One very powerful and effective way to work with tendency to push away pain and hold onto pleasure is the practice of tonglen. Tonglen is a Tibetan word that literally means “sending and taking.” The practice originated in India and came to Tibet in the eleventh century. In tonglen practice, when we see or feel suffering, we breathe in with the notion of completely feeling it, accepting it, and owning it. Then we breathe out, radiating compassion, lovingkindness, freshness; anything that encourages relaxation and openness.
In this practice, it’s not uncommon to find yourself blocked, because you come face to face with your own fear, resistance, or whatever your personal stuckness happens to be at that moment. At that point, you can change the focus and do tonglen for yourself , and for millions of others just like you, at that very moment, who are feeling exactly the same misery.
I particularly like to encourage tonglen, on the spot. For example, you’re walking down the street and you see the pain of another human being. On-the-spot tonglen means that you just don’t rush by; you actually breathe in with the wish that this person can be free of suffering, and send them out some kind of good heart or well-being. If seeing that other person’s pain brings up fear or anger or confusion, which often happens, just start doing tonglen for yourself and all the other people who are stuck in the very same way…. Pema Chodron
the practice of tonglen is one that i am only beginning in my journey. i am certain that i have begun as i am much more aware of my habits of pushing away pain and trying to hold pleasure. the latter seems natural, truthfully, because we are socialized to do so. in 21st century america, the culture of sales pitch is geared around obtaining pleasure and ridding ourselves of pain. and the baggage of ptsd that i carry with me in life also i centered in pain and pleasure.
i am not sure i even understand the intricacies of tonglen yet, but i am aware that i have seemed a coward in my life. i run from my own emotional pain, because i have been damaged by it on more than one occasion. and in my efforts to sustain pleasure, i have thrown my life and my psyche out of balance on more than a thousand occasions. a practice of doing things differently seems almost what the scribes have concocted for me.
and play my part i shall try..