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Writing about meditation has become a recurring theme for me lately. Recently, someone reminded me of a practice called “tonglen,” which I find to be very Christ-like in its approach to meditation.

First, let me explain tonglen and then discuss why I see it as Christ-like.

"Tonglen is a breathing practice in meditation where you inhale the suffering or negative energy of others. At the moment of the exchange of breathe from breathing in to breathing out, you can visualize light pouring out of every pore of your body, symbolizing the transformation from negative to positive energy. With each breathe in, you wish to alleviate the suffering of others, whether it be one individual or many across the globe. With each breathe out, you extend comfort and happiness to those same individuals, animals, nations, or whatever you decide.

Isn’t this what Jesus did? Throughout the accounts in the Gospels, from his three years of preaching and healing to his crucifixion, Jesus absorbed the suffering of people, even those who couldn’t understand his message and sought to ensnare him. He offered solace to those whose spirits yearned to believe but were too frail or fearful to fully commit.

For those who had “eyes to see” they witnessed one who courageously took on the negative and emanated a light. They perceived what they could not explain but they knew it was good. Unconsciously they knew it was God.

As we absorb the news through television, print, or online sources, we often find ourselves lamenting the division and separateness in our nation and the world. Many of us have prayed for an end to wars, mass shootings, political divisiveness, and much more. We have prayed for the alleviation of suffering for our loved ones and for those across the globe. We have prayed for the recovery from the repercussions of violent weather events.

I offer the practice of tonglen as a means to pray for all these needs. It isn’t something you do every day, but try it when you feel called to it. You don’t even have to be sitting in a quiet place. It doesn’t have to be a major event either in your life or the world. You could be in the grocery store, witnessing impatience from people in the check out as someone using a SNAP card holds up the line while they decide what to put back because they can’t afford it. Breathe in, breathe out. You could be confronted by an angry neighbor. Breathe in, breathe out. You could be driving and accidentally cut someone off, receiving their vitriolic words and energy. Breathe in, breathe out. You could live with someone who has had a bad day and is finding fault with you for something. Breathe in, breathe out.

People often wear wristbands imprinted with the words: 'What would Jesus do?' I think he breathed it in and breathed it out."

Sister Mary Eileen Boyle