TONGLEN MEDITATION - ON HOLD, STAY TUNED FOR UPDATES!
This practice is open to anyone who would like to help support the community during this time of need. Whether you are new to the practice and would like to learn more about Tonglen or are an experienced practitioner, all are welcome here. We will be meeting virtually via zoom every Sunday from 7pm-8pm PST. You can join us via Zoom and if you ever miss a meeting you are welcome to meditate along with any of our archived videos. After the meditation we will have a discussion about our experience during the meditation and reflect on some insights from Tibetan Buddhism. Please click here for schedule and Zoom info.
If you or anyone you know is suffering at this time and wish to be the focus of our meditations, please fill out the form below with as little or as much information about yourself or your loved one as you both are comfortable with. If you are giving the information of a loved one please receive their consent first. While it is okay to privately practice Tonglen on anyone, since we will be in a group setting it is important that the individual wants their information shared. You may stay anonymous if you like, we simply need to know the name or initials of the person you want us to send healing to.
For those who are new to the practice, Tonglen is an ancient Tibetan meditation practice that allows us to take those feelings that we don’t know what to do with and transform them into a greater connection with humanity. Literally translated, Tonglen means “taking and sending.” The basic concept is that we take in the pain and suffering of others and we send out whatever will bring relief. Pema Chodron, a renowned and revered Tibetan Nun, strongly advocates for the use of this practice and teaches that it will even open the door to awakening itself.
The formal practice begins with a “flash of blue sky,” or in Buddhist terms, a “flash of bodhicitta.” We bring to mind feelings of wide-open spaces, blue sky, the vast ocean, anything that expands our perspective and makes us feel open and alive. We do this to center ourselves so that we are able to move to the next step which is to breathe in the pain or discomfort that you are witnessing in yourself. This pain does not need to be anything extraordinary. Our daily aversions will work for this practice just as well as heavier traumas.
We call to mind the situation that we want to ease and visualize it as hot, thick, dark air and experience it as a feeling of claustrophobia, the opposite of our flash of openness. And then on the exhale we send out cool, crisp air, openness, and healing, whatever relief the situation calls for. We can visualize the entire room filling up with blue air which gets more beautiful and bluer as we practice. We synchronize our breathing with the visualization: inhaling pain and suffering as dark, stagnant, thick air, and exhaling relief as healing, crisp blue breath. If you are struggling with these images it's okay, find the imagery that works best for you. The key is finding something that visually connects you to the energies that you are focusing on.
After we have cycled through this process a few times, we can then broaden our range past ourselves to others who might be feeling the same feelings or going through the same experience as us. If it helps, you can start thinking of just one person or a small group of people that you know. Slowly expanding your meditation to focus on all people, all over the world.
For our meditations we will often start on this second step. We will be collecting information from anyone who wishes to be the subject of our meditation. Say for example we might start with a person who has skin cancer. We will focus on breathing in their sickness and breathing out health and healing to their cells. Slowly expanding our focus to anyone else who has skin cancer, then cancer at all, and then finally to anyone who is suffering from sickness at this time in the world.
Tonglen doesn’t have to be a formal practice that we prepare for or limit it to the meditation cushion. In fact, Pema Chodron advocates that we use Tonglen “on the spot,” that is on the street in our daily life. We see a homeless person digging through the trash, we feel the pain of that person and so many others like them, breathe it in, and then send out relief with our exhale. We see a crying child and their parent, we feel the discomfort of both, we breath it in, and exhale peace and tranquility.
The beauty of this practice is that we can do it anywhere and with anything. If you’re struggling and you don’t know how to respond to a situation you can use that feeling of uncertainty to connect with other people who are also experiencing uncertainty and send them the relief that you seek for yourself. Little by little, with each practice, the walls of separation are eroded and replaced with a greater sense of community with everyone we see. It reminds us of our common humanity, that none of us wants to suffer, that we’re all seeking peace and happiness for ourselves and our loved ones.