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How to meditate and why

Lots of us think about trying mindfulness meditation, but it can be hard to know where to begin. Here is a helpful guide that explains what mindfulness is and can show anyone how to start meditating—along with an introduction to the science and practice of kindness and compassion.


how to meditate

What is Mindfulness? We hear the word a lot these days. 2014 has even been called The Year of Mindful Living. What exactly are people talking about? overheard

“Mindfulness— our capacity to pay attention, moment to moment, on purpose—is an immediately accessible ally.” Saki Santorelli, executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society

Getting Started was compiled by Barry Boyce, editor-inchief of Mindful, in consultation with: Elisha Goldstein Ph.D., psychologist, author of The Now Effect Tara Healey program director for Mindfulness-Based Learning at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Steve Flowers director of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic at the Enloe Medical Center in Chico, California Christiane Wolf MD, Ph.D., director of MBSR Programs, InsightLA

Photographs by Lever Rukhin Illustrations by Jason Lee

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Mindfulness. It’s a pretty straightforward word. It suggests that the mind is fully attending to what’s happening, to what you’re doing, to the space you’re moving through. That might seem trivial, except for the annoying fact that we so often veer from the matter at hand. Our mind takes flight, we lose touch with our body, and pretty soon we’re engrossed in obsessive thoughts about something that just happened or fretting about the future. And that makes us anxious. Yet no matter how far we drift away, mindfulness is right there to snap us back to where we are and what we’re doing and feeling. If you want to know what mindfulness is, it’s best to try it for a while. Since it’s hard to nail down in words, you will find slight variations in the meaning in books, websites, audio, and video. Here’s an all-purpose definition that treats mindfulness as a quality that every human being already possesses, rather than something we have to conjure up. Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we

are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. While mindfulness is innate, it can be cultivated through proven techniques, particularly seated, walking, standing, and moving meditation (it’s also possible lying down but often leads to sleep); short pauses we insert into everyday life; and merging meditation practice with other activities, such as yoga or sports. When we meditate it doesn’t help to fixate on the benefits, but rather to just do the practice, and yet there are benefits or no one would do it. When we’re mindful, we reduce stress, enhance performance, gain insight and awareness through observing our own mind, and increase our attention to others’ well-being. Mindfulness meditation gives us a time in our lives when we can suspend judgment and unleash our natural curiosity about the workings of the mind, approaching our experience with warmth and kindness—to ourselves and others.

Books to Get You Started

Full Catastrophe Living By Jon Kabat-Zinn From explanations of the benefits of mindfulness to stories of those who started practicing in midlife to how-tos, this book comes from the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction himself.

Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation By Sharon Salzberg A 28-day program of guided instruction in “three key skills” for living: concentration, mindfulness, and compassion. An accompanying audio CD contains guided meditations.

The Mindfulness Revolution Edited by Barry Boyce More than 40 short pieces by as many authors who present how mindfulness works and how they’ve put it into practice in their lives and livelihood.


how to meditate

5 Excuses Not to Meditate You want to spend some quiet time with your mind, but you have excuses. Take a moment to examine them. They might not be such a big deal.

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Sounds Boring!

I Can’t Sit Still

I Don’t Have Time

I’m Scared to Be Alone

My Mind Is Too Fast

Sure, but it also happens to be a big relief to have some time when you’re not obligated to be somebody or do something.

It’s just fine to fidget. Meditation is a process that develops over time. No one starts out sitting like a rock statue.

Time crunches are stressing us all out these days. But taking a pause from the rush-rush-rush may just help you use your time better.

You’re not alone in that. Our culture has devalued taking time for solitude. It hasn’t always been that way. And it’s not as scary as you think.

So, let it go fast. If you sit there awhile, it will slow down…and speed up again. You don’t need to try to find an ideal rate for your mind.

5 Reasons to Give It a Try Anyway We can easily find excuses about why we can’t meditate, but it turns out it’s just as easy to find lots of reasons to do it. Here are just a few.

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Understand Your Pain

Lower Stress

Connect Better

Improve Focus

Reduce Brain Chatter

Mental pain and anxiety are a background noise that can underlie much of what we do. Here’s a chance to see firsthand what’s causing it.

There’s lots of evidence these days that excess stress causes lots of illnesses and makes other illnesses worse. Mindfulness decreases stress.

Ever find yourself staring blankly at a friend, lover, child, and you’ve no idea what they’re saying? Mindfulness helps you give them your full attention.

It can be frustrating to have our mind stray off what we’re doing and be pulled in six directions. Meditation hones our innate ability to focus.

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The nattering, chattering voice in our head seems never to leave us alone. Isn’t it time we gave it a little break?


how to meditate

How to Do It Mindfulness meditation practice couldn’t be simpler: take a good seat, pay attention to the breath, and when your attention wanders, return. By following these simple steps, you can get to know yourself up close and personal.

overheard

“We’re told to ‘just be in the present moment,’ but how do we do that? Mindfulness is a tool, a technique, that teaches us how to actually do it.” Diana Winston, director of Mindfulness Education, UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center

Find a good spot in your home or apartment, ideally where there isn’t too much clutter and you can find some quiet. Leave the lights on or sit in natural light. You can even sit outside if you like, but choose a place with little distraction. At the outset, it helps to set an amount of time you’re going to “practice” for. Otherwise, you may obsess about deciding when to stop. If you’re just beginning, it can help to choose a short time, such as

five or ten minutes. Eventually you can build up to twice as long, then maybe up to 45 minutes or an hour. Use a kitchen timer or the timer on your phone. Many people do a session in the morning and in the evening, or one or the other. If you feel your life is busy and you have little time, doing some is better than doing none. When you get a little space and time, you can do a bit more. Take good posture (see pages 48 and 49 for instructions) in a chair or on some kind of cushion on the floor. It could be a blanket and a pillow, although there are many good cushions available that will last you a lifetime of practice (see page 50). You may sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, loosely cross-legged, in lotus posture, kneeling—all are fine. Just make sure you are stable and erect. If the constraints of your body prevent you from sitting erect, find a position you can stay in for a while. When your posture is established, feel your breath­—­or some say “follow” it—as it goes out and as it goes in. (Some versions of the practice put more emphasis on the outbreath, and for the inbreath you simply leave a spacious pause.) Inevitably, your attention will leave the breath and wander to other places. When you get around to noticing this—in a few seconds, a minute, five minutes—return your attention to the breath. Don’t bother judging yourself or obsessing over the content of the thoughts. Come back. You go away, you come back. That’s the practice. It’s often been said that it’s very simple, but it’s not necessarily easy. The work is to just keep doing it. Results will accrue. For a selection of audio and video and other resources on basic meditation, go to mindful.org/ gettingstarted

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how to meditate

Debunking the Myths of Mindfulness

Some of the popular images and ideas surrounding mindfulness are just plain wrong. When you sit down and do it for yourself, you may find things are different from what they seemed before you tried it for yourself. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised.

1 2 3 4 5 It’s about stopping thoughts

It’s only for laid-back people

It’s an escape from reality

Whenever there’s a newspaper story about meditation, they trot out a piece of art that depicts a person in flowing clothes with a blissful smile that suggests they’ve emptied out their brain and replaced it with cotton candy. Meditation does not involve ending the thought process. It isn’t about trying to achieve a particular state of mind. It is simply taking the time to become familiar with how your thought process actually works, since you have the best vantage point to view what’s going on in your own mind. Once you see that, you don’t stop thoughts, but they might not control you quite so much.

People who are energetic and hard-charging should steer clear of meditation and leave it to the folks who would rather traipse barefoot through a mountain meadow for the rest of their lives. If you’re aggressive and thrive on action, meditation will just drive you crazy. Here we go again— another complete misconception. Everyone, no matter what their lifestyle is, needs time to recharge and regroup and reflect. Mindfulness practice is one of the best ways to give your mind a true rest—and emerge refreshed to take on new challenges.

Meditation is nothing more than another substitute for sex, drugs, and rock and roll, a way to avoid the hard facts of life. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Far from being an escape, mindfulness takes you right into the heart of reality, where you get to see how your thoughts shape your perceptions of what you experience, how the activities in your mind causes yourself and others pain and suffering, and what motivates you to do what you do. It’s not an escape, or even a vacation. It’s a journey within, which helps you see reality better— to more readily distinguish what’s real from what you fabricate.

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You lose your edge

“I’ve got responsibilities. There’s no way I can sit around contemplating my navel. It will just make me too soft.” The myth here is that meditation involves a daydreamy fuzzy state of mind, sort of like sleeping while you’re still awake. Nope. Practicing mindfulness isn’t about zoning out. It’s about zoning in. You train yourself to pay closer attention than you might normally be used to, and this kind of focus rubs off on the rest of your life. It can actually help you to get into “the zone” and stay there longer.

It’s selfish Mindfulness is a “me generation” thing. It’s all about getting some “me time.” It’s true that meditation practice, even when you do it in a group, is time alone, but it’s not selfish. The relaxation and focus that comes with mindfulness practice can help you to listen better, pay more attention to the needs of others, and be present with your loved ones with less distraction. Your own mindfulness can be a gift to others in your life.


how to meditate

Posture

6 Steps to Being Upright and at Ease 1 Take your seat. Whatever you’re sitting on—a chair, a meditation cushion, a park bench—find a spot that gives you a stable, solid seat; don’t perch or hang back.

2 If on a cushion on the floor, cross your legs comfortably in front of you. (If you already do some kind of seated yoga posture, go ahead.) If on a chair, it’s good if the bottoms of your feet are touching the floor.

3 Straighten—but don’t stiffen— your upper body. The spine has natural curvature. Let it be there. Your head and shoulders can comfortably rest on top of your vertebrae.

4 Place your upper arms parallel to your upper body. Then let your hands drop onto the tops of your legs. With your upper arms at your sides, your hands will land in the right spot. Too far forward will make you hunch. Too far back will make you stiff. You’re tuning the strings of your body—not too tight and not too loose.

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5 Drop your chin a little and let your gaze fall gently downward. You may let your eyelids lower. If you feel the need, you may lower them completely, but it’s not necessary to close your eyes when meditating. You can simply let what appears before your eyes be there without focusing on it.

6 Be there for a few moments. Settle. Now you can follow the next breath that comes out. You’ve started off on the right foot—and hands and arms and everything else.


how to meditate

How Not to Sit

Getting your posture right helps you focus on meditating and be attentive without tensing. Your body will thank you. D

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The Eeyore

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Poor Eeyore. It’s hard to feel good and present when your back is slouched, your hands are sliding off your knees and your chin is down. Getting sleepy, anyone?

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The Peacock

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The Daddy Longlegs

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The Dude

It’s amazing how a straight back can help you focus. Scoot a little more forward on the cushion, too. This is about taking it easy, but don’t be mistaken for someone who is simply hanging out.

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If your lower extremities are lengthy, it can help to find a higher cushion. When your knees are above your thighs, your back and neck will strain. It’s also helpful to lower your chin a bit.

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Being eager is great, but what you’re aiming for here is ease. So shimmy back toward the middle of the cushion and sit up straight instead of pitching forward. Your back will thank you too.

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It can be a proud moment, finally getting down to meditating. But with your back this stiff, your chest puffed, chin angled up, and elbows back that far, it’s going to be a strain.

The Cliffhanger

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The Daydreamer

This is a wonderful position if you’re hanging out with a child or sitting by a fire. But your slouched back, arms around your knees, and feet flat on the floor aren’t conducive to dropping into meditation.

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For a selection of audio and video and other resources on posture and body in meditation practice, go to mindful.org/ gettingstarted


how to meditate

Comfortable Meditation for Every Body

Support

Rectangular

Round

Before you pick your cushion or bench, you may want to choose a zabuton, a floor mat that relieves pressures in the lower body and helps delineate your personal sitting area. Also available are smaller cushions and bolsters to help you maintain your posture with less physical stress. Eco-friendly organic versions are available.

This simple block, or gomden, is one option for comfortable cross-legged sitting. Offered in various heights and degrees of firmness, it’s usually stuffed with foam, though some are filled with buckwheat hulls. It’s a good choice for big and tall people, and those who find a zafu or bench restrictive.

The classic meditation cushion, the zafu, is usually filled with buckwheat hulls or kapok, a firm natural fiber that will conform to your body over time. For cross-legged postures, sit with your bottom on its forward third. Alternately, you can place the zafu on its side, between your legs, and sit in a kneeling posture.

Bench

Inflatable

Chair

If typical zafu postures are a problem, a seiza bench could be the solution, allowing you to sit in a more relaxed crosslegged or kneeling position. They’re available with folding legs in different heights, with or without a cushion, and some are made entirely from recycled materials.

They’re ideal for traveling meditators—just deflate to fit inside any bag. But even if you’re going no farther than a corner of your home, you may want to consider one of these. Hint: only blow it up to about half full; this allows the cushion to expand under your legs when you sit, minimizing torque and knee pain.

Meditating in a chair is definitely not cheating. It’s fine. But make sure you resist the urge to rely too much on the chair’s back, unless you really need to. Doing so can cause you to let your spine go soft, making your breathing less open and inviting distraction and discomfort. Make sure you keep your feet flat on the floor.

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PHOTOGRAPHs by marvin moore. Cushions and benches courtesy of DharmaCrafts (dharmacrafts.com) and Samadhi Cushions (samadhicushions.com)

Take Your Seat


A Kinder, Gentler World Can We Learn to Be More Compassionate?

By Jennifer Campbell Illustrations by Julia Rothman


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Is compassion something we only have so much of? Or can we be trained to love more people more of the time? Jennifer Campbell reports.

Jennifer Campbell is a freelance writer and editor living in Ottawa. She is editor of two magazines, Ottawa Citizen Style and Diplomat & International Canada.

The moment is seared in Tom Veenstra’s memory. His teenage students—a combined Grade 7 and 8 class at Market Lane Public School in Toronto—are gathered around a large green blanket. The students are singing a welcome song to a fourmonth-old baby who, with his parents, will visit the class over the coming year. Veenstra and his students are participating in a program called Roots of Empathy, which teaches school-age children how to identify and reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of others. The baby’s visits help the students learn about compassion. From the minute his mother brought him into the classroom, the infant zeroed in on a shy boy who rarely takes part in class. “As the mom carried him around the circle,” Veenstra remembers, “the baby was turning and craning his neck to make eye contact with that student. “It was a beautiful moment. There was gentle laughter, and everyone was aware of how the baby was drawn to him. We talked about the fact that we have no idea why, on that day, the baby was attracted to him. But you could just tell that it made him feel so special, and he referred to that many times throughout the year.” Roots of Empathy is an evidence-based classroom program created in 1996 by Canadian educator Mary Gordon. Children up to the 8th grade are introduced to a newborn, usually about three months old, with whom they interact for the year. The program aims to develop empathy in children and “change the world, child by child.” Roots of Empathy has reached more than half a million students and has been shown to reduce levels of aggression among schoolchildren while raising social and emotional competence and increasing empathy. Veenstra has witnessed moments when students from difficult family backgrounds have asked about the Roots of Empathy baby, but he suspects they’re really asking about themselves.

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“In the questions they ask about the baby’s development, I see them processing some of the issues they themselves have dealt with,” Veenstra says. “Issues around abandonment, for example. One child, whose parent opted out of their life early on, asked if you can still build the same neurons if that parent hasn’t been involved. The first unit of the program discusses brain development, and the student asked, ‘What if your parent leaves?’ It provided an opportunity for the Roots of Empathy instructor to step in and say that you can get that kind of love not just from your parents but from anyone who looks out for you and cares for you.” Can you teach empathy? Veenstra thinks so, as do several dozen experts in the field.

Innate Capacity “It’s more helpful for people to see kindness as a skill they need to practice in order to get better at it,” says Christine Carter, the author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents. “In my research it was obvious that doing acts of kindness, and thinking about other people instead of yourself, is the clear road to happiness,” Carter says. “So I started asking my children two questions at dinnertime. “First, I asked my two daughters: What’s one kind thing you did today? And then, what’s one kind thing somebody else did for you?” “They could come up with kind things they had done, but they couldn’t come up with any kind things that others had done for them. I said to them, seriously? I just drove you all over the county to your activities, I made you dinner and helped with your homework, and you can’t think of anything anyone’s done for you?” That sort of changed their perspective on gratitude, and a whole series of conversations started to happen. “As a society, we value happiness but we pursue it through consumption, materialism, and accumulation. I was just talking to someone from another country and he noticed that on TV, all Americans are so happy. But it’s always about the stuff we have, the food we eat, the drinks we drink.” On top of that, says Carter, we pay too little attention to teaching kindness in relation to happiness— two concepts, in her mind, that are so closely related they’re practically interchangeable. The psychological literature has long contained suggestions that our feelings of empathy toward others are feelings that don’t generally lead to action, particularly when that action would cause us to act


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against our own interests. (And in this context, self-interested do-gooding doesn’t count as altruism.) Seminal studies from Nancy Eisenberg and from Daniel Batson, published in the 1980s by the American Psychological Association, demonstrated that the empathic feelings generated by perceiving others’ suffering are indeed strong enough to lead to genuine altruistic behavior. Acting “pro-socially”—for a good that transcends our self-interest—is part of who we are. Social psychologist Dacher Keltner, cofounder of Greater Good, takes this idea further in Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. In it, he explores Darwin’s little-known work on human emotions and argues that survival is not based on the fittest but on who among us is the kindest. All humans are born with bodily systems that are dedicated to forming long-term, meaningful bonds— all in the spirit of cooperation, says Emiliana SimonThomas, Greater Good’s science director, who works closely with Keltner. “There’s a mountain of evidence showing we’re built in a way that makes it very easy for us to survive by working at a communal level,” SimonThomas says. “We don’t look like lions and tigers. We’re pretty wimpy, we’re very smart, and we’re very, very social. That’s really a key capacity that has helped us be as successful as we have been as a species.”

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What has surprised Keltner, is discovering that there are many ways to cultivate compassion. In his research, he frequently examines the role of the vagus nerve. “It’s a part of our nervous system that appears to track feelings of compassion and altruism,” Keltner says. “The vagus nerve starts at the top of the spinal cord and is the largest bundle of nerves in the body and is unique to mammals,” Keltner says. “It’s →

“There’s a mountain of evidence that shows we’re built to survive by working at a communal level.” Emiliana Simon-Thomas


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instrumental in aiding our regard of others, slowing down, and considering other people’s needs.” Keltner has been doing research on this bundle of nerves and has found that when subjects are shown images of suffering for 60 seconds, the vagus nerve shows signs of activation. “We all suffer pain and psychic distress, disease and death—we just have to remember that. In our lab, when people experience images of others’ suffering, they have a measurable neurophysiological reaction.” Studies on breathing have shown that taking the kind of deep breaths required in meditation and yoga can help lower anxiety and enhance compassion. Keltner suggests taking a few moments every day to do deep-breathing exercises, since research on the vagus nerve has shown a measurable, advantageous physiological effect from such exercises.

What is it exactly that blocks compassion and what is it that causes it to blossom? We need to examine that in our own hearts.

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Types of Empathy “The question is how to have more compassion, more of the time,” says marriage and family therapist Margaret Cullen. She helped develop Compassion Cultivation Training, an initiative of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE). “Our aim is to notice what blocks compassion and what facilitates its fuller expression.” According to renowned psychologist Paul Ekman, whose work for more than 45 years has focused on identifying and understanding the expressions of human emotion, there are three kinds of empathy we need to be fluent in. The first is “cognitive empathy,” when we are able to identify how the other person feels and consider what they might be thinking. Then there is “emotional empathy,” when we physically feel what other people feel, almost as though their emotions →


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Kindness Rules

1 Start Small Carter and her daughters talk at dinner about simple ways to be kinder to others. For example, they decided that every time they walk into an elevator, they would make eye contact with one person, possibly offer a smile and maybe even a few words. “It’s about making an effort to connect,” Carter says. “Once we had the sense of what kinds of things we can do, we really broadened our ‘giving’ vocabulary. My daughters and I share this sense that every day and in every situation, there are lots of ways to reach out beyond ourselves and do something— however tiny—that is kind.”

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To encourage a kinder world, start at home. Here are a few simple guidelines from sociologist Christine Carter to help develop kindness and compassion. She started with her own family.

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Gestures Count

Don’t Zone Out

The small things are essential but Carter and family also add some bigger gestures, such as making care packages for the homeless. Every few months, they buy in bulk and fill bags with necessities such as socks, bottles of water, lip balm—whatever the teens think might be of aid to those who are homeless. And Carter says her “moody 13-year-old” also writes notes that are so sweet they make a mother cry. “Just things like, ‘We see you and we care.’ A lot of times they’ll give that, or just a dollar or a friendly hello but the rule is, you don’t just walk by.”

Others notice when you’re not noticing them because you’re preoccupied. “Our rule is to interact with anyone who’s helping us,” Carter says. “Not long after we agreed on this, while I was going through a grocery store checkout, I got a phone call from a doctor I’d been waiting to hear from. I took the call. Afterwards, I told the checkout person and the bag packer I was sorry. ‘I had to take that call but I know it was rude.’ Both of them were visibly moved. They said, ‘Nobody ever says sorry for that. You’re right; it’s rude. It’s like we’re invisible.’ They were touched by the apology and the acknowledgement. After all, it doesn’t feel good to be ignored, particularly while you’re helping somebody.”


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Build Your Compassion

Here’s a simple way to shift your mind toward understanding and compassion. As little as 10 minutes a day can change your outlook.

Setup

Just Like Me

Loving Kindness

Sit in a comfortable position that allows you to be alert and relaxed at the same time. Start with 2 minutes to rest the mind on the breath. Bring to mind somebody you care about. Visualize him or her. If you wish, you may use a photograph or video of that person.

Read the script below slowly to yourself, pausing at the end of each sentence for reflection:

Now, let’s allow some wishes to arise:

Excerpted from Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan, copyright 2012. Reprinted with permission by HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

This person has a body and a mind, just like me. This person has feelings, emotions, and thoughts, just like me. This person has, at some point in his or her life, been sad, disappointed, angry, hurt, or confused, just like me. This person has, in his or her life, experienced physical and emotional pain and suffering, just like me. This person wishes to be free from pain and suffering, just like me. This person wishes to be healthy and loved, and to have fulfilling relationships, just like me. This person wishes to be happy, just like me.

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I wish for this person to have the strength, the resources, and the emotional and social support to navigate the difficulties in life. I wish for this person to be free from pain and suffering. I wish for this person to be happy. … Because this person is a fellow human being, just like me. (Pause) Now, I wish for everybody I know to be happy. (Long pause)

Closing End with one minute of simple meditation.


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were contagious. Finally we need “compassionate empathy,” in which we not only grasp a person’s predicament and feel along with them but also are spontaneously moved to help. Ekman is adamant that we cannot achieve compassionate empathy without first being capable of cognitive and emotional empathy. That involves both human evolution and how we lead our lives now. Primatologist Frans de Waal puts it succinctly in an essay titled The Evolution of Empathy: “Empathy is not something we only learn later in life, or that is culturally constructed. At heart, it is a hardwired response that we fine-tune and elaborate upon in the course of our lives.” But, says Margaret Cullen, compassion is also as easy as taking the time to remember “the common humanity of the other person.” Cullen recalls teaching a session of Compassion Cultivation Training in Sydney, Australia, where one of the teachers in the program told a story about a boy in her fourth-grade class who was a real challenge. The teacher said, “We were on the bus coming back from a field trip, and as usual he was driving me crazy. He was all over the place. Typically, I would just give him a stern talking to, but I’d been doing compassion training so I took a different approach. Suddenly, when I looked at him, I remembered that he was just a kid.” In the midst of telling this story—which had happened a year and a half earlier—the teacher began to cry. She said, “He was just a kid. I saw his humanity. And I had to get in touch with my own humanity before I could see his.”

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In that moment, the teacher asked the boy, “Why don’t you just put your head on my shoulder?” And when he did, he fell asleep right away. Cullen also works with military families at Fort Drum in New York and recalls meeting Walter Piatt, the three-star general who helped launch compassion training at the base. Cullen asked him if he felt there was room for compassion in the military. “He said compassion is his most powerful weapon. When he was in Afghanistan for the month of Ramadan, he fasted for that month and broke fast with different tribal leaders every night.” It’s that kind of attempt to understand the other person, to try to experience their world, that is at the root of growing compassion. “What distinguishes compassion from other heart qualities is the acknowledgment of others’ suffering,” says Cullen. “That’s what’s different about it from love.” But like love, the more compassion you have, the more you get.

Simple Acts “Real meaning and true happiness come from thinking about other people—and from actions that bring meaning or joy to other peoples’ lives.” In Carter’s experience, two things happen once you start practicing kindness and compassion. As you begin to do kind things for people, they start reciprocating. And because you’re more conscious of kindness—and more observant—you start noticing acts of kindness everywhere. ●

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How to meditate  

A readers digest manual on how to meditate

How to meditate  

A readers digest manual on how to meditate