May All Beings Be Free From Suffering
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”
-His Holiness the Dalai Lama, XIV
Compassion is something we can all probably agree is a wholesome quality. It’s a quality we value in others and strive for in ourselves. But what does it actually mean to be compassionate and how do we cultivate it? The truth is that we can indeed become more compassionate. For example, a study found that compassion meditation actually works! Dr. Kristen Neff has also done extensive research on compassion and self-compassion that is worth checking out.
“May all beings be free from suffering,” is a traditional phrase of compassion in meditation practices. It’s a beautiful wish, tuning into the fact that all beings experience suffering and caring for the pain.
What is Compassion?
First, we should seek to understand what we mean by the word compassion. We may think it means simple kindness or care. Some people describe compassion as empathy. Although all of these things are true, compassion is something a little more specific.
The word itself comes from Latin roots and means “to suffer with.” Compassion is specifically care, kindness, and empathy toward pain and difficulties. It may be our own pain, or the pain of another individual. To me, compassion is simply being with pain with a caring presence.
Compassion does not necessarily mean we fix the pain that is present. Sometimes we do need to take action or have the opportunity to relieve some pain. Other times, we can’t fix anything really. Rather, we can just be present with the person’s pain and care for it.
Think of a child that gets hurt. You may not be able to fix their pain, but you can put your arm around them and console them. This is an act of true compassion. We learn to be with the pain without clinging to a need to fix it or make it all better. We open the heart to the pain and simply rest in a tender presence.
In Buddhism, compassion is taught as one of the four heart qualities and the antidote to aversion. The teaching here is that we often avert from pain and discomfort, and this causes us suffering. With compassion practice, we can cultivate a mind and heart that are able to be with the pain and discomfort and not compound it by adding an extra layer of suffering.
How to Cultivate Compassion
There are many different ways to cultivate compassion. We can use compassion meditation practices, say compassion mantras, and practice compassion in our daily lives. Here are a few practices for practicing compassion.
Compassion meditation is a great way to go to cultivate some caring for the pain. In compassion meditation, we dedicate the time and energy to really show up and care for the suffering in our lives and the lives of those around us. Below you can listen to a guided meditation for compassion for free, or check out the downloadable meditation scripts!
You can also try reading some guided meditation scripts on compassion in order to understand the practice or lead it in a group setting!
Compassion Phrases and Mantras
There are some common phrases and compassion mantras you can use. These are phrases used in meditations often, but you can use them throughout your day as well! You can repeat them to yourself in your head while you’re showering, or offer them silently in your head to those around you during your day.
Some good phrases of compassion are:
- May you be free of suffering.
- May all beings be free of suffering.
- May I care for your pain.
- May I have compassion for your suffering.
- May you be present for your pain.
- May my heart be tender.
You can of course change “you” to “I” to offer some phrases to yourself as well! Self-compassion is important!
Taking the Opportunity to Act
It of course is important to actually act with compassion when we have the opportunity. This doesn’t mean you need to give all of your belongings away or not take care of yourself. Rather, when you see someone suffering, use it as an opportunity to practice some compassion.
Notice when you find yourself tightening up around pain. Whether it’s a stranger, yourself, or a loved one, we all sometimes avert from difficulties. Ask yourself what the compassionate thing is to do in that moment, both for yourself and the other person or people.
About the Author
This post comes to us from One Mind Dharma, an online resource for guided meditations, a mindfulness-based blog, and more! Visit them at www.OneMindDharma.com.
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