Lojong Practice 9: We Breathe

I am using Weeping Buddha and the lojong sayings and commentary from Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness by Chogyam Trungpa as a study, together.
I’ve been practicing
tonglen for almost three decades, and it is my main practice.
This is the ninth weekly installment.  To start at the beginning go here.

2014 9 LOJONG

Sending and taking, the practice of tonglen, is simple, like sit meditation is simple.  And just as powerful.  It is a Bodhisattva practice.   Simply, whenever you are confronted with any kind of negativity, you breathe in the negative: fear, anger, hurt, sadness, hunger, homelessness, war, greed, destruction, all the awfulness, and breathe out or send into the situation the good you have to offer.  Sometimes it is an antidote.  You see war-torn and you send safety; you see sadness and you send joy.

2014 9 LOJONG SUNFLOWERWhen I am despondent and feel I have nothing to give,
I send sunflowers.  I can always conjure a field of sunflowers, and since imagining their happy heads following sunshine and feeding critters lifts me up, I can feel the tiniest bit of joy to offer up.
Joy multiplies in sunflower fields.

2014 9 LOJONG SUNFLOWERWhen my former husband was in the hospital, he was scared and in pain with a heart attack.  I was afraid he would die, and I was in fear.  I began tonglen, and practiced when I was awake and not talking to anyone.  I felt pains in my chest, and kept practicing.  I thought about Trungpa, who I can almost hear teaching me, telling of practicing as a boy when he saw older boys throwing rocks at a puppy.  He practiced with all of his might and felt the rocks on his body.  Even in pain, he kept practicing, fearlessly.  I felt fear and imagined his fear and pain, and breathed it all in, and offered all my safety and calmness to the man who was about to have surgery.  A New Age friend came to visit and asked me what I was doing, and I told him.  Terrified, he tried to stop me, saying I would bring on a heart attack.  I practiced for his fears too.  I developed a kind of fearlessness, even when I started having chest pains.

2014 9 LOJONG SUNFLOWERNow we have so many daily terrors we see, and I feel them deeply.  Homeless families, wars, and the destruction of our home, earth, and the eventual killing of animals and forests on this once beautiful place we share.  I have to be completely honest: I practice tonglen in these overwhelming sorrows for me as much as for the others.  I have no other way to cope with the sadness I feel in the face of incredible stupidity and greed.  I can’t check out with booze or the television.  I feel powerless, even though I do what I can in action and in voting.  But it doesn’t seem to matter, the sorrows keep piling on.  So even though I am supposed to do this selflessly, I also take on the suffering and send out the joy for myself as well as every sentient being.

2014 9 LOJONG SUNFLOWERI could teach you how to practice, but there are various levels to start with, and I think the practice should be taught face-to-face.  I also have to admit that I was a long-time meditator when I jumped in with both feet in difficult situations instead of building up slowly as I was taught.  If I am on my zafu, I center first through sit meditation.  If I am driving, in the market, seeing stupid posts on Facebook, seeing homeless people, I simply jump right in.  I feel what I am feeling for them or what I imagine they are feeling or experiencing — sadness, hunger, fear, revulsion — and breathe it in, sending out the antidote.  Sometimes I keep it up for a long time.  Sometimes it is simply a few breaths because I am with friends or Mitchell, and we are talking too.  The more you practice in sit meditation, the more you do this in any given moment.

2014 9 LOJONG SUNFLOWERThe practice is an amazing compassion-builder.
I also find it useful as a way to deal with uncomfortable emotions
that involve situations where I am helpless to fix or solve the
source of the discomfort for me or for others, bringing me more internal peace.  I have used it in the face of family members who were on a destruction course, and whom I could not dissuade to a perhaps better path or toward reconciliation with a loved one.  Perhaps the latter is not the point to the practice, but anytime I am more peaceful, I think it flows out in a calmer world
for others too, so I think practicing for yourself is a good thing.

In this weekly commentary on the lojong, I am not open to the feed becoming
a debate for people to nitpick Buddhism or my interpretations of Buddhist concepts.
(There are lots of places for debates.)  I am more interested in hearing about
YOUR life or how the lojong affected you or your practice awakening in some manner.
For more info about why, go here.

2014 9 LOJONG SUNFLOWER copy  2014 9 LOJONG SUNFLOWER copy  2014 9 LOJONG SUNFLOWER copy  2014 9 LOJONG SUNFLOWER copy  2014 9 LOJONG SUNFLOWER copy

©D. Katie Powell.  My images/blog posts may be reposted; please link back to zenkatwrites.  Art (unless stated) is also by me; please link to dkatiepowellart.

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About dkatiepowellart

hollywood baby turned beach gurl turned steel&glass city gurl turned cowgurl turned herb gurl turned green city gurl. . . artist writer photographer. . . cat lover but misses our big dogs, gone to heaven. . . buddhist and interested in the study of spiritual traditions. . . foodie, organic, lover of all things mik, partner in conservation business mpfconservation, consummate blogger, making a dream happen, insomniac who is either reading buddhist teachings or not-so-bloody mysteries or autobio journal thangs early in the morning when i can't sleep
This entry was posted in autobiography, compassion, courage, lojong, meditation, prayer, tonglen and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Lojong Practice 9: We Breathe

  1. susanissima says:

    Thank you, Zencat. It is such a comfort reading your words, learning from you. I will try this practice.

    In the past, when I’ve not felt in sync, I’ve breathed in love, light, and healing energy after exhaling dark, destructive, dis-ease and it has worked. I use my personal mantra in the process and when I feel balanced I return the love through breath and kind deeds. There are so many ways. ❤

Love to hear from you....

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