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Tonglen Meditation

by Barbara D. Allan
Author of Conquering Arthritis

This article is the second in a series on the whys and hows of emotional, mental, and spiritual healing.

Over the years, I have spoken with many people who either have, or once had, arthritis. One of the most striking things about those who are able to completely heal themselves is that they have integrated emotional, mental, and spiritual healing with their attention to their physical bodies. This has reinforced my own knowing that, with an illness as difficult as arthritis, it is generally mandatory to address the body but that alone isn't enough.

The last article described the general process of emotional release as it relates to deep healing.

This week's article describes one technique (Tonglen meditation) that fosters this type of release.

In upcoming articles I will explore what needs to happen mentally and spiritually for complete healing to take place.

Photo by Cornelia Kopp

Tonglen Meditation

Tonglen meditation comes from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. It has a long history of helping conditions that have generally been considered hopeless, including leprosy and, in our time, AIDS.

Tonglen meditation is simple, but has great power. It was the first remedy that ever gave me relief from can't-sleep-at-night, want-to-scream type of pain. I became fascinated with the fact that one moment I could be in extreme pain and the next I could be in profound pleasure and relaxation. The only difference was whether I was doing this meditation or not.

At first I could only hold this meditation for a moment or two. As I practiced, I was gradually able to hold it longer. I worked up to 5 minutes, then 10 minutes and eventually longer.

My Favorite Form of Tonglen Meditation

There are many variations of Tonglen.

My personal favorite is working with my own pain and that of everyone else in the world who is experiencing that exact same kind of pain, at exactly the same moment.

This may seem overwhelming. But while it may seem counterintuitive, opening up to a concept this large can create a tremendous sense of spaciousness and relief within your own being.

Indeed, part of the power of the Tonglen practice comes from reversing what we usually do when we are in pain: the way we shut down in fear of feeling more pain. In truth, cutting ourselves off from ourselves and others is painful, in and of itself. This meditation teaches us an alternative.

How to Do Tonglen Meditation

Tonglen meditation is a practice that is only useful if you feel called to do it. It is totally optional and should never be forced.

Get into as relaxed and comfortable a position as is possible for you. Breathe slowly and deeply. Place an equal amount of time and attention on both the in-breath and the out-breath.

Become aware of the exact location and scope of pain you want to work with. Where is it in your body? Where does it start? Where does it extend to? What does it feel like?

On the in-breath, breathe in your pain and the pain of everyone else in the world who is experiencing this exact same kind of pain at exactly this moment. You may wish to visualize this as a dark, heavy, dense, toxic, tar-like substance.

On the out-breath breathe out a thought, prayer, or intention for the exact remedy that you and every other person experiencing this pain needs to be instantly relieved of this pain. You may wish to visualize the toxic tar-like substance releasing into thin wispy smoke or light that heals everything it touches.

Continue this breathing sequence as long as you are able, allowing it to open and heal you.

Help Releasing Emotions in a Healing Way

To help people learn this emotional release process, I have created a 6-CD set of guided meditations which teach some powerful and effective ways to do this release work. What I teach I learned through the Buddhist tradition, particularly the Tibetan practice of Tonglen and the ancient Buddhist practice of Vipassana (the modern day practice most like what the historical Buddha taught).

This article is second in the Who Gets Well series. In the
next article I will talk about how the stories we tell ourselves affect our mind and body.

Special Offer

Let me guide you through the Tonglen meditations that provided me with my first experience of transforming can't-sleep-at-night, want-to-scream type of pain into pleasure and relief.

Special for Visitors to this Webpage:

2 CD set: Intro Guided Meditation CD plus
Tonglen Guided Meditation CD.

Get the 2 CD set for only $27: CD set

View my larger guided meditation CD collection


Immediate MP3 Downloads

Or if you had rather have these 2 albums in the form of immediate MP3 downloads, I can offer you an even better price here below:


→Not sure where to start with meditation?

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