One of the most important skills to have is empathy—the ability to sense what others are experiencing. Through empathy you can feel the heart and mind of others, which can open your heart and generate compassion and understanding. This meditation from Joan Halifax Roshi can be done just about anywhere and might give you a helpful new perspective on someone or something. It can be helpful to record the meditation ahead of time and play it back to yourself so you can relax and fully experience it.
Begin by bringing the attention of your mind and heart to the presence of someone who is having a difficult time. You may choose a friend, relative, or someone you feel close to.
Open your heart and mind to this person.
Really let yourself sense into his or her situation.
Feel your way into this person’s heart.
What are they going through? What is their experience?
Now let yourself imagine looking out through his or her eyes.
Imagine that you are this person, living his or her life, feeling her or his suffering, and knowing his or her heart.
Feel into how this person experiences life.
Now imagine that you are this other person, looking out through her or his eyes, feeling into his or her experience, seeing how they might see the world, sensing how they experience their body. Imagine that you are have been through what they have been through.
Exchange yourself for them and live in their body for a few moments as you look out through her or his eyes.
Now gently shift your attention back to your breath.
Stay with your breath for the next moments.
To complete your practice, offer to this person whatever good has arisen for you in this session. Wish him or her the best, saying, “May you find peace and well-being.”
Let that sense of tenderness, kindness and goodness flow from you to him or her.
Throughout the day, remind yourself to bring the spirit of this practice into your everyday life in order to benefit others and yourself.