Self-Care: Tonglen

Life can be unpredictable and chaotic, especially these days. It is important to take time for yourself. Like most things in life, self-care is on a spectrum. It looks different for each of us. Whatever you need is what it is.

First up, we’re going to talk about Tonglen. Tonglen is a Tibetan practice for “sending and receiving.” It’s a way for connecting with our own suffering and suffering of all beings. It can awaken our compassion.

You start by thinking of someone you know who is hurting. You breathe in their pain so they can be well and have the space to open and relax. Then you breathe out, sending them anything you think would help them find relief and happiness. You can do this either on-the-spot or as a formal meditation practice.

For example, I’ve been thinking a lot about teachers, parents, and students going back to school and what they must be feeling. Let’s focus on teachers for now. Rest your mind briefly for a few seconds if you can. Think about teachers and the anxiety they may be feeling with the intention to take this away from them. Take a deep breath in thinking of this. Now breathe out and focus on sending them relaxation. Continue to breathe in and out thinking of this until it feels right to stop (seconds, minutes, whatever you want).

Check out Pema Chödrön’s article for more information.