Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Some preliminary exercises for generating compassion

Here are some brief meditations for cultivating compassion. They have been adapted from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche, a Tibetan meditation teacher, who writes, “The power of compassion knows no bounds.”

Realizing that others are the same as you
When you’re having difficulty with a loved one or friend, look beyond your conflict and the role this person plays in your life, and spend some time reflecting on the fact that this person is a human being just like you. She has the same desire for happiness and well-being, the same fear of suffering, the same need for love. Notice how this meditation changes your feelings for her and affects your difficulties.

Putting yourself in another’s place
When you encounter someone who’s suffering and you don’t know how to help, take some time to imagine yourself in this person’s position. What would it be like for you if you were experiencing the same problems? How would you feel? What would you need? How would you like others to respond? Notice if you have a clearer sense now of how to help this person.

Imagining a loved one in place of another
Instead of putting yourself in the place of someone who’s suffering, you may find it even easier to generate compassion if you imagine that someone you love deeply is experiencing the same difficulties. How would you feel? What would you do to help them? Now transfer these feelings to the person who’s actually suffering, and notice how it changes your appreciation of the situation. (Not only will this meditation cause no harm to your loved one, assures Sogyal Rinpoche, she may actually benefit from having compassion directed her way.)

Dedicating the merits
When you know what compassion feels like, you can practice dedicating the value of all your positive actions to the well-being of others. In particular, you may want to follow the traditional practice of dedicating whatever virtue or merit may accrue from your meditations to all beings everywhere. You can do this simply by expressing the intention in words of your own choosing, accompanied by a heartfelt wish that all beings be happy and free of suffering.

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