An Introduction to Tonglen~ The Buddhist Practice of Taking and Sending
I use a lot of Buddhist techniques in my magic, as a matter of fact, if it weren’t for spirits and ancestors, I’d simply be Buddhist. I appreciate the real world applications of lay Buddhism, the “Do it anywhere, with or without tools.” aspects of it. I’d like to introduce you to Tonglen, or “Taking and Sending” practice, today if you haven’t tried it.
I love the alchemy of it. I feel as if I’m actually offering my energy in a real, visceral way. It makes me feel as if something is actually happening, which I appreciate.
The Dalai Lama encourages everyone to embrace Buddhists practices, and there’s no need for initiations, dissolving your alignment with your current faith, or anything other than learning and trying the technique.
This energetic practice helps us to transfigure suffering, of ourselves, others, and the world. Begin in a comfortable meditative posture. Pay attention to the heart, I often see a fire in my heart, as a hearth, where things can be transformed, you can also see the world in your heart, or nothing~whatever works for you.
Spend a few minutes on each section of focus:
Breathe in the suffering of the world. Just the general suffering, transform it with your loving heart, and breathe out compassion and love, peace, relief, in all directions.
Breathe in pain and suffering, breathe out relief.
If it helps, add a visualization~ heavy energy in, light energy out. If it helps, add a chant:
I breathe in the world’s suffering, transmute it, and breathe out compassion.
Think of painful aspects of your life, chronic pain, trauma, financial trouble…and breathe in your pain, breathe out compassion, love, forgiveness, mercy for you. Spend a few minutes Taking and Sending for yourself.
“I breathe in my own pain and suffering, and transmute it, I breathe out compassion for myself.”
For Loved Ones~
Now spend a few moments breathing in the pain of your loved ones, and breathing out compassion for them. The neighbor with cancer, the unemployed father, the drug addicted cousin~ whomever. Breathe in their pain, and breathe out love.
“I breathe in the pain of ______________, and breathe out love and healing for them.”
For Those You Don’t Love~
Strangers or enemies~ You can breathe in the suffering of “Humanity”, breathe out love and merciful compassion for “Humanity”. You can probably accept that your enemies are suffering from delusions or traumas that make them your enemies. (My enemies, for instance, suffer from greed, delusions of superiority, among other things. If I can donate my time and breath to their healing, that’s beneficial for me and many others who suffer because of their actions.)
“I breathe in the pain of humanity, I breathe out love and compassion for it.”
If you get distracted by rage, or despair or anything else, that’s fine, sit with that and make the more generic aim towards “Humanity”.
All Forms of Life~
Now breathe in the suffering of All Creatures, yes, even the ones you don’t care for. You don’t need to focus on creatures you don’t love, but you shouldn’t exclude them, either. Breathe in the pain and suffering of all living beings and breathe out love and compassion for all of them.
“I breathe in the pain and suffering of all living things, and I breathe out love and mercy for them all.”
Not traditionally taught, I often do a round for my ancestral spirits. I will sometimes do a session of Tonglen simply for them as part of my Ancestral Work.
“I breathe in the pain and suffering of my departed relations, and I breathe out love and healing compassion for them.”
Give gratitude to yourself. You may want to do a cleansing or a grounding.
It took me years to warm up to this practice, it gave me nightmares, I didn’t like it, I got headaches, and so on. Eventually, I understood the benefits that could be obtained from the practice, and it still isn’t a practice I do often~ I tend to work with Metta or the Brahmaviharas more often, but I do use it and recognize it’s value.
I do it on the spot at signs of trouble, if I read tragic news or hear from a friend or co-worker who is having a hard time, I can breathe in their pain and breathe out a bit of comfort for them. It makes me feel less powerless in the face of overwhelming tragedy or sadness. I encourage you to give it a try, let me know how it goes, if you do.