I first heard about the Tibetan practice of tonglen, or sending and taking, when I was studying with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in the 1970s. He presented teachings on this practice as well as the general practice of lojong, or mind training. This training on how to help oneself and others often involves studying a group of slogans that are used in connection with "exchanging self for others." Pema Chodron has been presenting these teachings on lojong in many of her books and programs for years, and this is a backbone of her teaching, which has influenced thousands of us.
I still feel like a complete beginner with this practice, in the sense that my first instinct in so many situations is a selfish impulse to protect myself, rather than thinking about the welfare of others. Even if I think about helping others, it so often comes along with some kind of self-congratulations, a pat on the back for being kind. But there is hope! Even for tough cases, like myself.
Over several decades, I've found that the cards that present the mind-training slogans are a great wake-up call. I keep them on a special shelf in my office, and about once a week, I randomly select a new slogan. This week's slogan on my shelf is
you are well trained.
Once I choose a card, I look up teachings about that slogan—to help remind myself that there is more to life than "me." I find this a cheerful and rather fun way to engage the lojong material, and I find that the slogans I randomly select always have an auspicious connection to something I need to be working with in my life—right now.
Shambhala Publications is offering Be Grateful to Everyone, a seven-CD audio program presenting teachings on lojong or mind training. When you get the CDs, you also receive a set of the mind training cards for free. These remarkable teachings help us accept and work with our own pain and the pain of others. You can click here to learn more.