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Coping with the Pandemic: 7 Steps to Mindfulness Meditation — Tonglen

mindfulmeditation Coping with the Pandemic: 7 Steps to Mindfulness Meditation — Tonglen

Mindfulness and meditation are both great tools that can help us cultivate calm amidst chaos. For those who are new to mindfulness practice, it is not uncommon to mistake mindfulness for a form of meditation. If fact, it is a different practice altogether. Mindfulness is the practice of honing your focused attention and choosing what you wish to focus attentively on. Meditation takes many forms, from movement meditations to seated or even laying down meditations using the anchor of attention on the breath, a word, a phrase or a visualization. Some formal meditations have no anchor of attention, inviting you to notice your thoughts, feelings, and emotions and then practice noticing what comes up without judgement, allowing yourself to let the thoughts drift past without attaching to any story lines. This form is called open awareness meditation.

The nature of meditation makes it easy to use in tandem with mindfulness, and the two together offer a unique opportunity to access an inner sense of peacefulness and relaxation — even in stressful times like these.

The Receiving-Sending Meditation is one of my favorites to share with people. It’s an especially powerful one right now as we navigate the pandemic and recovery, expanding our awareness that we are all in this together. The Receiving-Sending Meditation originated in the Buddhist tradition (where it is called “Tonglen”) and is now a meditation staple for many teachers and practitioners.

When doing this meditation, we practice mindfulness of the breath, mindful awareness of where emotions are rooted in the body, and mindful attention towards easing pain and creating peace.



The Receiving-Sending Meditation

1. Get in a comfortable position, sitting with your back relatively straight and relaxed. Close your eyes gently, if that is comfortable for you. If you prefer your eyes open, then a gentle downward soft gaze will help you minimize distractions.

2. Take three deep, nourishing breaths. Find your breath where you notice it most easily. It may be the bottom of your nostrils, your chest, or your belly. Tune in to your breath.

3. Watch your breath for a few minutes. Notice what’s going on in your body. See if you can notice where in your body your emotions are manifesting themselves. Name the emotion and locate it in your body:

Oh, that’s anger in my stomach.”
“Oh, that’s shame under the anger.”
“Oh, that’s depression in my heart.”

4. See if you can visualize what the emotion looks like. Is it like a brick or a boulder? Is it hot or cold? Is it shaky or still? Is it contracting, like pulling in and down?

5. Then, breathe in the pain. Focus your attention on your intake breath, and breathe it right into the pain.

6. Notice there is a space between your in breath and your out breath. Visualize that gap as a huge cavern filled with light. Your pain is dropping down into that space. Your pain is not alone. You are breathing in the pain of all of the people in the world who are experiencing the same suffering right at that moment. Millions of people are suffering just like you right now.

7. The pain coming in gets transformed by something in the cavern so that your out breath is a light, free breath of ease, goodwill, and freedom from suffering. Breathe in the pain; breathe out clear goodness. In goes the suffering; out goes the peace. In comes the anger; out goes the goodwill.

Keep practicing for fifteen minutes, then let the last five minutes be free from focusing your attention on your breath, words, or feelings. Just sit and notice what comes up, allowing your experience to be just what it is.

If you enjoy this meditation, explore other mindfulness meditations. The more you practice, the more easily you will tap into peace and calm when you need it most.

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