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Monday, April 2, 2012

Monday Meditations: Tonglen

This is part of Cocoon's Monday Meditation series.

This week's meditation is based on the Tibetan premise of Tonglen - giving and taking (or sending and receiving). In the practice, one visualizes taking onto oneself the suffering of others on the in-breath, and on the out-breath giving happiness and success to all beings.

The practice of Tonglen is to:

  • reduce selfish attachment
  • increase a sense of surrender
  • create positive karma by giving and helping
  • develop and expand loving-kindness and enlightenment
The practice of Tonglen involves all of the Six Perfections: giving, morality, patience, joyous effort, meditation, and wisdom.

The following is taken from Madonna Gauding's, The Meditation Bible, on practicing this meditation:

Practice tonglen for other for those close to you when you become aware that they are suffering. First practice it for yourself to begin to understand what compassion feels like.


  1. Sit in meditation posture on your cushion or chair or practice spontaneously any time and anywhere you want. Breath for a few minutes to calm your mind. Then imagine having unlimited love and compassion.
  2. Think of someone close to you, who you know is suffering from life problems or illness. Visualize the person in front of you.
  3. Visualize their suffering as black smoke and visualize yourself breathing it in and gathering it in your heart. Be willing to take it on and remove it from them. As it reaches your heart imagine it dissolving all your self-centerdness. 
  4. Now breath out love, joy and compassion to him or her. Don't hold anything back.
  5. Continue taking and sending with your breath for as long as you like. End when you are ready, remembering to give yourself compassion again.
When you first start this practice, you may have some difficulty visualizing taking in other peoples' suffering and giving away all your joy and happiness to them. Over time this will change. You will discover that you have an abundance of positive resources, more than you can imagine. And don't worry - taking in other peoples' problems in this way will not harm you.

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