Monday, July 17, 2006

Tonglen Practice

This past spring I took (mostly lurked in) a Barnes and Noble University free online class called Buddhism and Everyday Life. The instructor of the course, Joel Baehr, shared a method of Tonglen practice that he had learned from Lama John Makransky.

I do not have a regular practice of meditation at the moment, and while I haven't done this complete meditation, I was particularly touched by step 2 and have tried to incorporate it into the many opportunities I have to "meditate off the mat."

Here are John's words explaining the practice:

  1. Feel your own emotional reaction to something familiar, then bring yourself into a meditative calm as much as possible. After a while, feel your emotion (anger, frustration, etc) again, as though it were real. Become intimate with this form of suffering. (For me, the most familiar feeling was anger - being cut off on the highway. Anger and feeling wronged.)
  2. Say to yourself: "So THIS is what so many others feel! This, precisely this feeling of ____ is what so many others are feeling and suffering from right now." Expand your awareness to others.
  3. Bring to your heart the wish of compassion: "May they all be free of this suffering. By my experiencing this, may all of us be free of it." Take others' suffering into your heart and visualize the shell of self-clinging around your heart cracking.
  4. Visualize light radiating through the cracks and going out to all beings - yourself and all others - with the wish of love: "May all beings possess happiness and well-being." Picture all good things coming to everyone as the light from your heart radiates in all directions.
  5. Take joy in the joy everyone is experiencing.
  6. Drop concepts, visualizations, sense of self and other and rest in radiant emptiness.
  7. Dedicate the power of the practice to the liberation of all.

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