Pema Chodron is the director of Gampo Abbey, a monastery in Nova Scotia, and author of Start Where You Are and When Things Fall Apart. On this three and one-half hour workshop filmed at the Westwood United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, California, she presents the thousand-year-old meditation practice of tonglen, which means "taking in and sending out." It was handed down to her by her Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa. She describes it as a way to let ourselves feel what it is to be human and, by doing so, to cultivate compassion in daily life.
Chodron begins with an explanation of maitri (friendliness or loving kindness toward oneself), which is a way of developing an open heart and an open mind. She then goes on to discuss the difference between mindfulness meditation and tonglen, how to deal with the wandering mind, working with whatever comes up in the moment, and dealing with the insistent need of the ego to shut itself off from suffering, pain, and the messiness of everyday life.
Pema Chodron calls tonglen practice "good medicine" because it enables us to take the difficulties, problems, and disappointments of life and turn them around into a force that can heal the suffering of all beings. Chodron's examples of the benefits of tonglen practice in her own life and in the lives of others are salutary.