Tonglen for 9/11
This date will always be an unusually solemn and contemplative one. In the past I have tried to think of appropriate and meaningful ways to commememorate the anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Centers. Probably the most meaningful was last year’s 9/11, when my roommate and I stood on the roof of our Brooklyn apartment, looking at the beams of light that eminate from Ground Zero on the evening of 9/11, speaking to one another about our dreams and our wishes for how the world would change to be a better place. We spoke frankly to one another about the things that were wrong and out or order in our society, and felt a resolve as we stood there with one another that we were going to do better to be apart from the muck that only perpetuates the hatred, the anger, the reactivity.
In this spirit of striving to be better for the benefit of ourselves and all around us, may I invite you into my 9/11 commemoration this year by extending you a welcome to practice Tonglen with me today? The English rendition of Tonglen is “giving and taking.” It is a visualization exercise in which one imagines all the negativity from another person entering into their own self—generally in the form of a black smoke coming from the other person that you breath into yourself. This black smoke does not harm you. Once you breath in this smoke and negativity, visualize it being metabolized—broken down inside of your heart. When the smoke is broken down and metabolized in your heart, your body transforms it into a white light that you are able to eminate back out into the world to bathe and illuminate those around you.
Tonglen is an amazing reminder that we are not simply conduits for the energy and intention that touches us: we are literally able to transform evil and return blessings where evil has touched us. In such a way, we as human individuals are capable of participating in a great movement to stop the perpetuation of suffering and malice that are rampant in the outside world. I invite you to reflect upon your and my power to participate in this wonderful practice, and to turn some of the negativity that touches you today into a positive radiating light.
For more details about Tonglen, please see the following links: