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Buddhadharma : Summer 2010
27 summer 2 01 0 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly whatever would relieve their pain. This is the core of the prac- tice: breathing in others’ pain so they can be well and have more space to relax and open, and breathing out, sending them relaxation or whatever you feel would bring them relief and happiness. However, we often cannot do this practice because we come face to face with our own fear, our own resistance, anger, or whatever our personal pain or our per- sonal 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 millions of others just like you who at that very moment are feeling the same stuck- ness and misery. Maybe you are able to name your pain. You recognize it clearly as terror or revulsion or anger or wanting to get revenge. 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 yourself and all those count- less others. Maybe you can’t name what you’re feeling. But you can feel it—a tightness in the stomach, a heavy darkness, or whatever. Just contact what you are feeling and breathe in, take it in—for all of us and send out relief to all of us. People often say that this practice goes against the grain of how we usually hold ourselves together. Truthfully, this practice does go against the grain of wanting things on our own terms, of wanting it to work out for ourselves no matter what happens to the others. The practice dissolves the armor of self-protection we’ve tried so hard to create around our- selves. In Buddhist language one would say that it dissolves the fixation and clinging of ego. Tonglen reverses the usual logic of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure and, in the process, we become liberated from a very ancient prison of selfishness. we begin to feel love both for ourselves and others and also we begin to take Take Care of Yourself Too By Sharon Salzberg I Have Been Involved for several years in a program run by the Garrison Institute, bringing the tools of meditation and yoga to domestic violence shelter workers, and then to shelter supervisors and directors. These people are very much on the front lines of suffering, dealing daily with their clients’ issues of betrayal, heartbreak, fear, anger, humiliation. They might be survivors of trauma themselves. They might receive very little institutional support. They inevitably rely on inner resiliency to sustain their work over the long term. our premise has been that balance of heart and mind is a key to that resiliency, and that one great avenue to cultivating this balance is meditation practice. care of ourselves and others. It awakens our compassion and it also introduces us to a far larger view of reality. It introduces us to the unlimited spaciousness that Buddhists call shunyata. By doing the practice, we begin to connect with the open dimension of our being. at first we experience this as things not being such a big deal or as solid as they seemed before. 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 walking and you see someone in pain, right on the spot you can begin to breathe in their pain and send out some relief. or, more likely, you might see someone in pain and look away because it brings up your fear or anger; it brings up your resis- tance and confusion. So on the spot you can do tonglen for all the people who are just like you, for everyone who wishes to be compassionate but instead is afraid, for everyone who wishes to be brave but instead is a coward. rather than beating yourself up, use your own stuckness as a stepping stone to understanding what people are up against all over the world. Breathe in for all of us and breathe out for all of us. Use what seems like poison as medicine. Use your personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings. D In a challenging environment, facing our own or others’ suffering, we need to draw on inner resources or on some- thing larger than the immediate situation. Meditation helps us see our own difficult mind states—such as anger or fear or a sense of helplessness—with compassion instead of self- judgment. It also provides a refuge during life’s storms by helping us connect compassionately with others, no matter the circumstances. especially in times of uncertainty or pain, meditation broadens our perspective and deepens our cour- age. The spaciousness of mind and greater ease of heart that naturally arise through balanced awareness and compassion are fundamental components of a resilient spirit. a few years ago I was set to do a five-week course on lov- ing-kindness meditation at the national cathedral in wash- ington, d.c. The program director, Grace, and I planned the The practice of tonglen reverses the usual logic of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure. It awakens our compassion and introduces us to a far larger view of reality. —Pema Chödrön (BOttOm)LizamaTTheWs;(tOp)susanmyrLanD