What is Tonglen Meditation: How to Practise it?
Meditation is very versatile. There are so many types of meditation, you can, as they say, find what you like and what suits you best.
There are meditations on breathing, on feeling, on an object, on sound and so on. And then there is Tonglen.
Tonglen, the practice of giving and receiving - consists of taking the suffering and pain of others and giving them happiness, well-being and peace of mind. But before giving something to another - one must strengthen oneself, accept oneself, develop compassion for oneself.
The practice of tonglen - acceptance and giving - is a very advanced and difficult practice. And it is very important not to trivialize it, not to simplify it. And we imagine that by wanting others to get rid of suffering and its causes, we are taking that suffering and causes to ourselves. And that was compassion, and, accordingly, further, with love, that is, with the desire that others be happy and have reasons for happiness, we give them our happiness and its reasons.
This meditation aims to develop compassion in the individual. (On this topic, read the article "How to defeat evil?") Simply put, it is done through focusing on one's own selfishness and consequently fighting against it. By continuously practicing Tonglen, you will be able to understand and accept another person's suffering. And not only a human being.
After all, the world is not closed in on you, there is a lot of life in it. And everyone follows their own path through this world. And that road can be filled with great pain and deep suffering, but we, fixated on ourselves and our egoism, just do not see it, and recognize and realize only our problems and burdens.
Seeing ourselves at the centre of the world, we used to think that we are the world. It is as if everything around us owes us something. All our lives we have been busy satisfying our needs and wants without trying to see the world from a broader perspective.
Benefits of Tonglen Meditation
Tonglen trains the mind to be more empathetic and aware. It revolves around acceptance, one of the key components of mindfulness. The word tonglen also translates as 'letting go and accepting', and this idea reinforces the importance of letting go in meditation practice.
By closing your eyes and thinking about people who are suffering, you cultivate feelings of compassion and kindness towards them, which will eventually become part of your daily life. In addition, Tonglen meditation reduces ego and self-involvement. Shifting your focus to the experiences of others can help you become more grateful for what you have in life. As mentioned in the previous section, cultivating compassion for others is also a fantastic way to increase your sense of self-acceptance and self-esteem.
What is the Process of Tonglen Meditation?
According to Chodren, formal practice consists of four main stages.
Flash of Bodhichitta - Rest for a few seconds in a state of stillness or openness - this is described as a flash of Bodhichitta, the term for an awakened heart-mind.
Start visualising - work with the textures around you by taking deep breaths and visualising warmth, darkness, black smoke and heaviness, and then exhaling the sensations of coolness, darkness and light. The goal here is to take the negative energy and radiate positivity - imagine yourself using your positive intention and basic kindness to transform the darkness entering your body into bright, soothing rays of light.
Focus on a painful situation that concerns you personally, such as thinking about someone you care about and want to help. You can also practice cultivating positive emotions to confront any pain you are experiencing, for example, breathing in feelings of inadequacy and exhaling confidence and self-assurance.
Expand your compassion - Take deeper and longer breaths, inhaling and exhaling more. Try to feel more compassion, kindness and positivity towards the one who is the object of your meditation. Try to cultivate forgiveness and reduce judgment of others - this is a great way to stay focused on the core values of mindfulness.
Does Tonglen Really Work?
Meditation is a very effective exercise to cultivate compassion and kindness, which are exactly the qualities that will motivate you to move from thinking about those who are suffering to taking action to help them. Mindfulness training techniques that cultivate positive emotions like these can reshape your psychology, making you more caring, compassionate, virtuous and less self-absorbed.
While the idea of consciously imagining the suffering of others (including loved ones) may seem frightening or disturbing, it is likely that Tonglen meditation will improve your mental and emotional health and quality of life rather than the other way around.