Friday, February 5, 2010

New Guided Meditation Practice


I just created a new 10-minute meditation practice for my Stanford Continuing Studies course The Science of a Calmed Mind. It's an introduction to the practice of equaminity -- read below, and download/stream the guided practice for more support!

For more information about the philosophy behind this practice, check out this wonderful article by Aura Glaser in the Shambhala Sun.

Overview from Kelly: In all meditation traditions, it is believed that the foundation for true happiness is overcoming the basic sense of separation from others that most of us have most of the time. This sense of separation includes (but is not limited to) feeling different than, in competition with, judgmental about, or wronged by others.

This meditation will help you observe with mindfulness the thoughts, sensations, and emotions that arise when you think about three (self-created) categories of “others”: friends, enemies, and strangers. It then gives you the opportunity to choose to dissolve the sense of separation by cultivating a sense of “equanimity”—that is, reminding yourself of the essential sameness of friends, enemies, and strangers. This may not be what first comes to mind when you think of happiness, but there is a great deal of wisdom in this notion and in the meditation practice.

The Practice:

Start with some centering breaths and a minute or two of open awareness.

THE FRIEND

Then bring to your mind a “friend.” It could be any loved one, including a relative, a spouse, a child, a friend, a mentor, and even a pet. Choose someone who most naturally inspires in you a sense of trust, care, joy, or affection.
Allow yourself to think about this friend. You can visualize them, recall a favorite interaction, imagine hugging them, or anything that helps bring them to life in your mind. As you do so, bring mindful awareness to your thoughts, physical sensations, and emotions.

Now, for this “friend,” say to yourself:
Just like me, this person wishes to be happy.
Just like me, this person wishes to avoid suffering.
Just like me, this person wants to be loved, to be safe, and to be healthy.
Just like me, this person does not want to feel afraid, inadequate, or rejected.
And just like me, this person does not want to be sick, lonely, or depressed.

You can repeat this process for other “friends” if you like.

THE STRANGER

Next, bring to your mind a “stranger.” It could be anyone who is familiar to you but not well-known, including a co-worker, a neighbor, a checker at your grocery store, the receptionist at your dentist’s office, a celebrity, and so on. Choose someone you really don’t know well, and for whom you do not have any strong feelings of attraction or dislike.
Allow yourself to think about this person. You can visualize them, recall a recent interaction, imagine them doing whatever it is you know them from (e.g. their job), or anything that helps bring them to life in your mind. As you do so, bring mindful awareness to your thoughts, physical sensations, and emotions.

Now, for this “stranger,” say to yourself:
Just like me, this person wishes to be happy.
Just like me, this person wishes to avoid suffering.
Just like me, this person wants to be loved, to be safe, and to be healthy.
Just like me, this person does not want to feel afraid, inadequate, or rejected.
And just like me, this person does not want to be sick, lonely, or depressed.

You can repeat this process for other “strangers” if you like.

THE ENEMY

Finally, bring to your mind an “enemy.” It could be anyone you feel dislike, disgust, hostility, anger, envy, or conflict toward. In some cases, it may be someone who once was a “friend” but for whom you now feel a sense of anger or conflict.
Allow yourself to think about this person. You can visualize them, recall a recent interaction, or anything that helps bring them to life in your mind. As you do so, bring mindful awareness to your thoughts, physical sensations, and emotions. It can be easy to get carried away by these thoughts, especially if you really dive into memories and emotions. Remember to at some point come back to your breath to release the hook.

Now, for this “enemy,” say to yourself:
Just like me, this person wishes to be happy.
Just like me, this person wishes to avoid suffering.
Just like me, this person wants to be loved, to be safe, and to be healthy.
Just like me, this person does not want to feel afraid, inadequate, or rejected.
And just like me, this person does not want to be sick, lonely, or depressed.

You may find this challenging, or feel phony as you say these things about an “enemy.” With time and the sincere desire to cultivate equanimity, the fake-ness of the meditation transforms into a real sense of core human sameness. Have compassion for yourself and any challenges you experience as you work with this process.

You can repeat this process for other “enemies” if you like.

To conclude the practice, take a moment to acknowledge your own heartfelt desire to be happy and free of suffering, which you have honored with this practice.

2 comments:

Alexis Ahrens said...

Kelly, I really like this sutra! I have used similar ones where you say similar phrases, but starting with May I, then May my friends and loved ones, then May my community, and so forth until you encompass everything and everyone. The added element of visualizing another, and then drawing the connection, "Like me, this person..." is really powerful! Thank you so much. I'm glad to have found you out in here the ethers!
Cheers!
Alexis

Nayeema Akter said...

Very good one. I've already tried this guided meditation and it worked wonderfully. Meditation is an incredibly enjoyable, healthy and inspiring way to achieve inner peace, and guided meditations are, quite simply, the easiest way to meditate.

Nayeema
Anamaya Resort