Nov 01, 2013
There are many ways to develop metta (kindness, or lovingkindness), which is the desire that beings, ourselves included, be happy. Kindness arises from a basic realization that all beings want to be happy, and that their happiness and suffering are as real to them as our own happiness and suffering are to us. Recognizing those facts, and knowing that we ourselves want to be happy, we naturally wish happiness for others.
Kindness is inherent in us all, and in the meditation practice we’re strengthening what’s already there, not bringing something entirely new into being.
The most well-known way to cultivate metta is drop phrases into the mind that strengthen and develop our …
Rick Hanson PhD
Oct 23, 2013
When our mammalian ancestors first appeared, about two hundred million years ago, their capacities for bonding, emotion, and generosity were extraordinary evolutionary breakthroughs. Unlike reptiles and fish, mammals and birds care for their young, pair bond (sometimes for life), and usually form complex social groups organized around various kinds of cooperation. This takes more smarts than, say, a fish laying a swarm of eggs and swimming away – so in proportion to body weight, mammals and birds have bigger brains than reptiles and fish do.
When primates came along about sixty million years ago, there …
Rick Hanson PhD
Aug 23, 2013
In every life, reminders arrive about what’s really important.
Two years ago, I received one myself, in a form that’s already come to countless people and will come to countless more: news of a potentially serious health problem. My semi-annual dermatology mole check turned up a localized melanoma cancer in my ear that needed to come out immediately. The prognosis was very positive – the melanoma was “non-invasive,” whew – but it was certainly an intimation of mortality. Hopefully this particular bullet will whiz by, but the whole experience was an uncomfortably concrete message that sooner or later something will catch up with each one of us.
When all this happened back in June, …
May 31, 2013
A couple of times people have contacted me saying that self-compassion is not possible. Both times they’ve quoted dictionary definitions that present compassion as something that’s inherently directed toward others. For example:
com·pas·sion n. Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it. [Emphasis added]
And the etymology of compassion — “[to be] with suffering” — has also been cited as a reason for rejecting the notion of self-compassion, because that’s taken to suggest that we be with the suffering of others.
But it can be misleading to insist that the etymology of a word defines or exhausts its present meaning. Sure, com- means with …
May 30, 2013
“…an individual keeps pervading the first direction — as well as the second direction, the third, and the fourth — with an awareness imbued with compassion. Thus he keeps pervading above, below, and all around, everywhere and in every respect the all-encompassing cosmos with an awareness imbued with compassion: abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.”
I want to focus on the phrase, of the Buddha’s, “an awareness imbued with compassion,” because I think it’s rather important.
Here’s something you can try in your meditation. When I’m teaching, often at the beginning of a period of practice I’ll suggest that people become aware of the light, and …
May 29, 2013
As I wrote in my book, Living as a River:
Relating to someone as a “self”—on the basis of how we see them right now—is like seeing a video reduced to a single frame, or seeing a ball hurtling through the air in a freeze-frame photograph. It’s life-denying. It’s a static way of seeing things. In taking a snapshot of a thing we lose its sense of trajectory, the sense that it’s headed somewhere. We’re disconnected from the reality of change and process. But imagine if we could consistently see a person not as a thing but as a process—if we could, at least in our imagination—see that person
May 27, 2013
Yesterday I wrote about how the Buddha, when he was in agony after having been injured, kept the suffering of self-doubt at bay by lying down “with sympathy for all beings.”
The word for sympathy here is “anukampā,” which literally means “to tremble with” or “to vibrate with.” Taking the meaning of “to vibrate with” we could even understand anukampā as being “resonating” with others, or having empathy for them.
Anukampā is closely related to karunā, or compassion, although karunā is from a root meaning “to act,” and so it’s a more active and dynamic term, while anukampā is more receptive. When we have anukampā we’re receptive to the feelings of …
May 26, 2013
I’ve often written about how experiencing compassion for ourselves can naturally spill over to experiencing compassion for other people. When someone says something that you find hurtful, that hurt is a form of suffering. Often what we do is try to become angry, ultimately in an effort to rid of the “cause” of the suffering (the other person) and thus remove the hurt. This is a kind of double aversion, because not only are we experiencing aversion to the person whose words gave rise to the feeling of hurt, but we’re turning away from the hurt itself.
A compassionate approach to dealing with hurt, on the other hand, is to …
May 25, 2013
We can see beings with the eyes of compassion, or with the eyes of utility. We almost literally live in different worlds depending on which eyes we use to see with.
When we see with the eyes of utility we gauge beings by their usefulness to us.
If the checkout clerk performs smoothly we’ll remain neutral, maybe even friendly, but if he or she has trouble looking up the code for an item, or — heaven forbid — has to call in a supervisor for help, we’ll quickly become irritable. This person has become an obstacle to the smooth functioning of our life.
When the child is slow getting ready for …
May 24, 2013
One afternoon, a tired-looking dog wandered into my yard and followed me through the door into the house. He went down the hall, lay down on the couch and slept there for an hour.
Since my dogs didn’t seem to mind his presence, and he seemed like a good dog, I was okay with him being there, so I let him nap. An hour later he went to the door motioned for me to let him out and off he went.
The next day, much to my surprise, he was back. He resumed his position on the couch and slept for another hour.
This continued …