Over the past year, I have come to really love the practice of Tonglen. Only, I don’t do it so much when I am doing my sitting practice, rather I have been doing Tonglen on the spot.
So, as I have mentioned in past posts, Tonglen is the Buddhist practice of Taking and Sending. A very basic description is to simply recognize and breathe in the suffering of others or yourself, allowing your compassionate heart to transform this suffering into compassionate light and healing and then sending out that light as you exhale.
This practice has been quite helpful to me over the winter and has really soothed some difficult moments. However, this weekend I started using Tonglen (on the spot) in another way.
I have a neighbour who is quite elderly. I used to visit her from time to time with a basket of baking or just to stop in for a chat. Recently, my neighbour took a turn for the worse and has been admitted into a nursing home. The whole community kind of expected this to happen, but still, her absence is felt and especially so whenever I walk past her house and see the empty garden.
This weekend, when I was walking past her home, I noticed that the hawthorn and the various flowers outside her gate were blooming. They were beautiful and stopped me in my tracks. I marveled at their bloom, and inhaled their scent, then I really savoured the moment and sent it out to my neighbour as I exhaled. I felt she must be missing her land and the glory of the Irish countryside in May. We often spoke about how it was our favourite time of the year.
Pema Chodron talks about this version of Tonglen as ‘enhancing the training in joy’ and it did feel like I was magnifying my joy by sending it to my neighbour. So much so, that I was inspired and cut some of the flowers, made a bouquet and decided to visit her and bring her garden to her. At this, I felt joy in my heart. I feels good to do something nice for others. So, as I planned my trip over to see her, there was a skip in my step and a smile on my face as I walked home.
With this small practice, I not only enhanced my training in joy, but I brought a deep feeling of well-being into my heart.
So, this week’s challenge is to see what it might be like to enhance YOUR training in joy. See if you can stop and notice any moments where you experience any pleasure or tenderness in life, breathe in savouring that moment and then exhale and send it out to someone you may know is suffering.
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