutions called rangzhin for participants (considered individually unique) and provides a measure for predicted response to three types of contemplative practices: mindfulness, compassion/lovingkindness, and decentering/dereification. Since metabolic characteristics are a defining feature of constitutions in Tibetan medicine, this study integrates gut microbiome assessments of participants as an added biological indicator of rangzhin. This study aims to: (1) assess whether participants’ individualized constitutions predict their differentiated responses to contemplative practice types (e.g., compassion vs. dereification); and (2) assess whether specific biological indicators and cognitive-affective measures correlate to major constitutional categories. Akin to precision medicine, this study aims to inform a nascent “precision contemplative medicine” to support individuals in accessing practices that address their specific needs.

Tawni Tidwell, PhD, TMD

University of Wisconsin-Madison