Open House: the four stages of tonglen

Monday 26 March 2018 (19:00 -21:00)
The four stages of tonglen

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: the four stages of tonglen

(from Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chodron) 

YOU CAN FORMALLY practice tonglen within a session of sitting meditation. For example, if you are sitting for an hour, you could practice tonglen during the middle twenty minutes. Tonglen practice has four stages:


  • Rest your mind for a second or two in a state of openness or stillness. This is called flashing absolute bodhichitta, or suddenly opening to the basic spaciousness and clarity of the awakened heart.


  • Work with texture. Breathe in a feeling of hot, dark, and heavy—a sense of claustrophobia—and breathe out a feeling of cool, bright, and light—a sense of freshness. Breathe in through all the pores of your body and radiate out completely, through all the pores of your body. Do this until your visualization feels synchronized with your in and out-breaths.


  • Now contemplate any painful situation that’s real to you. For example, you can breathe in the hot, dark, constricted feeling of sadness that you feel, and breathe out a light, cool sense of joy or space or whatever might provide relief.


  • Widen the circle of compassion by connecting with all those who feel this kind of pain, and extending the wish to help everyone.