Open House: tonglen and fearlessness

Date: Monday 12 March 2018 (19:00 -21:00)
Tonglen and fearlessness

Open House is a gathering that provides a gentle introduction to mindfulness meditation, the Shambhala Buddhist teachings and our community.

It is an opportunity to learn sitting and walking meditation and engage in discussions about the application of teachings to everyday life from Shambhala teachers including Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Pema Chodron. 

If you are planning to visit Open House for the first time you are invited to arrive 15 minutes early at around 6.45pm to spend time with our meditation guide who will introduce you to meditation practice and Shambhala before the program commences at 7.00pm. 

During 2018 we will be focusing on Shambhala teacher Pema Chodron's book "Comfortable with Uncertainty" using a range of methods including contemplative readings, audio and video. This book offers short, stand-alone readings designed to help us cultivate compassion and awareness amid the challenges of daily living. It does not assume prior knowledge and features the most essential and stirring passages from Pema's previous books, exploring topics such as lovingkindness, meditation, mindfulness, "nowness," letting go, and working with fear and other painful emotions. Through the course of this book, we will also explore practical methods for heightening awareness and overcoming habitual patterns that block compassion.

The first Monday evening of every month features a talk by our resident senior teacher Shastri Loretta Geuenich followed by reflection and the sharing of our collective wisdom through discussion. Every Open House concludes with light refreshments and the opportunity to continue discussions and/or catch up with fellow meditators.  A typical Monday evening program includes:

  • Brief welcome followed by sitting meditation (7:00pm)

  • Walking meditation

  • Sitting meditation

  • Reading or video teaching...followed by contemplation, response and discussion

  • Pack-up (8:15pm)

  • Catch-up time including light refreshments and close around 9:00pm

Tonight's reading: tonglen and fearlessness

(from Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chodron) 

IN THE BUDDHIST TEACHINGS, in the Shambhala teachings, and in any tradition that teaches us how to live well, we are encouraged to cultivate fearlessness. How do we do that? Certainly the sitting practice of meditation is one way, because through it we come to know ourselves so completely and with such gentleness. Tonglen (sending-and-taking) practice also helps cultivate fearlessness. When you do this practice for some time, you begin to realize that fear has to do with wanting to protect your heart: you feel that something is going to harm your heart, and therefore you protect it.

After I did tonglen for the first time, I was amazed to see how I had been subtly using sitting meditation to try to avoid being hurt, to try to avoid depression, discouragement, or bad feelings of any kind. Unknown to myself, I had secretly hoped that if I did the practice I wouldn’t have to feel any pain anymore. When we do tonglen, we invite the pain in. Tonglen takes courage to do, and interestingly enough, it also gives us a lot of courage, because we let it penetrate our armor. It’s a practice that allows us to feel less burdened and less cramped, a practice that shows us how to love without conditions.

Negativity and resentment occur because we’re trying to cover over the soft spot of bodhichitta. In fact, it’s because we are tender and deeply touched that we do all this shielding. It’s because we have this genuine heart of sadness to begin with that we even start shielding. In tonglen practice we become willing to begin to expose this most tender part of ourselves.