Whenever I am suffering from anything, whether heartbreak, sickness, or stress from the disease, one of my go-to practices is Tonglen— sending and receiving compassion. I find this practice to be of great importance during this time of physical distancing and heightened anxiety. The practice itself supports us in awakening our heart-minds and calls us to act with compassion and love for all beings.
Tonglen practice reverses our usual tendency of pushing away suffering and seeking pleasurable experiences. The practice requires courage and is an act of aspirational Bodhicitta (awakened heart-mind). It’s aspirational because the drama is taking place in our minds, while contributing healthy thoughts to the great pool of thoughts that are out in the world. It turns the lens from looking at our own problems and worries, to looking at other people’s problem and worries. That change in direction is key. If everyone shifts their focus to include the well-being of all, we may come through this pandemic better, more deeply connected.
The natural outgrowth of aspirational Bodhicitta is engaged Bodhicitta, the act of doing something in the world. Whether it’s bringing groceries to an older neighbor, video chatting friends to see how they’re doing, or donating to a local food pantry, turning away from ourselves to help others helps us all. We’ve seen examples of this all over the world – from neighbors in Italy singing together, to shared communal experiences online like dance parties, support meetings, and more. I encourage you to explore with a friend what your act of engaged Bodhicitta looks like? Is there a way to safely act on it during this time?
No matter how much physical distancing we need to keep safe, remember to take care of yourself and stay connected through practice and action.
Looking to gather in community? Join us in our upcoming virtual Shamata retreat with Namchak Khen Rinpoche.