Napa Valley Insight Meditation Message Board › Compassion Practice: Reading for May 8th NVMG meeting
This Wednesday (May 8th), we will continue our exploration of compassion and the role it plays in bringing greater happiness to our lives. The readings for our discussion comes from the 9th Step in the Awakening Joy course, pages 246 - 252. You can print out a copy of the 9th Step by clicking on the link below:
This week I’d like to invite you to work on deepening your capacity for empathy and compassion using a simple practice found on page 248 of Awakening Joy. This exercise is similar to the loving-kindness practice we’ve explored in the past, in which we repeat a simple phrase during meditation as a way to hold with loving-kindness the emotions inhabiting us in the present moment - many of which can be all but loving.
One need not be able to feel loving-kindness when reciting the words at first. Often it may trigger quite the opposite feeling. As stated by Jack Kornfield, in The Wise Heart, "Initially, it can feel difficult to offer love to ourself: for many it can trigger feelings of shame and unworthiness ... After many repetitions, strong love for oneself can be established."
This time, instead of focusing our attention on loving-kindness, the phrase is intended to help awaken our desire to live a more compassionate life and to open our hearts to the service of others.
The steps for this practice are as follows:
1. After sitting quietly for a while, bring to mind someone you care about who may be going through a hard time. See if you can feel the connection and love you share with that person
2. Bring to mind a phase that captures your desire for any difficulties this person is facing to end. Examples might be, “May you be free of suffering”, or “ I care about your suffering.” Find a phrase that works best for you.
3. Silently direct this phrase towards him or her, with as much awareness as possible. Focusing on the phase as you would your breath during meditation. Try and remain present to any feelings that arise in your body or emotions.
4. After a while, see if you would like to shift this phrase towards yourself. “May I be free from suffering.” Often we find it is harder to have compassion for ourselves than others. By directing this phrase towards ourselves we are planting the intention to have more empathy for those places where we struggle in life.
5. Finally, see if you would like to direct these phrases towards others – those close to you, those you have difficulty with, those who you have contact with but may never know (e.g. a checkout person at the grocery store). Expanding this practice helps remind us that everyone suffers, just like us, and that everyone wants to be happy.
Compassion practice is another step alone the journey to awakening greater joy and happiness in our own lives. As we become more compassionate towards ourselves and others, the desire to serve grows. Serving others helps us remain in touch with our own aliveness and appreciation for life - it is an essential part of a life well lived.
I look forward to seeing you next Wednesday.