Lojong Practice Journal: Sending & taking should be practiced alternately. These two should ride the breath.
The slogan ‘Sending & taking should be practiced alternately’ is a guide to the practice of tonglen, a form of meditation used to help us cultivate love and compassion, which accompanies the Lojong Slogans. This can be a counter-intuitive practice, especially if we are inclined to think of suffering as a punishment and happiness as a reward, rather than just facts of life and part of the human condition. Fortunately, the practice also cuts through this way of thinking — that’s a large part of the point of doing it.
The practice itself involves using the breath as the object of meditation, as we do when we are doing a mindfulness meditation, but with another layer added on. During the in-breath (taking) we visualise suffering and breath it in as an act of compassion. During the out-breath (sending) we visualise contentment and breath it out as an act of love.
We do this practice so we can become more comfortable being present with suffering, so we can show up for people more readily, whatever they are going through. This becomes easier not just because we are learning how to breath in that which we normally resist, but because we are also learning how to offer that which we normally try to hoard for ourselves.
It is a practice of letting go of the small sense of ‘I’ and self protection, so we can tap into the limitless qualities of love and compassion, and also equanimity and sympathetic joy. As we do this practice we begin to see how we are big enough for our life — big enough for everything that life throws at us or anyone else.
This slogan is best presented in tandem with the slogan ‘Begin the sequence of sending and taking with yourself’, in order to understand how tonglen can be developed as a practice.
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