Meditation and Tonglen

Concentration Practice

There are two ways I have found which can help you do the NO TO YES work on your own. These practices come from my years exploring meditation. The first is Concentration Meditation. The Second is called Tonglen.

The basic practice is to sit tall with your spine straight. Some people like to sit cross legged or in 1/2 or full lotus. Others perfer to sit in a chair with feet firmly planted on the floor and sits bones firmly planted on a harder surfaced chair. From the neurology of the body, it's important to have a straight and supported spine. This relays messages to your body (including muscles, organs, lymph, heart and blood and more) and brain that it can rest and release stress tension. By sitting with proper posture, other tensions will also release including those in your neck, jaw and eyes. Often one meditates with eyes closed, however in Zen, you will find practices in which you keep a soft gaze. Different styles of meditation will encourage different significant insights in your spiritual and self-realizing journey.

In basic CONCENTRATION PRACTICE, you find a spot inside or by your nose where you can feel breath going in and out. We often do this by breathing quickly in and out a few times until you can feel one spot that "stands out" more noticeably. Now as you close your eyes and become quiet, you WATCH your breath go in and out across that spot. You FOCUS your mind and ability to Perceive on that one spot and the sensations of your breath moving across that spot. You keep your concentrated perception to that one place without wandering.

Now . . . most people say something like . . . "I've tried that but I can't meditate" or one relates that he or she always falls asleep. OK . . . take a breath. Meditation is a basic human and mammalian and reptilian and life response. It's not a big deal. It's a practice of quieting your mind from its gobbilty-gook muddled and jumbled constant thinking, searching and seeking for something . . . Before you allow yourself FAILURE (another NO), read a bit more and then try it.

No sooner will you attempt to concentrate on one spot (if you found one!) than your mind will wander away to some thought. Instead of thinking you failed, you become a PARENT TO YOUR WANDERING SELF and bring your attention back to the spot. I used to teach math so I like to use the teacher analogy. I might give a worksheet and then I walk around the room. I notice a student who is staring out the window and I gently bring his or her attention back to the problem on the paper. I don't condemn him or her and say NO, what are you doing looking out the window . . . I simply remind the person to get back to work.

That's what one does for oneself in meditation. When I teach meditation to my clients, I often do five minutes here in my home-office and I suggest that you begin with five minutes at home in the morning or evening or any time you want! Five minutes will feel so good that soon you will try 6 or 8 or 10 minutes. A 15-minute sit is amazingly quietlng and easy. But even 3 minutes of Concentration Practice will clear you, revitalize you and stop the NO PATTERN giving you a chance to Re-align yourself with a YES pattern. You can do a 3 or 1 minute practice in the bathroom, in the car, between clients or customers, while waiting in the checkout line . . . you got the idea! Use it, it's easy!

Sometimes someone has a difficulty finding a spot inside or around the nose to witness breath. Another possibility is to feel one's breath in the chest or concentrate on the feelings and stress in your heart. One can also meditate on an area of pain in the body. Mostly though we go to a place in the body and we concentrate on one place, not leaving that place for a certain amount of time. It's important to set a time limit and give yourself structure. By doing this, you know you only have to concentrate so long and then you are done. We are all more likely to do something if you know there is a limitation or end and then you can go on and do what you want to do.

Meditation is deceptive in that you don't feel like you are doing much when you do it. Meditation is more about the results than doing it, although you might also become addicted to the quiet stillness and practice itself. It's a good addiction because it will help you quiet your mind, find peace and inner strength, and release many patterns without having to work at it. Meditation begins to build new neurological as well as physical pathways of health and balance in the body and mind. It can also allow your heart time to feel itself and begin to listen. By meditating, you will begin to notice you feel more integrated in your daily life and your inner spiritual life, and that your body, heart and mind are also more synchronized in a sense of peace, joy, safety and basic goodness of life itself.

Tonglen Practice

I learned this practice through reading one of Pema Chodrin's books. In this practice, I concentrate on feelings in my heart. If I am working with pain or hardness or confusion or fear or any other feeling in relationship to someone else or something else, I can useTonglen to help clear it. This method also works with constriction regarding things I want to do but there is fear or hurt or anger which is blocking me from moving forward. Tonglen is a practice which helps turn the NO and CONSTRICTION IN THE HEART FLOW into a YES and Openness and Pleasure again in embracing life and connection to life and others again.

(As an aside, my healing work with the body is a sort of Tonglen which clears your body's physical and energy strains which inhibit life and re-open the channels of life flow again. All healing work does this and it's the practice of life itself.)

In Tonglen, you sit in meditation posture and quiet yourself. It might be best to begin with a few minutes of Concentration Practice. After quieting yourself, You begin to Focus on the feeling/s of the heart and in the chest. For example, perhaps you are angry and deeply hurt by a partner or ex. Instead of "running away" or trying to escape the feeling of unease, you "sit with it". This means that you actually feel what you are feeling. You breath in and out with the pain, with the hardness, with the hurt, with the grief, with the . . . whatever you feel. It doesn't need to be verbal. You don't need to label the feeling as anger or hurt or fear or hardness. Really any word labels aren't productive at all! What you want to do is actually feel what you feel. It's easy . . . it's comforting . . . so try.

. . . second step.

Inhale with feeling the feeling you feel that is blocking your heart.

Exhale . . . when you exhale you exhale with the energy feeling consciousness that heals or changes the constriction. For example, if you are tight and frozen, you breath out relaxation and movement. If you are angry, you breath out peace. If you are forlorn, you breath out hope. If you are afraid, you breath out comfort and safety. If you feel sick, you breath out health. If you are in pain, you breath out freedom and joy and release of pain.

This practice of Tonglen will help you clear your heart. Sometimes you might want to direct the clearing energy toward the person with whom there is struggle. This will change your relationship and when you meet or talk again, you will relate differently and hopefully with greater appreciation of each other and more honesty. Sometimes you are clearing your own inner relationship of a NO to a Yes. You inhale your depression or your alcoholic addiction or eating problem or smoking problem, and you exhale a new healthy response to yourself. It might not change your behavior overnight, but it will begin to change you in a positive way.

You can use the practice of TONGLEN many times a day. A minute of Tonglen will relax you and shift any problem you are having with a loved one, a child, a boss or employee, a personal struggle. It gives you a way to actually do something positive about negative feelings and patterns instead of just saying NO somehow to another person or yourself. Tonglen is a very effective and efficient way to change a NO response into a YES.

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Thank you so much for your time, your interest and your willingness of heart to grow!

✌️ Rebecca Coursey