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Lions Roar : September 2017
wish to take away all the pain and fear of that child. Then, as you breathe out, you send the child happiness, joy, or whatever would relieve their pain. This is the core of the practice: breathing in another’s pain so they can be well and have more space to relax and open, and breathing out relaxation or whatever you feel would bring them relief and happiness. Tonglen can be done for those who are ill, those who are dying or have just died, or for those who are in pain of any kind. It can be done either as a formal meditation practice or right on the spot at any time. For example, if you are out walk- ing and you see someone in pain—right on the spot you can begin to breathe in their pain and send out relief. However, we often cannot do this practice because we come face to face with our own fear, resistance, anger, or whatever our personal pain, our 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 what millions of others just like you are feeling at that very moment—exactly the same stuckness and misery. 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 you and all those countless others. Gradually, as you do tonglen practice over time, your com- passion expands naturally and so does your realization that things are not as solid as you thought. As you do this practice, gradually, at your own pace, you will be surprised to find your- self more and more able to be there for others even in what used to seem like impossible situations. PEMA CHÖDRÖN is a bestselling author and the resident teacher at Gampo Abbey monastery in Nova Scotia. 5 BABY STEPS TO KINDNESS JUDY LIEF Buddhist practice is all about stretching. What are we stretch- ing out from? From our small-mindedness and self-absorption. To do so we need to engage in the world. But it is amazing how often we think we are out in the world interacting with others, while actually we are simply robotically acting out our