1. Very briefly allow a slight pause before you begin your practice. Give yourself a moment to calm and become comfortable.
2. Now begin the process of sending and taking. Each time you breathe in, breathe in heavy and dark energy and each time you breathe out, breath out light and refreshing energy. This is the opposite of grasping and rejecting. A rhythm will begin to form within your breath.
3. Now notice what arises in your thoughts. It is typically something that has been on your mind lately. Work with those feelings in your breathing. It doesn't need to be anything monumental, just something that resonates with you. For instance at the end of a long day you can breathe in the feeling of being tired and overwhelmed and breath out the feeling of being energetic.
4. After working through your own feelings, expand your practice beyond yourself. For instance if you are worried about your health expand that concern to include all people who have had similar worries. Breathe in all those worries and breathe out your wish that they be freed of such concern. Through this process you link your journey to all others.
Tonglen literally means "sending and taking" in Tibetan. In tonglen meditation we practice sending out kindness and warmth to others and taking away their fear or pain. Through this process we bond with all beings. Freeing ourselves from self-absorption and inward thinking can lead to greater acceptance and love for others and in turn ourselves.
"Tonglen is very basic. It has nothing to do with being a goody-goody or pretending to be nice when we really feel otherwise. Rather, it is based on acceptance. No matter what we're feeling- inspired or uninspired, nauseated or well, loving or resentful, beautiful or ugly, frightened or confident- in tonglen practice, we simply breathe in what we do not want and breathe out what we do.
... Tonglen can be very useful. It teaches us to work straightforwardly with difficulties and extend ourselves more wholeheartedly to others. It shows us more clearly how the extremes of loathing and attachment can rule us... As we breathe in we invite all those messy feelings. As we breathe out, we let go of clinging to be right and good and perfect. The change is refreshing."
- Susan Piver