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This article about Tonglen was originally published on one of my Blogger blogs back in January 2007 and again in November 2009, but I have known of and have successfully used the practice since 2005.

 

Tonglen is an ancient healing practice that is getting some much-deserved publicity these days and deserves another “day in the sun” here. Though I wrote this over a three and a half years ago, and originally sent it to an email group I once belonged to, I do continue to use the practice when in need of self-healing. I hope you find it useful!

 

Tonglen (sometimes spelled “tonglin” for folks who would like to do some research of their own) is apparently a practice that comes to us from Tibet.

 

It is practiced entirely through breathing. As the fellow in the book (cited below) says, “If you can breathe in and out, you can practice tonglin.”

 

As you inhale, you think of people you want to help who are suffering. You can visualize those people if you know them, or think of their names and locations if you do not. You may work on specific problems, or do general work.

 

As you think of them, you inhale and bring into yourself their pain and suffering. Do not worry that you will somehow be contaminated by their problems; you will transform and exhale the problems almost immediately.

 

You exhale, and send with the outgoing breath healing, relief, or compassion. (Compassion is one of the most powerful emotions in the universe.) When you exhale, imagine and see your breath as flowing expansively outward, reaching all the people whom you are trying to help.

 

It’s not a forceful practice (you don’t “suck in” as much air as you can and then force it across the room as you exhale), but it is deliberate; you should pay attention to each inhale and exhale, and breathe with the intention and purpose of accepting suffering of, and sending healing to, others.

 

And here is a very interesting point about this practice if you are doing it for yourself. If you can breathe in the suffering and pain of other people who are experiencing the same thing as you, you are sharing the burden of your suffering and thereby reducing it (“a burden shared is a burden lessened” as they say). As you breathe out healing, you heal not only others with the same affliction, but yourself.

 

I believe the key here is to set aside the “I” and merge with the “us.” It is not recommended that you work on just yourself; you should include others who are experiencing the same thing you are. You need not do this on an individual or personal basis (you may not know the name or location of a person with the same problem), but there are 6 billion people in the world today: whatever you are experiencing, you are certainly not alone.

 

To work on yourself, when you inhale, say or think or intend something like “I breathe in the suffering of all of us who have a pain in their left arm” (or whatever your problem is.) Your problem need not be physical, this practice may be used to relieve anger, sadness, grief, or other emotions.). Exhale and say/think/intend “I offer (or send) healing to all of us.”

 

If, at the end of your practice for the day or session, you should feel that you are still connected to someone else’s suffering or problems, disconnect by saying “I am done now,” or simply “Good-bye!” Repeat if necessary. (Sometimes, if we are working on an emotional problem that triggers us, it will bring up troubling things which we must dismiss for the time being. You could always work on it again during another healing session if needed.)

 

FYI, I learned about this in a book by Andrew Weiss titled Beginning Mindfulness, New World Library, Novato CA, 2004, ISBN 1577314417. The book presents a ten-week mindfulness course, and the practice for the tenth week is tonglen. There is a Buddhist slant to the material, but the author incorporates other practices as well.

 

A couple of anecdotal stories:

I used the tonglen method four days ago (Thur, Apr 14, 2005) on my arm; I have carpal tunnel, and have had pain of one kind or another in my hands every day for the past three years. (I am having massage therapy for the condition. That helps quite a bit, but sometimes I move the wrong way, or grasp something the wrong way, and it aggravates the condition.) The other day, my left arm, from the heel of the hand to the shoulder, was just about killing me. I did this tonglen practice for ten to fifteen minutes, and my left hand has been completely pain free ever since….and I do mean completely pain free which is nothing short of a miracle! It may start bothering me again, but the last four days have been heaven as far as my left hand is concerned! 🙂

 

As an update (Sunday, May 22, 2005) I’d like to add here that I have been having some carpal tunnel problems lately (mostly because the keyboard is at the wrong height again…will have to fix that!), but a few minutes doing Tonglen relieves the pain admirably.

 

Further update (Monday, June 13, 2005): in the past couple of weeks I’ve also used this method to relieve an annoying tooth problem. I walk every evening for 10 to 15 minutes, and I practice this healing method while I walk, breathing in pain and breathing out healing. It’s an incredibly wonderful practice.

 

Here is some of the feedback I received on this post:

Massage therapy helped my carpel tunnel without surgery too. Due to neck & back problems from a fall from a tree when I was a child, I had been going to the chiropractor 2-3 times a week, then got it down to once a week or less….then realized my Buddhist practice, which includes some tonglen, relieved me of having to go to the chiropractor. I had learned of tonglen practice from reading Pema Chodron. She also has a CD which explains tonglen.

 

I like your version/explanation of tonglen best….. :-)……much more simplified than Pema Chodron’s. However, if someone wants to read/study Pema Chodron’s, I recommend her CD which, for me, was easier to understand than her book. Her book is “Start Where You Are”. The CD, book & daily inspiration cards are in a set titled “The Compassion Box.”

~SB~

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I just wanted to Thank You for this Tonglen Healing. This morning coming in from watering, I slipped on the tile and twisted a muscle in my shoulder blade. I thought, good excuse to go and do the Tonglen Technique. I did, I sat and did the breathing and letting it heal through. I like that you add others into the technique as well. It made me feel real good… The muscle now barley has any little twinge left in it at all. I am just taking it easy and continue to do the breathing. Thanks again and I will definitely add this easy technique to my list of uses!

~J~

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I tried Tonglen once, on my stomach ache, and it really did work!
Thanks for sharing with us that wonderful technique. 🙂

~ASP~

If anyone were to ask me about my spiritual practice, the first word out of my mouth would be Kirtan.
Kitan is devotional singing/chanting in Sanskrit. I learned of it in 2008 and joined the weekly gathering of the Bend (Oregon) Kirtan Community in February 2009. I now participate in the Kirtan community of Boise (Idaho), and singing remains the main element in my spiritual practice. The info below comes from Kirtan Community, a blog I created of kirtan playlists.

Oneness in all it’s parts: the Om Purnam mantra seems most appropriate for beginnings, a New Year and a Full Moon together on this January 1, 2014.

 

This is one of my favorite songs. (I say that about all the songs, though!)

 

OM Purnam-ada purnam-idam

Purnaat purnam udachyathe

purnasaya purnam-adaya

purnam-eva vashishyathe

 

The translation I am most familiar with from our Bend, Oregon, Kirtan Community gatherings is:

 

THAT is infinite, THIS is infinite;

From That, This comes.
THIS added or removed from THAT,

the Infinite remains as Infinite.

 

although I like this one, too:

Wholeness produces wholeness

Only wholeness come out of wholeness

Only wholeness is.

 

 

Here is an Osho quote on the meaning of this mantra:

http://www.oshonews.com/2010/09/om-purnam-mantra/

“[Om Purnam] is one of the most significant statements ever made anywhere on the earth at any time. It contains the whole secret of the mystic approach towards life. This small sutra contains the essence of the Upanishadic vision. Neither before nor afterwards has the vision been transcended; it still remains the Everest of human consciousness. And there seems to be no possibility of going beyond it.

 

“The Upanishadic vision is that the universe is a totality, indivisible; it is an organic whole. The parts are not separate, we are all existing in a togetherness: the trees, the mountains, the people, the birds, the stars, howsoever far away they may appear – don’t be deceived by the appearance – they are all interlinked, all bridged. Even the smallest blade of grass is connected to the farthest star, and it is as significant as the greatest sun.

 

“Nothing is insignificant, nothing is smaller than anything else. The part represents the whole just as the seed contains the whole.”

 

 

This site offers a wide variety of translations which have a slightly different slant and meaning.

Purna: The Full, Infinite, Whole, Complete

From the Isha Upanishad

http://www.swamij.com/upanishad-isha-purna.htm

 

 

Om Purnamadah Purnamidam – in sanskrit with meaning – mantra from [Isha] Upanishad

http://www.greenmesg.org/mantras_slokas/vedas-om_purnamadah_purnamidam.php

Om Puurnnam-Adah Puurnnam-Idam Puurnnaat-Purnnam-Udacyate

Puurnnashya Puurnnam-Aadaaya Puurnnam-Eva-Avashissyate ||

Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||

 

Meaning:

1: Om, That is Full, This also is Full, From Fullness comes that Fullness,

2: Taking Fullness from Fullness, Fullness Indeed Remains.

3: Om Peace, Peace, Peace.

 

 

See the complete Sri Isha Upanishad here:

http://www.stephen-knapp.com/sri_isha_upanishad.htm

 

 

 

The Om Purnam playlist includes 14 versions by different artists, 15 videos because one is a “repeat” with different graphics that I happen to love. Plays for 76 minutes.

 

Om Purnam 6:06

Sang by Satyaa & Pari. Cd Garden of Peace.

 

George Harrison ~ Om Purnam 4:00

Sloka 1 of Sri Isopanishad performed by The London Radha Krsna Temple produced and featuring George Harrison of Beatles fame.

 

Jaya Lakshmi – Om Purnam 5:50

 

Shantala -“Purnamadah” 6:11

 

OM PURNAM 3:46

MUSIC: “OM PURNAM” BY KESAVA ACHARYA DAS

 

Karnamrta Devi Dasi ~ Om Purnam 4:54

Om Purnam is performed by bhakti bhajan artist Karnamrta Devi Dasi.

 

Deva Premal – Om Purnam I 3:57

 

Gaura-Shakti – Om Purnam 7:44

 

Om Purnam Adah Purnam Idam – Naradi Devi 4:37

Sat Sanga Kirtan Band with band members – Balabhadra Prabhu, Naradi Devi & Hasyagrami Prabhu – March 5, 2011 – NS – DVD 66 appearance at Chantlanta gathering.

 

om purnamadah purnamidam / La ilaha illallah 3:51

om purnam adah purnam idam // this is one and that is one

purnat purnam udacyate // from one the one has come

purnasya purnam adaya // if from one you take out one

purnam evavasisyate // one alone remains

“La ilaha illallah” there is no god except god

 

Sivali Shanti – Om Purnamidam 4:16

Mooji Satsang in Rishikesh, India, 3 March 2013

 

Shanti People (Russian) – OM PURNAM 2:30

 

Om Purnam 6:23 (a second version of this song)

Sang by Satyaa & Pari. Cd Garden of Peace.

 

Sri Vasudeva- OM PURNAM (guy) 9:54

(i) Simple Meaning:

‘You are the fullness. There is fullness, here is fullness.

From the fullness, the fullness is born.

Remove the fullness from the fullness and the fullness alone remains.’

 

Om Purnamadah Purnamidam Purnat Purnamudachyate 2:04 (as a mantra chant)

 


Playlist url

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLACmwZPBGZMddSC5YAdPtGkQhx0ug5Hp-

October 23, 2012: Altar at end of reception counter at the Ganesha Inn hotel, Rishikesh.

2012 10 23 Ganesha Inn Reception Desk with incense - small

When I talk about the marriage of East and West, I typically mean combining the practices of kirtan, Hindu devotional singing, with A Course In Miracles.

 

Here is an excerpt from an email I sent on November 20, 2012 from Varanasi, India. It explains so much, and yet so little.

 

Some of my disjointed thoughts, but they weave themselves into a pattern; I don’t know the final picture, or even if there is one:

 

India 1 – I walk out of my hotel and literally run into a tiny woman holding a rag-cloaked baby, she’s holing out a tin cup and saying “Mama, Mama” like an old baby doll when you pressed it’s belly, and making the motion to eat. I run into her because I’m trying to avoid a cow who’s peeing gallons of urine into the street.

 

India 2 – Five minutes later I am walking the ghats and tears are streaming down my face because being there wells up in emotions so strong if I tried to contain them I’d probably burst.

 

I could say the woman/baby is the darkness being purged, but on nearly every street corner in Bend there is a person begging for money, and walking along the Deschutes River hasn’t been so emotionally charged. It IS HERE, it’s this place that does it. It can only be taught as it’s been experienced, (but I do think it can be taught to people who don’t have the opportunity to experience it) to wit:

 

In school, we all learned the story of George Washington and the cherry tree….”I cannot tell a lie.”…..and then in Jr High we’re told it didn’t really happen. So, we educate our children with lies to teach them honesty. (This has to be the public education equivalent of GMO Spirituality.) Does anyone wonder why our culture is so screwed up, or is everyone so brainwashed they don’t notice?

 

I thought of that one yesterday because I was at the coffee shop listening to two young girls (collage students), and one was talking about how her Native American grandmother used to teach lessons by sharing her life experiences. This gal is from Toronto, Canada, and is here at the university down the street for a few months. I talked with them for a while, nice conversation, but it put the spotlight onto methods of teaching…..spirituality as well as everything else.

 

That made me think of the discussion group approach again. Look at how Krishnamurti did “lessons,” a group of people came together and he answered their questions; even his books are Q&A sessions. So, if I remember right, it was the same in your Balsekar video. So, too, is Abraham-Hicks. (I know you don’t care for them, but they’re a lot deeper than you realize.)

 

It makes me wonder what would happen if there were a group that came together by a river for an hour of kirtan followed by an hour (or even two) of ACIM discussion. The world may not be ready for it.

 

I’m not at the moment interested in the doing of it as much as feeling out the approach itself. I keep thinking of the contrast between, say, a Krishnamurti-style and that guy at the Mysore Brothers concert who was just determined to teach me how to be spiritual through his library. The really paradoxical thing is that the guy said he’s been singing for 20 years and hasn’t yet achieved enlightenment. Silently, I wondered, “Why not?” and then thought, “Stop trying so hard!” Maybe he’s enlightened and just doesn’t know it because he’s measuring his experience against the wrong ruler, the Western GMO Spirituality Index. (That sounds like a good title for a conversation.)

 

People make it so hard. It’s just not that complicated. You said it in your note: the river, non-dual awareness and gut processing. The difference here, though, is that spiritual awareness is everywhere every minute of every day: Rama Krisna Plywood and its cousins from earlier emails, the street shrines all over the place, even on the ghats. The hotel has an altar near the front desk as does the restaurant (they receive fresh garlands of flowers daily), as as did the hotel in Rishikesh and the one in Haldwani. The travel agent office has a little altar on the wall. They’re all tended with devotion. Not just thoughts of devotion, but ACTS of devotion…..go out and get the flowers, place them “just so”….etc. In the West, it seems we do things more because we’re supposed to than that we want to, following the prescribed motions without the depth of devotion.

 

Even in spirituality, Westerners seem to be consumers instead of devotees. Or maybe it’s just me and I’ve got it all mixed up.  

 

That’s a good one, though….GMO Spirituality. Sounds like a good title for a book!!!!!  (sorry, I just couldn’t resist saying it……)

 

I have since changed my thoughts and found that the world is not only ready but hungering, indeed starving for the spiritual upliftment and mind-expanding experience.