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Tonglen Compassion Practices

Once you have been awakened to compassion, and living with an open heart to each moment and all of creation, compassion practice becomes much more powerful. It helps you stay calm in this world of chaos and will, most importantly, be a force for helping the world move towards a higher, more compassionate consciousness. In this higher consciousness you see and treat all others as the same as you, and even part of you. Similarly, you respect and care for the natural world as part of you..

The following practices are from ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’ by Sogyal Rinpoche.

The best way to do these Tonglen practices, and any practice of compassion or forgiveness,, is to begin by evoking and resting in the nature of mind with an open heart.

Environmental Tonglen

Begin by sitting and bringing the mind home to stillness. Allow all your thoughts to settle, neither inviting them nor following them. When you feel really calm and centered, alert yourself slightly and begin the practice as follows:

· Sit with your mind and feel its mood and atmosphere.

· If you feel your mood is uneasy, or the atmosphere is dark, then, as you breathe in, mentally absorb whatever is unwholesome.

· As you breathe out, mentally give out calm, clarity and joy – thus purifying and healing the atmosphere and environment of your mind.

Repeat this as many times as needed to obtain a deep sense of peace and calm.

Self Tonglen

For the purposes of this exercise, divide yourself into two aspects, A and B.

A is the aspect of you that is whole, compassionate, warm, and loving, like a true friend, really willing to be there for you, responsive and open to you, without ever judging you, whatever your faults or shortcomings.

B is the aspect of you that has been hurt, that feels misunderstood and frustrated, bitter or angry, who might have been, for example, unjustly treated or abused as a child, or has suffered in relationships or been wronged by society.

· Now, as you breathe in, imagine that A opens his or her heart completely, and warmly and compassionately accepts and embraces all of B’s suffering and negativity and pain and hurt.

· Moved by this, B opens his or her heart and all pain and suffering melt away in this compassionate embrace.

· As you breathe out, imagine A sending out to B all his or her healing love, warmth, trust, comfort, confidence, happiness, and joy.

Again, repeat this practice until you feel a sense of wholeness and peace in your being.

Tonglen in a Living Situation

Imagine vividly a situation where you have acted badly, one about which you feel guilty, and which you wince to even think about.

· Then, as you breathe in, accept total responsibility for your actions in that particular situation, without in any way trying to justify your behaviour. Acknowledge exactly what you have done wrong, and wholeheartedly ask for forgiveness.

· Now, as you breathe out, send out reconciliation, forgiveness, healing, and understanding.

· So, you breathe in blame, and breathe out the undoing of harm; you breathe in responsibility, breathe out healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

This exercise is particularly powerful, and it may give you the courage to go to see the person whom you have wronged, and the strength and willingness to talk to them directly and actually ask for forgiveness from the depths of your heart.

This practice accelerates self-forgiveness and acceptance and allows the past to be gone.

Tonglen for Others

Imagine someone to whom you feel very close, particularly someone who is suffering and in pain.

· As you breathe in, imagine you take in all their suffering and pain with compassion, and as you breathe out, send your warmth, healing, love, joy, and happiness streaming out to them.

· Now, just as in the practice of loving kindness, gradually widen the circle of your compassion to embrace first other people whom you also feel very close to, then those whom you feel indifferent about, then those you dislike or have difficulty with, then even those you feel are actively monstrous and cruel.

· Allow your compassion to become universal, and to fold in its embrace all sentient beings, all beings, in fact, without any exception.

This practice works with your attitude of mind and heart, and prepares, opens, and inspires you. It enables you to heal the environment of your mind, your own suffering, the pain of the past, and to begin to help all sentient beings.

Book referenced: 'The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying' by Soygal Rinpoche

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