Tonglen meditation is done to enhance that feeling of really wishing others well. It is done to wish them to be free of pain.
What is Tonglen meditation? This is the meditation where we imagine others around us. We imagine that we are taking their suffering and the cause of their suffering inside us. We imagine it to be in the form of smoke that we inhale. The smoke then becomes a thunderbolt which strikes at the lump of anger, selfishness and contortion at our own heart. It destroys all these negative emotions and we dwell in this open space where there is no concept of the self. It is just a space of emptiness. Then from that space, there is a light that appears, and we emanate that light and we imagine that we are multiplying and transforming our body. We imagine that we are multiplying and transforming our possessions and our positive potential. They become whatever others need.
When we do this meditation, we can also start out with ourselves, thinking of ourselves in the future and taking on our own future problems and sending happiness to ourselves. Then gradually, we should try to extend it to our friends, even to strangers and to our enemies and to the people we don’t like. We can think of specific groups of people. It’s an excellent meditation to do when you are watching the news. It’s an excellent meditation to do when you are in the middle of an argument. Or, you are at a family dinner and everybody is yelling at each other. Or you are in a movie and you are feeling afraid because of what you are seeing on the screen. Or you are in the middle of childbirth.
This meditation develops our love and it develops our compassion. It also gives us a way to relate to every situation, because there is something we can do in every situation. Of course, if we can say or do something directly in a situation to alleviate harm, we should do that. In the situations where we can’t do anything, then at least we do this meditation so that somehow, there is still some inter-relatedness between others and us.
We are developing at least the wish to be able to actually do something in the future.