Compassion meditation involves silently repeating certain phrases that express the intention to move from judgment to caring, from isolation to connection, from indifference or dislike to understanding. You don't have to force a particular feeling or get rid of unpleasant or undesirable reactions; the power of the practice is in the wholehearted gathering of attention and energy, and concentrating on each phrase. You can begin with a 20-minute session and increase the time gradually until you are meditating for half an hour at a time. If your mind wanders, don't be concerned. Notice whatever has captured your attention, let go of the thought or feeling, and simply return to the phrases. If you have to do that over and over again, it is fine.
- To begin, take a comfortable position. You may want to sit in a chair or on cushions on the floor (just make sure your back is erect without being strained or overarched). You can also lie down. Take a few deep, soft breaths to let your body settle.
- Closing your eyes or leaving them slightly open, start by thinking of someone you care about already—perhaps she's been good or inspiring to you. You can visualize this person or say her name to yourself, get a feeling for her presence, and silently offer phrases of compassion to her. The typical phrases are: "May you be free of pain and sorrow. May you be well and happy." But you can alter these, or use others that have personal significance.
- After a few minutes, shift your attention inward and offer the phrases of compassion to yourself: "May I be free of pain and sorrow. May I be well and happy."
- Then, after some time, move on to someone you find difficult. Get a feeling for the person's presence, and offer the phrases of compassion to her.
- Then turn to someone you've barely met—the supermarket checkout woman or UPS man. Even without knowing his or her name, you can get a sense of the person, perhaps an image, and offer the phrases of compassion.
- We close with the offering of compassion to people everywhere, to all forms of life, without limit, without exception: "May all beings be free of pain and sorrow. May all be well and happy."