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compassion practice

compassion practice

Compassion. I wish for you to not suffer.
I understand you. (cognitive)
I feel for you. (emotional)
I act to help you. (embodied action)

Tonglen practice is a method for cultivating compassion. It reverses the habitual response to avoid uncomfortable feelings. It builds confidence that you have the resources to meet whatever happens. It generates resilience. It connects you with others experiencing the same thing. It softens self-protectiveness.

If you are feeling stressed, angry, jittery, afraid, sad, or any other uncomfortable emotion, and you were going to try to center, the habitual response is usually to try to breathe out the discomfort and breathe in something fresh, calm. This is an avoidance tactic, trying to avoid pain. This practice flips that on its head.

Breathe in the discomfort and pain, breathe out fresh and calm. That's the heart of the practice. It's counterintuitive, and effective!

1. CENTER. Rest your mind for a few moments in an open, still way.

2. VISCERAL/BODY EXPERIENCE
Breathe in the dark, heavy, tight sense.
Breathe out the bright, light, open sense.

3. PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
Bring to mind the situation, and imagine you are doing this practice for yourself and all the other people, just like you, who also experience this same feeling.
Breathe in the discomfort.
Breathe out fresh.

4. EXTEND
Bring to mind other's pain, and expand the taking in and sending out.
Bring to mind a friend or someone else experience pain or suffering. Do it for them, and also all others like them. Even to people you don't like who hurt you or others.
Breathe in their pain. Send them relief.

5. CENTER. Rest your mind for a minute in an open, still way.

As you practice, your compassion will naturally expand. You find yourself more able to be fully present in uncomfortable situations (internally or externally). You connect with the awareness that other people - just like you - also want to be happy and free from suffering. You are more available to yourself, and to others.

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