Giving and Receiving

The practice of Tonglen, giving and receiving, can be a profound and liberating experience. We breathe in, gracefully acknowledging the suffering of all beings. Then we breathe out, offering light and love, visualizing that all suffering be eased. It is a simple practice—but not always so easy to accomplish. If we are actively helping to relieve the suffering of a loved one, perhaps nursing someone through an illness, it is all the more important to do Tonglen.

Unfortunately, many practitioners forget to honor themselves in the process. We may have trouble receiving even when we are in need because we have bought into the idea that we are only here to help others. Sometimes the best way to help others may be in how we are open to receiving help for ourselves. If we think we are the only one that can deal with a situation, the situation becomes all about us. We lose our capacity to let go and allow other people the opportunity to be of assistance.

When we have difficulty accepting or requesting help it is important to remember this is the arrogance of the ego. If we practice Tonglen in the way it is intended, we recognize that we are an integral part of all living things. We get over ourselves by blending seamlessly into the vast mandala of the beings for whom we are praying—and we receive the benefit equally. Padmasambhava said when we have no self-absorbed motivation as we pray for others, our benefit is spontaneously accomplished.