When you do tonglen "on the
spot," simply breathe in and breathe out, taking in pain and sending out
spaciousness and relief.
When you do tonglen as a
formal meditation practice it has four stages.
- First rest your mind
briefly, for a second or two, in a state of openness or stillness.
This stage is traditionally called "flashing on Absolute bodhicitta"
or suddenly opening to basic spaciousness and clarity.
- Second, work with
texture. You breathe in a feeling of hot, dark and heavy– a sense of
claustrophobia, and you breathe out afeeling of cool, bright and
light– a sense of freshness. You breathe in completely through all the
pores of your body and you breathe out, radiate out, completely
through all the pores of your body. You do this until it feels
synchronized with your in and outbreath.
- Third, you work with
your personal situation– any painful situation which is real to you.
Traditionally you begin by doing tonglen for someone you care about
and wish to help. However, as I described, if you are stuck, do the
practice for the pain you are feeling and simultaneously for all those
just like you who feel that kind of suffering. For instance if you are
feeling inadequate– you breathe that in for yourself and all the
others in the same boat– and you send out confidence or relief in any
form you wish.
- Finally make the taking
in and ending out larger. If you are doing tonglen for someone you
love, extend it out to everyone who is in the same situation. If you
are doing tonglen for someone you see on television or on the street,
do it for all the others who are in the same boat– make it larger than
just one person. If you are doing tonglen for all those who are
feeling the anger or fear that you are caught with, maybe that is big
enough. But you could go further in all these cases. You could do
tonglen for people you consider to be your enemies– those that hurt
you or hurt others. Do tonglen for them, thinking of them as having
the same confusion and stuckness as your friend or yourself. Breathe
in their pain and send them relief.
This is to say that tonglen
can extend indefinitely.
As you do the practice,
gradually over time, your compassion naturally expands and so does your
realization that things are not as solid as you thought.As you do this practice, gradually
at your own pace, you will be surprised to find yourself more and more
able to be there for others even in what used to seem like impossible