Breathing at the Shore of Infinite Kindness


"These two are the same in that each, from her own viewpoint, wants happiness and doesn't want misery. From my viewpoint, this one who seems so close now has been reborn as my enemy countless times. This one toward whom I feel hostile has been reborn as my mother countless times and has cared for me with love. Which one should I like? Which one should I hate? I will feel equanimity and be free from attachment and aversion to near and far."

from Asanga's Teaching of Great Compassion


"We are all in the same cart, going to execution; how can I hate anyone or wish anyone harm?"

St. Thomas More, written just before his beheading



Practice the following meditation to help you open your heart and to grow in compassion.

Settle down and take time to clear your mind. Let go of your immediate concerns and just sit and breathe naturally. Notice your mood. Let go of the emotions that come with the mood and just be free. Allow your emotions to empty out with each out breath. Each time you breathe in, bring in peace and calm.

Think of a time when a kindness was done to you. A time when you felt valued; perhaps loved. Think of the person who granted you this kindness and made you feel whole and worthwhile. Breathe in the remembrance of kindness. Breathe out your thanks. Breathing in, feel the warmth of their compassionate regard for you. Breathing out, send them your gratitude.

Think of the grandmothers and grandfathers who cared for your parents. Think of your parents when they most loved you, whether you were aware of it or not.

Think of the one who nursed you, bathed you and wiped your bottom when you were an infant. Imagine who did that for them when they were tiny.

Imagine in front of you all the kind women and men you know or have heard about. Think of those who serve others. Think of those who gave their lives for the cause of goodness. Think of those who nurse the sick and dying. Think of those who teach out of love. Take your time and visualize these many persons as well as you can. Then multiply this collection of compassionate beings that you have in mind with the realization that you can imagine only a tiny fraction of the love, compassion, and service that flows in this world.

Expand your imagining of compassionate souls by further extending it through time. Imagine the long line of mothers caring for children that became our ancestors. Imagine the fathers who spent their lives in hard labor to provide for their families. Imagine the women and men who gave their lives over the centuries to protect the ones they loved.

See in your mind the healers who through the centuries and millennia worked to remove the pain of the sick.

As if it were the scent of a beautiful flower, breathe in the love of those uncountable compassionate beings. Be assured that they, being kind, would give you this love freely.

Hold this love in your heart as if it were a wonderful sparkling jewel. Breathing in, enjoy the beauty of the shining jewel. Breathing out, let the light of the love that reflects in this jewel shine out from your heart.

Let the light from this jewel fill you with love and compassion for all beings. As the love of innumerable mothers and fathers, teachers, healers, protectors, servants and saints glows in your heart, feel in your heart what they feel when they give of themselves.

Breathe in this compassion they have lived and expressed.

Make the compassion yours, and breathe it out to the world.

Think of someone who has given you pain. Perhaps this is someone close to you. Perhaps you consider them your enemy. Think of them as tiny babies coming into this world of pain and suffering. See them growing up not getting all they needed. Imagine them in their dark moments of suffering. Shine your compassion upon them. Wish for them that they had received more love. Allow the free flow of compassion that you hold in your heart to loosen your grip on the aversion you feel for this person. Let go of your hate, dislike, aversion. Open to a compassionate neutrality regarding this person. You need not like the bad things they may have done or will do, but acknowledge that they must work through the sufferings of life, as we all do, and that they will have the misfortune of carrying the debt of their wrong doings.

As the sage has said:

"If it is natural for the immature
To cause harm to others
It is wrong to get angry with them,
Like resenting fire for burning."
Breathe in tolerance.
Breathe out compassion.
Release your clinging to aversion.
Draw in the freedom of unbounded kindness.


"Bless me to cultivate the spirit of enlightenment,
To save beings from the great ocean of existence,
Through the universal responsibility of love and compassion,
And the magic of mounting give and take upon the breath!"

Tibetan Buddhist verse supporting Tonglen practice


Back to the Interlude Home Page

[ HOME ][ THOUGHT ][ ARCHIVE ][ PRAYERS ]
[ POETRY ]
[ LINKS ][ BOOKSHOP ]

© 1997-2005 Tom Barrett