In recent weeks there seems to have been even more heartbreak than usual in the news. I don’t want to dwell on the tragedies that have been unfolding around the world but they do make me wonder what I can do to help. It’s so frustrating to sit on the sidelines feeling powerless to aid the suffering of others.
On a practical level we can try to influence political decisions through activism and we can make donations to charities with expertise and resources on the ground.
But in a world shrunk by digital media, when we can see the suffering in the eyes of a child thousands of miles away as if they were right in front of us, we often hunger for a more personal way to connect. Who doesn’t want to pick up that child and carry them to safety?
When times are challenging, I always turn to my yoga practice. By sending metta or loving kindness through my yoga practice, I recognize and honour the truth that we are all one. Using a breath meditation practice I breathe metta out into the world.
This is a practice called Tonglen. Pema Chodron says,
The tonglen practice is a method for connecting with suffering —ours and that which is all around us— everywhere we go. It is a method for overcoming fear of suffering and for dissolving the tightness of our heart. Primarily it is a method for awakening the compassion that is inherent in all of us, no matter how cruel or cold we might seem to be.
Tonglen is incredibly powerful, to practice Pema instructs,
We begin the practice by taking on the suffering of a person we know to be hurting and who we wish to help. For instance, if you know of a child who is being hurt, you breathe in the wish to take away all the pain and fear of that child. Then, as you breathe out, you send the child happiness, joy or whatever would relieve their pain.