Author Topic: Compassion Training  (Read 3648 times)

Windex5

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Compassion Training
« on: October 15, 2010, 07:49:10 AM »
What do you think is the best training to develop a compassionate mind?

Morning Dew

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Re: Compassion Training
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2010, 08:06:26 AM »
Hallo there and welcome aboard :)

I am not a compasionate person but i asume that only a calm mind can be compasionate. Keep calming the body and the mind will follow. I asume again that compasion is not something which can be developed intelectualy.

Others might have more to add :)

Remain mindfuly relaxed

Purple

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Re: Compassion Training
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2010, 04:31:01 PM »
Practice, practice, practice.

kidnovice

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Re: Compassion Training
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2010, 12:26:19 AM »
I am sure there are many ways to develop a compassionate mind, but the most important factor is your intention to do so. So the good news is that you've already got that going for you! And you've got kamma on your side: the more often your mind generates compassion, the more likely that it will spontaneously do so in the future.  Keep cultivating your intention while also having a creative and relaxed attitude, and you will find many different strategies that work.

For me, I find that it helps to practice generating a sense of good will toward others (and yourself). This can sometimes manifest as compassion--the desire to alleviate others' suffering. But it can also be more general: a feeling of kindness, a feeling of joy in other people's happiness, a feeling that you want to see someone else happy. You get the idea.

I say that because a general feeling of "kindness" can be easier to generate than compassion, especially if you think of someone who makes you happy, and to whom you already have positive feelings. Once you've tuned into that feeling, you can begin "stretching" yourself to feel kindness toward more people: those you don't know, those who piss you off, etc.

My personal tools for cultivating this feeling of kindness:

(1) Begin OFF the cushion. Perform random acts of kindness, which can be quite small--opening a door for someone, giving a compliment, giving a dollar to a homeless person, etc. Or go big, and help a friend move. Whatever works. :)

(2) Try to delight in the feeling of kindness. Get familiar with the sense of well-being that comes to YOU when you do something nice for someone else. Look inside, and you will find all kinds of feelings around your act of kindness. For example, you might notice pride ("I'm such a good person", etc.). If you're honest with yourself, you'll notice pride in this situation feels good. That's fine. Better to be proud of kindness than to be proud of meditating. But don't get hung up on the pride, and don't focus on it. You certainly don't want to add to it. There is something else more important to observe. See if you can tune in to the joy of wanting someone to be happy. Try observing/reflecting on the moment just before/while you are doing the kind act.  It feels good to be nice.

(3) Remind yourself that when you do something nice, you are not just doing it for the other person. You are also doing it because it is skillful for YOU. You're happier when you have the impulse to be kind. So, you're planting impulses like seeds that will flower into more impulses in the future. This will make YOU happy.

(4)ON the cushion, try to frequently check-in with the quality of your awareness. Is it strained? Is it anxious? Is it calm? Is it kind? If its strained, see if you can relax it a bit. If its anxious, do the same. Like MD said, a calm mind is essential. But then, see if your mind is also kind. You know it when you feel it.

(5).ON the cushion, if you want to add kindness to your calm awareness, try recalling a recent moment where you acted kindly or felt kindness. Or even just think of someone that you love (for me, my niece is my go-to gal.). This really works for me. I recall the moment or person, and then I observe the "flash" of how it feels to be kind. I often notice that my awareness stays colored by the feeling even after the memory is gone. I tune-in to that feeling, and try to bring it to whatever I'm observing: my body, my breath, etc. This perpetuates the feeling.

Well, those are a few tips. Hope they help. With metta,
KN

« Last Edit: October 16, 2010, 12:42:32 AM by kidnovice »
May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Windex5

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Re: Compassion Training
« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2010, 01:50:04 AM »
Thanks for the welcome and the replys! I think my mind has settled down enough to be able to benefit from some compassion oriented training.  I've never really had a problem with a lack of compassion but kidnovice put it succinctly.


"See if you can tune in to the joy of wanting someone to be happy"

Thats what I want! I think I am really lacking in that. That almost never motivates me to do compassionate things. I think, if I trained my mind specifically to value that type of compassion, my behavior and ideas would be alot cooler and less selfish.
Heres what I have been doing on the cushion.

I read the metta meditations found in Beyond Mindfulness thinking of specific people or animals. Then I try to be aware of my sensations associated with this activity. This is wildly enjoyable and I saw results. I stopped doing compassion to focus on calm mind.

Two Questions

1.I'm thinking of spending some time doing the metta meditation on each target of compassion(myself,parents,relative,friend,friendly indifferent etc...). How long on each group do you think I should spend?
2.Is it worth having sits without specific compassion training?

kidnovice

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Re: Compassion Training
« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2010, 11:41:57 PM »
Hey Windex, you are fortunate that your mind is now settling down and you feel ready to do metta practice. That is cause for gratitude. :) Of course, it can't always be that way, but it is wonderful when it is. And its wise to take advantage of this opportunity to develop good qualities, whether that is insight, tranquility, or metta.  As a whole, I see my own practice as primarily being about developing a kind and calm awareness that can be sustained through a variety of experiences on and off the cushion. I'm always checking in with that. As I observe the breath/body/sensations, I ask myself, "Is my awareness calm and kind?" If so, I know that I am on the right track.

As a result of this approach, I find the line between "vipassana" and "metta" can blur a bit.  You ask:

Quote
"Is it worth having sits without specific compassion training?"

My answer is that if you are focusing entirely on developing a calm mind, THAT is compassion-training because you need a calm mind to truly be compassionate. Once you are relatively calm, you can then add some "kindness" to your awareness (even if you just direct that awareness your body). THAT is compassion-training.

I find that the more I cultivate kindness in one situation, the easier it is to generate it in another. Thus, when I am able to bring a "kind and calm" awareness to an uncomfortable experience on the cushion (such as back-pain), I am retraining my mind to generate a "kind and calm" awareness in the face of other difficult situations. Instead of a back-ache, it might be some asshole cutting me off in traffic. But its the same thing, really. Kindness is kindness. Personally, I have experienced the benefits of this approach.

Thus, your metta practice sounds great to me. The fact that you are really enjoying the metta practice is a good sign that you are on the right track. The fact that you are tuning in to the bodily sensations is also great. Personally, I don't pay much attention to "how long" I do metta or how much time I spend on a particular category. I do it as it feels right. I also keep in mind that I am always "stretching" my ability to generate metta. Therefore, if my metta practice really feels "juicy" and authentic, I might spend a bit more time doing metta on people/things that I ordinarily find difficult. But again, no rules here.  

I think, if I trained my mind specifically to value that type of compassion, my behavior and ideas would be alot cooler and less selfish.

This comment makes me think you might want to explore WHY you want to develop your metta practice. Is it because you want to be a "better" or "cooler" person? If so, be careful because this can cause you to veer into self-righteousness.  Wouldn't it be ironic to spend many years cultivating metta only to end up a prick? :) I would highly suggest focusing on metta as a practice that is good for YOU. Its not about being someone more admirable. Its about being simply happier. Call it enlightened self-interest.

If like me, you are more prone to self-inflation than self-deprecation, this can be a really helpful approach. Ironically, I have found that when I try to simply be motivated by others' happiness, it is actually easier for my pride to slip in. My charitable impulse lasts but a moment, and soon pride co-opts the entire experience. However, there seems to be less room for pride when I focus on the intention to benefit myself. For example, pride wants to say, "Look how wonderful I am," but it can't because I've already acknowledged my own imperfection: I NEED to be kind for my own benefit. I'm a work-in-progress, and kindness is how the work gets done.  Similarly, Pride wants to say, "I deserve to be admired or loved for being kind," but then I must acknowledge that I've already gotten my payment for being kind; the feeling of kindness is its own reward.

I believe this practice leads to a fuller realization of the simple truth "Helping others = helping yourself."  Its definitely in line with the Buddha's teachings. If you want, you can read this short sutta.


I also noticed that you said:
Quote
"See if you can tune in to the joy of wanting someone to be happy"

Thats what I want! I think I am really lacking in that. That almost never motivates me to do compassionate things.

Please note that my advice was not simply, "Be motivated by the joy of wanting others to be happy." If it were that easy, there would be no need to practice. :)  Instead, I suggested that you simply DO acts of kindness. Just do them. Then observe yourself as carefully as possible. I'm confident that while you are doing an act of kindness, you can spot a moment where you feel "the joy of wanting someone to be happy." It may be brief or long. Buts its there. The entire buddhist path only works because we are amplifying qualities that already exist. The same is true here. Fortunately, you've been practicing skills on the cushion to do this. Specifically, you said:

Quote
Then I try to be aware of my sensations associated with this activity. This is wildly enjoyable...

Try doing a little of that off the cushion: just before you are doing an act of kindness, in the midst of it, and just after.  Thank you for prompting this thread. I've really benefited from reflecting and responding to your question.

May we all be kind to ourselves and others.  :)
KN
 
« Last Edit: October 16, 2010, 11:44:45 PM by kidnovice »
May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Morning Dew

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Re: Compassion Training
« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2010, 08:14:07 AM »
Very nice reply KN :D  me loike ;)

I am very much spending time lately in anger and wonder how does one achive compassion. Is it really via intelectual practice. Brainwashing one self. I had a feeling compassion gets born out of the sitting practice but i might be wrong.
Here is what Dalai Lama suggests;
Quote
Morning ritual.
Greet each morning with a ritual. Try this one, suggest by the Dalai Lama: “Today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” Then, when you’ve done this, try one of the practices below.

kidnovice

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Re: Compassion Training
« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2010, 01:27:08 AM »
Very nice reply KN :D  me loike ;)

I am very much spending time lately in anger and wonder how does one achive compassion. Is it really via intelectual practice. Brainwashing one self. I had a feeling compassion gets born out of the sitting practice but i might be wrong.
Here is what Dalai Lama suggests;
Quote
Morning ritual.
Greet each morning with a ritual. Try this one, suggest by the Dalai Lama: “Today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” Then, when you’ve done this, try one of the practices below.

Thanks MD, I'm glad that you liked my thoughts on Metta. I suspect that you are right that compassion eventually gets born out of the sitting practice (as long as you are developing a calm and kind awareness). This was definitely true for myself. I know that some traditions (like Tibetan, I believe) say that a pure intention based on compassion for others needs to be cultivated BEFORE you begin your meditation practice. I understand why they say that, but honestly, that wouldn't have worked for me.

When I first encountered Metta practice, it seemed to me like nothing more than a script.... and a goofy one at that. I self-righteously smirked to myself when the teacher said "May my love radiate out to all beings," and probably even said, "Pshhhhh."  ;D For me, it wasn't until my meditation practice deepened (especially into my awareness of the  body), that something literally opened up inside of me on a retreat, allowing me to practice Metta with some real authenticity.

So, for me, I needed to meditate FIRST in order to make metta possible. Likewise, I see my "intention" as something that I am continuously refining rather than perfecting before I can begin.

From what I have read of your posts, I think you are undoubtedly on the right-track in your practice. Its been inspiring to read your progress. Developing a calm awareness is compassion-training. And in my experience, the ability to laugh at yourself is an invaluable tool along the way.  ;) In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if sooner than later, you find yourself well-poised to offer great compassion for those who suffer from anger.

Best wishes,
KN
May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Matthew

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Re: Compassion Training
« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2010, 04:51:28 PM »
Compassion comes from the realisation that almost everyone is stuck in the closed minded situation you once were in, and the recall of how god-damn awful it is being there. Compassion is a fruit of meditation and however much you try to develop it intellectually, until you experience it for yourself in meditation, you won't understand it.

M
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Windex5

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Re: Compassion Training
« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2010, 06:40:16 AM »
Hey M,

When I practice like it says to in Beyond Mindfulness it doesn't seem very intellectual.. Its a pure feeling behind the words, like I've never felt before doing it. It just kind of a warm glow in ones chest.

I love this idea: "Compassion comes from the realisation that almost everyone is stuck in the closed minded situation you once were in, and the recall of how god-damn awful it is being there". I can really sympathize because most people don't have any idea that it is possible to be any different. My mind seems completely different now then the beginning of the year , and my practice has been the only true remedy for torment. I've always make the mistake of assuming people have the same mindset as me so this is something I'll make an effort to stay mindful of.


Thanks for your thoughtful reply KN,I waited a couple of days to reply so i could do a little observing. Im not that worried that my intentions will hold me back , as my only deep motivation is to do for doing sake.I've tried watching myself when I do kind things around my job. From what I've noticed, being kind keeps my mind light(No glow in chest feeling like when sitting) . When I spend alot of time gossiping and talking shit I feel bogged down.  Another thing I have noticed is that when I make a real effort to be kind my self confidence goes way up. I remember back to high school when it seemed kind of cool to be a little mean to people outside your clique. That seems so lame to me now. You have a much better time with people if you approach them with honest kindness. You have surprisingly few reasons to doubt yourself when your motive is to be nice. ;D
« Last Edit: October 21, 2010, 06:44:18 AM by Windex5 »

Matthew

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Re: Compassion Training
« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2010, 06:32:10 PM »
Well said Windex.
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MeditationMan

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Re: Compassion Training
« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2010, 07:02:02 PM »
What do you think is the best training to develop a compassionate mind?

I believe it all begins with wanting to be compassionate.  Try to think of ways that being compassionate may benefit you.  If you're not compassionate, there's a high chance that there's at least a splash of selfishness in you as well, thus seeking a benefit for yourself in being compassionate is a way to trick yourself into being more compassionate.... Basically leveraging your selfishness to accomplish the compassion.

Morning Dew

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Re: Compassion Training
« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2010, 08:10:57 PM »
Via regular sitting one sees one self better off the cushion and this is the point where reacting is replaced by responding. Without this basic there can be no actual compassion. All other is just as MeditationMan puts it "i believe it all begins with wanting" = clinging ;)

There is no short cuts here it seems. I am an arshole and was one for a very long time. I can want to cover this shitface i am with compassionate thoughts but this will not live very long. There is only what is. And that is the ars i am to observe as it is and let it disipare on its own.

Krishnamurti on one side and "what is Mu" on the other and my suffering right in my face. Do i have to look any further?

Ta Ta :)

MeditationMan

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Re: Compassion Training
« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2010, 11:38:04 PM »
I hear you.  Reminds me of something I've been thinking a lot about as of recent...  At what point does a person draw the line and say "this is who I am," when, at the same time, we're told all the time how great of a practice self-improvement is?  How do you know what to improve on, versus what to just accept as a part of who you are?

Matthew

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Re: Compassion Training
« Reply #14 on: November 20, 2010, 10:57:23 AM »
What do you think is the best training to develop a compassionate mind?

I believe it all begins with wanting to be compassionate.  Try to think of ways that being compassionate may benefit you.  If you're not compassionate, there's a high chance that there's at least a splash of selfishness in you as well, thus seeking a benefit for yourself in being compassionate is a way to trick yourself into being more compassionate.... Basically leveraging your selfishness to accomplish the compassion.

This is one way of generating compassion but I would suggest the "wanting" aspect be very light or it risks just becomes another intellectualised desire. True compassion is a fruit of cleaning out your mind and seeing things clearly:

The A-hole who pushes past you to get on the bus is only being that way because he is conditioned into it. When you see this clearly you see the level of personal suffering that person endures is quite overwhelming. That person is stuck in the middle of it without even a glimpse of other possibilities, thus leading to the behaviours.

As you quieten your mind and come face to face with the causes of your own suffering in honest self reflection you also realise that these causes are common to all - that is the seed of true compassion. What is not common to all is having heard, understood and practiced the Dhamma.

Continued Dhamma practice grows this seed such that in daily interactions with others your mind, cleared of weeds and rubble, perceives clearly the "rise and fall" of things - in the moment - unblemished by perceptual conditioning, reactive conditioning and assumptions about the other. When one sees the other clearly in this way with the knowledge of the roots of suffering it is only natural to think, speak and act compassionately - even in the midst of extremely difficult situations.

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~