Practice of Tonglen

Tonglen Instructions

Three Stages of Tonglen

On the Spot Tonglen Practice




Pema Bio

Gampo Abbey









On the Spot Tonglen Practice


Question: [mic didn't work - it's a question about difficulty breathing in tonglen practice]

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 so real.

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.