Practice: Seeing from the Universal Perspective

Buddhist psychology is filled with practices that shift us to the universal perspective. These include contemplations on the vastness of time, the cycles of impermanence, the mysterious inevitability of your own death, the boundlessness of love. Here is one way to awaken this perspective:

Sit quietly, focusing on your breath. When you feel settled, picture a person close to you, a loved one, partner, child, or a close friend.  Remember how you ordinarily relate to them.  Now step back in your mind to consider the roles and identities they inhabit.  Man or woman, boy or girl, son or daughter, partner, friend, Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Buddhist, student, teacher, athlete, artist, employee, boss, American, Canadian, their work, their successes and failures.

Step back further and contemplate the unfolding of their karma, born into a certain family, picture them as an infant, a child, a school age teenager, adult, an old person. Picture them as they are about to fall asleep, as they are old and about to die. Who are they really, underneath all the clay of their roles and life stages? What is their essence, their true spirit? What would it be like to relate to them outside of their tentative roles, outside of time?

Now choose a problem or difficulty, a place you are stuck in your life. Hold the problem as if in front of you. Look at it with the perspective of a hundred years from now. Then picture yourself facing death at the end of your life. How does this difficulty appear? Finally, ask yourself, “What is your heart’s highest intention, and how does this intention inform your response to the difficulty you face?


This excerpt is taken from the book, “The Wise Heart

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