didn't work - it's a question about difficulty breathing in tonglen
Pema: Well, this is
obviously a pretty common question. So, really itıs one of the reasons
that I stress doing tonglen on the spot. Because, as I say, somehow on
the spot, you get more of a feeling about what's really going on. That,
really, things are closed down, and breathing in is opening, and sending
out is opening. And, it's as if everything is closing in on you, and you
just take an attitude that you could be here and you could open to
what's happening. So, yes, you can definitely get this feeling of your
throat closing down.
I think it would just be
acknowledging that, and acknowledging that a lot of people find
themselves in that situation. Then you might feel when you breathe out--
they say give equal time to the in and out breath--but it doesn't feel
But, if you think of that
breathing in as opening, and sending out as opening, then maybe you
don't have to get too worried about which is in and which is out.
Except, it's important to keep breathing, and it's important to keep
breathing in and out! Otherwise, you're dead. Right? And, unlike sitting
meditation, you can exaggerate the breaths. Breathing deeply in, and
then, equally deeply, sending out.
I think a lot of that is
helped by being able to acknowledge the panic and open your heart-- make
your whole being open enough, as if you became the sky, and just open to
it. And as somebody said, There's no place, really, for it to get stuck.
Because it's not like a cannon ball that you're breathing in. It's
really a tendency to clutch that you're reversing. It's a tendency to
close down and tighten your belly and tighten your whole being, that
you're almost physically relaxing to it, as you breathe in. And then,
you send that out.
In fact, one of the things
that's very valuable about Linda Jones'
little handbook is she gives many, many different translations of
the slogans from a lot of these different books. She gives her personal
commentary and also from different people, and she said that there are
three or four teachers who actually recommend that you can work for
awhile just with in breath, and then work just with out breath, until
you get the hang of in and out.
I was taught, always, to
synchronize them in and out, but I think, as I always say, you're the
only one who knows what's going on, there's no one else judging your
practice-- it's your practice. So you do what works. As long as
eventually you're getting in the habit of how interconnected the in and
out are-- in terms of. . . they help each other.