The title of this blog is one of the slogans used in The Main Practice (Training in Bodhichitta). This is one very useful activity of Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism. Bodhichitta is the state of having an awakened heart-mind. It is useful in alerting us to opportunities to avoid the consequences of giving in to our natural tendencies to react negatively to objects, people or situations..
I am not a Buddhist, but I suffer from unnecessary anger. I also believe in the interconnectedness of all sentient beings. I have found this practice of allowing suffering and healing to “ride the breath” a useful way to become aware of mounting aggression and often avoid losing my temper over something stupid.
The first object is something we really like. Often we are so attracted to this object that we crave it compulsively. This passion, your compulsive craving, is the poison connected to this object of our desire. We should train ourselves to twig on to this feeling and not repress it, but try to understand that underneath it is some feeling of inadequacy or wretchedness that we think will go away if we can possess the desired object or person. When we think in this way we become more aware of our heart-mind, and our compulsion will gently be reduced. In that way the “poison” of craving, if reflected upon, can become a seed of virtue. We accept this feeling and ask that similar feelings from all other sentient beings be absorbed into our feeling. This is the “breathing in” of the dark, hot and heavy suffering – ours and others’. We then ask that all beings be free of these disturbing feelings. This is the “breathing out” of white, cool and light wishes for healing of others. It is the letting go of the craving. In the process we personally become an agent and a recipient (via increased awareness) of the healing.
The second object is something or someone we cannot stand. This produces the poison of aversion or aggression. As with the first object, we should recognize this poison and – through awareness and acceptance of this poison on behalf of all other beings – take it unto our self and breathe out the opposite.
The third object is something to which we are indifferent. It produces the poison of ignorance. We ignore that object or person. We do not give thanks for it/them and couldn’t care less. Aware of this feeling, we should again breathe in the indifference (ours and that of all sentient beings) and breathe out gratefulness for all sentient beings.
The practice of taking in and sending out is tonglen. It can be very valuable “on the spot” and also can be done as a formal meditation.
My source for most of what I’ve written about today is Pema Chödrön‘s book, Start Where You Are.
Some of her quotations are found in my blog, Becoming a Child of Illusion.