This is a meditation on compassion using our breath and our heart. The foundation of this practice is to breathe in pain and suffering and to breathe out compassion. For this we begin to imagine ourselves as a “flow through”: the breath comes in, we breathe in the suffering into our heart, and then our heart becomes a transformer of sorrows. As we breathe out compassion, we imagine the suffering moving out into a larger space that can hold it all.
As we practice, we start to develop what the Tibetans call the “Lion’s roar”, which is a sense of confidence that we can handle the suffering of this life. It’s the sense that whatever happens, there is room in our heart for it. We don’t need to tense for what’s to come, we can relax and enjoy our moments, because there is room for them. We cultivate a heart that is ready for anything.
Take a moment to pause and offer yourself and others compassion for the difficulties that are part of life.
As we learn to become more present to each moment, and to pay attention to what’s here inside us and around us, we can be touched by all the moments of joy and love that happen in our lives: a corner of blue sky on a winter day, the song of birds in the morning, the clear laughter of a child, the kindness of a stranger…
Even in the middle of all our fears and worries, we can still learn to stop and notice these little moments of joy and happiness, and to make space for them.
Self-compassion is often a radically new way of relating to ourselves. With self-compassion we mindfully accept that the moment is painful, and embrace ourselves with kindness and care in response, remembering that imperfection is part of the shared human experience. This allows us to hold ourselves in love and connection, giving ourselves the support and comfort needed to bear the pain, while providing the optimal conditions for growth and transformation. This practice is adapted from the work of Kristin Neff on self-compassion.
When we experience strong emotional reactivity, one practice that is particularly helpful is self-compassion and loving presence. The clinical psychologist and meditation teacher Tara Brach has developed a self-compassion practice based on the acronym RAIN, and it is described in her book Radical Compassion.
RAIN stands for the four steps of Recognize, Allow, Investigate and Nurture. These steps are easy to learn and can be used whenever we feel stressed, fearful, reactive and confused. Over time, they build inner resilience and trust in our own wise heart, so we can respond to life in a way that expresses our truth.
Create a space in the midst of all your occupations to pause and bring your awareness inwards. Ground yourself in the feeling of the body and the breath and bring a kind and welcoming attention to everything that arises as this belongs.
When we sit down to meditate, we start by bringing a healing attention to the body, and then naturally the heart presents itself for healing. All sorts of emotions will arise. Emotions and feelings that we might have not allowed ourselves to feel fully and acknowledge will present themselves: pain from past traumas, early childhood and family pain, grief from dashed expectations and hopes, present fears. These are all stored in our heart.
“Our task during meditation is to acknowledge all our feelings, recognize them, let them move through us, and allow them to sing their song” (Jack Kornfield)
Whenever you find yourself rushing through the day, remember to slow down, pause, take a breath, and simply notice that this moment is enough. Practice taking in the gifts of each moment and shifting from a striving mentality to a mentality of appreciation and ease.
This practice will teach you to step behind the waterfall of your thoughts, so you can recognize your thoughts, name them, and release the grip they have on you. The more you practice being mindful of thinking, the more you may experience a sense of ease and freedom in your daily life.
You can do this grounding any time during the day. Take a moment to pause for a few seconds, feel the weight of the body on the earth, maybe take two or three deeper breaths, and ground yourself in the present moment… The more you practice like this, the more you will be able to feel grounded during your day.