Pema: OK, so now,
here are the three stages of tonglen.
The first stage is, I'm
going to hit the gong [gong sounds], and just listen to the gong and let
your mind rest [sounds resonates out]. It's called a moment of openness,
traditionally called a flash of absolute bodhichitta-- that sense of
openness. Just listen to this sound of the gong, and sometimes that
really evokes a sense space. [gong sounds, sound resonates out]
Do you see what I mean?
It's just a beginning with a feeling of opening or stillness or not
being caught up. And in the next class, when we have time for questions
and answers, and in your discussion group you can talk about this a
little bit. But, beginning with a sense of not caught up as the
background. So, listening to the gong. So, that's the first stage,
openness. Just a moment, beginning with openness, or stillness, or gap.
Just a flash. Just a moment.
Then, second stage. Breath
in the texture of claustrophobia. The texture of all caught up. Breath
out the texture of relaxation, or spaciousness, or letting go. So,
usually how this is taught (with the eyes open or closed): Breath in, a
sense of heavy, hot, dark. Breath out, a sense of fresh, cool, light.
Breath in the heavy, hot, dark. Breath out, light, cool, refreshing. You
can breath into your heart, with the idea of making the heart very big.
Welcoming it in. Allowing a lot of room for it to come in.
And then you breath out,
radiating it out. Sending it out. Or you can breath in to your whole
being, like breathing in to a big sky. The point is to open, when you
breath in. To welcome it in. To allow room for what usually we push
against. To open. Training the heart muscle, the chitta, to open. That
which is so scared, so frozen, training it to open, when we breath
in--and using our breath to help us.
And breath out. But the
point is, whether you're breathing into the heart, getting bigger and
bigger and bigger, or breathing in to your whole being, there's no place
for it to get stuck. You're just opening. You're not capturing it.
You're not making yourself sick with it. You're making yourself healthy
and loving and compassionate by opening the heart in the very situation
where you usually close down. Or, if you already feel the open heart,
because this is someone on your list, then you nurture that open heart
by breathing in and sending out.
Nurturing. Like cultivating
that which is already here. You water the seed that is already here. Do
you see? And, if you feel there is no seed here, all you feel is panic,
then there is a seed here.
If you open around the
panic, youčll find the tenderness, you'll find the soft spot. Hidden
behind that armor of: I don't want this, this isn't safe, go away, it's
you're fault , it's my fault . You see? The hardness behind there is the
If you breath in, you're
finding the tenderness, finding the soft spot, experiencing it. You may
not feel you do experience it, but you're training. You're training in
the process that will allow you to experience your own heart, your own
tenderness. And to let what is frozen, fixated, and caught. . . to let
it flow again. Let it flow again. Maybe like when you were a little
child. Love and compassion, flowing. So, breathing in the quality of the
claustrophobia, or the I don't want-- the pain. The pain. Dark, heavy,
hot. . . in. Clear, cool, and light. . . out. And you visualize this
however you wish to. In and out. And we'll do that for a little
Then will move on to the
third section, which is doing tonglen for a particular situation, and
expanding that out. Which is to say, do it for someone on your list,
breath in for them, breath out for them. Breathing in for them is
breathing in the pain that they feel; the pain that you feel for them.
Breathing in the pain. Knowing the pain as best you can. You may not
know exactly what theyčre feeling, but you know that you feel their
suffering in you. And you breath in, and you feel that. For them.
And for yourself, too. You
breath in, and you send out-- something specific if you wish to, but
otherwise, just relaxing out. And you also think, There's other people
like this one in the world. The world is filled with people who are
terrified. . . Or a little child that is terrified or hurt, or an animal
that is being beaten, or whatever it is. Someone who is sitting and
lonely. You think, It's not just them, there are many people like this.
So, always, tonglen stays
very specific, but you have a sense of how universal the situation is.
Or, you find the compassion
is blocked, either because you go completely numb, or because resentment
comes in, something seems to interfere with your flow of compassion.
But, not really. Because, you just shift the emphasis, and that becomes
the subject of your tonglen. In which case, you breath in--say the
resentment, or whatever it is, you may not know what to call it-- but
you breath in the feeling of No or the feeling of [pushes away with her
hands], or the feeling of [pulls toward with her hands]. You breath that
in. Opening to it. You see? That's the point. Opening to it. You are
dissolving the barriers. And the method is, opening your heart, opening
You breath in for yourself
and all the other people in your situation, so the realness of your
immediate, personal situation, you never leave that, you respect it,
it's self-compassion, but it's also empathy for everyone else in the
That's the third stage:
something very personal and real, and the universalness of that very
real pain that you feel, for yourself in yourself, or for another being.
So, those are the three stages: