Week 6 -  Cultivating compassion. Meditating for the sake of others, and as intercessory prayer. Mindfulness in daily life.

Compassion may be defined as "the feeling from another's sorrow or hardship that leads to help; pity excited by another's distress or misfortunes; sympathy -- syn. fellowship, mercy, condolence."

The "Sending and Taking" - A Meditation of utter compassion.

While we are all extremely competant at warding off and avoiding bad feelings and experiences, while claiming and affirming those that we find good or pleasant. This doesn't really help us with showing compassion to those around us. The following exercise is a fairly  simple, effective means for cultivating compassion and fearlessness for the sake of others. However, it is not really terribly pleasant.

The "sending and taking" practice is one in which we willingly receive the suffering of others and send out healing, peace, happiness and deep well being. As this form of meditation is continued with courage and an open heart, the illusion of separateness fades away and our union with all other beings becomes more realized. This is Tonglen, 'the sending and taking', the form of prayer that the Dalai Lama has reported that he practices for the sake of the Chinese who invaded Tibet and forced him into exile. Similar approaches are found in both the Old and New Testaments, and in classic Christian mystical tradition
it is known as 'reparation' or 'holy exchange'.

Basic Steps.

  1. Sit quietly and mindfully for a few minutes.
  2. Choose an intention: an individual, specific group, or all beings.
  3. On each breath, inhale pain and suffering for the sake of your intention, and exhale health and happiness.
  4. For some people, a visualization is helpful: visualize breathing in a stream of black, sooty smoke, and then breathe out warm, healing and a beautiful light.
  5. Do not retain this pain, this darkness, but release it. You might consider the soot as being utterly burned away by the candle flame that is your inner light.
Start cultivating this practice by having a loved one as your intention, then an acquaintance, then a stranger, then an enemy. Always remember to pracitice compassion towards yourself throughout. You can not harm yourself with this practice, as long as your intention is compassion, and you do not keep any of it. However, if you are uneasy, begin your session by saying,

"May this meditation be for my highest good, and the highest good of all involved."