One of the things that comes to mind just about every day, as I listen to the news, is how powerfully fear motivates actions that cause suffering to so many. It might be fear of difference, fear of losing power, fear of the “other”. Whatever the focus of fear, it can become a motivator for lashing out, tearing down, striving to get rid of or destroy that which is feared.
One of the practices I’ve used over many years now is a derivation (my own “translation” of the process) of the Buddhist practice of Tonglen. As a trauma therapist, there have been many times where I’ve sat with someone working on an overwhelming trauma and what has offered me support in staying steady and present over all these years has been this practice of Tonglen. It allows me to keep my heart open in the presence of suffering and pain and has helped me not to be overwhelmed by what clients have shared over these years.
A number of years ago, I realized that Tonglen was a beautiful example of a subtle activism practice—of a practice I could use regularly to help metabolize collective fear and hatred. When I do this practice as subtle activism, I focus on fear because of my belief that this state of being is the source of hatred, violence, and so many other ways in which we harm one another.
And so, for this week’s practice, I invite you to explore the following guided process of using Tonglen (my derivation of it) to contribute to our collective healing. If you haven’t done this kind of practice before, let me say just a few things about it. Pema Chodron, the Buddhist teacher, has wonderful material on Tonglen. You can find her in her books and on YouTube. One of the things I heard her say early on in my explorations of Tonglen is that the light of the heart is fiery and is capable of neutralizing negative energy. She has also said that the more we do this kind of practice the brighter the fiery love in our heart becomes. I have found this to be true and, at this point in my life, I deeply trust the fire in my heart to be able to neutralize or transmute negative energy.Read More “902nd Week: A Practice for Healing Collective Fear“