The Gift of Tonglen

At times we may feel small, insignificant, and unable to help when people are suffering, or there’s a catastrophe in another part of the world. But there is something we can do.

Tonglen—Tibetan for giving and receiving—is an active practice of loving-kindness; a simple act of compassion that anyone can do. Here’s how it’s done:

  • Sit or lie quietly in your own “inner sanctuary” and imagine someone that you want to help.
  • Inhale the heaviness of their energy. Breathe in the condition, emotion, or suffering of another to make space for healing and comfort within.
  • Exhale whatever you feel will fill them relief. Breathe out hope, strength, joy, peace of mind, love, or ease.
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I took this photograph at the Boise Botanical Garden. In my mind’s eye, this is how I imagine my inner sanctuary.

Tonglen is a soothing and calming meditation that can be done by people of any spiritual tradition, or none at all. It’s a simple, non-denominational practice that acknowledges we’re all connected no matter who we are, or where we come from.

“There is a place in you where you have never been wounded, where there’s a seamlessness in you, and where there is a confidence and tranquility in you, and I think the intention of prayer and spirituality and love is now and again to visit that inner kind of sanctuary.” —John O’Donohue

What does your inner sanctuary look like?

© Laurie Buchanan

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Tonglen

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.

Tonglen — the active practice of lovingkindness. Here's how it's done. Click To Tweet

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.”

© TuesdaysWithLaurie.com

HeartLight

HeartLight by Len Buchanan

HeartLight by Len Buchanan

HeartLight is the term I use when I refer to the practice of holding heart-based intent — Light, Divine Love, Sacred Space — for myself or others. Weaving together aspects of stillness, Reiki, and the Tibetan Buddhist practice of Tonglen, HeartLight can be used individually or collectively; locally or globally.

When was the last time you held heart-based intent? Click To Tweet

© TuesdaysWithLaurie.com