Society of the Vav

Be a Vavnik, harnessing your transformational power of connection, creating change for the good of all

Monday evening meditation May 28th, 2018

The wisdom of Baba Versa Singh, Gobind Sadan Sikh Ashram, Delhi, India

“When a river overflows its banks it does great damage to the surrounding areas.

And when a person’s mind is not controlled, she/he can destroy entire countries.”

            It takes great courage to sit in silence with your self and direct the mind where you want it to go and not just where it wants to travel.  

As the website Caringbridge wrote this week; “healing is a choice”

            It takes great awareness, intentions and love to do as you feel is needed to create a healthy mind body spirit. This is what we do in our sangha, practice building the muscles of the mind you live with amidst the companionship of others.

As Frances spoke last week, there is The Buddha, the dharma & the sangha

            The Buddha means the enlightened one and we are in awe of the one as an inspiration, the one who noticed the mind’s suffering and choose to work moment to moment to alleviate it – ‘may all being be free of suffering, may all beings be at peace’

            The dharma as teaching, where ever it comes from…from the books you read or podcasts you listen to, the teachers that show up in your life in various forms, or the signs you notice, to your experiences of awakening ot the moment, to what arises in the silence of your being.

            And we are the sangha, us as companions on the path, learning from being with others and inside out, we are never alone… and when we sit in community we are strengthened by the energy and courage to go deeper with our healing.

Tonight we will practice tonglen, a Zen Buddhist practice

            The practice of tonglen is to help acknowledge the pain within our self and without.  Some people are uncomfortable with breathing in the various disharmonies, mental gyrations and emotional angst we live with out side our self and within.

            And the Buddhist teach from a knowing that we are transformational agents, we are amazing miracles that practice at bringing peace of mind to our self and to others through acknowledging the other side.

            The mind is a powerful organ. We are excellent at rumination and doubt and hopelessness and creating drama. We can also be amazing at working with the mind, building what we want…peace of mind for our self and others.

When preparing for today, I realized the Buddhist were teaching us, what I learned in studying Judaism , life is paradoxical, we can breathe in the pain and breathe out joy…we hold both and must as part of our healing honor both with attention.

Attention is Love. Early in my meditation practice my Theravada Buddhist teachers teachers, Rosemary & Stephen Weisman taught us:

May I have compassion and loving-kindness for myself as I notice and then let go of my anger, fear, worry, doubt, shame and ignorance. May I preserve my well-being.

      May I have the patience, courage, determination, faith and wisdom to face the problems and challenges that come my way; may I have peace-of-mind.

We were taught to hold both pain & hope with each breath.

One way is to be aware of what we are thinking and work with it…practice being the enlightened one, through the practice of tonglen.


Tonglen is Tibetan for ‘giving and taking’ or sending and receiving, and refers to a meditation practice found in Tibetan Buddhism


The principle of taking in the suffering or disharmony on the in-breath and spreading an antidote of joy, harmony or peace of mind – or whatever might be needed in the specific case – on the out-breath is a good option to use a small pause after the in-breath to convert the suffering or disharmony to the positive antidote which is to be breathed out.

Taking on suffering does not really mean to burden oneself with the misery of the world, but rather to acknowledge its existence and accept it. This makes it possible to increase one’s own peace of mind at the same time as taking suffering or disharmony in, so there is less contradiction as there might seem to be.[3][4]

When I read this I thought of another of my influential teachers Stephen Levine. When I first met him I noticed a huge fullness in his mid-riff.  When I asked him if he had pancreatic cancer he told me, this is where he holds the pain of the world, like the Buddha’s  huge belly.

Pema Chodron wrote:

“On the in-breath, you breathe in whatever particular area, group of people, country, or even one particular person… maybe it’s not this more global situation, maybe it’s breathing in the physical discomfort and mental anguish of chemotherapy; of all the people who are undergoing chemotherapy. And if you’ve undergone chemotherapy and come out the other side, it’s very real to you. Or maybe it’s the pain of those who have lost loved ones; suddenly, or recently, unexpectedly or over a long period of time, some dying. But the in-breath is… you find some place on the planet in your personal life or something you know about, and you breathe in with the wish that those human beings or those mistreated animals or whoever it is, that they could be free of that suffering, and you breathe in with the longing to remove their suffering.

And then you send out – just relax out… send enough space so that peoples’ hearts and minds feel big enough to live with their discomfort, their fear, their anger or their despair, or their physical or mental anguish. But you can also breathe out for those who have no food and drink, you can breathe out food and drink. For those who are homeless, you can breathe out/send them shelter. For those who are suffering in any way, you can send out safety, comfort.

So in the in-breath you breathe in with the wish to take away the suffering, and breathe out with the wish to send comfort and happiness to the same people, animals, nations, or whatever it is you decide.

Do this for an individual, or do this for large areas, and if you do this with more than one subject in mind, that’s fine… breathing in as fully as you can, radiating out as widely as you can.”[6]

            In my first ten day retreat we were instructed to go through the alphabet of diseases…

                        May all those with Alzheimer’s be free of suffering

                        May all those with botulism be at peace

                        May all those with cancer be happy

          While this might seem like an outrageous thing to do – breathe in suffering and breathe out joy, part of the practice is to work with habitual patterns of mind and “develop the psychological attitude of exchanging oneself for others,” as Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche writes in Training the Mind and Cultivating Kindness

We are developing our compassion for others and can then be applied also to our self.

“Gathas are short verses that help us practice mindfulness in our daily activities. A gatha can open and deepen our experience of simple acts which we often take for granted.   Practicing with a gatha can help us return to ourselves and to what is going on in the present moment. It is helpful to memorize these gathas,

This gatha is one way of combining the joy and sorrow, the hope and despair to heal the body mind sprit and honor the Loving kindness ever present. Repeat to your self after me”

May I have compassion and loving-kindness for myself as I notice and then let go of my anger, fear, worry, doubt, shame and ignorance. May I preserve my well-being.


May I have the patience, courage, determination, faith and wisdom to face the problems and challenges that come my way; may I have peace-of-mind.