This week’s article concludes the discussion on the Buddhist meditation method of tonglen, the preferred method of Buddhist bodhisattvas (see April 25th discussion). In the past discussions, we spoke about generating compassion and forgiveness for, initially, ourselves, and then, for our loved ones. Now we focus on extending these loving thoughts to those persons closest to us who have caused us sorrow or pain.
Embracing All Beings with Compassion and Forgiveness
Recall that in order to extend our caring energy toward others, we must initially visualize the pink and green energetic auras of love that surround our own hearts. As mentioned in previous discussions, the pink energy is the protective energy that surrounds the heart, while green is the actual vibrational color of the energy of the anahata (heart) chakra. Since we have familiarized ourselves with the heart’s armor, we are now free to direct our thoughts specifically upon the loving, green energy radiating deep within the heart space.
If authentic healing is to occur, we must initially acknowledge the pain and sorrow that others have caused us, for it is only at that time that we can wisely begin to move beyond these uncomfortable emotions for not only our own well-being, but also for the well-being of others. This spiritual task is not always easy to accomplish, however, tonglen addresses this specific mission.
Once you have visually generated an abundance of compassionate and forgiving energy within your whole being, as well as throughout your physical surroundings, bring to mind someone who has caused you minor discomfort. This individual may be the rude salesperson at the grocery store or the angry driver who cut in front of you on your way to yoga class. What is important in the beginning is that you choose someone who is not too close to you, since we’ll gradually work toward forgiving those people.
Imagine this person sitting in a chair in front of you and asking for your forgiveness. By recognizing his or her desire for forgiveness, your heart softens and easily extends compassion and acceptance toward his or her heart. During this time, keep your focus on the physical feelings within your heart since the act of forgiveness is an actual physical release, as well as an emotional one. Practice this visualization until you let go entirely of any unpleasant feelings associated with this person. Afterwards, simply sit with the person for a few moments as this emerald green forgiving and peaceful energy embraces both of you.
It is beneficial to practice tonglen initially toward people whom you feel slightly pained by in some manner. As you let go of these minor hurts, consistently building higher and higher levels of forgiving energy within your own anahata chakra, you will sense when you are ready to begin extending the practice to people more intimate and personal to you. Please don’t attempt practicing tonglen toward these people until you are at least 95% certain of your readiness to forgive them—you certainly don’t want to increase resentment toward them during this loving, forgiving process. If you feel at least 95% willing to forgive them, then, by all means, begin the process since it is unlikely that you will reach 100% willingness by relying solely on the intellect.
Practice tonglen on each of these persons until you feel the physical release of the negative energy from your heart—this may take days, weeks, or even months for the intense hurts and traumas in our lives. As you continue this technique, you’ll notice that your chest begins to feel lighter and lighter in weight, eventually enabling you to expand the healing energy into those heart spaces once occupied with emotions of grief, anger and hurt.
By recognizing a significant principle of karma yoga, which, simply stated, translates to what-goes-around-comes-around, you notice that nearly every person you encounter throughout your life expresses this healing energy toward you. This principle demonstrates that each of us is empowered to change the people around us, if we are willing, initially, to change our own attitude and energy.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of books and CDs devoted to the tonglen meditation practice. If every person practiced this healing visualization for a mere ten minutes per day, imagine what the world might look like—“all the people living life in peace.”
1 Lennon, John. Imagine. Originally released in 1971.
copyright © Eileen M. Sembrot – All rights reserved