September 23, 2008

Pema Chodron: How to do Tonglen, a meditation practice for difficult times.

Pema Chodron teaches Tonglen, a practice for difficult times.

Tonglen, a simple yet counter-intuitive meditation practice for tough times. Reverse the flow of ego.


In times of things falling apart, duress, heartbreak, stress…a meditation practice to baitswitch our silly crazy mopey ego and engender happiness, compassion, equanimity.

This is great for tough heavy powerful times.

It’s a profound Buddhist meditation—and while you don’t have to be Buddhist, if you do this, you do have to sandwich it between simple meditation.

Pema Chodron​—she’s just amazing, soothing, for intense times.

I grew up knowing Pema Chodron (the second most popular Buddhist in America, after that Dalai Lama guy). Or, rather, she knew me (I was just a little kid running around not paying attention to anything). My first memory of her is at Whittier Elementary in Boulder, Colorado, where I attended kindergarten. She and my momma were, and are friends.

As I grew up, I got to know her a little (doing service shifts at her cabin at Shambhala Mountain in 1992, where she helped Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche teach his first Seminary) and was always struck at how strong and powerful this kindly, small woman was—what a leader.

Everyone knows she’s sweet (that voice!). But seeing her on Bill Moyers, not even nervous or blinking, then doing the same thing with Oprah—well I realized again and again that this woman knows exactly who she is, and what is what.

These days, I still know her a little bit, though I only rarely see her (recently saw her a little at the Karmapa’s first visit to America).

Here (below) she talks about tonglen practice, one of the fundamental meditation practices of Buddhism as taught by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. It’s great for doing if a loved one is dying, or your mind is in particular tumult…you can learn how to do it from her books or at your local Shambhala Center, it’s easy to learn and actually very practical, powerful and easy to do. Video (or, click here to check out her and Oprah’s conversation).

It’s good to set the stage by meditating (click here for Trungpa’s classic instruction) for a few minutes before, and after, your tonglen practice—so that you don’t hold onto the black/hot/heavy inbreath or the white/cool/bright outbreath (you’ll know what I mean when you watch the below videos).

Bonus: Gampo Abbey video.

One more:


Read: Elephant’s Mindful Advice on Coronavirus. ~ Waylon

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