The Beginner’s Guide to Tonglen Meditation

When it comes to the art of meditation, there are so many different practices, approaches and techniques that are often used interchangeably in order for people to find the mindfulness they are looking for. However, if you truly look into this history of meditation and how it works, you will find there are so many different forms of meditation, designed to fit the different needs of those who practice it.

There is no one right or wrong way to meditate and there is no one best style or form of meditation. There are, however, different approaches to this discipline. One of the most established, studied and revered types of meditation is known as Tonglen.

The History of Tonglen Meditation

There is a long history behind Tonglen meditation, but simply put this practice is a method for connecting with suffering and for overcoming fear. It is designed to help awaken the compassion inside yourself and use it to help others.

With Tonglen, the goal is to change our attitude towards pain and to open up the heart so that we can be more loving and kind as we dissolve the pain around us. The practice is focused on taking the pain of others, breathing it in and allowing that person to relax and find peace. It is a great practice for those who are ill, dying or who have just passed.

This Tibetan Buddhist meditation practice that dates back to the 11th Century when leprosy was running rampant in Tibet. Meditation masters brought this art form over from India to help those who were suffering to heal themselves and so that they could help heal others.

Tonglen is a Tibetan word that is contrived of two terms “tong” which means “letting go” and “len” which means accepting. So, translated, Tonglen means to let go and to accept.

A Tool For Managing Negativity

One of the most unique things about this specific form of meditation, is that it can actually help take negative energy and transform it in to something more positive. Tonglen is great for those who want to overcome negativity. This is why those who practice the art form often use it specifically to handle stress, anxiety, health issues, pain and inflammation.

However, there are even more benefits to this form of meditation for those who want to remove negativity from their lives and find more peace and positivity in the process. Many have found that it can help increase positive emotions, improve emotional intelligence, help with low self-esteem, reduce the symptoms of depression, help relieve pain and suffering and help people overcome their fears.

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How to Practice Tonglen Meditation

Much like all other forms of Buddhist meditation, practicing this art form is rather simple. Here is a quick and easy guide for beginners who want to start practicing.

  1. Sit or lie quietly. Get comfortable. Take in several deep breaths until you find yourself in a centered, and relaxed place.
  2. Close your eyes. Imagine someone that you want to help. Perhaps it is a friend or a loved one. Focus intently on this person and on their struggle.
  3. Breathe in. As you do focus on the heaviness of their negative energy and of the things that ail them. Imagine yourself breathing in their condition or suffering. As you do this picture that you are breathing in their pain so you remove it from their bodies, giving them room for comfort, healing and positivity.
  4. Breathe out. As you breathe out, breathe happiness and peace out into the world. Think about what you think would bring them comfort or joy. Focus on that and breathe it out into the world. Imagine that breath traveling to those you want to help and having it fill that empty space with what they need.
  5. Repeat. Continue this practice of breathing in pain and breathing out peace over and over again until your session is over. Remember, this doesn’t just apply to others either. If you are in pain, you can breathe in and out your own suffering.

Getting Started

Knowing how to practice Tonglen isn’t enough, you also need to know where to begin. According to Buddhist tradition, you should begin with your mother, however the practice will still work if you begin with someone else. The best rule of thumb is to make sure you begin with someone who is close to you and someone who needs this spiritual healing the most.

Doing this will help you spread positivity to others, to yourself and eventually to the entire world.

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