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?
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Thanks Elysha, it is definitely practical and do-able. Here is another idea in case your are interested:
Wonderful. Am definitely down for this, having done some similar things of my own, like dancing on the marsh or in the studio with healing intentions for people. Thank you so much for sharing, Elysha. xxo
This is a really powerful practice…I’d done it a few times years ago, but had forgotten about it till now. Thanks for sharing it here. It reminds me that my suffering isn’t separate from the suffering of others, no matter how different the situations appear on the outside. My pain is your pain in the eyes of oneness. xoxo Aleya
Isn’t it amazing how helping others is actually really helpful for ourselves? “My pain is your pain in the eyes of oneness,” beautiful, Aleya. Thank you! x x
I remember reading about your healing dances, ST — such a beautiful practice. Thank you for being here….I’m so grateful for your support and friendship. A very happy holiday to you and your family. X o X o
Thank you, Terry! Wishing you and your family a happy Thanksgiving!!
Thank you, Elysha. Happy THanksgiving to you and the family as well.
What a contribution that really en-lightens beyond us, both Tonglen and Metta. I have practiced both, yet the way you describe it here renews my way of looking at these practices, as well as distinguishing them. Also, I want to wish you Happy Holidays :):) Xo Ka
“En-lightens beyond us”… such an accurate description of these beautiful practices. Thank you and Happy Holidays to you too, Sweet Ka. x x o o