I took to Tong Len like a fish to water. It’s the first form of meditation that really worked for me. In Tong Len meditation you send loving kindness out into the world starting with yourself and then move out in concentric circles.
Sitting on my pillow, I close my eyes, take a centering breath and form a picture of myself in my mind. I breathe in my sadness and breathe out love for myself. Then I imagine someone I love who is struggling and breathe in their sadness and breathe out love for that person. I move to a stranger--such as a homeless person I’ve passed recently, newsworthy victims of an international tragedy, or the President. I breathe in their sadness and breathe out love for them. And finally the hardest--but most satisfying over time--person: someone I’m struggling with. I breathe in their sadness and breathe out love for them.
I started doing it for five minutes in the morning, but that wasn’t enough time. I went up a minute each day until it seemed too long and then I backed off. Nine minutes most mornings I cultivate a practice of compassion for myself and for so many others. Pema Chodron explains it better than I ever could: http://old-shambhala.shambhala.org/teachers/pema/tonglen1.php
I was telling a friend about my practice. Her hackles went up at the word ‘love’. There was no way she could send ‘love’ to someone she was struggling with or a complete stranger. But ‘compassion’? That she could send out into the world. Whatever works for you, I say.