Taking and Sending
Practices | Training

The practice of taking and sending is formally called gtong.len (Tibetan, pronounced tong-len).


Begin your meditation session by resting attention in the experience of breathing. Let mind and body settle. Then open your awareness to everything around you, everything you see, hear, touch, smell or taste. Include everything you feel in your body, and all your emotions, thoughts, images. Then say to yourself, “This is like a dream,” and ask, “What experiences this?” Don’t try to answer the question. Just ask it and rest there for a few moments.

Then think about all the struggles you have had in your life, in your family, with illness, at school, at work, with failure and disappointment, grief and loss, and think of how everyone else in the world has the same struggles, easier for some, harder for others, and how they want to be free of them, just as you want to be free of yours.

Think also about everything that brings you joy, happiness, meaning and peace to your life — your health, your talents, skills and abilities, your successes, your family, friends, colleagues, your home or garden. Think how everyone, every being, wants the same kind of joy, confidence, peace and freedom. Rest for a few minutes there.

Now breathe out gently and imagine that you are giving to all beings everywhere everything that brings joy, happiness, meaning, peace, or well-being to your life. Imagine it all takes the form of light, a gentle white light, like the silver of moonlight. The light comes from your heart, goes out through your nostrils and carries all your joy and happiness to all beings everywhere.

As you breathe in, imagine taking in all the pain of the world — suffering, illness, depression, obsession, aggression, oppression, grief, injury, poverty, hatred, or madness, the pain of being harmed and the pain of causing harm — everything that leads people to struggle in their lives. Imagine it all coalesces into a thick, heavy, black smoke that comes into you, through your nostrils, and into your heart, where you feel it.

You do this for all beings, without prejudice, discrimination, bias or preference. This is equanimity.

Again, as you breathe out, send all your joy and happiness again and as you breathe in, take in all their pain and struggles. Do this over and over again. It’s important to do both with each breath, touching your happiness and sending it out, touching their struggles and taking them in.

You may encounter emotional resistance, either to giving away what you cherish or to taking in what you fear and loathe. No matter. Include your resistance in the practice and do it anyway!

As you grow accustomed to this exchange, and that may take a while, you come to rest in a different way, in a profound acceptance of the pain of the world and the struggles that comprise most people’s lives. In that acceptance, there is a quiet joy, a joy in the wonder of life itself.