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Guided Practice: Compassion at Work

Image by carolinemaryan via iStockPhoto

This informal practice, led by Center Collaborator and Business and Well-Being Facilitator Beverly Hays, explores how you can cultivate compassion to not only benefit yourself, but also others you interact with.


Audio courtesy of Beverly Hays and UW Cultivating Well-Being: A Neuroscientific Approach

Bevery Hays Web

Guided Compassion Practice

Led by Beverly Hays

In this compassion meditation, we will practice accessing our natural inclination for kindness. Sit comfortably in a well-supported position with your spine straight, but not rigid, and your body relaxed. You might notice and release any tension you feel in your jaw, shoulders, neck or anywhere that you may have a tendency to hold stress.

Now with your body at ease, breathing through your nose, take a gentle but deep inhale and as you exhale allow your eyes to drift closed. Or if you prefer, just lower and soften your gaze. Turning your attention inward, take a moment to set your intention to be fully present and open to this compassion practice. Begin by noticing your breath, gently, without changing or managing it. Just notice its rhythm; the sensation of breath. Perhaps you notice the sound of breath or feel the rise and fall of your chest.

Wherever you find breath, allow your attention to rest there, as you notice how your body willingly, without question or reserve, accepts and welcomes the inhale. And how without resistance, fear or lack, releases the exhale. Embrace this quality of acceptance as you begin to expand your awareness beyond breath and bring to mind someone for whom you have great affection. This person, or perhaps it’s a pet, is someone who you love unconditionally. And they, in turn, adore you.

When you imagine their face, their voice, it opens your heart. Notice how this feels. Perhaps it’s a warm sensation all over, or a wave of contentment, tenderness and peace. Embrace and absorb these sensations. And now, with this person or pet in mind, extend the feelings of warmth and love you have generated out to them, while mentally repeating this wish for their well-being: May you find happiness, may you be healthy and safe, and may you live with joy and ease.

Immerse your mind and heart in these feelings of caring and kindness. Hold this sense of compassion while repeating your wish for them again. May you find happiness, may you be healthy and safe, and may you live with joy and ease. See them in your mind’s eye receiving the benefits of your wish. May you find happiness, may you be healthy and safe, and may you live with joy and ease.

Now bring to mind a person who plays a neutral role in your life. Maybe you see them during the day, but don’t really know or have a relationship with them. Perhaps it’s someone who you pass in the hall at work or school. Or someone you see while running your errands. Keeping this person in mind, call up the same warm and caring sensations that you just experienced for the one you loved. And with ease in your mind and heart, extend a sincere wish to this person for their well-being. May you find happiness, may you be healthy and safe, and may you live with joy and ease. As you repeat this wish, visualize them receiving the benefits. May you find happiness, may you be healthy and safe, and may you live with joy and ease. May you find happiness, may you be healthy and safe and may you live with joy and ease.

"May you find happiness, may you be healthy and safe, and may you live with joy and ease."

Next, bring to mind someone who you find somewhat challenging or difficult, someone who you may find a little harder to relate to. I invite you to step back from these differences and recognize that this person, like you, like all of us, has the same needs and vulnerabilities – the need for health, for safety and happiness, the need to care for and support those we love.

While holding the thought or image of this more challenging individual in your mind, recall again the sensation of deep caring you felt for your loved one. And from this place of compassion, extend a sincere wish for well-being to this individual. May you find happiness, may you be healthy and safe, and may you live with joy and ease. You may feel some resistance. Don’t judge this. See if you can continue to open your heart and mind, visualizing this person receiving the benefits of your kindness. May you find happiness, may you be healthy and safe, and may you live with joy and ease.

Now bring your attention back to yourself, noticing any new sensation of softening and openness. And with appreciation for this compassionate work you are doing, hold yourself with the same affection and kindness that you have extended to others. Call to mind the feelings of warmth and love, mentally repeating the wish for your own well-being. May I find happiness, may I be healthy and safe, and may I live with joy and ease. Visualize yourself receiving the benefits of your acceptance, kindness and compassion. May I find happiness, may I be healthy and safe, may I live with joy and ease. Release any judgment. Quiet your inner critic. And openly accept this wish for yourself. May I find happiness, may I be healthy and safe, and may I live with joy and ease.

Embracing these feelings of warmth and kindness that you have generated, allow your attention to return to your breath. Imagining that you are breathing in kindness, compassion and caring. And with an exhale, extend your wish for well-being to everyone you may interact with – to your friends, your community and beyond. Reaching out as far as you can imagine. May we all find happiness, may we be healthy and safe, may we live with joy and ease. May all beings find happiness, may we all be healthy and safe, may we live with joy and ease.

And when you’re ready, take a deep, intentional inhale. And with the exhale, release this meditation and open your eyes.

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