Top positive review
9 people found this helpful
on 17 May 2016
I’ve been interested in meditation for most of my adult life & have practiced a wide range of different techniques with different organisations. Favouring more secular practices, I always shied away from Tibetan Buddhism & its esoteric cultural trappings. For instance, when I was first taught Ton Glen meditation, it involved visualizing myself as a Buddha with a particular symbolic meaning, who was holding various symbolic objects, etc. Even though I was briefly told what they were, a lack of familiarity with this image made it difficult to relate to. Then I recently attended a Mindfulness course in which the teacher taught a secularized, Western-friendly variation of Ton Glen. Rather than a Buddha, he asked us to visualise ourselves at an earlier age, and then give this earlier self all the compassion, forgiveness & emotional support which they had needed at the time. This was an incredibly powerful experience for me. And, as it turned out, it was the version of Ton Glen which features heavily in this book.
Prior to this, I hadn’t really used visualizations in meditation & it wasn’t something which appealed to me. Yet I found this version of Ton Glen to be incredibly powerful. No prior book-learning of the Tibetan Buddhist canon was necessary & the emotional link to a difficult time in my past helped to connect with some deeply-rooted feelings & mental processes. The consensus in the group discussion afterwards was that it had helped those of us who had no problem with meditating on compassion for others but who struggled to find compassion for themselves. This, as Pema Chodran points out in this book, means we had not been extending our compassion to everyone in the universe. And thanks to that emotional connection, compassion became an accessible feeling instead of merely an intellectualized concept. Once we have compassion for ourselves, Chodran presents practical insights into how it is easier & more meaningful to pass our compassion onto others – not only loved ones but also strangers & people we actively hate, or who just rub us up the wrong way.
This was my first Pema Chodran book & I didn’t actually realise it was about Ton Glen when I bought it just after the course - isn’t it great when you find exactly the right book at exactly the right time?! Chodran’s approach is also refreshingly Westernised & easy to relate to. Her description of Ton Glen & its benefits was regularly furnished with down-to-earth examples. An example which stuck with me was her advice on meditating on ‘loving-kindness’. Because this is a vague term, translated from a different language which will mean something slightly different to everyone, she recommends replacing it with a more specific one of your own choosing. She gives examples from her own students, which include ‘may all beings have an experience which leads to growth’ & ‘may my father have coffee’. The latter was from a lady whose terminally ill father had all the care he needed, so she hoped he could see past the suffering & medical procedures to still connect with the simple joy in life which coffee always gave him.
As soon as I finished this book, I bought several more from the same author. Chodran has completely changed my perception of Tibetan Buddhism, by showing that behind the cultural trappings – which can be pushed aside if need be – are some practical techniques which have helped deepen my practice immeasurably. Her approach is wise, compassionate & utterly practical. Highly recommended.