Meditation serves many purposes. It can help to improve various aspects of a person’s mental ability and wellbeing. It can help to reduce stress and to generate a higher emotional sensibility. It allows people to develop a more intimate understanding of their body and mind.
And, while meditating regularly can benefit all of these things on a basic level, if there is one thing in particular that you would like to better, you have to direct your attention accordingly.
A common thing that people aspire to develop through meditation is their compassion, their ability to empathise with others and to be able to understand those they disagree with. This is so popular a goal that people have developed specifically structured meditation habits designed to enhance compassion, often known as ‘compassion meditation’ or ‘loving-kindness meditation’.
Meditate regularly as you usually would. Concentrate on your breathing, allow yourself to relax and let your mind empty of concerns.
Picture someone that you care about. Let yourself feel everything they inspire within you. Embrace it to its fullest. Examine and understand it. Experience fully the joy they bring you – the warmth and the love you feel for them, the trust and the openness and the acceptance you feel for them.
Realise the good you wish for them. Put it into words if it that makes it easier. Think it in its simplest form. Wish them joy, wish them happiness, wish their sufferings to be eased. Repeat it, it will come easily to you because it someone that you care about.
Next, picture before you someone that you feel neutral towards, someone who you recognise but who is not especially special to you. Someone you might nod to in passing, but not necessarily talk to. Someone who inspires no strong feelings in you.
Learn to feel for them. Learn to show the same goodwill towards strangers as you do towards the people you love. Wish them joy, wish them happiness, wish their sufferings to be eased. It should not be difficult. Try to feed those feelings until you feel them as fully and as genuinely and as movingly as you do for the people close to you.
Finally, picture before you someone that you dislike. Someone that you have argued with or who has wronged you. Someone whose actions or decisions you are opposed to. You do not have to forget whatever behaviour has offended, but learn to see the person beyond the bad choices. See the human being, as entitled to compassion and understanding as any other.
Urge yourself to feel that compassion for them. Push through your personal feelings for them for the moment and see them as a human being with flaws and failings, but with the same capacity to suffer and hurt and love like any other.
Wish them freedom from their suffering. When you feel yourself able, wish them joy and happiness.
Most importantly, mean it.