I will be attending a session, talk, transmission, or whatever you want to call it, by my Tibetan teacher this weekend. It is on the preliminary practice of Tibetan Buddhism according to the Nyigma Dudjom Tersar Ngondro practice, and more specifically, guru yoga.
I know he is going to give a transmission of the section. This is an authorization to do the practice. It is a tenant of Tibetan Buddhism that you cannot really effectively do this particular practice unless you have a transmission or an empowerment by the teacher. Part of the reason is that Tibetan Buddhists do not believe the mind is located in the brain. The mind is limitless, without beginning or end. Therefore, there is no separation (in ultimate reality) between the mind of the student and that of the teacher. The teacher's realization becomes the student's realization, if all conditions are right (there are a few- too much detail to go into here). The ideas behind it are pretty esoteric.
This practice is lengthy. It takes about 40 minutes to complete the whole Ngondro, and then however much time you want to do the extra practice of the particular section of the guru yoga. And ideally, this is daily. 100,000 repetitions. This does not leave much time for other activities if you work full time.
I have never had anything resembling a spiritual practice in my life. I did not even have one as a Christian - I always thought most prayer was useless, and being forced to go to church isn't in the same category. Its called practice and that is what it resembles. Its most like practicing a musical instrument every day, or a martial art - practicing forms. I think it is a form of mind training. After so many repetitions it must go in very deeply, and then it is easily called up when negative thoughts arise.
I read something pertinent to this question by the great Advaita Vedanta master, Nisargadatta Maharaj. A western person was asking him how chanting a mantra and doing practices in a foreign language could possibly be of benefit to a western person who has no cultural background to reinforce it. Maharaj said it really didn't matter what type of practice one does, it is the intention behind it. I am not sure, but I think I posted it in the Spirituality forum fairly recently. For anyone on Facebook who knows me there, I also put it on my page. It was extremely helpful.
My purpose in posting this to say where I am at in my particular journey, not in order to promote Tibetan Buddhism. I have gone through a lot of inner struggle over the last 8 years with getting into another religion and it has not been easy. My other blog entries probably convey some of that. Now, at least for the moment, I see it as beneficial and positive for myself.