27 Sep 2012

In solitary retreat, it is easy to get caught up with all your own stuff coming from your own mind. This is attenuated being in a group retreat with others around. The 4 immeasurables help cultivate emotional balance, so when we encounter others, it’s like throwing a pebble into a swimming pool rather than a teacup. Alan recommences the meditation on compassion where we attend to others and their suffering.
Meditation: compassion. Rumination is both tiresome and stressful, so an act of compassion for yourself, settle your mind in the space of the body and the respiration in its natural state. Compassion is not feeling sorry, but an aspiration rooted in empathy, a sense of common ground. Bring to mind a person or a community facing blatant hedonic suffering. With every in breath, “May you like me be free from suffering.” For the visualization, practice either 1) traditional tonglen method of drawing in the suffering in the form of darkness which dissipates entirely in a white orb at the heart chakra or 2) have the suffering in the form of darkness just evaporate into thin air. Attend to another person or community, and repeat the practice. Attend to a person and or community with genuine suffering arising from their own mind. With every in breath, “May you like me be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.” Repeat visualization as before.

Meditation starts at 4:20

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Especially when one is in solitary retreat having very little engagement, then obviously with anybody else it is quite easy actually for one thoughts, one concerns, for everything comes to mind, to be very much pertaining to ones own situation since after all you are not dealing with anybody else, they do not come up and they are not telling you the news. You are just there and all the news is from you, so what are you going to be thinking about between sessions? I, I my mine, I my mine, I my mine, I my mine, it is just natural, so it actually can take place when one goes into retreat to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings and winds up being really self-centered, and so to try to remedy that, that is a kind of built in problem, really can be a built in problem and to remedy that:

  • Number one to be in a group retreat, it is really good, it is really cool because then we see there are people around us, and we are aware to some extent even in silence, we are aware of what is going on, so that already gives us a bit more spaciousness, but the mind becomes a bit more open, more attentive to those around us because there are actually people around us, that is actually the advantage.
  • But at the same time we are spending most of our times meditating pretty much in our rooms here and so then to use imagination, to attend to, (for the moment we attend to is reality bring up my mantra again from William James) to attend to the reality of other peoples situations, their lives, their challenges, their struggles, and of course the reality of suffering. So to attend to that we can do this by way of the cultivation of compassion so we move on to the second of the four immeasurables this morning.

By attending to others situations, a kind of challenge, a kind of suffering they are experiencing both hedonic suffering just bad things happening to people, meeting with adversity and experiencing different hardship as result. But then also the genuine suffering that simply comes from within. By attending to others then our own sense of caring naturally expands, so our own challenges, all of you I know we all have our own individual challenges, struggles, issues coming up and so forth, difficulties, adversities, even while in retreat things come up we know, right? And they are as important tomorrow as they are today, the importance of our own struggles and issues, they are still important, but as we attend to others, and in others, broaden the scope, then we see it from a broader perspective, and the four immeasurables I think are just enormously useful, helpful, beneficial for cultivating greater emotional balance, and we can see that the practice of shamatha is not simply developing attention skills as if in a vacuum, that is our shamatha practice is embedded in our lives, and our lives are saturated by emotions, and all kinds of things trigger emotions, and they will continue, they will continue to trigger emotions.

And if our emotions arise like dropping a pebble into a swimming pool, something comes up, yes, it is a wave, it is a pebble, it created waves, but we can handle it because it is a pretty good size swimming pool, then not a whole lot of emotional disequilibrium, disturbance, upheaval, when stuff happens to us. Why? Because it is a much larger pool that we are attending to, and I am of any many, many sentient beings, whereas if I am spending my day most of the time just thinking about my circumstances, my issues, it is the same pebble but it is dropped into a teacup and it is a Tsunami. So the way that our own situations are experienced is all a matter of context, how big is your pool?

So that is where we will turn to compassion right now, to turn our mind from a teacup to a swimming pool, and eventually to an ocean, ok? Please find a comfortable position.


(05:03) In terms of genuine suffering, it is not easy to have the mind so commonly, so frequently, dominated by rumination let alone by rumination that is heavily conditioned by mental afflictions, anger, craving and so on, it is so tiring, so stressful. So as an act of compassion for ourselves, an act of kindness for ourselves, give yourself a break as you allow your awareness to settle in this non-conceptual domain, of the space of your body, gently soothingly, settling your body in its natural state and your respiration in its natural rhythm, and then calm this disturbed mind which is fatigued by so much rumination, quiet, soothe, calm the mind for a little while with mindfulness of breathing.

(8:22) As a reminder, in a Buddha’s understanding compassion is not simply sympathy, it is not simply feeling sorry for , but it is an aspiration rooted in empathy, the sense of common ground, that resonance, the affinity with others, the sense that we are all of the same family. So now bring to mind an individual, a community, a region of the globe, whatever comes to mind, where you know there is blatant, hedonic suffering, and there is suffering in response to tragedy, to adversity, whether it’s from war, whether from aging, sickness or ill health. Focus your attention clearly, intently, upon such people, who may not even know that we exist, but they certainly know that they exist, and they are facing hardship, just as we do. And with each in breath, arouse the aspiration: may you, like myself, be free of suffering and its hedonic causes. If it is illness may be healed, if it is social conflict may it be peace, whatever the outer causes may be for a hunger, thirst whatever it may be, may you be free.

(12:58) I offer you two options in conjunction with this practice, you may follow the traditional practice of tonglen : of imagining the hardship, the difficulties, the sufferings of others, and in a form of a dark cloud enveloping these individuals, with each in breath, imagine drawing this in, drawing in this darkness into this orb of light at your heart, with each in breath, imagine that darkness dissolving, vanishing without trace in the light at your heart.

However if you feel this brings too much pressure, a kind of heaviness to your heart, then with each in breath imagine the darkness of others suffering simply evaporates into thin air, each in breath lightening and lightening, and with each in breath imagine the suffering and its causes disappearing.

(14:57) And let your attention rove at will, attending to another person, another community, as you wish, identifying both the suffering and the adversity that arises, that catalyzes, that brings about such suffering.

(18:11) And then turn your attention to another type of blatant suffering what is literally called suffering of suffering, which I call simply genuine suffering, that we all know about it, and that is the suffering and distress caused without any help from outside, that is directly generated by our own mental afflictions, direct your attention to those who are blatantly suffering because of the afflictions and obscurations of their own minds. Practice as before and with each in breath arouse the yearning: may you be free of this suffering and its underlying causes that which is so clearly identified as the afflictions of your own mind, may you like myself, be free.

(20:50) In terms of blatant suffering you may attend especially to those who suffer from anger, among the mental afflictions it is the one that is so evidently painful. However much we may wish to justify our anger, our outrage and so on, when all is said and done, it is simply an affliction of the mind. With each in breath arouse the aspiration may we all be free of this very, very toxic mental affliction of anger and hatred.

(27:40) Release all aspirations and all appearances, and rest your awareness in stillness, in its own nature.

Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Revised by Cheri Langston.

Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Posted by Alma Ayon


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