“May I Be Loving and Compassionate”
Questions to Stimulate Contemplation and Journaling
The world’s contemplative traditions often concur about the types of mental attributes and methods to be cultivated for generating compassion. Below, I have listed some of these along with questions to stimulate your journaling and contemplative regarding each. These attributes and methods include: sympathy and empathy, equalizing self and others, realizing the interdependence between person happiness and the happiness of others, the natural law of reciprocity, and the universal pervasiveness of love and compassion.
Your journal writings will help love and compassion to emerge even when we don’t feel that way. They will help provide a focus of love and compassion for Step Four of InterSpiritual Meditation. First, you might begin by exploring answers to these questions.
What is your definition for love and compassion?
- Do these arise solely from inside your self or are they a universal quality that you tap into?
- Describe how love and compassion arise in you: Are they dependent on a desirable object or person.
- Or do they arise when you see someone who is suffering, in danger, or deprived of their basic human rights?
- Is your love and compassion conditional, or does it arise naturally and spontaneously without conditions?
- How is your own health and happiness connected with the love and compassion others have for you?
- How is the well-being and happiness of others intertwined with your own?
- Do you gain greater happiness when you selfishly get what you want or when you help another personget what he or she needs?
Sympathy and Empathy
- Are you able to sympathize with the suffering of others by relating it to your own experience?
- Are you able to empathize heart to heart with others with a spontaneous wish to help relieve their suffering and bring them happiness?
Equalize Self & Others
- When you lack spontaneous compassion for a difficult person, have you tried changing places with them?
- When you see the world through the eyes of another, are you better able to see the causes of their suffering and feel love and compassion toward them?
- Are you able to objectively look at your own suffering and feel the same sympathy, empathy, love and compassion that you would feel for another person who is suffering?
- What does it feel like when you put yourself in another’s shoes to feel their suffering, to realize why they might be suffering, and why they might be acting negatively towards you?
- What does it feel like when you “trade places” with others who are suffering and see the world through their eyes?
- How are you able to see yourself in others and others in you? What changes to you observe in yourself when you see that we all share the challenges inherent in the human condition?
- When you do have empathy, how are your negative feelings affected toward those you have aversion towards?
- Does this empathy motivate you to find ways to alleviate the causes of their internal pain or negative behavior?
- How does this empathy help you to practice the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you?”
Interdependence and Universal Reciprocity
- How do you perceive the causal and interdependent nature of things?
- How do you understand the interdependence between personal happiness and the happiness of others?
- How does interdependence entail reciprocity, whereby all things are serving the needs of others?
- What is your way of describing the natural state of universal reciprocity?
- How do you describe the inter-permeability between living beings?
- What words might you use to describe or express the possible interrelationship between universal reciprocity and universal love and compassion?
- How is it possible that love and compassion could be essential qualities of the universe?
- How would you relate love and compassion with your sense of God, ground of being, or higher power.
Your Contemplative Practice
Please remember that the purpose of the above quotes and questions is to stimulate your writing in your journals. In your writing, please explore your own deepest personal insights as well as your beliefs that have been molded by your tradition, teachers, mentors, or role models. You might also do additional research on the internet, in books, and conversations with other teachers and students. Then, reflecting on your writings, create a brief summary that will serve as the contemplative focus for this step.
As you begin this step, say to yourself with total conviction: “May I Be Loving and Compassionate.” This is not only a prayer, but also your self-directed challenge to actualize the qualities of love and compassion twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for the rest of your life – indeed your eternal existence. With this determination, engage in meditation to become loving and compassionate and to eliminate the negative states of mind that prevent you from actualizing these. In your contemplation, bring to mind the summary of your journal writings and vow to actualize these in your life. Here, in answer to our prayer, we open ourselves to the transformative power and support of the vast and untapped potential of consciousness and (if appropriate for you) our “higher power.”