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Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Practice of Tonglen, Pema Chodron

While trying not to try to not think in yoga today I thought of author who wrote on the subject of the breathing through pain, Pema Chodron. I read an interview with Chodron when I was still living in Marquette. The message stuck with me and continues to develop meaning for me as I grow.

Below is an excerpt. To read all of this short essay click here.

[T]he 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.

4 comments:

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and I love it. I actually went to Naropa University for graduate school and I was able to practice tonglen. I love it. What is your experience with it?

ShanaRose said...

Ojibway, welcome. I'm excited to go read more of your blog, as well as about Naropa University. My experience with tonglen is, so far, only knowing that it exists and thinking about the foundation of it as I understood it from an interview in The Sun magazine years ago. When I notice I am suffering in fear I use the foundation that Pema Chodren describes for guidance. I'm glad you found and are now enjoying my blog; it's exciting to me!

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

Yeah, I like your blog!

Are you thinking of going to Naropa University? Naropa for me was like a metamorphosis, death/rebirth and galactic healing occurred while I was there. I could definitely tell you more about it if you are thinking about going there.

Pema is great and tonglen is very transforming.

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

Oh, I wanted to say that my middle name is Rose! What a synchronicity that I find your blog!?