Many of us who feel overwhelmed and even helpless after the recent tragedies in Nice, Dallas and even in my hometown here in Minnesota turn to prayer for comfort. Studies have shown a direct impact on the object or people for whom meditation is being performed. The U.S has spent more than $2.2 million researching this very topic. But is it possible to create a meditation for the world at large? Tonglen, a meditation practice, may well be the answer.
Why use tonglen as a meditation for the world?
The practice of Tonglen, also called Sending (or Giving) and Receiving is one of the fundamental Buddhist meditation practices. I first learned tonglen when I was at a very difficult personal crossroad. Later, when several personal tragedies occurred closely together I used tonglen to achieve significant release from my suffering. But these days I am doing tonglen as my own way of dealing with the shootings and terrorist killings. It’s my meditation for the world. My way of doing something and NOT feeling helpless.
What is tonglen?
Tonglen is very easy to do and you can take as long or as little time as you like, or have. I cannot describe it any better than Pema Chodron, who writes about the practice this way:
One very powerful and effective way to work with tendency to push away pain is the practice of tonglen. Tonglen is a Tibetan word that literally means “sending and taking.” The practice originated in India and came to Tibet in the eleventh century. In tonglen practice, when we see or feel suffering, we breathe in with the notion of completely feeling it, accepting it, and owning it. Then we breathe out, radiating compassion, lovingkindness, freshness; anything that encourages relaxation and openness.
Chodron recommends meditating normally for a few minutes before and after tonglen to make it more effective.
There are many opportunities to meditate together with others to focus on world peace and other topics. Tonglen is a simple practice I can do every day. I really do believe it helps as a meditation for the world. I know it helps as a meditation for me.