Practice: Tonglen


Lama Rod: So I’ll just lead a practice quickly. So as always we want to sit in a way that’s comfortable in a chair, cushion, you can also stand or lie down as well. It’s important that we’re comfortable right now in our bodies.

Bringing our attention to our heart centers, you can actually just place your hand on your heart center, having a physical connection to the heart. So allowing our attention to be grounded in our fingertips, the fingertips against the chest, feeling that connection. Once you feel grounded you can put your hands down, whatever feels comfortable for you. Within the chest, giving rise to this experience that there is a hollowness, an openness in the chest itself. You can imagine that in that emptiness is a tiny ball and then over the course of a few breaths that tiny ball begins to get larger and larger until it’s filling the entire chest, filling that openness in the heart center, the kind of openness that may feel really impossible to fill up.

So as we generate this feeling of openness, spaciousness in the chest and heart center, giving rise to or remembering or evoking this feeling of anger for you, this experience of anger. Maybe you feel angry right now or maybe you can remember or reflect on a time when you were angry, experiencing anger.

In front of you just visualize this anger being personified as you, a reflection of you in a state of anger. What does this feel like? What does this person look like or what does this person as a reflection of you look like? Lost in their own anger. So sensing this person in front of you.

Imagine that this anger begins to actually rise in the body like wisps of smoke, light smoke. Or a mist of anger. Imagine that you’re inhaling that mist of anger and it is being inhaled and dropped right down to the openness, spaciousness of the heart center. You’re not being filled up, it’s just simply going into this spaciousness, and as it drops it begins to be clarified and purified. Imagine that you begin to breathe out, exhale a sense of light. So this experience of lightness, of peace, of calm.

Maintaining the spaciousness in the heart center but feeling that no matter how much of this anger you inhale, you will never be filled up, that everything taken into the heart center is purified. Everything you breathe out is nothing but peace, relaxation.

As you’re completing this practice, just begin to make aspirations that all beings may be liberated from the suffering of anger. And then begin to dissolve the person in front of you. Dissolve that person back into your heart center where the last remaining wisps of anger are purified. And then breathe out one last time, a sense of deep calm, wellbeing, happiness and joy for all beings.

Now by the end of that practice you should be enlightened. [laughs]

Kate: I’m there!

Lama Rod: There are a million ways to do tonglen -- so many ways. I encourage people to figure out what works best for them. Every lineage does it differently. But that’s a really basic thing that I do something when I feel myself running away with it. I breathe it in and in my mind I imagine myself leaning into the experience of anger. Locating that in my body as well. I always do it differently depending on the situation, but that’s the basic heart practice that I do.

Kate: That was awesome. Love the space. The heart space.

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