A 15-minute guided meditation on compassion: the wish to take away others’ suffering.
Settle yourself into a meditation posture, your legs crossed on the ground with your seat elevated, hands on your knees. Or one on top of the other in your lap, palms up. Relax your shoulders, your face. Let out any tension you feel anywhere in your body.
Tilt your head down and half close your eyes. If sitting on the floor is uncomfortable for you, just sit in a chair and leave your legs uncrossed, your feet flat on the floor.
There’s nothing better you could do with the next 15 minutes of your life than to go inward, to cultivate our best human qualities, to bring about the true causes of happiness, let go of suffering; for ourself and also for the benefit of everyone around us, everyone we encounter; to be the best possible friend, partner, brother, sister, mother, father, boss, employee; to make the world a little bit better place by our presence in it.
Meditation on the breath for one minute
For one minute, now focus on the breath. Bring your mind to your breath at your nostrils or with the rise and fall of your abdomen.
As any thoughts or feelings or sounds or pains cross through your mind and body, just let them pass and bring your mind gently back to your breath, for one minute.
Taking refuge in your natural goodness
Feel a sense of confidence that my deepest nature is good, kind, loving, patient, wise, joyful, and full of energy to make my own life meaningful and to benefit others.
When I don’t feel that way—when I’m angry or craving or resentful or selfish—it’s only due to temporary delusions, bad habits. These habits can be gradually, gently left behind without even focusing on these disturbing states of mind. We can leave them behind by instead cultivating our natural inner goodness.
Meditation on self-compassion
We start meditating on compassion by cultivating compassion for ourselves.
Think of yourself and the problems that you have: physical, financial, relationship problems; and the inner problems of anger, craving selfishness.
Think how it’s natural to have difficulties problems, habits, we want to change. There’s no reason to feel guilty. And remember that good things happen slowly.
Now step back from yourself like you’re your own dear friend looking at you. See how you feel no guilt or blame, but only this feeling of love for the you that’s in front of you; wanting to take away all of your pain; to help this you in front of you let go of all their problems: the physical, financial, societal problems you face.
Imagine that if you could, you could take them all away and leave you with the health and safety and security and wealth that you need and deserve.
The mental ones: let them just drift away, emphasizing all the beauty and good that you are and that you do.
This is self compassion. And we need to practice this first, before moving on to having compassion for others.
For a moment, imagine that you’ve done this, that all your problems are gone: the external ones, the ones in your body, the ones in your mind.
Meditation on compassion for someone you love
And now think of a person you love who has a problem. Make them real in front of you: living, breathing. Notice what they’re wearing. Perceive them down to the strands of their hair, the blinks of their eyes, what problems they have, and how do they feel about them?
Let go of yourself and empathize deeply with how it feels to them to bear this problem.
Think how wonderful it would be if they were free of their problems. Go beyond imagining this to sincerely wishing to take their problems away. Going beyond empathy, with whatever ability I have, I myself will help to take away these problems to whatever extent I can.
And then imagine that you have succeeded, even if the obstacles are very big with health or money or the environment or societal injustice. Imagine for a moment that these have all been solved. And picture what it’s like to be your friend in front of you with all your inner and outer obstacles removed, living in perfect health and wealth and mental peace and stability.
Meditating on compassion for others with the same problems
And now imagine that beside and behind your friend, other people begin to appear: others that have the same problems or worse.
And that crowd gets bigger and bigger and bigger.
Imagine all their problems similar to your friends, or worse; so many of them suffering.
How wonderful if they all could be free of their problems.
To whatever ability I can, I’ll help to take these away.
And imagine for a moment that all of their problems are gone. You’ve succeeded in taking them away.
Meditation on compassion for all beings everywhere
And then that crowd grows further, immeasurably vast, to contain all other human beings on earth and all their many forms of suffering.
Try to empathize, letting your mind move from person to person, feeling their specific pain, their suffering, their problem with health or survival or mental disturbances or injustice or poverty; empathize with each of them and all of them.
Wish that, if you could, you could take away all their suffering. Imagine a world like that, how wonderful it would be.
And then imagine that this has actually happened, that you’ve actually taken away all the problems on earth in all their many forms: all the forms of suffering, inner and outer are gone.
Taking compassion into our daily life
Coming out of the meditation, even though we can’t solve everyone’s problems on earth, this attitude of wanting to make our lives as meaningful and happy and effective as they can possibly be.
Directing our energies outward with the wish to be a benefit, to take away others’ suffering: try and take that attitude into your daily life today.
And see how opening to others’ suffering, wishing to take it away, opens your heart, deepens your connection with others, and brings about a sense of wholeness and self confidence and self respect from the mind filled with compassion.
Hosted by Scott Snibbe
Produced by Stephen Butler
Theme music by Bradley Parsons of Train Sound Studio