I often have patients beset by anxiety, irritation, dislike of a situation or persons, manifesting in digestive upset, fatigue, and/or pain. Until recently I was a Buddhist monk, drawing from that experience I can help others help themselves by teaching compassion meditation.
Many people do not know that the majority of their discomfort comes from damaging thought processes. Most identify with the thoughts in their heads and cling to them as if they were who they are, unaware that they are not their thoughts. This is why calm abiding and insight meditation is so valuable - it provides distance allowing perspective to develop. The meditative process is a gradual path, it takes time and usually no one is interested in learning this until their fat is in the fire, that is not the time to begin. We should all learn to swim long before the ship goes down.
There are some shortcuts to take and there should be no embarrassment at taking advantage of them. It is ok to be efficient. That is a definition of elegant after all, the most direct line of effective action is elegant in its simplicity and completeness.
The number one meditation technique for achieving transformation, relieving suffering and accomplishing unimaginable benefits is compassion meditation.
Compassion meditation is quite simple to do, but not necessarily easy. The five hindrances and the three poisons exist in all of us to create contrast and challenges, to provide the texture of life.
It is essential to know that it is not the visualization or the particular mantra or pattern of ritual that is used but the energy, the feeling that is evoked that is the power of the meditation. It doesn’t matter what you say or do, but how you feel, how strongly you feel it and how long you can maintain it, how you let it go when it is done and pick it back up again when the time is right.
What is compassion anyway? It’s not pity, it’s not sympathy, it is closer to empathy but goes beyond that to connect with equanimity, a sense of endless boundless support and power based in the infinite reaches of time and scope. Compassion is understanding and love, it is generosity and wisdom, it generates courage and alleviates suffering. There are three treasures that are antidotes to the three poisons, they are Generosity, Compassion and Wisdom and none exists without the other, like Yin and Yang they are mutually dependent, interwoven and transform into one another, aspects of one whole.
To evoke the feeling of compassion it is helpful to recall a situation or a being you felt it in before. Call up that memory and hold the feeling in your heart. Allow the feeling to well up and wash over you. This is the critical stage in compassion meditation and one most people have trouble with, it must begin with yourself. Just like the warning info on an airplane - put your own air mask on first before helping another. I like the image of weaving the compassion into a blanket, soft and colorful, just the right weight and warmth, I wrap that around me and enjoy it. Then I take out more blankets and wrap them around others. Begin with easy ones, don’t force it, move on when it becomes comfortable. Imagine the comfort the recipients take from the warmth and softness, imagine how it helps. Do this often, do it all day and every day. See the changes it makes and celebrate.
Licensed Acupuncturist, RN, Former Buddhist monk
"The pursuit of health is invariably a spiritual quest."