Sunday, October 14, 2007

Tonglen Meditation for difficult times and painful situations

The rot from which comes nourishment for the soil so that in the spring new grass, leaves and fruit will grow.
The beauty that comes from the dying of the leaves.

Once the river that is me flowed into studying, meditating and hanging out with some Tibetan Buddhist practitioners. Before she was a name Ane (auntie) Pema Chodron came to our small group to teach. Tonglen is one of the meditation practices she taught us. Now she teaches the world. (Click on bio for Pema's bio and teachings/tonglen for tonglen instructions.)

There are other teachers of this meditation. The Dali Lama for one. Simplified instructions follow. This is my interpretation and I am not a certified meditation teacher.

When you know of someone who is suffering, think of this person, envision them. Breathe in their pain, sorrow, suffering. Then, breathe out comfort for them. Whatever you think will give them relief. Could even be a warm cuppa tea and fluffy slippers. Whatever.

If you have a hard time doing this (why should I breathe in THEIR suffering, I have enough suffering of my own or whatever) then stop. Breathe in your own pain and sorrow at not being able to breathe in another's pain. Then breathe out comfort for yourself.

You can do this anywhere, on the spot as Pema says. You are in the grocery store. A small child is crying, the mom is trying to check out, it's a messy sad sight. Breathe in the child's distress and the mom's irritation. Breathe out comfort for them both.

I think it is an interesting reversal of the usual idea of breathing in light. The Buddhists say, use poison as medicine. Kinda a homeopathic perspective. Also alchemical. Lead into gold. Dark into light. Namaste (a yogic word meaning I honor the sacred in you.)


Elizabeth said...

Thank you Suki for posting this - such a magnificent idea and extremely helpful for me right now, something practical and positive I can do to help those in my immediate contact family who are suffering right now.

Thank you, and blessings to you.

(I like your version, nice and simple and immediate, but shall go and follow the link too)

sukipoet said...

I do view this meditation as practical, though some folks think meditating is the opposite I guess. I think we do a world of good to meditate and this particular meditation makes ME feel good in that at least I am doing something even if the other does not know what I do in a visible way.

Lynn said...

It's a healing prayer/meditation...I think one needs to realize they are not becoming or taking on the other's pain, just removing it from them. If the idea bothers I imagine one could imagine breathing it in to them selves and then out into some receptical of some sort. The idea as I understand it is to remove it from the sufferer. I like it.

ANDREA said...

Suki, thank you for this post, and the explanation of how to do this meditation to help other people. It makes me stop in my tracks and think about others instead of worrying about myself!
Thanks for this post, I love the way you write. Your words are detached and still full of love.

sukipoet said...

I was hesitant to do this post as it is a delicate subject. Thanks for your words about it.