Here’s a trick that worked for me. It’s nothing I made up. It’s called tonglen. It’s nothing new; it was first written about in the 11th century CE. I’ve used tonglen to deal with another person’s anger. You could use it for the pain you feel due to someone else’s anger, their judgement, their non-acceptance, or their ignorance. The key is to understand that a person’s anger, judgement, non-acceptance, and ignorance comes from their suffering and causes them more suffering. Whether they know it or not. The key is to focus on the other person’s suffering. Sometimes I think to myself that the other person is broken, and how sad that is. So, now focusing on the other person’s suffering, we’re going to do a mental visualization. It’s just an exercise. It has no real power. But this visualization does have the power to make you feel better; more at peace. Now, focus on the other person’s suffering and when you breathe in, try to relieve them of their suffering. Try to breathe in their suffering to free them from suffering. Don’t worry, this won’t make you suffer. Quite the contrary. Then, on the outbreath, think of giving that person your strength, your emotional maturity, your wisdom, or whatever they need. Breathe in their suffering… breathe out strength to them… breathe in their suffering… breathe out strength to them… breathe in their suffering… breathe out strength to them… One of two things will happen. Maybe nothing will happen, in which case you’ve just wasted a few minutes of your time. Or two, you might feel a bit better. If you feel a bit better, you’re on the path to a virtuous cycle, because as you practice tonglen, especially if it works a little for you, it will work better and better as you practice. And the more it works for you, the more you’ll remember to use this tool in your emotional toolbox.
I’ve written about this before in another post. https://wp.me/p2928Z-G Here’s an excerpt from that post:
I recently had an experience that demonstrated to me the power of looking at things from a different angle. At one time in my life, I was confronted with a very painful recurring situation. It caused me great suffering, and I learned what it is like to be pushed past my breaking point. On one occurrence, I did truly break. It’s a feeling I hope no one else ever experiences. Then I read about tonglen, a meditation practice in which one inhales and exhales. On the inhale, one focuses on another person’s suffering and tries to take that suffering from them; on the exhale, one tries to give that other person one’s strength and happiness. This is, of course, just a mental exercise or a mental visualization; nothing more. Yet when confronted with this very same painful situation, I tried practicing tonglen and instead of a feeling of sinking despair, I felt compassion and calm. This hit me like a ton of bricks, “Wow, this stuff really works!” Given the same situation, one can feel either despair and suffering, or compassion and calm, just by looking at the situation differently. How cool is that?
There’s this nun called Pema Chödrön who talks a lot about tonglen. She’s pretty cool. Here are a few things from her.
She’s from New York City; maybe that’s why I like her. Very down to earth.