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Let go of Resentment with Tonglen, an Ancient Tibetan Practice

Tonglen is a truly beautiful way to let go of resentment and other negative feelings -- and transform a bad situation into an uplifting experience of mindfulness.

Tonglen is a Tibetan word that literally means "sending and taking." It is a mindful meditation  practice originated in India and went 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 healing, compassion, loving kindness, freshness -- anything that encourages relaxation and openness.

Tonglen is more than a meditation practice, it is an attitude, a truly a beautiful way of transmuting the pain (emotional and physical) of our lives into a sense of being connected to others.

I heard one of my favorite teachers,  Pema Chodron, once give an example of "Tonglen-on -the-go" that really stuck with me. If you ever get stuck in really bad traffic, instead of trying to distract yourself, practice Tonglen. Fully experience the feelings you are feeling -- breathe it in and accept them. Then let it go as you breathe out with a sense of compassion for yourself.

Look around you and notice all the other people who are stuck in THEIR cars --sharing the same feelings.

Breathe out loving kindness and compassion for yourself -- and to all those people sharing that experience with you. Allow your compassion to connect you to them all. It is as if we are single cells in the body of humanity. Connected through shared feelings and experiences.

Think about all of humanity. The people that have come before you and the ones who will come after you. They too have (or will) share the same feeling. As you breathe out send them all your blessings

I know how difficult it can be to forgive someone who harmed you-- or let go of resentment that you have nursed for a while.  In working with many people who have asked me to help "let go of my pain," I find that combining this ancient practice with a few questions from the Sedona Method, can really help people forgive and forget.

Tonglen Process To let Go of Resentment

Begin with an association of openness.

(Look at or visualize the sky, ocean, etc. or remember a time when you were really open).

  • Close your eyes, sit quietly and concentrate on your breathing (if you are doing this on the spot, this step is not necessary).
  • Work with your own pain for a few minutes. When you inhale, feel the emotion fully, when you exhale send out a wish or prayer that you be relieved of the suffering.
  • Work with the pain of people close to you for a few minutes. Feeling their anger, frustration, resentment or whatever it is you are working with, on the inhale. On the exhale send out a wish or a prayer that they be relieved of the suffering.
  •  Expand your awareness and include more and more people, eventually thinking of all the people that have come before you, and all the people that will come after you, who have felt this feeling. Feel their feelings as you breathe in and send out your good wishes or prayer, on the exhale.

Step One - Awareness

  • We are not our emotions. Resentment, frustration, anger, sadness, disappointment and resentment are natural feelings experienced by all human beings.
  • When we experience feelings, they are inside of us - but they are not us.
  • We are human beings and we cannot change that.
    When we think we are the feeling, the feeling controls us.
  • But when we realize it is just a feeling, we can learn from it and then take steps to heal it.
  • When you let go of resentment it frees you up for more positive feelings.

Step Two - Relax and Breathe Into Feeling

  • Close your eyes and allow yourself to feel what you are feeling.
  • Gently put your attention onto it - DO NOT GET INTO THE STORY stay with the feeling itself. At this point you are not "trying " to let go of resentment, you are just allowing yourself to fully feel how it feels --without judgment.
  • Notice where it is located in your body and how it feels. Acknowledge it: "Hello resentment," or "so this is anger."
  • Sit with it. Relax into it. Breathe slowly and deliberately.
  • Just like with physical pain, we often react by holding our breath or tensing in an effort to block these sensations off. The more we resist the pain, the longer it takes to release. Breathe!.
  • Stay focused on the sensations themselves. Thoughts, or your story about your feelings, only feed and strengthen the pain, like throwing wood into a fire.
  • When your stories or thoughts arise, simply allow them to pass like a cloud floating by,  gently bring your attention back to the raw sensation.

Step THREE - Allow Yourself to Let go of resentment, anger, frustration etc.

  • In what way was this feeling useful? Don't get into the story... just work with the feeling!
  • What can I do to make use of the lesson learned?

When using this method with clients, I add  the questions from The Sedona Method as they are very powerful 

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