THE PRACTICE OF TONGLEN
In order to have compassion for others, we have to have compassion for ourselves.
In particular, to care about other people who are fearful, angry, jealous, overpowered by addictions of all kinds, arrogant, proud, miserly, selfish, mean —you name it— to have compassion and to care for these people, means not to run from the pain of finding these things in ourselves. In fact, one’s whole attitude toward pain can change. Instead of fending it off and hiding from it, one could open one’s heart and allow oneself to feel that pain, feel it as something that will soften and purify us and make us far more loving and kind.
The tonglen practice is a method for connecting with suffering —ours and that which is all around us— everywhere we go. It is a method for overcoming fear of suffering and for dissolving the tightness of our heart. Primarily it is a method for awakening the compassion that is inherent in all of us, no matter how cruel or cold we might seem
We begin the practice by taking on the suffering of a person we know to be hurting and who we wish to help. For instance, if you know of a child who is being hurt, you breathe in the wish to take away all the pain and fear of that child. Then, as you breathe out, you send the child happiness, joy or whatever would relieve their pain. This is the core of the practice: breathing in other’s pain so they can be well and have more space to relax and open, and breathing out, sending them relaxation or whatever you feel would bring them relief and happiness. However, we often cannot do this practice because we come face to face with our own fear, our own resistance, anger, or whatever our personal pain, our personal stuckness happens to be at that moment.
At that point you can change the focus and begin to do tonglen for what you are feeling and for millions of others just like you who at that very moment of time are feeling exactly the same stuckness and misery. Maybe you are able to name your pain. You recognize it clearly as terror or revulsion or anger or wanting to get revenge. So you breathe in for all the people who are caught with that same emotion and you send out relief or whatever opens up the space for yourself and all those countless others. Maybe you can’t name what you’re feeling. But you can feel it —a tightness in the stomach, a heavy darkness or whatever. Just contact what you are feeling and breathe in, take it in —for all of us and send out relief to all of us.
People often say that this practice goes against the grain of how we usually hold ourselves together. Truthfully, this practice does go against the grain of wanting things on our own terms, of wanting it to work out for ourselves no matter what happens to the others. The practice dissolves the armor of self-protection we’ve tried so hard to create around ourselves. In Buddhist language one would say that it dissolves the fixation and clinging of ego.
Tonglen reverses the usual logic of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure and, in the process, we become liberated from a very ancient prison of selfishness. We begin to feel love both for ourselves and others and also we begin to take care of ourselves and others. It awakens our compassion and it also introduces us to a far larger view of reality. It introduces us to the unlimited spaciousness that Buddhists call shunyata. By doing the practice, we begin to connect with the open dimension of our being. At first we experience this as things not being such a big deal or so solid as they seemed before.
Tonglen can be done for those who are ill, those who are dying or have just died, or for those that are in pain of any kind. It can be done either as a formal meditation practice or right on the spot at any time. For example, if you are out walking and you see someone in pain —right on the spot you can begin to breathe in their pain and send some out some relief. Or, more likely, you might see someone in pain and look away because it brings up your fear or anger; it brings up your resistance and confusion.
So on the spot you can do tonglen for all the people who are just like you, for everyone who wishes to be compassionate but instead is afraid, for everyone who wishes to be brave but instead is a coward.
Rather than beating yourself up, use your own stuckness as a stepping stone to understanding what people are up against all over the world.
Breathe in for all of us and breathe out for all of us.
Use what seems like poison as medicine. Use your personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings.
Thank you to Pema Chodron
What are you holding onto that prevents you from experiencing true joy and happiness? We are like children who have our favorite toys. But even a child will let go of a toy quickly and move on. “Unless we become like children, we won’t enter into the kingdom of heaven”. – Shar
1. Give up caring what other people think of you. I know it seems counter intuitive as we humans are primal pack animals that don’t want to be cast from the village, but spending time worrying what others think, is a waste of energy. You’ll never please everyone and it’s none of your business what others think of you.
2. Give up trying to please everyone. Unless you’re living life to the beat of your own drum, your tribe won’t be able to find you. Be the best version of you you can be, and you’ll naturally attract in the people that are supposed to surround you.
3. Give up participating in gossip. 100 percent of the time, those sharing gossip with you will gossip about you. Believing gossip is like gambling everything on a horse sight unseen. It’s naive.
4. Quit worrying. Where thoughts go, energy flows. Worry is investing time and energy in something you don’t want to have happen. Learn to let go and trust.
5. Let go of insecurity. When we take ourselves too seriously, we think everyone else does too. There is one version of you on the planet. Be it, own it and quit worrying about it. No one really cares or watches you that closely.
6. Stop taking everything personally. Truth is, most people are too consumed with their own life to really consider what you’re doing. As my first boss said so well: “The world doesn’t revolve around you. Most people’s reactions have nothing to do with you, so let it go.”
7. Give up the past. We’ve all been hurt, we all had parents that made mistakes and we’ve all been through hell. You didn’t listen to your parents when you were younger, so why are you still listening to their voices in your head now? Every experience in life has taught you something or made you stronger.
8. Give up spending money on what you don’t need in effort to buy happiness. Living simply allows the space for life to flow. We complicate our lives by spending too much money and filling our home with “things.” Less is truly more.
9. Give up anger. Anger burns a hole in the hand of the person still holding on to it. Move it out once and for all.
10. Give up control. Control is an illusion. We live in an out of control world. Learn to embrace the new and welcome change; otherwise you’ll grow old through your own rigidity. Learn to let go. – Tamara
1. Contemporary Consciousness – The mass consciousness of production, consumption, submission and nihilism is where the shift begins. This is the consensus trance that we have been programmed to accept as real life, while obediently serving our worst interests without examination or question. Contemporary consciousness is acquiescence to insanity for the sake of convenience. Breaking through contemporary consciousness is to strike the very root of our global dilemma. Numb, drugged, and senseless, this level of consciousness is a psychic plague blotting out our potential.
2. A Disturbance in the Force – Like a canary in a coal mine, a warning appears from somewhere, grabbing our attention, rattling our confidence, pulling us out of our tunnel vision. Some small piece of information gathered from the alternative press or from a documentary film eats at our understanding of how the world is set up, and the shift begins. This sets the stage for a deep and serious personal crises to erupt, and often engages a ferocious drive for knowledge and truth.
3. An Introspective Quest for Knowledge & Truth – Knowledge and information are the fuel for personal transformation. Once awakened, our natural draw towards truth and justice calls us to consider new ideas and outside perspectives as we search for a new bearing in a crumbling understanding of the world. Introspection reveals answers to never-before asked questions and the accompanying interest in ‘alternative’ information and ideas provides answers that profoundly contradict contemporary consciousness. Once this quest is initiated the world never again looks the same.
4. The Dark Night of the Soul – The disturbance begins to conflict with contemporary consciousness so severely that the amount of cognitive dissonance required to adhere to the status quo life manifests materially as serious personal mental and physical health crises. The foundation for this catastrophic and catalyzing series of events has been under construction for most of life up to this point, and as such, the mind, body and spirit can be forced to endure unimaginable lows as the entire sum and meaning of one’s existence is smashed and broken to pieces under the weight of one’s denial about their complicity in their own self-destruction.
This is the ultimate test. To pass it one must endure the pain to the ultimate degree, and simply not give up. For many, the dark night of the soul lasts for years, marking the most serious, frightening and life-changing phase of life. Succumbing to the suffering here means giving in to total annihilation and choosing the path of serious self-deceit, total submission to ego and to false authority, addiction, reckless endangerment of the self, suicide, overdose, etc.
5. Discovery of Real Medicine – Something helps us through this crisis by easing the pain of our suffering, gently re-building positive energy and providing sufficient distraction while the body and spirit begin to reclaim health. Medicine here is not pharmaceutical, but therapeutical, and can come in the form of an artistic endeavor or exercise, or better yet, an intense study of an esoteric healing physical art like Qi Gong, Yoga, Kung Fu, meditation, and so on. Medicine may also be found amongst healers, therapists, shaman, or even plant medicines like Ayahuasca and Iboga. Finding the activity or experience that nudges you away from the brink of destruction and towards healing is a critical component of the shift.
6. Purification and Detox – Along the quest for knowledge we discover the toxic nature of our processed and sedentary lifestyle and realize the need for detox and purification. Learning about fluoride, heavy metals, GMO’s and the poisons in our food reveals the link between our emotional state, stress levels, well-being and conscious awareness. A new relationship with food is developed and taking care of the body and health gradually becomes easier.
Our toxic environment also includes our social atmosphere and here we are compelled to tune out of mainstream media, conversation and logic, purging ourselves of the garbage that so many people consider important. Our consumption of mainline ideas is reduced and our mind regains a footing of independence in a sea of sensationalized conformity.
7. Re-thinking of Authority, Dependence and Liberty – As the detox pushes older versions of the self out of the way, rejuvenating the psyche, a new picture of the self emerges in a world that no longer looks anything like it did before. The designs of control and manipulation governing our social institutions and traditions are rightfully exposed as farcical constructs that deter our evolution, while modern politics and government are understood to be laughable traps of dependence and deceit and therefore no longer beneficial to positive growth. The people that invest their lives and identities in these schemes seem desperate and needy of purpose, fanatical and outrageously too certain and too serious about life.
Non-conformity and non-compliance become moral obligations and liberty is revalued to include freedom from living in the fear-based consciousness offered as the default way of life. Ordinary people seem strange now in how they self-organize into ridiculous pecking orders, squabbling for position at work and submitting to any ‘authority figure’ with a badge and cheap uniform. It becomes clear that freedom has less to do with laws and more to do with voluntary submission, and liberty becomes a constant struggle to decrease dependence on the systems that complicate life.
8. Letting Go of and Discarding that Which Does Not Serve – In order to move through the process of transformation, it is absolutely necessary to jettison the things, people, relationships, habits, and ideas which no longer serve and support us. Human beings energetically interact with the objects and people in our environment, and eliminating and purging sources of stagnant energy and negativity creates space for new experience and inspiration to enter and flow into life. This is one of the most renewing components in this transformation.
9. Initiation into Mystery – Material science and mainstream thought exclude forms of mystery and paranormal activity from consideration in our culture, therefore making an initiation into the world of the unexplainable a common feature of the shift. For some reason, as a person changes in this fashion, strange and fascinating events occur that chip away at the certainties that support consensus material reality. Synchronicities emerge and moments of clarity give greater meaning to the mundane. Awareness of the subtle life force energy, Qi or Prana, develops, and ancient modalities of thought and concentration elicit strangely powerful revelations. Once the veil of the rigid scientific mindset is pierced, intuition and curiosity flourish and one re-assesses the potential in all things and in all circumstances, abandoning certainty in favor of wonder. Life becomes at sacred, as it should be.
The shift is nothing short of total personal revolution, and signals the re-organization of the mind and psyche for the benefit of the individual and the collective. It is about remembering who we are and overcoming the momentous inertia of the self-destructive programming in our modern world.Coming to extra-ordinary consciousness and awareness from the depths of the contemporary trance that sickens so many people is a process compelled by both natural forces and personal will and is part of our unique journey towards individuation, freedom, and happiness in this amazing world, at this incredible time.
If you have anything of value to add to this list, please do so in the comments section below.
They often say “Comparison is the thief of joy.” In actuality, it’s an act of violence. We choose to believe that we are in lack and that others are living these amazingly abundant, kick-ass lives. But the truth is that we have no clue what’s going on behind their trendy Facebook check-ins and perfectly put together outfits. All we see is what others show the world, which is rarely their truth.
Generally, we put forward only the parts of us that we feel others will validate or think is best. (This is why you never see a Facebook picture of what people look like first thing in the morning!) We continue to propagate a vicious cycle where everyone fears vulnerability, comparing our real lives to the fake lives of others. We even go so far as to internalize “likes” as validation of our unreal life, telling us to “keep up the act.”
by Eva Ramirez
YOUR MATE HAS TO CONTROL EVERYTHING YOU DO OR THERE WILL BE HELL TO PAY.
YOUR INDEPENDENCE HAS BEEN DESTROYED. YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO MAKE NEW FRIENDS AND YOUR OLD FRIENDS AND FAMILY HAVE, LITTLE BY LITTLE, BEEN PUSHED OUT OF YOUR LIFE.
AGGRESSIVE WITHOUT REASON..
YOUR MATE CAN GO OFF WITHOUT WARNING. YOU HAVE BEEN SLAPPED, PUNCHED, VERBALLY ABUSED, AND BRUISED. THE BRUISES ARE IN PLACES THAT CAN’T BE SEEN BY OTHERS. THE ABUSE OFTEN COMES WITH HEAVY DRINKING BUT NOT ALWAYS.
FULL OF REMORSE..
AFTER A ROUND OF PHYSICAL AND VERBAL ABUSE YOUR MATE IS FULL OF REMORSE. PROMISING THINGS WILL BE DIFFERENT. COMING HOME ON TIME, BRING YOU GIFTS.
HUMILIATED IN FRONT OF FRIENDS..
YOU ARE ROUTINELY HUMILIATED IN FRONT OF FRIENDS AND FAMILY. ESPECIALLY HIS BUDDIES. YOUR LOOKS, YOUR COOKING AND EVERYTHING YOU DO IS RIDICULED.
CHARMING TO OTHERS..
YOUR MATE IS FRIENDLY AND CHARMING TO OTHERS, WITH A READY JOKE AND A SMILE. NO ONE BELIEVES YOU WHEN YOU TELL THEM YOUR BEING ABUSED. YOU EVENTUALLY TELL NO ONE FOR FEAR OF NOT BEING BELIEVED.
WALKING ON EGG SHELLS..
YOU WILL AVOID CONFRONTATION AT ANY COST, CHANGING YOURSELF, YOUR STYLE, YOUR IDEAS AND OPINIONS JUST TO AVOID CONFRONTATION.
IT KEEPS GETTING WORSE..
YOU NEVER FEEL LOVED, PROTECTED, AND APPRECIATED. YOU CAN’T SEE A WAY OUT.
DID YOU SEE YOURSELF IN THE EXAMPLES OF ABUSE ABOVE? REMEMBER, YOU ARE A PRECIOUS CHILD OF GOD. YOU DESERVE TO BE HAPPY. GET OUT BEFORE IT IS TO LATE. YOUR CHILDREN MIGHT BE NEXT.
DON’T THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO DO OR SAY. DON’T THINK ABOUT YOUR FUTURE. ANYTHING WILL BE BETTER THEN THIS SOUL SHATTERING LIFE. IT WILL WORK OUT SOMEHOW. THERE IS HELP OUT THERE. JUST CALL THE NUMBER BELOW AND SAY, “I NEED HELP, PLEASE HELP ME.”
GET HELP..ABUSE HOTLINE
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
THE NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE
How do we improve our relationships and and learn to truly value ourselves? First, we have to see it in ourselves, accept where we came from, where we are now, and decide to live in the present moment with joy and freedom. We need to commit to change. We can’t blame others because we are all responsible. When you develop inner strength and dignity, you will be able to move freely and at ease with everyone…no matter how difficult others might become or how difficult life may become.
Dignity is our inherent value and worth. It doesn’t change because others don’t see or acknowledge it. Dignity is something we all want. Do we recognize it? Do we treat our family, friends, co-workers, neighbors and strangers with dignity? If we weren’t raised being treated as worthy, we may tend to hurt others rather than help. We will surely hurt ourselves simply because we don’t believe we are worth anything. While we all enter the world with inborn dignity, it is our responsibility to learn it and teach it. Dignity matters to us all. We all share this need: we must know our value. We must give it our utmost care and attention. How many times have we experienced being treated as if we didn’t matter by others? How many times have we lashed back and returned the dignity violation? How many times have we walked away from an interaction with someone and are left feeling bad? Most likely we have experienced a wound to our dignity. These wounds to our dignity prevent us from resolving conflict if they are not acknowledged and addressed. Our ignorance of all matters related to dignity has caused so much human suffering. It has had a devastating effect on our relationships, yet very little attention has been paid to it. There is no where in our school systems that teach us about dignity and the result is that we have unresolved conflicts everywhere we turn–in our families, in our friendships, in the workplace, in our schools and between nations. What can we do about it? How do we learn to recognize and embrace our own dignity and be convinced that we are worthy?
If you have a sense of self-doubt and unworthiness, it is time to find the cause and change your course. Having low self-respect can be traced back to being treated badly as a child. Kids need to be shown that they are worthy by their caretakers. When they are abused, mistreated and neglected instead, they think something is wrong with them; they believe they are flawed, not smart enough, or not worthy of their caretaker’s love and attention. At the root is this: a lack of awareness of the negative impact we have on others.
Here are a few actions that you can take right now to realize your value and treat all beings with respect and loving-kindness.
1. All human beings have inherent value. We are all vulnerable. When we treat others badly, we create pain and suffering. When you honor others worth – dignity – you strengthen your own.
2. There are ways to show others you that you value them and recognize their worth. Approach people as being neither inferior nor superior to you. Give others the freedom to express their authentic selves without fear of being negatively judged. Interact without prejudice or bias, accepting the ways in which race, religion, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, age and disability may be at the core of the other person’s identity. Assume that others have integrity. Make others feel that they belong, whatever the relationship–whether they are in your family, community, organization or nation. Put people at ease at two levels: physically, so they feel safe from bodily harm, and psychologically, so they feel safe from being humiliated. Help them feel free to speak without fear of retribution. Listen to people, show appreciation and gratitude. Treat people with equality, Start with the premise that others have good motives and are acting with integrity. Believe that what others think matters. Actively listen in order to understand them. Take responsibility for your actions.
3. Don’t be afraid to speak up when someone violates you. There are ways to defend your dignity without violating the dignity of the person who violated you. Take feedback from others. We all need the loving eyes of others to help us see the ways we are unknowingly hurting them.
You are worthy!