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Magic in the Time of Coronavirus: Mass Meditation for Healing and Compassion

Mar 21 · 8 min read

”Breathe in for all of us and breathe out for all of us.“ —Pema Chödron

This meditative ritual, which can be done any time, in coordination with others or alone, empowers individuals to heal themselves and their loved ones. Simultaneously, it helps each of us increase compassion for ourselves and others in our time of chaos, anxiety, and uncertainty.

Think of this simple practice as a heart sanitizer.

The ritual is ecumenical, and can be done by anyone of any spiritual tradition (or none). As with all of the rituals and meditations I have created, view this as “open source” and tweak or alter to fit your tradition. Options and variations will be forthcoming.

The first coordinated mass working of this ritual will start at 11pm EDT on Tuesday, March 24th, 2020. Please join us then if you can!

P.S. I’ve added a link to a bonus meditation at the bottom of this page, Andrew Weil’s 4–7–8 breath. It can be a literal lifesaver, so please watch the video and commit the (very simple) practice to memory. Do it any time you feel stressed, anxious, scared, or uneasy. It’s also helpful when you can’t sleep. It works within minutes and is incredibly powerful. Seriously–just skip to it now if you’re anxious and give it a try!

Description and Background: This ritual was created in the tradition of a Buddhist meditation called Tonglen, which can be translated as “sending and receiving.” In brief, you breathe in the pain and suffering of yourself and your loved ones, then exhale calmness, compassion, love, and healing. As you do the practice regularly, you begin to expand the circle of healing out to your community, and ultimately your world.

For those who wish to go a bit deeper into the practice, you can start with this article by Joan Halifax. But for now, simply follow the directions below as best as you can.

All of us are feeling—to some level—anxiety, fear, and unease, and this ritual is designed to help us confront those unpleasant feelings and transmute them into compassion and love for ourselves and others. As Halifax writes:

Tonglen is one of the richest and bravest practices that we can do. In teaching this practice for more than twenty-five years, I have been told again and again that this one practice has helped many people immeasurably in attending to their own fears around pain, suffering, dying, and loss and has given them a real basis for the joining of compassion and equanimity . . . .

We begin the practice with a heart that is truly committed to helping others and to working openly with our own situation. When we look deeply into how this can actually happen, we see that to help others, we must relate with kindness toward our own suffering, our rage, helplessness, and frustration, our doubt, bitterness, and fear.

The practice of Sending and Receiving helps us to get in touch with the obstacles that prevent us from understanding and caring. Through our own experience with suffering and the development of an atmosphere of openness toward it, we can begin to accept and be with others and ourselves in a more open, kind and understanding way. Our own difficult personal experiences then become the bridge that leads us to compassion and to giving no fear.

As Pema Chödron summarized the practice:

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.

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

Instructions (v1.3)

Ready to give it a try? Read over the instructions first then find a quiet spot and get your flowers, white candle, and matches (or a lighter) ready.


  • White candle (any size) and matches or lighter
  1. Find a quiet space. This is a great meditation to do outdoors as well, especially in sun- or moonlight. But any quiet spot is fine. Place the candle and flowers/herb in front of you. Put the crystal or object (if you’re using one)next to the candle.

May I be free of suffering; may I be at peace.
May you be free of suffering; may you be at peace.
May all beings be free of suffering; may all beings be at peace.
May all be healed and blessed.

Open your eyes and sit with the candle quietly for as long as you’d like. When you’re ready, blow out the candle, ending the ritual.

Advanced Practice: Go Bigger

You liked that? Ready to go deeper? Here’s how.

  • Expand the Circle. Inhale the suffering of your entire block. Your apartment building. Your city. Bioregion. Planet. Start slowly but don’t be afraid to go big. This is the goal of Tonglen: to ease the pain and suffering of all sentient beings, starting with yourself.


What does this have to do with stopping COVID-19?

The aim of this ritual is not to stop the flow of the virus—in my experience, it is hard to work magic against relentless viral mathematics. Others are certainly focusing on that goal, and I support them wholeheartedly. This ritual meditation serves a critical purpose: to alleviate suffering of sentient beings while empowering each of us to be healers and peacemakers.

We’re facing an unimaginable level of uncertainty and fear. Mistrust. Anger. Anxiety. Exhaustion. Despair. We need to learn to process those emotions and mental states, so we can help those around us.

So it’s not a healing ritual?

This ritual also employs energy work designed to heal us physically as well as emotionally. But do all your regular physical activities: eat well, take walks in the sunshine, and get plenty of restful sleep.

How often should I do it?

Once a day is fine, or whenever you feel compelled.

What if i can’t visualize?

Not a problem. Just imagine. Describe what’s happening to yourself via internal monologue.

Will I be okay?

Who knows? But one thing is certain: compassion builds strength and resilience so you can take better care of yourself and others.

Is there a cheat sheet?

Yes. 1. Inhale suffering, exhale healing. 2. Repeat. 3. Expand the circle. 4. Be sure to smell the flowers.


Andrew Weil’s 4–7–8 Breath: Please watch this and share—it could save your life!


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