Category Archives: Tonglen

Breathe In the Longing, Breathe Out the Wish

lastretreat

Breathe in the wish, the longing to take away the suffering; breathe out the wish to send comfort and happiness. ~Pema Chödrön

I am allowing myself space on this retreat. As I mentioned yesterday, I dropped the plan, and am instead seeing how things might naturally arise. There is wisdom, clarity that will emerge if you allow it room and time. I am trusting in this.

Today I was very aware of suffering, in the world and in myself. I was touched by the suffering of others, those dealing with illness, death, loss, grief, self-hatred, fear, abuse. I was softened by my own suffering as well, so similar, so much the same. I gently contemplated my regrets, my failures, the ways I’ve lived in the shadows, stayed hidden away and closed off this past year.

Rather than beating yourself up, use your own stuckness as a stepping stone to understanding what people are up against all over the world.

Breathe in for all of us and breathe out for all of us.

Use what seems like poison as medicine. Use your personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings. ~Pema Chödrön

I practiced Tonglen for all of us. In a video I watched, Pema Chödrön talked about how in Tonglen, we “relax into the outbreath,” and how the practice is about sending space, relief and comfort and ease, so that those who are suffering will know that their hearts and minds are indeed big enough to accommodate their discomfort, their fear, their despair, their anger, their physical or emotional anguish.

And today there was also so much joy and gratitude. I experienced compassion and comfort through the connections I’ve made in the past year, long conversations about important things, short exchanges that make me smile so big my face hurts from it, sharing our experiences, cheering each other on. So many brilliant and beautiful women who offer their support, wisdom, kindness, strength, and good humor, who fill my life with so much grace and laughter.

And later into the snow on a walk with my little family, I feel the cold air as I draw it into my lungs, warm it and release it. I feel the strength of my lungs and legs, the willingness of my whole body, my whole self to move. I revel in the company of my three boys, the beauty of the world around us, and wonder at my luck.

I live in a place where every year someone decorates a few of the trees along the trail. I live in a world where people open their hearts to each other, sharing our stories and our pain, a world where people offer each other support and help. A world where every day our hearts are broken, and yet once they are, we see that there is room for all of it, the suffering and the joy, that there is so much to love, to live for.

I’m so glad you are here with me, kind and gentle reader. Life is tender and terrible, beautiful and brutal–may we keep our hearts open to all of it, may we know that they are big enough to hold all of it.