Photo: Karen Sue Asbury Elliott, Kuai, February 2014
A Heart Meditation adapted from Jack Kornfield's A Path With Heart:
The human heart has the extraordinary capacity to hold and transform the sorrows of life into a great stream of compassion. It is the gift of figures like Buddha, Jesus, Mother Mary, and Kwan Yin, to proclaim the power of this tender and merciful heart in the face of all the suffering of the world. Whenever your own heart is open and uncovered, the awakening of this stream of compassion begins within. Compassion arises when you allow your heart to be touched by the pain and need of another.
To cultivate this quality, you may wish to practice the traditional meditation for the practice of compassion and for the transformation of sorrows in the fire of the heart.
Let yourself sit still in a centered and quiet way. Breathe softly and feel your body, your heartbeat, the life-force within you. Feel how you treasure your own life, how you guard yourself in the face of your sorrows. After some time, bring to mind someone close to you whom you dearly love. (this person can be you!) Picture them and your caring for them. Notice how you can hold them in your heart. Then let yourself be aware of their sorrows, their measure of suffering in this life. Feel how your heart opens naturally, moving toward them to wish them well, to extend comfort, to share in their pain, and meet it with compassion.
This is the natural response of the heart. Along with this response, begin to actively wish them well, reciting the traditional phrases, May you be free from pain and sorrow, may you be at peace, while holding them in your heart of compassion. Continue reciting these phrases.
As you learn to feel your deep caring for this person, you can begin to extend this compassion to others you know, one person at a time. Gradually, you can open your compassion further, to neighbors, to all those who live far away, and finally to the brotherhood and sisterhood of all beings. Let yourself feel how the joy of every being brings you joy and how the suffering of another makes you weep. Feel your tenderhearted connection with the world and its creatures, how it moves with their sorrows and holds them in compassion.
Your heart can become a transformer for the sorrow of the world.
After some time, sit quietly and let your breath and heart rest naturally, as a center of compassion in the midst of the world.
(. . .There’s more to this meditation practice, but I found this much to be very helpful.)