"Use what seems like poison as medicine. Use your personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings."
After my mom died, I was having so much trouble connecting with her. I was feeling lost and alone. I turned to meditation as a way to calm my heart and to connect with her spirit. A few months later, in reading When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron I came across a special meditation called “Tonglen”. Tonglen provided my second awakening to the universality of grief. (My first awakening was outlined in my last post, Your Grief is My Grief.)
This breathing exercise can be done no matter what religion or belief system you have. It is an amazing way to grow empathy and compassion for yourself and for others, to understand you are not alone in your suffering and grief, and to feel supported by God, the Universe, and humanity. Tonglen has since become an ongoing practice for me.
5-Minute Meditation for Compassion: Tonglen
I’ve adjusted this exercise to focus directly on grieving and simplified it into five steps. Even if you have never meditated before, I think you’ll find yourself able to do this exercise.
- Sit up straight, but comfortably, cross-legged on the ground or in a chair. This can also be done lying down. Begin to deepen your breathing.
- Begin to draw focus to whatever it is you are feeling, whatever is causing us to feel “stuck”. If it is grief, focus on that grief. If it is anger, draw closer to that anger. If it is anxiety, heart-ache, despair, sorrow, revenge, betrayal, loneliness, or fear, focus on that feeling. Take two slow breaths, focused on your feelings.
- Now take a few breaths to consider everyone in the world who has felt, is feeling, or will feel what you are feeling. On your in-breath, breathe in the pain that you feel, along with the pain and suffering that all those people, past, present and future will feel. Experience this feeling for all people on every in-breath.
- Now, on your out-breath, send peace, happiness, joy, healing, and relief for the pain that you, and the world, is feeling.
- Continue the focused in-breath and out-breath for two full minutes. You can use this mantra: “I breathe in, and feel compassion for myself and all the others who have experienced, are experiencing, or will experience my pain. I breathe out, and send healing to myself and all the others who have experienced, are experiencing, or will experience this pain.” Breathe in stuckness, pain, grief. Breathe out Healing, joy, peace.
This has really helped me, so once you’ve given this a try, please leave a comment below or on Facebook and let us know how you feel and what came up for you – or how your feelings on grief have transformed.