Jack Patterson was a prominent member of the Theosophical Society in New Zealand h
10 stories of people having supernatural experiences after dying and then coming back to life.
Each of us has a "soft spot": the place in our experience where we feel vulnerable and tender. This soft spot is inherent in appreciation and love, and it is equally inherent in pain.
Often, when we feel that soft spot, it's quickly followed by a feeling of fear and an involuntary, habitual tendency to close down. This is the tendency of all living things: to avoid pain and cling to pleasure. In practice, however, covering up the soft spot means shutting down against out life experience. Then we tend to narrow down into a solid feeling of self against other.
One very powerful and effective way to work with tendency to push away pain and hold onto pleasure is the practice of Tonglen. Tonglen is a Tibetan word that literally means "sending and taking." The practice originated in India and came to Tibet in the eleventh century. In Tonglen practice, when we see or feel suffering, we breathe in with the notion of completely feeling it, accepting it, and owning it. Then we breathe out, radiating compassion, loving kindness, freshness; anything that encourages relaxation and openness.
In this practice, it's not uncommon to find yourself blocked, because you come face to face with your own fear, resistance, or whatever your personal stuckness happens to be at that moment. At that point, you can change the focus and do Tonglen for yourself , and for millions of others just like you, at that very moment, who are feeling exactly the same misery.
I particularly like to encourage Tonglen, on the spot. For example, you're walking down the street and you see the pain of another human being. On-the-spot Tonglen means that you just don't rush by; you actually breathe in with the wish that this person can be free of suffering, and send them out some kind of good heart or well-being. If seeing that other person's pain brings up fear or anger or confusion, which often happens, just start doing Tonglen for yourself and all the other people who are stuck in the very same way.
When you do Tonglen on the spot, you simply breathe in and breathe out, taking in pain and sending out spaciousness and relief. When you Tonglen as a formal practice, it has four stages:
This is to say that Tonglen can extend indefinitely. As you do the practice, gradually, over time, your compassion naturally expands-- and so does your realization that things are not as solid as you thought. As you do this practice, at your own pace, you'll be surprised to find yourself more and more able to be there for others, even in what seemed like impossible situations.