Have you heard of Tonglen, the Buddhist meditation practice that lets you shake off emotions such as anger, jealousy, hate and fear? Holding onto hate clutters your psyche; it drags you down, clogs up your life. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately; hate isn’t just toxic but also pretty ineffective. Whom does your hatred harm? Mainly yourself. It churns stress hormones around your body, affecting your immune system, making you edgy and anxious.
Let’s be clear – outrage can be a moral responsibility; we absolutely should feel appalled at bigotry and unfairness, lack of compassion and inequality. Without that outrage, change will never happen. However if we let it fester into vitriol, if we live with a constant drip drip drip of hatred, it can damage us. How much energy are we wasting hating politicians, despising people who hold different views from ourselves, holding on to ancient grudges? Lately I’ve been looking at this in myself, questioning my responses, challenging my emotions.
What, I wondered, would happen if I didn’t hate Trump, for example? What if I sent him love and compassion because, for sure, something has made him the angry person he is? A little radical? A bit hippy-dippy? For sure. Yet is hating him solving anything, changing anything? I have this lovely image of millions of people responding to his rabid tweets with expressions of love and compassion for his pain: what might it do?
Sue Weston taught Tonglen to me and I have found it incredibly useful. You may find it challenging but do give it a try. You don’t have to start with Trump, by the way – baby steps and all!
• Sit comfortably either on a chair or on the floor.
• Allow yourself to become aware of your breathing. Just observe your breath for about five minutes or try counting twenty-one out breaths.
• Now visualize someone you love dearly in front of you. As you breathe in, breathe into yourself any pain, upset and anger they might be feeling. Allow yourself to open up to them totally and without stinting.
• As you breathe out, breathe all that is good in you into them. Imagine their pain and suffering becoming transformed inside you into healing light – you are not holding their suffering, merely transforming it.
• Repeat this for around five minutes.
• You can repeat this with as many people as you like. Keep practising until you are really proficient and can feel the healing energy inside you at will.
When you have perfected this you are ready for the next step. Now, instead of someone you love, imagine someone to whom you’re indifferent, an acquaintance or maybe someone you pass in the street. Work the magic for them. You can then progress to someone you find irritating or jump straight in and go for someone who brings up feelings of anger or hatred in you. Now transform their pain and anger and give them back the pure healing light of love.
By the way, this in no way excuses anybody’s bad behaviour. It’s really a gift for you as it frees you from the negative effect that person may be having on you. Plus, who knows? On an energetic level it’s powerful medicine. It taps into the Hawaiian practice of radical love and forgiveness, Ho’oponopono (see here for a post on this).
Image by Susan Yin via Unsplash.