It’s time to reprise this post on Tonglen meditation.
For healing sorrows. For giving when you don’t know what to give. For now.
Please read. And breathe.
“Tonglen” is Tibetan for sending and taking.
Breathe in suffering — yours, others, the world’s.
Breathe out compassion — for yourself, for others, for the world.
It’s not as easy as it sounds. It may shatter you. But wouldn’t that be grand? To be shattered? To be so immensely open that you’d feel the truth: that you’re really as selfless as Mother Theresa, as loyal as an ecstatic dog at the feet of the world, as powerfully creative as a cosmic super hero?
Breathe in suffering. The worst thing that ever happened to you. That sunk feeling. That thing you wish you could take back. Recapitulate it in breaths. The blackness, the sickness, the fibrous seething rage, the sticky-scratchy, inconsolable weight of it. Take in the unbearable-ness. You may want to escape. Press on. Go beyond the embrace. Inhale the pain in to your every cell. You won’t die. You’re going to expand. Keep breathing in the misery.
You’re on the verge of a miracle.
Now breathe out joy. Soothing golden warmth. Luminous flying birds of clarity. Electric rays of smiling karate chops. Feel your lungs as powerful creative engines of healing and righteousness. Pulsate rapture. Let happiness emerge from the fractures. Let scar tissue become bridges that lead to a festival of relief and dancing. See joy. Feel joy. Hear joy. Sing joy. Breathe love into every cell of the situation.
Now do it for other people’s suffering. Please. For that homeless man on the street, in winter. Cold and demoralized. Inhale his agony. Exhale comfort and transformation. The jobless folks with families to feed. Cancer patients fighting to live. People gone mad. Soldiers who kill and the families they destroy. Take in the wreckage. Turn it into light and give back compassion and tenderness.
When your heart is heavy, when you want to feel alive…
Acknowledge the dark. And take the light into your own hands.
THE PRACTICE OF TONGLEN, Pema Chodron (article)
Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living