Tonglen by Len Buchanan

Tonglen by Len Buchanan

Tonglen is an active practice of loving-kindness; a breathing meditation of sending and taking. Performed by Tibetan Buddhists and other spiritual traditions, Tonglen is a positive, uplifting, constructive, and healing way to care for other people. The heart of this practice is compassion; to breathe in another person’s pain—physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual—and breathe out strength, joy, and peace of mind; whatever gives relief.

Tonglen can be done for people individually—a person who is ill, fearful, in sorrow, or in pain. Or it can be done for people collectively—people in a geographic area that has been struck by a natural disaster such as tornado, earthquake, flood, or famine. Tonglen can be done anywhere, anytime. It can be formal like you see me doing in the photograph, or it can be done while you’re driving, or in bed.

When the Dalai Lama was touring the United States, he recommended the practice of Tonglen. He made it very simple. “Tonglen is giving and taking. As you inhale, take on the suffering of others. As you exhale, give out to them all your gifts, virtues, and positive qualities.” He suggests beginning the practice with equalizing, which means, “To realize that each and every sentient being wants happiness and does not want suffering, just like you.” With that in mind, he imagines that this practice actually reduces suffering in the world, but he says that “Whether this meditation really helps others or not, it gives me peace of mind. Then I can be more effective, and the benefit is immense.”



28 thoughts on “Tonglen

  1. Good Morning Bowing to you!!!

    The last sentence and quote from The Dalai Lama, says it all, “Whether this meditation really helps others or not, it gives me peace of mind. Then I can be more effective, and the benefit is immense.”

    For without our on peace of mind offering peace of mind to someone else is near impossible.

    In AA there is a suggestion to pray for you “enemies” by offering them the peace and abundance that you so wish to have yourself. Wise thought and very creative action.

    I am Love, Jeff

    • Jeff – I enjoyed reading your perspective, “Without our own peace of mind, offering peace of mind to someone else is near impossible.” Thank you.

  2. That sounds like a very beneficial practice, as the Spiritual Man says, whether or not it will help others, it does help him. It makes me think of the Gaia Minute that Siona conducted when we focus on the World’s pain, what I did not understand then becomes clear now.

  3. Laurie,

    This is a way to pray with more of our Be~ing…Thank you for sharing. You always gives us keys to make our world a better place.

    In Love & Appreciation, Jeannie

    • Jeannie – I’m so glad you stopped by this morning and shared that Tonglen is a way to have divine interaction with “more of our BE-ing.” That’s a great perspective. Thank you!

  4. Laurie, I have such admiration (and gratitude) for people who practice Tonglen. For their courage and compassion and willingness to work in this way. It’s very beautiful.
    I’m reading one of Pema Chodron’s books – The Places That Scare You – and very much appreciate your thoughts today.

    • Colleen – Every time one of Pema Chodron’s books is available on Kindle I upload it — immediately. I thoroughly enjoy the message she has to share! I’m so glad you stopped by for a visit this morning, thank you.

  5. Tonglen can be a very valuable practice. Like Colleen, I truly admire people who work in this way. It seems one of our natural tendencies is to push away suffering. We don’t want to hurt. It’s just too painful. This practice gently opens us up to suffering and joy, giving and receiving. One of my practices lately has been complete allowing of all emotions. A lot of sadness and fear has been arising…but also much joy and happiness. I love what you share here on your blog, Laurie.

    • Kathy – I’m glad that you enjoy what I share on my blog. I’ve got to tell you, I just finished reading your post Whisper and I still have delicious goosebumps. I haven’t left a comment yet because I’m going to go back and savor it — several times throughout the day.

      • Thank you so much, Laurie for liking it so much. It seems so important to allow our different voices and thoughts and selves to express themselves. Thanks for mentioning it here.

  6. Good Morning Laurie,
    It is always so nice to see your blogs. I learn so much from you.
    Thank you for sharing and reaching out.
    I will add this practice to my morning meditation, even if it is just for my own peace of mind. I know the Uninverse listens.

    • Jean – When people tell me that they’re learning, growing, or benefiting in some way by reading Speaking from the Heart, it confirms that I’m on the right path. Thank you for stopping by today and letting me know. I sincerely appreciate it.

  7. Ohh I can just see you in the middle of the floor at holessence doing this practice! Thanks for sharing. As for me? I am going to pursue the book, “The Places that Scare you” might be up my alley! I also might be less scare of sitting the middle of a room doing just what you are doing in the picture! I really think my family would send to the nut house, as this is not my usual nature! RISK and Challenge I love it!


    • Kim – Don’t wait for it to come out on Kindle. I suggest that you go to the library and check out “The Places that Scare You.” ALL of her books are wonderful. Pema Chodron is an amazing woman. Here is a LINK to her biography.

  8. So simple and powerful to put this into daily practice. I see perfection and wholeness in all of us from reading here and thank you for this demonstration. Namasté

  9. Laurie I love this photo of you… it is how I imagine you appear often when working with clients.

    The breath work of tonglen is I think instinctual for those we love and are connected with. The practice of equalizing is where we bring this same focus to those we do not understand, know or accept. Your words Laurie reminds me to breathe in the whole universe and breathe out the whole universe… this is not a time to be selective.

    Beautiful and powerful practice.

    • Terrill – I love when you say, “… this is not a time to be selective.” Thank you for sharing that ever-so-important message here.

      A reminder to readers, Terrill has started her new summer schedule of blogging Tuesdays and Thursdays on Creative Potager. Click HERE to read today’s blog entry, Far Shore Oil Painting.

  10. I am so jealous that you can get your knees all the way to the floor sitting cross-legged! But (getting over myself), I very much admire the practice of Tonglen. For me, I need to know that I am stronger than any suffering and taking on someone’s suffering does not mean I have to feel their pain and anguish; it means I am strong enough to create a space within me to hold some of that for them and allow my healing breath to dissipate the suffering. In my blog a while ago, I sort of talked about this when I read about the man who had died spelunking even though workers tried to rescue him for two days. Even if we don’t know the people who are suffering, we can acknowledge them and I believe they feel that acknowledgement and support. Great day to you, Laurie — thank you for sharing your wisdom.

    • A very HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you, Barbara. I enjoyed reading Reflective Presence today on your blog. I resonate with the way you described Tonglen, “… create a space within me to hold some of that for them and allow my healing breath to dissipate the suffering.” Thank you for stopping by on your birthday!

  11. Pingback: HeartLight « Speaking from the Heart

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