In order to have compassion for others, we must first have compassion for ourselves.
The Practice of Tonglen
The Tonglen Practices
Generally on Saturdays I stay off the computer. It is a much needed respite from all the information that comes my way via the internet. This Saturday I woke at 4:45 AM and began my morning meditation. The day before I had gotten myself into a tizzy trying to think of ways to shore up my household in the face of an impending economic collapse. So I was ready to sit down, get very quiet and find a balance again.
So I opened up The Meditation Bible and ran across the powerful practice of Tonglen, " . . . a method for overcoming fear of suffering and for dissolving the tightness of our heart". When I first read how to do it, I thought to myself, "This is crazy" but I decided to do it anyway. And it was indeed powerful.
Basically what you do is breathe in fear, suffering, pain. Breathe it into your heart. Then you visualize it dissipating in there. Then you breathe it out. I did this for about ten minutes and when I finished, I felt so incredibly light. It's so counter intuitive, I know, but it was amazing. After I did that, I chanted for about 20 minutes and all the negativity I was feeling, worry, stress was completely gone. I felt like I was glowing. After that I practiced my yoga and I'm still feeling light as I write this.
This morning I did Tonglen for Others. Equally powerful.
Sometimes my spiritual practice tends to feel forced as I search for my personal path. Since I left Christianity, into which I was born and bred, I've been a little unsure. And since having children, I feel like it's even more important to "figure it out" because I'd like to give them a secure spiritual footing, a way to navigate this world, a connection. I know I get closer every day and I remind myself that we cannot know everything while in the flesh. It was good to find that the discovery of Tonglen came quite naturally and the practice feels . . . easy. Not forced. Kind of like yoga for me.
"We begin to feel love both for ourselves and others and also we being to take care of ourselves and others. It awakens our compassion and it also introduces us to a far larger view of reality. It introduces us to the unlimited spaciousness that Buddhists call shunyata. By doing the practice, we begin to connect with the open dimension of our being. At first we experience this as things not being such a big deal or so solid as they seemed before. "
Tonglen is about connectedness and compassion. Realizing that what you're dealing with, others are dealing with too. For me, it's one way that I'm successfully coping with and navigating these uncertain times.