I’m probably one of the last people to hop on board the Let’s Change The World One Breath At A Time movement, but since the terrible attacks on Paris something has shifted.
There’s this sense of powerlessness mixed with fear and anxiety taking hold of many, myself included. So it’s not by coincidence that every yoga class I attended this past week included Tonglen meditation, a Buddhist practice of loving kindness.
Different than the Metta meditation, the one where you offer up words of love and kindness to everyone (May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be at ease.) Tonglen is the practice of breathing in the suffering or pain of another then breathing out compassion. It’s a give and receive practice working to spread empathy.
It can be heavy — taking in the suffering of another is no small feat. And if you’re not thorough in the letting go part — releasing the suffering — you can end up carrying that pain around with you all day.
Here’s how to practice Tonglen meditation:
Find a comfortable seat. Preferably with a straight back.
Set the timer for 10 minutes.
Relax your hands in your lap.
Close your eyes.
Inhale deeply through the belly and exhale fully through the nose.
Do this a few more times to clear out your mind, and settle into your body.
Then think of someone or a group of people you may or may not know firsthand that have been dealing with a difficult time.
Breathe in their suffering. Breathe out compassion for them and their situation.
Do this until the timer goes off.
When the time is up, take a deep inhale from the belly — breathing in spaciousness. Exhale fully from the nose, releasing generosity and love.
Do this a few more times.
Open your eyes.
While this may not be a solution for the hatred that exists in the world today, it is a small, totally do-able way to help spread peace.
So there actually is something you can do.
Watch Pema Chodron explain the practice here.
Or buy her book When Everything Falls Apart here.
What is your experience with Tonglen meditation or any Buddhist meditation?