Tonglen

 

When I found tonglen in my teens, it felt deeply right and instantly became a favorite of mine.

There are different ways to do it, depending on our ability to visualize and so on.

Here is, more or less, the official version.

Visualize someone in front of you. It can be a being, a group of beings, Earth as a whole, yourself, or a part of yourself. If you are just getting started, it can be easier to start with individual people and then expand to groups. And also to start with someone you like, they move on to someone you are neutral about, and then someone your mind actively dislike.

Visualize their suffering as black smoke. When you breathe in, breathe in that smoke. The black smoke represent any suffering, pain, stressful beliefs, hangups, wounds, and so on.

Breathe out light and see it filling them. The light represents clarity, kindness, awakeness. (I like to visualize breathing in the black smoke, see it transform into light, which I then breathe out so it fills the recipient and they become light.)

Repeat. Use your natural breath. Keep going for a while. Perhaps until you feel it, notice a shift, and a then a deepening of that shift.

Do it again later, perhaps the next days or a few days later. See how it is to make it a regular practice, at least when you notice your mind starts struggling with others, yourself, or situations.

And here are some things I notice in my own experience.

There is a shift in how I relate to others, myself, the world.

A more open heart. A sense of equality or oness. Relief. Receptivity. Kindness.

If there is a strong dislike, indifference, or liking of the recipient, there is a softening or release of the “glue” or compulsion behind it.

It’s a reminder of the world as a mirror.

I am reminded that what I see out there – in others and the world – is also in here. There may be an interest in finding in myself what I see in others, and find specific examples.

I am reminded that how I relate to something is how I relate to it in myself, others, and the world. My relationship to it is universal, and it can change.

At the very least, it may open for a curiosity about the world as a mirror. A question if this is so. Do I already have in myself what I see in others?

And a few other things:

It’s a reminder that “darkness” can “transform” into “light”. Darkness here is suffering, pain, stressful beliefs, wounds, trauma. And light is clarity, kindness, awakeness, perhaps even recognizing it – as is – as already the divine.

If there is hesitation in breathing in the black smoke, as there may be in the beginning, we can use that as an opportunity to identify scary thoughts about it and inquire into them. Or invite in healing for the wound behind the fear in some other way.

If there is an experience of bliss, as there often is for me when I do tonglen, it’s an opportunity to explore our relationship to bliss. Is there a compulsion to seek it? What’s behind that compulsion? (Often a sense of lack.) What do I find when I explore it (inquiry) or invite in healing for it?

If we are ready for tonglen, do it more or less regularly over some time, and do it mostly wholeheartedly, it can be profoundly transformative. It can deeply transform our relationship to ourselves, others, and the world. It can bring in a deep healing. It can even invite in a recognition of all as the divine.

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, some say it’s the only practice you really need, and I am inclined to agree. It seems it can bring in a deep and comprehensive healing and awakening.

Although, I have to say I personally obviously explore a wide range of different forms of explorations and practices. I can’t really help it. And that seems to be my path.

Note: This post is a bit messy so I may rewrite and simplify it later.

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Initial notes…..

  • tonglen
    • different ways to do it, depending on ability to visualize etc.
    • how I like to do it
      • visualize someone, or group, or earth, or oneself, or part of oneself in front of oneself
        • can start with someone one likes, then neutral, then dislike
      • visualize their suffering, pain, hangups, wounds etc. as dark smoke
      • breathe that smoke in
      • breathe out light (clarity, kindness, awakeness) and into them, filling them, overflowing in them, blasting out from them
      • can vizualize smoke / light coming from the heart
      • keep going for a while (at least until feel it, notice a shift and deepening of the shift), and repeat
    • experience
      • creates a shift, open heart, sense of equality / oneness, release (of “glue” in whatever form may be there, like / indifference / dislike etc.)
      • shift in how relate to the others, myself, the mirrored parts in myself
      • realize is in myself – either as well as out there, or all in my own mind
        • at the very least, as a question, curious about, perhaps interested in finding it in more specific ways
      • reminder that “darkness” (suffering, beliefs, wounds, separation) can “transform” into “light” (clarity, love, oneness, kindness)
        • if ready, can notice it’s already the divine, as is (in oneself / others)
        • can allow as is, so our relationship to it change (in oneself)
        • can befriend, find kindness / love for
        • can invite in healing for it (for oneself)
        • can invite beliefs / identifications to release (inquiry)
        • can invite the energetic component of it to release (VH)
        • all of this, a possibility if read / ripe for it
      • can be a profound transformation
        • if ready for it
        • do it wholeheartedly
        • over time
      • can also use any initial hesitation / fear
        • see what happens
        • inquire into beliefs behind etc.
      • and be aware of bliss compulsion
        • for me, bliss comes relatively quickly when do tonglen (has been one of my favorite practices since my teens, although mostly for other reasons)
        • a good reminder that (a) I am doing it for other reasons, (b) bliss as any experience comes and goes, so will go again, and is not what I really, ultimately am (although am it when it’s here, as I am any experience when it’s here)
      • footnote: can also use VH to mimic (some of the effects of) tonglen

 

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Fragments….

Visualize someone in front of you. It can be a person, a group of people, Earth as a whole, yourself, or a part of yourself.

In short, any being or group of beings or parts of yourself.

Darkness here means suffering, pain, struggle, stressful beliefs, wounds, trauma. And light means clarity, kindness, awakeness, perhaps even a recognition of all as the divine.

If we notice that our suffering is already allowed, our relationship with it changes. There is a shift from struggle with it, which just adds to the discomfort, to more ease in how we relate to it.

A reminder that “darkness” (suffering, pain, stressful beliefs, wounds, trauma) can “transform” into “light” (clarity, kindness, awakeness, perhaps perception of all as the divine).

There is a shift in how I relate to others, myself, the world.

I notice a shift. A more open heart. A sense of equality or oneness. Relief.

If there is compulsive dislike, indifference, or liking of the recipient, there is a softening or release of the compulsion.

There is a shift in how I relate to others, myself, and the world. More kindness. Receptivity. Appreciation.

Reminder of the world as a mirror.

I am reminded that what I see out there – in others and the world – is also in here. How I relate to it is expressed in how I relate to it in others, the world, and myself.

It may open for a question about this, curiosity, an interest in finding in myself what I see in others, and find specific examples of how it’s here.

….
….
….

Initial draft….

When I found tonglen in my teens, it felt deeply right and instantly became a favorite of mine.

There are different ways to do it, depending on your ability to visualize and so on.

Here is, more or less, the official version.

Visualize someone in front of you. It can be a being, a group of beings, Earth as a whole, yourself, or a part of yourself.

Visualize their suffering as black smoke. When you breathe in, breathe in that smoke. The black smoke represent any suffering, pain, stressful beliefs, hangups, wounds, and so on.

Breathe out light and see it filling them. The light represents clarity, kindness, awakeness. (I like to visualize breathing in the black smoke, see it transform into light, which I then breathe out so it fills the recipient and they become light.)

Repeat. Use your natural breath. Keep going for a while. Perhaps until you feel it, notice a shift, and a then a deepening of that shift.

Do it again later, perhaps the next days or a few days later. See how it is to make it a regular practice, at least when you notice your mind starts struggling with others, yourself, or situations.

And here are some things I notice in my own experience.

There is a shift in how I relate to others, myself, the world.

A more open heart. A sense of equality or oness. Relief. Receptivity. Kindness.

If there is a strong dislike, indifference, or liking of the recipient, there is a softening or release of the “glue” or compulsion behind it.

It’s a reminder of the world as a mirror.

I am reminded that what I see out there – in others and the world – is also in here. There may be an interest in finding in myself what I see in others, and find specific examples.

I am reminded that how I relate to something is how I relate to it in myself, others, and the world. My relationship to it is universal, and it can change.

At the very least, it may open for a curiosity about the world as a mirror. A question if this is so. Do I already have in myself what I see in others?

And a few other things:

It’s a reminder that “darkness” can “transform” into “light”. Darkness here is suffering, pain, stressful beliefs, wounds, trauma. And light is clarity, kindness, awakeness, perhaps even recognizing it – as is – as already the divine.

If there is hesitation in breathing in the black smoke, as there may be in the beginning, we can use that as an opportunity to identify scary thoughts about it and inquire into them. Or invite in healing for the wound behind the fear in some other way.

If there is an experience of bliss, as there often is for me when I do tonglen, it’s an opportunity to explore our relationship to bliss. Is there a compulsion to seek it? What’s behind that compulsion? What do I find when I explore it (inquiry) or invite in healing for it?

If we are ready for tonglen, do it more or less regularly over some time, and do it mostly wholeheartedly, it can be profoundly transformative. It can deeply transform our relationship to ourselves, others, and the world. It can bring in a deep healing. It can even invite in a recognition of all as the divine.

Some in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition say it’s the only practice you really need, and I am inclined to agree. (Although I obviously explore a range of other practices and forms of explorations…!)

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