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Lions Roar : July 2014
T onglen, which in tiBetan means “accepting and sending out,” is one of the most powerful and intense compassion meditations in the Buddhist tradition. The Buddhist definition of compassion is inherently intense and expansive: the willingness to stay open and available to pain and suffering, both in oneself and others. So Tonglen does more than help us develop compassion for others. It also trans- forms our own lives. using our imagination and respiratory sys- tem, it helps us stay present with difficult feelings and relation- ships that usually provoke resistance and distance. Tonglen gives us incredibly effective mental tools for meeting painful encoun- ters throughout the day. Tonglen in Four Steps Before the session, contemplate your intention to stay present with suffering, which is traditionally called the bodhisattva inten- tion. Spend a few minutes doing mindfulness of breath practice to help ground you. Then begin the four steps. Step One: Connecting with Bodhichitta (About 3 Minutes) first, take the attitude that you are in a safe space. Wherever you are practicing should feel like a good place for working with annoyance, anger, grief, anxiety, and whatever else comes up. Remind yourself that if something arises you can’t handle right now, it’s fine to return to the breath and take a more relaxed approach to practice. Next, connect with absolute bodhichitta (enlightened mind) for a minute or two. Absolute bodhichitta refers to the mind that is always (and already) awake, beyond doubt or fixation. It is the eThan niChTern is a senior teacher in the Shambhala tradition, founder of the Interdependence Project, and the author of one City. His third book, The Road home, will be published in early 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. “Accepting and sending out” is a powerful meditation to develop compassion—for ourselves and others. ethan nichtern teaches us how to do it in formal practice and on the spot whenever suffering arises. Tonglen In with the Bad, Out with the Good PhoToBYJoNAThANkINGSToN/AuRoRAPhoToS SHAMBHALA SUN JULy 2014 52