“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
~ Leonard Cohen
With all that is going on in our world right now it is easy to feel small and insignificant – unable to help when all we feel in our hearts is an urge to try. When those we know are suffering, when the planet is in crisis, or when there is a human catastrophe in another part of the world we might wonder what can be done.
There is something we can do. Meditate!
Tonglen Meditation is something that anyone can do, with no experience. Tonglen is Tibetan for ‘giving and receiving’ and it is a beautiful and simple practice. What matters with this meditation is only your intent.
How to Do the Meditation
- Sit or lie quietly, and close your eyes. I like to sit with my spine straight, and my hands together in my lap, thumb tips pressed lightly together like this. If I’m lying in bed, I lie on my back with my hands crossed together over my heart, like this. Try to sit if you can, but for those of you unwell or unable to do so, a prone (lying down) meditation practice will still work.
- Start by imagining someone who you want to help. It might be a friend with depression, or a place in the world where there is pain. You breathe in the heaviness of that energy and suffering and breathe out love and peace, or whatever other positive and compassionate energy you intuitively feel would bring comfort.
- All you ever have to do is ‘breathe in’ the condition, emotion or suffering of another, making room for healing and comfort within them. Then ‘breathe out’ love and light to fill the space you have created.
- Finish the meditation when you feel a shift, or when a sense of pervading calm and peace envelopes you.
The suffering of others is also our own suffering, so this meditation can help us as we endeavour to help others. If you are in pain, breathe in your own pain and also the pain of everyone who is suffering from your affliction. Breathe out relief to everyone, in whatever form feels most right to you.
Do not worry that the things you breathe in will become a part of you, further weighing you down. As you breathe in suffering it is transmuted back into light, and it dissipates harmlessly.
Sometimes you may not even have a word for what you are breathing it – it will simply be a feeling, a weightiness, a blackness or even a void. Breathe out hope, lightness, joy and well-being. Breathe out ease.
At times when we don’t know what else to do, this is something that can help. As you bring peace to others, you bring it also to yourself. It is a very soothing and calming practice. You don’t need to belong to any particular religion, or follow any particular spiritual philosophy. This simple practice merely acknowledges that we are all human, all connected, and all the same – no matter who we are, or where we come from.