A Practical Exercise to Bring Compassion into Meditation

heart of meditationIn the book The Heart of Meditation, the Dalai Lama describes a method for developing empathy into one’s meditation practice. A meditation exercise is given below.  The thesis of this book is that the thing that brings meditation truly alive is compassion. This makes perfect sense, especially in today’s day and age! We can’t deny a connection with others and a need to in some way help alleviate the suffering of those around us.

In the beginning, the main emphasis is simply not to harm others. This is much harder than it seems! Are we hurting others with thoughts or words?  In stressful, busy, or crowded circumstances an unconscious negativity takes over. Guarding against this sleep-based negativity is a great practice!

The practice then evolves to expand one’s perspective to actually serve others, to help others, based on restraining selfishness. The Buddhist principle is that our innate nature is happiness and that everyone has the right to gain happiness and avoid suffering. We can learn to help others if we can get ourselves out of the way.

The Dalai Lama says:

“Now a question is to be posed. I am just a single person, whereas others are infinite in nature. Our condition is the same in that we all want happiness. The only difference between us is in number. Our condition is the same in that we all want happiness. The  only difference between us is in number – I am single whereas others are limitless. Thus the question is: Should everyone be used for my attainment of happiness, or should I work to gain happiness for others?

Therefore, the simplest method for generating compassion is this:

Visualize yourself in the middle as a neutral person. On the left side, visualize other beings, at least ten or fifteen or even a hundred: imagine needy people in poor condition. On your right side, visualize yourself again but as selfish, overly proud, and never thinking of other’s welfare but only of your own welfare. In the middle, you remain as a third person evaluating. Both the single selfish person on the right and the group of destitute people on the left want happiness and do not want suffering; both have an equal right to be happy and get rid of suffering. Which side would you as the evaluator, choose? This is one way to change our attitude toward others.”

sitting in compassion meditation

We will talk more about this subject in our next post where we introduce the practice of doing readings for the benefit of others into the compassion meditations.

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Anxiety Free – for the Moment!

Handling Anxietyexercise for caregiver presence

  1. Write it down. Acknowledging your worry takes away its obsessive power, so make a list of what’s bugging you.
  2. Say a prayer. Ask whatever deity or creative force or what/whoever you believe in for help, patience, and the strength to get through your troubles.
  3. Do something. Clean out your closet, reorganize a room, write a letter or make a phone call you’ve been putting off. You’ll feel better just getting something done.
  4. Read. A great book, something way out of this world, uplifting or funny can really take your mind off of your own troubles.
  5. Take a break. For 10 – 15 minutes sit with your eyes closed in a quiet spot. Mentally make a list of the blessings in your life: good health, plenty of food in the fridge, friends and family, nice weather, anything that you can think of.
  6. Take a walk or exercise. Movement is action. Exercise can clear the mind and raise endorphin levels. Getting into the sun w ill raise your spirits as well. This is very very important and often overlooked. For more information about this please see my book: Caregiver Revolution
  7. Let it go. For a day or even a few hours, do something that you enjoy. Try to refresh  your mind and see things in a new light. Don’t worry, your problems will still be there when you get back!
  8. Ask for help. Ask your spouse, friend, sibling, internet buddy or an helper at a public agency for ideas on how to get past the obstacles in your life. It’ll give you a new perspective and will remind you that others have gotten through the same problems before.

Remember, if you can put aside your mental chatter even for a moment you will experience your true nature, pure awareness. This is the same state that you experience when you are concentrating on something, enjoying yourself in an activity, or watching a child play. Time seems to disappear. You are stress free…for the moment!


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Simple Instructions for Setting up a Reading Space and for Doing a Reading

deathbed 1 - Copy

At the ABD facebook page you can access plenty of information about how to do a spiritual reading for the benefit of another, including someone who is sick, is passing or has died.

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Nurse Shares 30 Years Experiences with Death and Dying

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A Simple Effective Practice for Meditation and End of Life Care

Essential Phowa Practice

By Christine Longaker

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, Phowa is considered the most valuable and effective practice for death. The word phowa means the transference or ejection of consciousness into the state of truth. Its success relies on invoking the presence of a buddha (a fully enlightened being), combined with our receptivity and devotion, and the familiarity which comes from having done the practice repeatedly throughout our life.

Sogyal Rinpoche has taught an Essential Phowa practice which is not just for the moment of death. It also helps to purify our regrets, harm and negativity, and it can be used to assist in emotional or physical healing. The Essential Phowa is a practice for our whole life as well as for the time of dying, and it is the principal practice we rely on to offer spiritual support to others at the moment of death, and afterward.

If we practice the Essential Phowa again and again, our compassionate motivation and our confident devotion will grow even deeper, increasingly becoming part of our “flesh and bones.” As we begin to embody the practice, our heart and mind are opened, made more free and limitless. If we prepare for our own death with this depth of familiarity, devotion and trust, we’ll reap other rewards. For instance, our fear of death will diminish. And, even if we should be in a sudden accident, facing death without warning, we’ll know how to let go in the best way, because this profound practice has become like a reflex.

Also, by practicing the Essential Phowa regularly and as strongly as possible, we’ll find that when a loved one is in great distress or is dying, we can respond with all our love and compassion and offer this rich spiritual practice for him or her. When we hear of a great tragedy or natural disaster we will realize that we can counter our feelings of helplessness by offering a practice to spiritually benefit those who are suffering… (see more)

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Benefits of Meditation

Harvard neuroscientist: Meditation not only reduces stress, here’s how it changes your brain.

prayers for the dying

A fascinating article in the Washington Post, looks well researched. Based on the swork of the Mindfulness Based Stress reduction Clinic in Boston. Here is a free pdf workbook that can guide you in your MBSR practice.

We talk quite a bit about these techniques in our book, Caregiver Revolution. In fact mindfulness forms the basis for expanding your practice and helping others at the end of life.

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