"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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Now, on your out-breath, send peace, happiness, joy, healing, and relief for the pain that you, and the world, is feeling.
  5. 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.

For more information on Pema Chodron’s description on Tonglen, click here.
For an even more in-depth description of the practice of Tonglen from SourcePoint Global Outreach click here.

With Love,


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2 thoughts on “5-Minutes for Compassion

  1. I just did this meditation for the first time. A whole range of emotions floated to the surface. At the beginning I felt alone, but after thinking about the universality of grief and how many people have been where I am, I felt supported.

    Also, it dawned on me that right my heart feels like a punching bag but that I have the capacity to use it for good amidst the pain.

    Thank you for this tool. It is very much needed.

  2. This meditation is amazing. It made me cry a little at first, and then my emotions conflicted because i was initially feeling sadness but then when I breathed in, I was feeling very nurturing toward myself, and when I breathed out, I felt like I was helping others feel peace. Thanks Jess, I feel much better.

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