The recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, made it extremely challenging to avoid feeling helpless. As the news bombarded us with the suffering and plight of the Japanese people, it was difficult to stomach the tragedy, both physically and emotionally. I found myself wanting to adhere to the well-worn quote “ignorance is bliss.” However, as much as I tried to curtail my T.V. diet and refrain from opening my e-mail filled with yet another devastating picture or video; as much as I avoided discussing the matter with friends and family, the feelings of helplessness haunted me. I felt hopeless and unable to do anything proactive to relieve the situation in Japan.
I was discussing my feelings with a yoga colleague and she suggested I practice Tonglen Meditation to help me process my feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Rather than dwell on painful emotions, I could send positive thoughts on an energy level to reduce the suffering in Japan. According to the ancient practice of Tonglen, dwelling on negative emotions creates more pain. I was leery since meditation is a personal challenge for me. Sitting quietly in my own mind and body while creating space in my heart is like learning to speak another language. However, I was willing to try anything to reduce the frustration and painful emotions. After doing some research, I found American Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön, who proved helpful in introducing me to this ancient meditative practice.
Chödrön is a world renowned teacher of meditation. She has a warm and open presence and teaches how to apply meditative techniques to everyday life. Her insightful, down-to-earth interpretations of Tibetan Buddhisim for Western audiences have allowed many people to explore meditation with simplicity and ease. Her gift is the ability to clearly translate the teachings into digestible information for the Westerner, who lacks the time and patience to read and understand Tibetan Buddhism. She addresses complex issues with clarity, succinctness in a plain language we can all understand.
Pema Chodron explaining the Tonglen mediation, recorded by the Omega Institute in 2009. The message she offers is pertinent to our present day global crisis in Japan.
As I listened, my despair slowly dissolved. I felt empowered emotionally and spiritually.
I now incorporate Tonglen into my morning pranayama practice; breathing in the pain, despair and suffering of the Japanese people and breathing out love, safety and wishes for their well-being. This has greatly helped me to abate those pestering feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
My hope is that if we are able to meditate in this way, we can share in the collective responsibility for the benefit of the Japanese people and others in the world who are suffering. This meditation can be applied to our current involvement in Libya and other nations, all of which affect our global karma.
Sony Trieu is a Yoga teacher and Thai Yoga Therapist, who specializes in Vinyasa, Yin and Restorative style classes and the application of ancient healing techniques. Sony is passionately committed to exploring and sharing healing modalities through her work and writing.