Tag Archives: Tonglen

In the Absence of Privilege

Every morning, I want to wake up to a world that recognizes the connection we have with one another.

I want us to celebrate the kind of love each of us has to give. I want us to remember that the truth of who we are is what connects us, not how we look.

I want us to free fall into the unknown of each and every day–secure in our vulnerability, curious in our courage.

It is foolishness, my wishing, but it is deeper than that, darker I’m afraid. It is a luxury to be able to wish, an exclusive privilege.lake-ella-fountain-0115

What of the wishes of those in Aleppo? Basic, if they wish at all anymore.

There is not sufficient food, water, or shelter for children, much less their families—” a meltdown of humanity.”

I want to hide behind the Gordian knot of issues that led to Aleppo.

Empathy is insufficient, woefully so, and yet another illustration of my privilege.

Amidst the rubble of Aleppo, a teacher of English tweets to the world, “there is no freedom” in what may be his final message. He is weary, resigned, yet it is still of freedom that he writes.

Freedom is all or nothing; no one excluded. No one. It is a basic human right.

And just what is it that I can do for Aleppo? Put down my shield of privilege and practice tonglen—the giving and taking, sending and receiving of compassion. Open myself to fear, to hopelessness—the chaos that is the world.

Vulnerability is how I own my fear, eschewing blame, excuses, and reasons to walk away. That moment of mindfulness is connection, discovery of ways to aid Aleppo.

Tonglen leads us to what hopelessness hides; it eases the ache in our heart. Tonglen pulls together tendrils of the ever-expanding web that knows no weaver.

We respond to fear not on its terms but on ours. We have only our kind of love to give but illuminating truth absents fear.

We are Aleppo.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

The Coffers That Are Never Empty

I write about Tonglen practice quite frequently. It is so illustrative of the beauty of the act of giving, opening ourselves to the chaos of the world and responding with the gift of compassion, whatever form that may mean.

The compassionate response is open to all the possibilities of the existing moment, no matter how long that may last. Compassion responds to need and is quite concrete in its content as well as its delivery.


We are told to give until it hurts, as if a stopping point is required. Yet, compassion is an easing of pain.

There are those who give little of the much

which they have – and they give it for

recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.

And there are those who have little and give it all.

These are the believers in life and the bounty of life,

and their coffer is never empty.

The Prophet

The compassionate response arises out of the belief in abundance, “the bounty of life,” no matter what is being asked. It is only in lack that we hold back. And when we lack in belief, we lack in heart.

If we mine ourselves, we find our vein of riches runs deeper than we first thought.

Thanks to Caroline Johnson for this lovely reminder from Khalil Gibran.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity in daily doses. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page. 

What Will Still the Noise?

I am surrounded by noise, and sometimes I am the loudest. My ego is getting too much of my time. I am “identifying with the impermanent” (Mooji) so I am more anxious than not.  

Any fear keeps me in my comfort zone. I need to be curious and muster enough courage to open myself to uncertainty. How else to still the noise.

Mostly, I get caught up in the 2016 election. It is more chatter than I can bear so I pull myself away only to return. Just when I am sure we have hit rock bottom, there is yet another new low.

Equanimity knows no enemies but I do not always know equanimity.

All of us want to feel okay, again, as if we really were. If there is one thing this election is showing us, it is that we were not okay, ever. The past seems a better time because we are no longer living it but we are living its consequences.

The present is chaotic–continuous uncertainty, ever unfolding—the future flashes possibilities based upon what we do now but it is ever changeable, and it is a place we will never be.  


Fear is exhausting and feels endless. It is and it is not.

Energy drives the chronic experience we all share–life. It connects us to one another. Every day, we awaken with a certain level of energy, unique to each of us.

I call it the daily dose. No two days are the same. We aim for even, each day anew.

Living in the now means recognizing that fear is endemic to the life experience. If we accept that, fear loses a bit of its oomph—there really is no element of surprise–fear may be chronic but we do not have to live fearfully.

Acceptance is full of forgiveness, gratitude, joy, and compassion. It is the energy of equanimity, the patience of endurance.

It is not for the faint of heart but it is not as noisy, either. In the Tonglen practice, there is the breathing in of all that noise and releasing in its stead the stillness of compassion.

Stillness is not always heard, immediately, but it lingers.

Energy does not wrap itself around our wants. We get a daily dose. We need to keep an eye on the gauge for the echo of an empty tank is deafening.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity in daily doses. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page. 


Technology and Tonglen

I have been traveling the two-way street of Tonglen practice, more stuck in traffic than not, truly bumper-to-bumper. Tonglen is the “giving and taking or sending and receiving” of compassion but I was doing neither.

Fortunately, technology glitches forced a publishing pause of the #DailyDose. My voice recognition software crashed; as well, there were some glitches with setting up my new laptop.

Whatever the reason for such pauses, they happen. Theirs is an energy all their own, a static interrupting the daily flow.


Walls fall, part of the obstacle that is the path crumbles. In the rubble of our rigidity there is insight, if we will only look.

For me, that meant opening myself to the perspective of the medical profession regarding this first hip-joint replacement surgery. Both the orthopedic center and I bring valuable experience to one another.

By meeting the center’s expectations with equanimity, I gain insight, no matter the depth of my own experience. It is up to me to do what is helpful, for ultimately that benefits everyone.

I have three weeks for this specific Tonglen practice.

To exist is to change, to change is to mature,

to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.

Henri Bergson

 Aim for Even posts offer equanimity in daily doses. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page. 

Times for the Tonglen

These are Tonglen times. The “world is too much with me” on the inside and out. It is a powerless feeling, fear; I “wall” myself in with what I know is true. Yet, I am not secure.

Exclusion is not the way of Tonglen or of the world. In Tonglen practice, there is the “giving and taking or sending and receiving” of compassion, a two-way street of bumper-to-bumper traffic.


As Pema Chödrön says, “the things that really drive us nuts have enormous energy in them. That is why we fear them” and why we keep them so close.

Tonglen opens us up. In a matter of a single in-breath, we “have the chance to own fear completely, not blaming anybody, and to ventilate it with the out-breath” (Chödrön).

Compassion starts with a single breath and grows into the light we truly are:

As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people

permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear,

our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson

It is in the owning of our fear that we are free of it. It is not that we become each other’s truth. It is that we are not each other’s fear.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity in daily doses. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.