The third step I will cover here is a very common Mahayana meditation called Tonglen (tib.) or giving and receiving. Here is where we begin to take our practice to the next step, to develop compassion. Tonglen has helped many practitioners better understand obstacles that have hindered them from compassionate activities and from better understanding the suffering of others. It might be good to review Breath meditation 1 and Breath Meditation 2 before beginning. We sit as before on the meditation cushion with good posture and follow our breath for 5-20 seconds or so and then we begin with the following visualisation.
We in our mind’s eye see all the beings in our general vicinity of our family. We understand that they are suffering and have pain and we wish to help all beings escape or find refuge from their suffering. As we inhale we picture their suffering and pain as black clouds and smoke, it may even be hot or thick. We see it, feel it, and understand it as we inhale we take it into us. As the clouds enter us they touch our heart centre and due to the unlimited compassion of the buddhas, it is immediately transformed into bright clear light. Upon exhaling the clear warm light shines out from our heart centre back to everyone around us. We do this 3, 7, or 21 times. Now we begin to widen our view. We picture everyone in our city and inhale all their suffering and pain and send them light as we exhale, just as we did in the first step. We widen our view even more, as we picture all those beings in our country and inhale all their suffering and pain and exhale clear radiant light to them all. Finally, we inhale the suffering from every being here on earth and send them the brightest of lights from our heart centre to every single one of them. You may even expand further to include all beings in the universe if you so wish.
When finished with the practice we end the meditation with a deep wish that all those who came in contact with the light become happy, healthy, and one day find their own enlightened qualities.
One can do this meditation for people who are ill or even dying, people we do not like or even enemies and even for ourselves. We can do this informally or even spontaneously if needed without the formal sitting and initial focus on the breath. All that is important here is the deep wish to help others and develop compassion for the benefit of all and for all beings to discover their full potential.