The Zen of Healing


Zen (noun): school of Mahayana Buddhism asserting that enlightenment can come through meditation and intuition rather than faith; China and Japan.

So, how does this pertain to healing in WoW you ask? At it’s base level, meditation is a tool that is used to make the mind and body whole, to realign a persons energy through focus and insight. It is also the realization of an inherent natural wisdom and virtue that fills us all. The most basic function of a healer in WoW is to mend the raid and make the raid unit whole again. Is this far out there? Probably but bear with me a bit. We heal our raid through focus and intuition. We predict incoming damage and set heals and preventative measures accordingly. We trust our intuition, and apply logic to make our healing target decisions rather then trust blindly that our heals will find their mark. We do so through intimate knowledge of our classes and the raiders around us. It’s like hitting the “zone” that athletes talk about. You become centered, super focused and just make amazing saves and pull out all the stops without even realizing you are doing it.

I’m sure you’ve done it before. You’ve been in a fight where afterward someone comments “I have no clue how you healed through that!” and you have to stop and think back on it, because you don’t remember doing anything special, you just did it.

I’ve always referred to healing in WoW as a very fluid thing, it is very natural and adaptive in nature.  It’s something that if you are a healer, it just flows from you without much thought. For me the true zen of healing comes out during my guild’s heroic raids. A couple nights ago we were doing General Vezax (working on our second kill on him at the time).  I had assigned three healers on the main tank, a Resto Druid, Holy Pally and Disc Priest. Vent was quiet as dps wait for the call to burn down a vapor and interrupters were waiting for the flame spheres to pop up around Vezax. Early into the fight our Paladin MT healer get’s hit with a shadow crash and then very shortly there after an interrupt is missed due to a lag spike and a Searing Flames goes out. The Paladin dies as a result. Without saying anything I see our second Holy Paladin shift his position and take over tank healing, while the rest of the healers move to fill the healing gap throughout the raid. Later on in the encounter our Vapors wound up in the back of the room, I watched as the healers rotated on their own, without any direction. Healers got their mana back and then relieved the tank healers so they could regen then the tank healers took back over. I watched my healers work as one unit, without any spoken or written words passing between them. That to me was a moment of zen similar to the story of the Flower Sermon. Everyone used logic and intuition to work as one cohesive body and win the fight without a word even having to be spoken.

I’ve had other people tell me about how they get into “the zone”. Some have pre-raid rituals, and yes I mean rituals. I have a friend who before a raid sits down on the floor takes some deep breathes and tries to release any stress he’s gathered during the day before the raid through meditation. I have another friend who drinks a can of coke, eats a bag of Andy Cap Hotfries or hot-wings and then sits down to raid, he compares this to say sacrificing a chicken to the raiding gods. Another of my associates listens to classical music while he’s healing, keeping it just low enough to replace the game music but still hear directions in vent. Me before a raid I listen to some music like  John Williams and the Indiana Jones theme to get myself in adventure hero mode.

So what about you? Have you experienced a moment like we did with Vezax? Do you have a pre-raid ritual to get you into your zone? Have you hit your Zen through healing yet?

That is it for today, until next time. Happy Healing!


17 thoughts on “The Zen of Healing”

  1. I don’t exactly have a pre-raid ritual, but there have been several times where I’ve completely let loose with the direct heals and saved the tank/dps/healer before. Keep in mind that I’m a resto druid here 🙂

    It’s almost a Great Unknown that only a healer can understand. We analyze, adapt, and perform on very short notice. The way that a lot of healers think can be the same or very similar and we’re used to interpreting what other people are going to do, so it comes easily to us.

  2. I don’t have any kind of rituals, but I like to have a completely quiet atmosphere. No music, no TV. Only ventrilo chatter and game sound effects (not even music). I get too easily distracted by TV shows and movies when I’m raiding, and the music ends up distracting me from the RL’s instructions if I really get into a song. So I raid in silence, occasionally tossing my two cents on vent or into the other room with my roommate.

    Beejs last blog post..SPOILER ALERT: Does a Statute of Limitations Exist on Spoilers?

  3. It’s absolutely beautiful when it works so smoothly, isn’t it? You don’t think about it, at least not with the ‘up front’ part of your brain, so it can be hard to remember it when the fight is done.

    Then there’s the flip side of that: the moment where something goes wrong, and you find yourself trailing the damage: ‘Oh crud, tank’s down he’s going the the OT — crud, the OT”s down, who’s he going for n-crud! Where’s my DI button? Too late!’

    I hate when that happens.

    jeffos last blog post..What Do People Do All Day?

  4. I think everyone experienced such things. Especially if you’re a long time healer. I enjoy trying the impossible with tanking friends. Like… Ow 2man Magh example (we failed though). But I enjoy trying the impossible. And those are the moments I feel at best. I know this has been done before, but I asked to solo heal Naxx 10 on one of our alt runs. And that’s something I enjoyed way more then one of the Ulduar 25 fights. It’s something “new”, it went great and I’ve gotten a few compliments about it. I don’t really have a real ritual for going to the raid. I just try to hurry asap after dinner to get back in time for invites! 🙂

    SuicidalPriests last blog post..Ulduar Healing (Part 3)

  5. I seem to notice the Zen Effect more in veteran healers than in the relative newcomers to the wonderful chaos that is raid healing. It makes sense that the more practice one has the more intuitive and flowing the healing will be. Sometimes you can almost feel the ‘click’ physically as everything slides into place just right for a given fight. It’s an amazing feeling.

    Rituals? A fresh pot of coffee for the raid and loading up a favorite dance/club music playlist to listen to.

  6. I think Icedragon said it best:

    “It’s almost a Great Unknown that only a healer can understand. We analyze, adapt, and perform on very short notice. The way that a lot of healers think can be the same or very similar and we’re used to interpreting what other people are going to do, so it comes easily to us.”

    More so than any type of inner Zen, is the ability to quickly react to the situation, based on what the other 4-5 of your counterparts are going to go.

    When it all falls into place…Zen!

    Caness last blog post..Yogg

  7. I don’t really have a ritual, but I think healing has become almost a second nature for me. I just can’t over think things, I just do it. There’s been a few times where our awesome meatshields look at the healing crew and go… “holy shit I’m a live!”

    It’s a nice fuzzy feeling.

  8. I’m a tad odd with my healing preferences.

    Regardless of what raid we are doing, I always have my Death Metal on.

    Healing + Metal = love 🙂

  9. Lodur, you make a lot of great points here about healing and teamwork, but one of my small pet peeves is pop culture presentations/understandings of Zen, so I’d just like to clarify some of the things you reference here and hopefully enlighten you all a bit as to what Zen is (pun intended). Just so you know, I’m a Zen practitioner. I think more pop culture uses of the word are valid, but I’d just like to share with the readers what Zen is like as a spiritual practice since you do reference some important stories/texts. My version of Zen might also elicit some helpful thoughts about healing.

    In the Zen tradition, meditation, or zazen, is simply being present with what is. Sitting in meditation, you focus your attention on your breath and you simply notice whatever appears in your mind or body without judgement. If you’re bored, you notice that. If you’re angry, you notice that. If your legs hurt, you notice that. Then you return your attention to the breath. If you lose yourself in daydreams, you notice that, wake up, and then return to your breath. Meditation is hard. It’s often uncomfortable, and one doesn’t always feel good when it’s over. All this to say that meditation is a far-cry from being in the zone or intuitive during an encounter. I tend to find the focus on being present with what is more when someone is being a complete asshole during a raid or the raid is repeatedly falling apart and sucking on an encounter. I feel the heat of anger arising and I try to just let it be rather than react in anger myself. Of course I don’t always succeed, and frustration sometimes gets the better of me, but that’s the intention.

    Enlightenment experiences are very different from their pop culture reputation as some magical, mystical experience. They’re sometimes called openings, and they can be neither pleasant nor calming, especially at first. Imagine one’s whole sense of self or I collapsing, falling apart, breaking down into emptiness. Sometimes they might feel invigorating, but more often they’re puzzling, and they can feel downright terrifying when you haven’t experienced one before. They’re not really the focus of a Zen practice anyway, meditation is. Being present with oneself, day after day, year after year. It’s about learning how your mind interacts with the world so that in your daily life, you can react not from a limited sense of self, but from a place of true compassion and openness regardless of what is happening.

    I also find that intuition can be a misleading word and concept. Intuition is not something that you magically have, like intelligence or beauty, it’s something that you acquire through much hard work, practice, failure, and mistakes. If you’re playing football or an instrument for the first time, it doesn’t matter how intuitive you might be, you’re going to suck at it. It’s only through months of practice and many boring repetitions that you refine the basic skills of any activity. At first, you have to do small tasks and analyze/overthink everything. It feels downright awkward. Then, gradually, you don’t need to think as much, you find that you know what to do because you’ve practiced the basic skills so many times before.

    I think one of the great points you bring out in your article is that teamwork is also something you practice over time, something that becomes intuitive. If you threw six of the best healers together for the first time and put them before a challenging encounter, they might do okay, but more than likely they will not, and they certainly won’t have a moment of flow like the one you described on Vezax. But, if they had been healing together for a long time and had learned how the other healers react and play, then they’d know how to adjust to support each other under changing circumstances. When that becomes intuitive and doesn’t need to be called out on vent, you have a true healing corps, and that’s something to be treasured. But it’s the endpoint of a long process of practice and failure together, not something that can be magically found at the drop of a hat.

    Rituals are great. There are many psychological studies that show how associating items or rituals with particular activities and mindsets can help the mind recall them later. For example, if you’re studying for a tough exam, it’s a good idea to use a particular pen or water bottle or whatever. Then bring this to the exam and it will actually help you recall the subject matter more easily. But all this is not necessarily the same thing as Zen.

  10. @Briolante thank you for chiming in, I freely admit I do not know anywhere near as much as you do on the topic of zen as I am not a zen practitioner and I am limited by my own small research into the topic. You are correct and my reference to it leans heavily towards the pop culture reference side of things. (hope I didn’t offend)

    I do want to thank you for chiming in with a great comment and with fantastic information regarding the topic. Thank you.

  11. I have totally found the “zone” before. On our first night of 10m Hodir HM, we had our resto sham go ele, so we were healing with 1 Holy Priest, 1 Holy Pally.

    After a few failed attempts, we pulled and within the first minute our paladin died. But DPS was through the roof on the fight, after the collective “oh no!” on vent, RL called out “Just keep going!!” And I suddenly found myself solo healing the whole thing. Frozen Blows were nothing, Tank healing felt simple… and somehow we got the achievement with 9 people alive. 🙂

    I totally felt “in the zone” there, dodging ice, flash freeze, and keeping the whole raid topped off. Definitely one of my proudest moments 😀

    I dont have any rituals myself, I just head in there and pewpew heals. although I do find myself playing better when I have game sounds on, I hate playing without them.

  12. I usually have a 2 liter of dr pepper or root beer, depending on my mood and which one isn’t flat.

    I have on many occasion felt that during the frantic raid healings i’ve done i felt that time drastically slows down. The excitement and adrenaline rush i felt was fun when things end up well and the boss spews loot from every orifice, but its also such a crushing feeling when you’re in that “zone” where your senses are on overdrive your reflexes are super human yet in the end it wasn’t good enough.

  13. I think “the zone” is something you can get with anything you do regularly for a long period of time. I used to work in a kitchen and there were those perfect nights where the pans seem to shift from hand-to-hand so easily and I called back dozens of orders without even a memory lapse and it didn’t seem hard or frantic or anything. Healing is the same way for me – sometimes I can just catch a moment or a fight where the world disappears and it feels so darn natural and easy, even when it’s not…

    There’s a great book by Jonah Lehrer called “How We Decide” which talks about how people who are well-practiced at something (experts, if you will) do much better when they don’t think about what they are doing but let their inner knowledge of their task take over…as other comments have suggested, I think that’s the essence of “the zone”.

    No matter where you catch “the zone”, there’s one universal truth about it I’ve found – you feel like a million bucks afterwards!

    Tazs last blog post..All I Really Need to Know I Learned From My Raid Leaders

  14. my ritual consists of finishing at least one quality beer before log on, then another that i finish during the length of the raid.. it helps me relax and focus at the same time and gets rid of the stress of the day. my guild public info tag says..
    “yes your priest IS drunk!”
    I had switched to shadow for a while and I actually missed “the zone” I was stuck in rotation hell and didn’t find the joy that i get when i am healing.


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