Cultivating Compassion

There are many levels on which we can strengthen and awaken compassion in our lives. We can practice it in silence as we sit. When thoughts or images of the suffering of other beings arise, either spontaneously or by intentionally calling them to mind, bring your attention to the area of the heart, letting yourself be touched by their pain and allowing a response of loving care and concern. Repeating the phrase, “May you be free of suffering” also helps to develop the feeling of compassion within us. This phrase is directed toward the person who is suffering, and can be repeated for a few minutes or an entire sitting period. Similarly, we can develop compassion toward ourselves when we feel our own suffering arise in meditation.

Outwardly, we can strengthen our response of compassion by working with another person. When you find yourself with someone in physical or emotional pain, take some time to be with that person, quietly if possible. Observe carefully all the different reactions that may arise in your mind and heart. Let all the movements of mind arise and pass away until there remains some inner space and silence. Look directly at the other person with a simple attitude of basic warmth. Can you see the other person as a fellow human being in pain? Can you allow yourself to be touched by him or her? Is there a sense of connection or separation? Is the heart open or closed? Allow yourself to see and feel the other with the wish that he or she be free of suffering. If you can, stay with this process until you feel a sense of connection and compassion.

This excerpt is taken from the book, “Seeking the Heart of Wisdom: The Path of Insight Meditation

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