Step 1: Resting in open awareness


Sit comfortably to meditate, with your back upright. Have your eyes open and slightly downcast.

Let go of thoughts of the past, present, and future. When thoughts arise again, let go of them, again and again.

Join your attention with your breath. Bring your attention inward and feel the sensations in your body. Let yourself come fully into contact with yourself, with your body and your emotions.

Do not speculate about what is. Simply open to observe, feel and connect with what is manifesting in the moment. As you continue to connect, breathe into your experience and let your mind settle. Rest in awareness, openness and sensation inseparable.

When you’re ready, allow your awareness to gradually radiate out to include your entire body and what is present around you. Let go into openness.

Let the mind be like the sky. Perceptions and thoughts, like birds, don’t disturb the sky. The sky doesn’t chase after or judge them. They simply are there, and then they’re gone.

Let everything be; let the mind rest at ease in openness. Keep consciously breathing into your experience and relaxing, keeping your mind at ease, open and resting in the vividness of your experience.

At this time, when our human family is facing many challenges, it is more important than ever that we find peace and sustenance in our hearts. In the new book Love on Every Breath: Tonglen Meditation for Transforming Pain into Joy, author Lama Palden Drolma introduces a profound, ancient meditation that has been practiced in isolated mountain retreats in the Himalayas for centuries, which is now available to the modern world.

In the standard Tonglen, the meditator simply breathes in the suffering of others and then breathes out love and compassion to them, but this approach doesn’t always work well for Westerners, who often find it difficult to get past the ego’s roadblocks. That is why Lama Palden prefers to teach the more user-friendly “Love on Every Breath” variation to Westerners, which comes from the Shangpa lineage of two enlightened women.

We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the book, which outlines the eight steps of the Love on Every Breath meditation.

Woman meditating in front of wheel of hearts

Step 2: Seeking refuge in awakened sanctuary


Buddha floating on clouds beside snowy mountains

Call upon the Buddha, the Dharma and the Noble Sangha. See them appear in the sky in front of you. Ask for their support, guidance and awakened transmission.

Open to their presence, and imagine them responding to you with their great love and wisdom. Gradually, you’ll come to actually find sanctuary in their support, wisdom and love.

Chant this refuge prayer three or seven times:

Until awakening I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Noble Sangha,
By the merit of my acts of generosity and other awakening qualities,
May I attain full awakening for the benefit of all beings.

Or, if you wish, for the full Vajrayana version, in addition to the above, also call upon the gurus, the yidams, the dakas, the dakinis and the protectors, and chant the following prayer:

I go for refuge to the glorious holy gurus.
I go for refuge to the buddhas, the transcendent conquerors.
I go for refuge to the sacred Dharma.
I go for refuge to the Noble Sangha.
I go for refuge to the assembly of dakas, dakinis, Dharma protectors and guardians, all who possess the eye of awakened awareness.

The enlightened beings dissolve into you. You become inseparable from them. Feel their blessing. Then let go and rest again in formlessness.

Step 3: Cultivating awakened mind


Set the feeling and intention that you’re not just engaging in this meditation for yourself, but rather on behalf of, and for the benefit of, all sentient beings.

Consider the suffering that all beings experience and the fact that awakening is what sets beings free and brings them lasting happiness and peace. Make your intention of awakening to benefit others and help lead them to genuine freedom, joy and peace.

Then chant this prayer (which is also chanted in Step 2):

Until awakening I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Noble Sangha,
By the merit of my acts of generosity and other awakening qualities,
May I attain full awakening for the benefit of all beings.

Or chant the following prayer:

Just as the buddhas of the past aroused their altruistic awakened mind and applied themselves step-by-step to the training of a bodhisattva, so, too, in order to serve beings, I arouse my bodhicitta motivation and will pursue the training step-by-step.

Step 4: Stepping into love


Call upon and imagine Chenrezig above your head. Aspire and pray to fully embody love and compassion for yourself and all beings and serve as a vehicle for healing.

In answer to your heartfelt aspirations, Chenrezig dissolves into light and into you. Feel that you are now inseparable from awakened body, speech and mind, and especially from the love of this Bodhisattva of Compassion, who embodies the love of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas. You then appear in the form of Chenrezig, a body of light.

Inside your heart chakra is a crystal vajra of light—the essence of indestructible pure being, awakened love. If you wish, expand this visualization to include a small Chenrezig sitting on a lotus and moon seat in your heart, and inside Chenrezig’s heart is the crystal vajra of light. Contemplate the suffering of all beings, and engender compassion for everyone, including yourself.

From the vajra, radiate love in the form of five-coloured light to all beings and to your ordinary self. If you wish, chant, out loud or silently, the powerful mantra “Om mani padme hum.”

Chant as long as you like, but traditionally in Buddhism, chanting 3, 7, 21, or 108 times is considered auspicious.

Step 5: Taking and sending for yourself


Statue of Chenrezig, Bodhisattva of Compassion

To begin, imagine yourself as Chenrezig, enlightened being, the union of all awakened love and compassion, and in your heart chakra, imagine a vajra of crystal light that is the essence of awakened love and wisdom.

If you like, you may see the vajra inside a tiny Chenrezig’s heart. As many times as you wish, chant the mantra “Om mani padme hum.”

When this is done, imagine your ordinary human self sitting in front of and facing you.

Get in touch with any aspect of your suffering and open to loving-kindness and compassion for yourself. Work through any issues that arise, such as unworthiness. See your suffering as black smoke, and breathe it into your heart chakra.

As soon as the smoke touches the vajra, let a lightning bolt of brilliant white light transform the suffering into awakened love, compassion and healing energy. Breathe out this white light, awakened love, into yourself sitting in front of you.

Repeat this process again and again, synchronizing the meditation with your breath. Imagine your ordinary self filling with white light, which is awakened love. This light alleviates suffering and brings about awakening. Imagine yourself becoming gradually healed, illuminated and awakened.

Occasionally restabilize the sense of yourself as awakened presence, as the awakened Bodhisattva of Compassion inseparable from the presence, wisdom and love of all the enlightened ones.

One option, if you wish, is to modify the meditation like this: After getting in touch with one aspect of your suffering, consider all the people who suffer with the same or a similar affliction. For example, think: Oh, just like me, many people suffer from headaches! By my suffering this headache, may all those suffering from headaches be freed from this pain.

Then imagine all these people in front of you, surrounding your ordinary self. Imagine your own and everyone’s suffering as black smoke, and imagine that your own and everyone’s suffering, simultaneously and at once, is transformed by the vajra.

Step 6: Taking and sending for others


To begin, imagine yourself as Chenrezig, enlightened being, the union of all awakened love and compassion, and in your heart chakra, imagine a vajra of crystal light that is the essence of awakened love and wisdom.

If you like, you may see the vajra inside a tiny Chenrezig’s heart. As many times as you wish, chant the mantra “Om mani padme hum.”

When this is done, see the person or people in front of you whom you want to work with. Contemplate their suffering and open to feel loving-kindness and compassion for them.

Synchronize this visualization with your breath: On the in-breath, breathe in their suffering as black smoke, and see it instantaneously, spontaneously transformed by the lightning bolt emanating from the vajra. This transforms their suffering into white light, awakened compassion, love and healing energy.

Breathe out this light into the person or people in front of you. Repeat this visualization until you see them filling with light, being healed, happy and awakened.

Occasionally restabilize the sense of yourself as awakened presence, as the awakened Bodhisattva of Compassion inseparable from wisdom and love. If you like, repeat the mantra “Om mani padme hum” for a time.

Gradually extend your Love on Every Breath meditation to include all beings, imagining them in front of you. Finally, imagine everyone filled with white light, healed, liberated and completely awakened. Rest in this.

Step 7: Dissolving


Let yourself as Chenrezig dissolve into the vajra in your heart. The vajra shines even more brilliantly. Then let the vajra dissolve from the top and bottom into a point of brilliant white light. Then this drop of light dissolves into space, into formlessness.

Let go of all thoughts, all conceptuality, all sense of a reference point. Let go into open awareness and rest right there. Rest in awareness naturally, your mind inseparable from space, from openness. Rest like this for a few moments or as long as you like.

Step 8: Dedicating


People holding and raising hands

Reappear as Chenrezig. This creates auspicious interdependent connections for you to awaken and benefit many beings.

Dedicate any and all benefit of your meditation to the happiness and liberation of all beings. Use your own wording, or use one or both of these two traditional prayers:

Through this goodness may awakening spontaneously arise in our streams of being,
May all obscurations and distortions fall away.
May all beings be liberated from the stormy waves of birth, old age, sickness and death.

And:

For the benefit of beings without exception,
I dedicate without any reticence whatsoever,
All the merit accrued through various virtuous acts,
To the incomparable expanse of totality.

Front cover of Love on Every BreathLama Palden Drolma is the author of Love on Every Breath. A licensed psychotherapist, spiritual teacher and coach, she has studied Buddhism in the Himalayas with some of the most pre-eminent Tibetan masters of the 20th century. Following a traditional three-year retreat under his guidance, Kalu Rinpoche authorized her to become one of the first Western lamas. She subsequently founded the Sukhasiddhi Foundation, a Tibetan Buddhist teaching center in Fairfax, California. Visit her online at www.lamapalden.org.


Excerpted from the book Love on Every Breath. Copyright ©2019 by Lama Palden Drolma. Printed with permission from New World Library—www.newworldlibrary.com.

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