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Tong Len Meditation

Based on Tibetan Buddhist Practice

by MarzI Pecen

Tong Len Meditation

I like to think that peace is built on a solid foundation of compassion. 

What exactly is compassion? Miriam Webster defines compassion as a “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” We all think we have compassion, but what we have is sympathy for friends or for those we like.  Maybe those we admire.  But compassion has no limitations. It is to be shared equally with everyone. 

For many people, The Dalai Lama is the human embodiment of compassion.  He has devoted his entire life to studying, teaching and generating the mind of compassion. That’s quite a commitment. HHDL teaches a practice that every Tibetan Buddhists knows called Tong Len.  There are many variations of it, but, essentially, it’s a symbolic giving and taking practice. Taking fuel you need from another person and using it to generate compassion for all sentient beings.  What’s the fuel? Well, others pain, suffering, hate, crime, fear, confusion, greed, poverty, illness… I could go on, but I think you have the idea. 

I hope you are willing to give this visualization practice a try. 

Find comfy sitting position. Close your eyes.  Take a few breaths and let your body find a relaxed state while your mind is calm. Now, bring your awareness to your heart area. The seat of your love and compassion. A beautiful refuge inside yourself.  There, deep inside a visualized heart center is a tiny, glowing ember. Think of it as a little briquet of condensed compassion. It’s quiet and warm. It’s a bit ashy and it’s waiting.

Now turn your attention to the vast space in front of you. It’s time to visualize the object of your compassion. I want you to visualize the person you most despise.  A real person, not a composite, not a historic figure, or a fictional character,  a genuine person who is alive. You can know them personally or they could be a public figure you are familiar with.   

I know this is a challenge.  I know, you don’t want to be compassionate to this person.  They are mean, evil, hateful, ruining the environment, killing human beings, spreading lies, inciting social injustice. They represent all that is contradictory to peace. They, of all people, do not deserve your compassion. That is exactly the point. On some level, they are suffering too and you and your compassion have the power to transcend hate & prejudice to relieve their suffering and through them relieve the suffering of all beings.

Make the visualization as vivid as you can.  See how tall they are,  How they move,  What they are wearing. How they stand. How are they looking at you?  Who is standing next to them?  Populate the scene with countless numbers of people. Starting with companions of the person and ending way off on the periphery with the tiniest little sentient being.  In between is every person and animal in the world. Get them all in there. From microbes to whales. Even if they are so far in the distance, you know they are all there.

Let’s start with a calm natural inhale and see dark smoke and ooze start emanating from the person in front of you.  It might not be much… you may have to coax it out.  Slowly breath in this fuel, bypassing your lungs directing right to your heart center and the glowing ember. It sparks and catches fire. The flame is small it first but with each inhale of the sticky goo the flame grows. Your compassion feeds on the darkness. Notice how the flames build in your heart. Your virtual body begins  to fill up with warm glow.  Every bit of the smoke and sludge and debris that you inhale is transformed into the pristine glow of compassion.

From your heart center, you radiate a continuous stream of light toward the object of your compassion. They absorb the stream as it pushes out any darkness and negativity left inside of them. You breath in this fuel, convert it into the brilliant light of compassion and radiate it back to them. The person in front of you fills with this transformative glow as you continue breathing.

You are glowing with love and compassion as you pour light into the person across from you.  They can no longer contain all the light and they begin radiating the light out from their body.  Enveloping those nearest them and with each breath, the glow spreads to gently embrace all beings in your visualization.

Through your motivation, you have transformed the person you most despise into a conduit to share love and compassion with all sentient beings.  Draining away all their hate fear, anger, pain … all the negativity dwelling inside of them, you have left a space where light, compassion and peace could flourish and be shared. 

At some point, you will feel that its time to bring this to a close.  Dissolve the visualization. You feel refreshed and calm as you ember of compassion dies down into a little glow.

You’ll find regular practice of Tong Len is transformative. Maintenance is needed to keep your compassion muscles in tune. And until we manifest peace, there will always be a source of fuel for us somewhere in the world.

Finally, I’m thankful for Babette Donaldson conceiving Sip for Peace and all of the effort she has devoted to bringing people together to make it a reality. 

Marzi Pecen

I’m a tea Tea Specialist who shares my skills and knowledge beyond the walls of the tea community. Working with artists, perfumers, chefs, mixologists and hospitality specialist to bring tea to a wider audience in the world.  In addition to classes in tea, I present sensory experiences and training. In my spare time, I care for baby deer and bats, travel, and pursuit knowledge of all kinds.