A way to send goodness into the world right nowOct 19, 2023
I am writing this after a week of hearing about terrible tragedy developing in the Middle East. My heart has been breaking for all the people involved, mothers, fathers, children, and all who have been affected.
I have been asking myself, What can I DO to alleviate the suffering?
I can see the suffering, and hear about it, my friends have family directly involved and I want to help. And yet, I don’t know how to as I’m living far removed from those directly affected.
Sitting with this feeling has been draining me. I know many others are feeling the same way.
This feeling is a kind of “Empathy fatigue” and it's defined as the emotional and physical exhaustion that happens from caring or wanting to care for people until we feel exhausted.
This is an issue as we can get so depleted we don’t have the energy to do anything to help those suffering OR ourselves. We can end up getting exhausted, unable to carry on to do what needs to be done to help long term. After all, to help change the world for the better is the work of a lifetime and requires the energy of a marathon runner.
So what can we do? This is where the meditation of Tonglen can be useful. It’s a simple practice to send out goodness into the world which we can do anywhere, anytime, AND that will build our energy levels up at the same time. We can use our meditation practice to open our hearts and connect with others. Then we can make use of our own composure and compassion to fix what can be fixed.
Acknowledging and accepting what we and others are struggling with does not equal resignation. Tonglen practice gives us a sense of agency and takes the factors that compound empathy fatigue—a sense of isolation, feeling like we don’t know what to do, and rejection of what is—and turns them around. It helps us realize that pain is part of the human condition and when we acknowledge that we can be a lot more capable of doing something about it.
So together I invite you to join me in practicing Tonglen and sending it out into the world right now.