A New Way to Embrace Our Life Experience
obvious that Tonglen practice is completely contrary to the ways in which we usually hold our personality (ego)
together. Each of us have our defensive ego strategies for coping with the pain, hurt, disappointment, and
suffering we encounter in life. We armor, protect, and separate ourselves from our inner and outer experiences
in numerous ways that we are not even conscious of.
Tonglen practice does indeed go against our habitual tendency of always wanting things to be pleasant, of
wanting life on our own terms, of wanting everything to work out for ourselves no matter what happens to others.
This practice dissolves and transforms the armor of our self-protection; the psychological strategies and
defenses we create to keep ourselves separate from our own suffering and the suffering we encounter in the
world. Tonglen practice gradually wears away our habitual grasping at a false sense of self (self-grasping/ego
fixation/identification with the personality).
effectively reverses our usual pattern of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure. In this process, we finally
liberate ourselves from a very ancient prison of selfishness. With this radical shift of awareness, this new way
of embracing our life experience, our heart becomes more tender, open, sensitive, and aware. We naturally feel
more alive; more loving and caring, both for ourselves and others.
practicing Tonglen, we connect with a less defended and more open, spacious dimension of our being. The
all-embracing compassion of our true nature begins to shine through and we are introduced to a far more intimate
and grander view of reality. With this sublime heart of love, liberated from attachment, aversion, and
indifference, we gradually recognize and feel the absolute interdependence and preciousness of all living
beings. This is true intimacy with life. This is the cultivation of bodhicitta—the awakened heart of
compassion and wisdom.
: Used with permission from
Neil Steven Cohen at Naljor Prison Dharma Service, PO Box 1177, Mount Shasta CA 96067.