This happens to me quite often: I wake up in the morning and I’m feeling blue about something, or some problem is weighing on me, either an issue I’m having or it could be one that a friend is dealing with. So I do my meditation for a little while and maybe nothing insightful comes out of it. Then I pick up some kind of book for inspiration. For the last year or so I’ve been reading quite a bit of Pema Chodron’s work, as I’ve mentioned before.

So yesterday, I woke up after having been at the beach for the past three days and I thought, “Damn, I can’t walk on the beach this morning. Or swim. Or relax.” And I was feeling a little bit sad about being back in the city, in the heat, back to dealing with life, and stress, and anxiety about money, and work, and everything else. I picked up “When Things Fall Apart” (Pema Chodron, 1997) and this is some of what I read in a chapter titled: “The Love That Will Not Die.”

“In difficult times, it is only bodhichitta that heals. Healing can be found in the tenderness of the pain itself.”

“Bodhicitta is a Sanskrit word that means “noble and awakened heart.”

“…Steven Levine writes of a woman who was dying in terrible pain and feeling overwhelming bitterness. At the point at which she felt she could not bear the suffering and resentment any longer, she unexpectedly began to experience the pain of others in agony: a starving mother in Eithiopia, a runaway teenager dying of an overdose in a dirty flat, a man crushed by a landslide and dying alone by the banks of a river. She said she understood that it wasn’t her pain, it was the pain of all beings. It wasn’t just her life, it was life itself.”

“It is said that in difficult times, it is only bodhichitta that heals. When inspiration has become hidden, when we feel ready to give up, this is the time when healing can be found in the tenderness of the pain itself.”

“Tonglen – sending and receiving – awakens bodhichitta by putting us in touch with the genuine noble heart. It’s a practice of taking in pain and sending out pleasure and therefore completely turns around our well-established habit of doing just the opposite.”

So then I thought, what percentage of people in the world are getting up and walking on a beautiful beach today? What percentage of people don’t have shit to deal with, don’t have money issues, or health issues, or parents who are sick, or whatever. Get over yourself!

The other day a friend of mine was dealing with a situation that involves her brother. They’re not speaking and she’s mad because this happens continuously and she’s fed up. So I picked up my book the morning after we had this discussion and the chapter was titled “Widening the Circle of Compassion.” This has to do “right and wrong” and how everyone always feels that their position is right and other person’s is wrong. And what is needed is open and honest communication about what people are feeling and accepting that perhaps there is no right or wrong, just feelings. I relate a lot to my friend’s problems with her brother, because my sister and I have had a similar relationship. And perhaps this right and wrong dilemma is the reason we continue to have wars.

Anyway, I don’t know the answers to all of this, I just know I’m going to keep on reading and meditating. And maybe re-reading. Until maybe someday I actually get it.

2 Thoughts on “Bodhichitta and Tonglen

  1. Your response to “When Things Fall Apart” should be titled “When Things Come Together”!

  2. I like that. I may steal it. Thanks.

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