Yoga Practice, Zen

Tonglen Meditation 101

Last week, I introduced Tonglen Meditation in my yoga classes. It’s a Tibetan Buddhist practice that uses the breath in an act of giving and receiving. I talked about the samskaras I had been facing, and in an effort to really understand and feel compassion for my 3-year-old (rather than lashing out at him when he has a tantrum), I turned to Tonglen and my breath to offer love and kindness toward him.

The idea of Tonglen Meditation is to use each inhale to focus on someone or a group of people who are suffering. This someone could even be you.

How to:

Draw in the breath and imagine their pain, sadness, anxiety, anger or suffering of any kind incinerate inside of you, as if you were a furnace. Then, each exhale is sending love, kindness, compassion, understanding and support back out to them. Continue this giving and receiving of breath to transform energy.

Pema Chodron talks about doing this practice not only for your loved ones. You can use Tonglen to send compassion to other parts of the world, like the Syrian refugees who need kindness and generosity the world over right now. You can even use it on your “enemies” – someone who has hurt you or done wrong to you. Their suffering is coming out in harmful ways, and even though you were a victim to their negative behavior, they could use your compassion as well.

pema-chodron-kind-heartSource: Pema Chodron Foundation

I especially like this practice when I’m feeling completely helpless. I see stories in my Twitter and Facebook feeds that need human attention so that others’ suffering doesn’t get buried under the puppies and rainbows of social media. Breathing in this very intentional and expansive way no longer makes me feel helpless because I can do something about it. I may not have hundreds of dollars to give, but I can offer my attention, my breath and my compassion.

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  1. This is great. Thank you so much for this 🙂 I need to make it down for a class sometime – YouTube would be awesome for those of us not cool enough to live near you!

    • my sister in dallas keeps telling me that, but making video is a ton of work and requires a clear space with good lighting (which i don’t have at home). grainy 15 second instagram videos is about as good as it gets. 😉

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