How do we fully feel into the crisis?
How do we not turn away?
How can we transform the crisis?
Catharsis is the processing of the crisis. Robert Jay-Lifton talks about psychic numbing in Metamorphosis, which is our tendency to avoid the crisis we are facing. Another approach is to face it head-on.
In the Tibetan Buddhist practice of Tonglen we actually invite the suffering, the crisis in, and transform it into compassion.v Transforming poison into medicine.
You can do this practice one stage at a time, reading the instructions, then closing your eyes and doing the practice as a whole. Tonglen can be done as a formal practice, or on the fly, in everyday life.
We will visualize taking in the crisis with every in-breath and sending out compassion on the out-breath.
Find a comfortable position, feet grounded, spine straight but relaxed. Hands relaxed, in your lap or on your knees.
Count ten breathes.
Breath naturally, and begin counting each out-breath, until you reach ten. If you lose count, you can start over.
1. FLASH OPENESS
Rest your mind for a second or two in a state of openness or stillness. Opening to spaciousness and clarity.
2. VISUALIZE BREATHING IN HEAT, OUT COOLNESS
Breathe in feelings of heat, darkness, and heaviness—a sense of claustrophobia—and breathe out feelings of coolness, brightness, and light—a sense of freshness. Breathe in completely, taking in negative energy. When you breathe out, radiate positive energy completely, through all the pores of your body.
3. MAKE IT PERSONAL
Begin to focus on a crisis situation that is present for you. Open yourself to this suffering, this crisis, allowing yourself to feel connected with it, to become aware of all of the difficulties. Feel rising in you a strong compassionate intention to release this suffering and even its causes.
Imagine you are breathing in that crisis, the suffering you have witnessed, in the form of a dark hot heavy smoke, drawing it into your heart on the in breath. The moment it reaches your heart, in a flash of light, transform it into compassion, caring, cool, fresh, bright light.
Breathing in suffering, breathing out compassion. Breathe in the crisis, and send out all your healing love, warmth, energy, confidence and joy.
4. EXPAND YOUR COMPASSION
Let’s make the taking in and sending out bigger. Imagine the whole planet, and all the suffering in the world, from this vast ecological crisis we have created. Open yourself to this suffering, this crisis, allowing yourself to feel connected with it, to become aware of all of the difficulties. Feel rising in you a strong compassionate intention to release this suffering and even its causes. Breathe it in as a dark, hot, smoke, right into your heart center, where it is transformed in a flash of light, and send to earth compassion, caring, love, as a cool fresh, bright light.
Now as we conclude this practice, let us dedicate it to this beautiful planet earth, and all the beings upon her. Slowly open your eyes, and come back to the room.
When you are ready, move onto the next phase of the Metamorphosis Journey: SYMBIOSIS