Feel What's Here
In the Tibetan traditions there is a compassion meditation called Tonglen. In it's form it is very simple, but like most forms the simplicity hides a rich and - frankly - difficult practice.
At its base it is a visualization, where we use the in-breath to visualize receiving suffering, pain and hurt from others (or our self), and the out-breath to visualize replacing that pain with healing, positive energy and spaciousness. You can see here where the difficulty arises, as being open enough to breath in the pain runs against our usual aversions.
This form is a very powerful meditation, and there are several modern teachers - most notably Pema Chödrön - who see this practice as an essential meditation for our age.
When we start with Tonglen - indeed when we start with any compassion practice - I always recommend starting with practicing it for your self. Working with the pain of others can be challenging, but working with our own pain is equally so. By starting with yourself, then recognizing the delusion of duality between yourself and others gives us a path to grow in this practice.
I recently came across an interview with the wonderful teacher Tara Brach, where she gives some instructions on practicing Tonglen for yourself:
Tonglen is simple and beautiful. Quite simply, if you're feeling anxious, angry, a sense of shame, whatever it is, breathe in and agree to touch or feel it. Breathing out, offer space and care to whatever's there. If there's blocking to touching it, emphasize the in-breath and stay embodied. Feel whatever you feel in the throat, the chest, the belly. Or if there's a sense of being possessed by the feeling, emphasize the out-breath. Offer the feeling into a larger field where there's space and kindness. It's an art, not a formula. Ultimately, the practice is to breathe in and feel what's here; breathe out and offer it some space.
I think in these few beautiful words she has captured the essence of Tonglen - breathe in and feel what's here; breathe out and offer it some space.
I found these words incredibly helpful, and I hope that you do too. If you have never practiced this form before then go slowly and gently, but I think you will see how powerful and relevant this is. As we work to cultivate our compassion this is a powerful tool to help us on our way.
PS: I have linked below a fully guided meditation on these words and an introduction to Tonglen. Feel free to use it in your practice in whatever way works for you.