Meditation on Compassion

by Freedom From Anger

“Consider this quietly, on your own; or get a friend to read it out slowly to you.”

To begin this practice STOP FOR A FEW MOMENTS. Sit quietly, with a straight back and gently close your eyes, or focus on an object nearby. If you choose to use an object, use something pleasing. The object can be a vase, a flower, or the statue of the Buddha. Begin with deep diaphragmic breathing feeling the rhythm of the breath as it enters and leaves the body. Try to stay focused on your breath, allow yourself to let go of past and future. If you start thinking about the past or worry about the future, come back to the breath. Come into the present moment – now.

Bring your attention to the feeling of the body, accepting it just the way it is – with kindness. Allow yourself to accept all the sensations and feelings of the body completely. Scan for tension, note where you feel pain.

If you feel tension breath into the place where you are holding on to tension, imagine on the out breath that the tension is being released and leaving your body with the breath. Breathe in deeply, with a sense of trust and well-being: breathe out, letting go of tension, allowing any tightness to dissolve.

Imagine yourself surrounded by light – a light that bring you happiness and warmth. Being with the sensation of the body breathing in, breathing out, draw the light into the body as you breathe – through the nostrils if you can. Imagine the light moving into your heart and your head. I then imagine light saturating your body, through every pore.

Think to yourself: ‘May this being be well,’ and turn the calming effect of the meditation towards your being: ‘May this being be calm.’ Spread this calm and kindly attention over your whole body. Allow the affirmation to take root in your consciousness. Let your focus become inward. Let your awareness explore the body: in your mind’s eye move around the head and face, gradually down the neck, the back and the chest, spreading right down the finger-tips; then down the legs, to each toe; drawing on the good energy of the breath, expanding and embracing the heart. With each breath bring more goodness to your body, it is as if the oxygen is reaching every cell in your being.

Focusing more on the out-breath, let go of the memories, the grudges, the grievances you hold onto; let it all go. Place them on leaves in a stream if you need to, or imagine in your mind’s eye that they are objects being carried out to sea by the surf. It doesn’t matter the visualization you use so much as creating imagery that allows you to distance yourself from these thoughts. Allow the thoughts that cause harm to float out the sea. Begin again with each breath. If you need to place those thoughts on leaf and watch it move down stream then by all means do, it doesn’t matter how you get there. If you find that you are struggling with your thoughts acknowledge it and shift your focus back to the breath.

Picture yourself in your mind’s eye as you are now. Make peace with this view of yourself, through forgiveness, compassion, gentleness. ‘May this being be well.’ Flood this picture with gentle, warm light from the heart, and then let it go. Be gentle with yourself, one can’t practice metta meditation if they don’t have compassion for themselves first.

Next, picture your parents; bring them into your mind’s eye. Make peace with their image: ‘May you be well,’ bathing them with soft light, with gratitude. Picture them bathed in the same loving light you brought to yourself.

Observe thoughts arising. Memories of yourself as a child, perhaps something painful or something you have never made peace with. Let it be in the mind’s eye, bring those thoughts into that loving light.

Then bring up an image of your daily situation, at home or wherever, with the people it involves. People you like or dislike, feel conflict with, love, fear or worry for. ‘May these beings be well.’ Put aside aversion, fear, worry, guilt; at this moment, allow yourself to be kind. Imagine in your mind’s eye that you bring light to them too.

Think of someone you know who is having a difficult time; send these feelings of kindness towards them. Breathe into light, breathe out wishing them well. Just the same way you released tension on the out breath earlier, now release the tension that exist between you on that out breath.

Gradually open up more and more, from the people you see every day to nobody special; and even those for whom you have hardly a memory. Recognize them as human beings with ambitions, hopes, problems, anxieties, joy – just like you! In your mind’s eye bring them into you light, surround them with the love and kindness that exists in that light.

And, even more remote, acknowledge all the people you can conceive of in this world. This may be a faint feeling, but open up the heart to allow them into consciousness, to be felt. See what the mind does, how it reacts indignantly about some people – such as political figures. Let go of that indignation for this moment. Allow a sense of peace to envelop all beings: the liked, the disliked, familiar and unfamiliar. Imagine in your mind’s eye that you are spreading the light and it is enveloping all of humankind.

And then imagine the planet Earth as seen from space. Extend this sense of peace to the planet we live on, embracing it with your heart, surrounding it with light.

Turning your attention to peace and light. Allow it to expand outwards, without limit, letting the sense of ‘me’ and ‘the world’ fade away. All is surrounded by peace and light illuminated by the soft light from your heart – loving-kindness.

Gently come back to the rhythm of the breath, and when you are ready, slowly open your eyes.