― Pema Chödrön
“Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world. You are willing to share your heart with others.”
― Chögyam Trungpa
Although I had put in a lot of time on the meditation cushion and was not a stranger to various "exalted states", I hadn't truly appreciated how the natural inclination to seek security and the natural tendency to defend myself from anything unpleasant had operated since childhood to "harden my heart". (Hell, I always thought I was a real softy!)
In with the "Bad". Out with the "Good".
Tonglen Practice, like the Lojong Teachings from which it arises, turns what is seen by our highly individualistic and competitive society as "common sense" on its head. Rather than continuously attempting to strength and fortify our egos in a misguided attempt to achieve lasting happiness, we are encouraged to cultivate kindness and compassion toward others instead. More than anything, I found that this involves getting in touch with the soft, vulnerable, "achy-breaky', tenderness that exists in our Heart of Hearts. To do this, in Tonglen Practice we are instructed to allow ourselves to turn towards and simply breath into our hearts the more "disturbing" emotional energies of the human condition. Then, we breath out a sense of release, relief, and healing towards ourselves and others.
It's simple, but not necessarily easy.
Maybe that's why I find myself rambling about Tonglen for the second week in a row! (See Your Courtesy Wake Up Call: Taking It to Heart) I'm laying it on again because, I need to keep reminding myself that the thrust of our conditioning leads us to turn away from fear and sadness, from anger and jealousy, from feelings of humiliation or shame. etc. "Taking on" these energies, our own or that of others, seems counter-intuitive.
As we gently and persistently work with tonglen, we come to see for ourselves that Our Heart of Hearts and the boundless and limitless expanse of the One Love are inseparable. Breathing in, we Connect to the Ongoing Miracle. Breathing out, we Connect to the Ongoing Miracle. In the Embrace of the One Love, energy is energy. As our heartfelt aspirations expand beyond our own concerns to the benefit of all, healing happens.
It just takes Practice.