Heartful Artwork
Season 3 - Episode 3

How It Works

5 min - Tutorial


Before putting the Tonglen meditations into practice, Kira gives a little background information on how it all works.
What You'll Need: No props needed


Read Full Transcript

This is the practice we do when we can do nothing else. All of us have loved ones in our lives who are suffering deeply, whether that's physically, emotionally, or mentally. And all of us have experienced a feeling of helplessness with this suffering. So this practice of Tong Lin is designed to be able to, on some level, give us something to do. Tong means to give, to send.

Lin means to take. And yet in actual practice it's the reverse. The belief is that we could take on another's suffering and offer healing. In the Judeo-Christian tradition there's a similar understanding of the word atonement. But to just understand this practice as a relief of another's suffering is to really miss the main point, because the practice is truly taking direct aim at what causes all our suffering, which is the self-cherishing nature of the mind.

With many of the Tibetan practices there's a lot of imagery and imagination. And so before we get into the practice in the next episode I would like to take a few moments to describe this imagery so that as we move into the practice there's some familiarity. You might have the benefit of being able to sit right in front of your friend who is suffering. They might be in the hospital or bedridden or live with you or close to you. Some of you will need to imagine your friend or loved one who is suffering.

The play is as you sit in front of someone, whether they're actually there or in your field of awareness, as you inhale through the nose you imagine the suffering like a thick black smoke and you imagine that you could truly draw it in like you were your own human vacuum. But as you draw it in you are aiming that suffering down towards the center of your heart. At the center of the heart sits a hard black pearl. This hard black pearl in this meditation represents our self-cherishing of the mind, the part of us that doesn't really want to suffer, the part of us that doesn't really want our friend's cancer, depression, alcoholism, mental illness, difficult life, the part of us that well we don't want our friend to suffer we're kind of also a little glad it's not us. That part.

So as you draw the black smoke of suffering in and aim it towards the black pearl the purpose is to allow the black pearl to be seen. You'll feel it like a hard nugget of tension. At that moment though we use our imagination to let the black smoke break the pearl open and what's revealed and you can choose here is either a pure diamond or a white pearl. And then from there on the exhale we emanate out the white healing light which is not us but which is from the true primordial source of ourselves. So I want to go through that again because I would hope the practice will be easy.

So the imagination, the visualization is that there's a willingness that you could pull another suffering in using the black smoke analogy. Aim it towards this hard pearl that sits in all our hearts. At that moment that it hits the hard pearl the hard pearl breaks open. You can make that as dramatic as you want in your visualization. Either a diamond or a white pearl is revealed and the exhale comes out as white healing light that is not us healing our friend but our access to the part of us that is connected to the source of all things.

I asked my teacher once, my teacher Jatsumna Tenzin Palmo, if I was supposed to be imagining really being in the suffering like did I really need to imagine having cancer or schizophrenia or depression, did I really need to be in the suffering and she laughed at me and said oh Kira we are not eight level bodhisattvas. So just the simple willingness, the willingness that possibly we could help relieve another suffering is what's necessary. And trust me on this. If your heart is in the right place, if your intention is clear, this transforms everybody involved.


Alana Mitnick
So very clear and helpful. Thank you.
Kelly Sunrose
Kira, Your teaching has completely transformed Tonglen for me. Thank you. So. Much. For this offering. LOVE.
Lydia Zamorano
Wow. I have not heard of the black pearl visualization. How amazing this was for me. The way you explain this has been my favourite yet. This show is one of my faves. Love this so much. Two hands together. xxx
Locana S
1 person likes this.
Just love the imagery of this meditation, many thanks.
Kira Sloane
Locana, I look forward to hearing your experience. So many variations appear for everyone. Love, Kira
Angel B
1 person likes this.
This is powerful. Love love love it! Want to put you on the big screen at the studio and share with all our yogis. Wishing for a yoga anytime/studio sharing platform. I don't even know exactly what that looks like, but can imagine it would be magical.

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