Category Archives: Meditation

How To Forgive Someone Who Has Hurt You: In 15 Steps

Even When Forgiveness Feels Impossible

Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

Forgiving others is essential for spiritual growth.  Your experience of someone who has hurt you, while painful, is now nothing more that a thought or feeling that you carry around. These thoughts of resentment, anger, and hatred represent slow, debilitating energies that will dis-empower you if you continue to let these thoughts occupy space in your head. If you could release them, you would know more peace.

Below I share how to forgive someone who has hurt you in 15 steps:

Step 1: Move On to the Next Act

Your past history and all of your hurts are no longer here in your physical reality. Don’t allow them to be here in your mind, muddying your present moments. Your life is like a play with several acts. Some of the characters who enter have short roles to play, others, much larger. Some are villains and others are good guys. But all of them are necessary, otherwise they wouldn’t be in the play.Embrace them all, and move on to the next act.

Step 2: Reconnect to Spirit

Make a new agreement with yourself to always stay connected to Spirit even when it seems to be the most difficult thing to do. If you do this, you will allow whatever degree of perfect harmony that your body was designed for to proliferate. Turn your hurts over to God, and allow Spirit to flow through you.

Your new agreement with reality in which you’ve blended your physical self and your personality with your spiritual God-connected self will begin to radiate a higher energy of love and light. Wherever you go, others will experience the glow of your God consciousness, and disharmony and disorder and all manner of problems simply will not flourish in your presence. Become “an instrument of thy peace,” as St. Francis desires in the first line of his famous prayer.

Step 3: Don’t Go to Sleep Angry

Each night as I drift off to sleep, I adamantly refuse to use this precious time to review anything that I do not want to be reinforced in the hours of being immersed in my subconscious mind. I choose to impress upon my subconscious mind my conception of myself as a Divine creator in alignment with the one mind. I reiterate my I ams, which I have placed in my  imagination, and I remember that my slumber will be dominated by my last waking concept of myself. I am peaceful, I am content, I am love, and I attract only to myself those who are in alignment with my highest ideals of myself.

This is my nightly ritual, always eschewing any temptation to go over any fear of unpleasantness that my ego might be asking me to review. I assume the feeling in my body of those I am statements already fulfilled, and I know that I’m allowing myself to be programmed while asleep, for the next day I rise knowing that I am a free agent.

In sleep man impresses the subconscious mind with his conception of himself. — Neville Goddard

Step 4: Switch the Focus from Blaming Others to Understanding Yourself

Whenever you’re upset over the conduct of others, take the focus off those you’re holding responsible for your inner distress. Shift your mental energy to allowing yourself to be with whatever you’re feeling — let the experience be as it may, without blaming others for your feelings. Don’t blame yourself either! Just allow the experience to unfold and tell yourself that no one has the power to make you uneasy without your consent, and that you’re unwilling to grant that authority to this person right now.

Tell yourself that you are willing to freely experience your emotions without calling them “wrong” or needing to chase them away. In this way, you’ve made a shift to self-mastery. It’s important to bypass blame, and even to bypass your desire to understand the other person; instead, focus on understanding yourself.
By taking responsibility for how you choose to respond to anything or anyone, you’re aligning yourself with the beautiful dance of life. By changing the way you choose to perceive the power that others have over you and you will see a bright new world of unlimited potential for yourself and you will know instantly how to forgive and let go of anything.

Step 5: Avoid Telling People What to Do

Avoid thoughts and activities that involve telling people who are perfectly capable of making their own choices what to do. In your family, remember that you do not own anyone. The poet Kahlil Gibran reminds you:

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you . . .

This is always true. In fact, disregard any inclination to dominate in all of your relationships. Listen rather than expound. Pay attention to yourself when you’re having judgmental opinions and see where self-attention takes you. When you replace an ownership mentality with one of allowing, you’ll begin to see the true unfolding of the Tao in yourself and other people. From that moment on, you’ll be free of frustration with those who don’t behave according to your ego-dominated expectations.

Step 6: Learn to Let Go and Be Like Water

Rather than attempting to dominate with your forcefulness, be like water: flow everywhere there’s an opening. Soften your hard edges by being more tolerant of contrary opinions. Interfere less, and substitute listening for directing and telling. When someone offers you their viewpoint, try responding with: “I’ve never considered that before—thank you. I’ll give it some thought.”

When you give up interfering, and opt instead to stream like water—gently, softly, and unobtrusively— you become forgiveness itself.

Picture yourself as having the same qualities as water. Allow your soft, weak, yielding, fluid self to enter places where you previously were excluded because of your inclination to be solid and hard. Flow softly into the lives of those with whom you feel conflicted: Picture yourself entering their private inner selves, seeing perhaps for the first time what they’re experiencing. Keep this image of yourself as gently coursing water, and watch how your relationships change.

Step 7: Take Responsibility for Your Part

Removing blame means never assigning responsibility to anyone else for what you’re experiencing. It means that you’re willing to say, “I may not understand why I feel this way, why I have this illness, why I’ve been victimized, or why I had this accident, but I’m willing to say without any guilt or resentment that I own it. I live with, and I am responsible for, having it in my life.”

If you take responsibility for having the experience, then at least you have a chance to also take responsibility for removing it or learning from it. If you’re in some small (perhaps unknown) way responsible for that migraine headache or that depressed feeling, then you can go to work to remove it or discover what its message is for you. If, on the other hand, someone or something else is responsible in your mind, then of course you’ll have to wait until they change for you to get better. And that is unlikely to occur. So you go home with nothing and are left with nothing when peace is really on the other side of the coin.

Step 8: Let Go of Resentments

What causes annoyance and anger after a dispute? The generic response would be a laundry list detailing why the other person was wrong and how illogically and unreasonably they behaved, concluding with something like, “I have a right to be upset when my [daughter, mother-in-law, ex-husband, boss, or whomever you’re thinking of] speaks to  me that way!”

But if you’re interested in living a Tao-filled life, it’s imperative that you reverse this kind of thinking. Resentments don’t come from the conduct of the other party in an altercation—no, they survive and thrive because you’re unwilling to end that altercation with an offering of kindness, love, and authentic forgiveness. As Lao-Tzu says:

Someone must risk returning injury with kindness, or hostility will never turn to goodwill. — Lao-Tzu

So when all of the yelling, screaming, and threatening words have been expressed, the time for calm has arrived. Remember that no storm lasts forever, and that hidden within are always seeds of tranquility. There is a time for hostility and a time for peace.

Step 9: Be Kind Instead of Right

There is a Chinese proverb, If you’re going to pursue revenge, you’d better dig two graves, which is saying to me: your resentments will destroy you.

The world is just the way it is. The people who are behaving “badly” in the world are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. You can process it in any way that you choose. If you’re filled with anger about all of those “problems,” you are one more person who contributes to the pollution of anger.  Instead, remember that you have no need to make others wrong or to retaliate when you’ve been wronged.

Imagine if someone says something to you that you find offensive, and rather than opting for resentment, you learn to depersonalize what you’ve just heard and respond with kindness. You are willing to freely send the higher, faster energies of love, peace, joy, forgiveness, and kindness as your response to whatever comes your way. You do this for yourself. You would rather be kind than right.

Step 10: Practice Giving

In the midst of arguments or disagreements, practice giving rather than taking before you exit. Giving involves leaving the ego behind. While it wants to win and show its superiority by being contrary and disrespectful, your Tao nature wants to be at peace and live in harmony. You can reduce your quarreling time to almost zero if you practice this procedure:

Wherever you are, whenever you feel strong emotions stirring in you and you notice yourself  feeling the need to “be right,” silently recite the following words from the Prayer of Saint Francis:

Where there is injury, [let me bring] pardon.

Be a giver of forgiveness as he teaches: Bring love to hate, light to darkness, and pardon to injury. Read these words daily, for they’ll help you overcome your ego’s demands and know the fullness of life.

Step 11: Stop Looking for Occasions to Be Offended

When you live at or below ordinary levels of awareness, you spend a great deal of time and energy finding opportunities to be offended. A news report,  a rude stranger,  someone cursing, a sneeze, a black cloud —just about anything will do if you’re looking for an occasion to be offended. Become a person who refuses to be offended by any one, any thing, or any set of circumstances.

If you have enough faith in your own beliefs, you’ll find that it’s impossible to be offended by the beliefs and conduct of others.

Not being offended is a way of saying, “I have control over how I’m going to feel, and I choose to feel peaceful regardless of what I observe going on. When you feel offended, you’re practicing judgment. You judge someone else to be stupid, insensitive, rude, arrogant, inconsiderate, or foolish, and then you find yourself upset and offended by their conduct. What you may not realize is that when you judge another person, you do not define them. You define yourself as someone who needs to judge others.

Step 12: Don’t Live In the Past – Be Present

When we find it difficult to forgive, often it is because we are not living in the present, and instead, we assign more importance to the past. We assign a good portion of our energy and attention lamenting the good old days that are gone forever as the reason why we can’t be happy and fulfilled today. “Everything has changed,” “No one respects anyone else like they used to…” This is assigning responsibility to the past for why you can’t be happy today.

It’s doubtful that other creatures waste the present moment in thoughts of past and future. A beaver only does beaver, and he does it right in the moment. He doesn’t spend his days  ruminating over the fact that his beaver siblings received more attention, or his father beaver ran off with a younger beaver when he was growing up. He’s always in the now. We can learn much from God’s creatures about enjoying the present moment rather than using it up consumed with anger over the past or worry about the future. Practice living in the moment by appreciating the beauty around you now.

Step 13:  Embrace Your Dark Times

In a universe that’s an intelligent system with a divine creative force supporting it, there simply can be no accidents. As tough as it is to acknowledge, you had to go through what you went through in order to get to where you are today, and the evidence is that you did. Every spiritual advance that you will make in your life will very likely be preceded by some kind of fall or seeming disaster. Those dark times, accidents, tough episodes, break ups, periods of impoverishment, illnesses, abuses, and broken dreams were all in order. They happened, so you can assume they had to and you can’t unhappen them.

Embrace them from that perspective, and then understand them, accept them, honor them, and finally transform them.

Step 14: Refrain from Judgement

When you stop judging and simply become an observer, you will know  inner peace. With that sense of inner peace, you’ll find yourself happier and free of the negative energy of resentment. A bonus is that you’ll find that others are much more attracted to you. A peaceful person attracts peaceful energy.

If I’m to be a being of love living from my highest self, that means that love is all I have inside of me and all that I have to give away. If someone I love chooses to be something other than what my ego would prefer, I must send them the ingredients of my highest self, which is God, and God is love.

My criticism and condemnation of the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of others—regardless of how right and moral my human self convinces me it is—is a step away from God-realization. And it is God-consciousness that allows for my wishes to be fulfilled, as long as they are aligned with my Source of being. I can come up with a long list of reasons why I should be judgmental and condemnatory toward another of God’s children and why, damn it, I am right. Yet if I want to perfect my own world—and I so want to do so—then I must substitute love for these judgments.

Step 15: Send Love

I spent years studying the teachings of Patanjali, and he reminded us several thousand years ago that when we are steadfast—which means that we never slip in our abstention of thoughts of harm directed toward others—then all living creatures cease to feel enmity in our presence.

Now I know that we are all human: you, me, all of us. We do occasionally slip and retreat from our highest self into judgment, criticism, and condemnation, but this is not a rationale for choosing to practice that kind of interaction. I can only tell you that when I finally got it, and I sent only love to another of God’s children whom I had been judging and criticizing, I got the immediate result of inner contentment.

I urge you to send love in place of those judgments and criticisms to others when you feel they impede your joy and happiness, and hold them in that place of love. Notice that if you stay steadfast, when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

A Meditation to End on Love

Picture yourself at the termination of a quarrel or major dispute. Rather than reacting with old patterns of residual anger, revenge, and hurt, visualize offering kindness, love, and forgiveness.

Do this right now by sending out these “true virtue” thoughts to any resentments you’re currently carrying. Make this your standard response to any future altercations: I end on love, no matter what!


Source: The above story is based on materials found on in the blog section. The original article was written by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer. Image credit unknown (found on website). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

All the Benefits of Meditation and Mindfulness According to Science

Mindfulness and meditation offer a host of benefits that we’re still learning about via scientific studies. Information is Beautiful’s infographic below reveals the effects of meditation and mindfulness practices—from boosting concentration to making us more empathetic.

The company took the results of over 75 studies and meta-studies and created this visualization. The larger the text, the stronger and more promising the evidence. As you can see, there are positive benefits across all aspects of our lives, emotional, physical, cognitive, and social.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials found on The original article was written by Melanie Pinola. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

The Healing Power of Your Hands

Did you know that your hands hold an innate healing power that have been used for centuries?

Mudras are positions of the hands that are said to influence the energy of your physical, emotional and spiritual body.

Mudras have been used in the East for thousands of years and were practiced by many spiritual leaders including Buddha. Today, Mudras are still used in Yoga and meditation.

Sometimes we may subconsciously place our hands into Mudra positions without even knowing it and other times we can use them to help channel and stimulate healing.

There are hundreds of Mudras but here are some of the most common:

Gyan Mudra (Mudra of Knowledge)

The tip of the index finger touches the tip of the thumb while the other fingers remain straight.
The tip of the index finger touches the tip of the thumb while the other fingers remain straight.

Benefits: Enhances knowledge, stimulates the pituitary and endocrine glands, increases memory, helps meditation, prevents insomnia, can boost mood and bring clarity.

Practice: Any time while sitting, standing or lying in bed.

Prithvi Mudra (Mudra of Earth)

The tip of the ring finger touches the thumb while the other fingers remain straight out.
The tip of the ring finger touches the thumb while the other fingers remain straight out.

Benefits: reduces physical and spiritual weaknesses, can increase the life force, can help clear skin, promotes body functionality.

Practice: Any time.

Varuna Mudra (Mudra of Water)

The tip of the pinky finger touches the thumb while the other fingers remain straight up.
The tip of the pinky finger touches the thumb while the other fingers remain straight up.

Benefits: helps to balance emotions and helps to retain water. Helps to relieve constipation and cramps. Can also help regulate menstrual cycles and hormonal conditions.

Practice: 15 minutes three times a day.

Vayu Mudra (Mudra of Air)

The thumb wraps over the index finger while the rest of the fingers remain straight.
The thumb wraps over the index finger while the rest of the fingers remain straight.

Benefits: helps to calm an anxious mind, soothe a strained voice and can help decrease stress. Can also help reduce impatience and indecisiveness.

Practice: 10 to 15 minutes, 3 times per day.

Shunya Mudra (Mudra of Emptiness)

The tip of the thumb presses the middle finger down while the rest of the fingers stand straight up.
The tip of the thumb presses the middle finger down while the rest of the fingers stand straight up.

Benefits: reduces dullness in the body and can also be highly effective for ear aches. Can help restore confidence and boost mental cognition.

Practice: 40-60 minutes daily or for an earache- 4 to 5 minutes.

Surya Mudra (Mudra of the Sun)

Bend the ring finger under the thumb while the rest of the fingers remain straight.
Bend the ring finger under the thumb while the rest of the fingers remain straight.

Benefits: helps stimulate the thyroid gland, helps to alleviate weight gain and reduces appetite, stimulates digestion, helps relieve anxiety and stress. Helps to guide you to your purpose.

Practice: 5 to 15 minutes, twice daily.

Prana Mudra (Mudra of Life)

The ring and pinky finger both bend to meet the thumb while the index and middle finger remain pointed straight up.
The ring and pinky finger both bend to meet the thumb while the index and middle finger remain pointed straight up.

Benefits: improves the life force, helps to strengthen the mind, body and spirit, helps promote taking action, improves immunity and motivation. Helps enhance vision and reduces fatigue.

Practice: Any time.

Apana Mudra (Mudra of Digestion)

The middle and ring finger are bent under the thumb while the pinky and index finger stand straight up.
The middle and ring finger are bent under the thumb while the pinky and index finger stand straight up.

Benefits: helps to regulate the excretory system, helps detoxify and stimulates bowel movements. Helpful at relieving constipation and piles.

Practice: 45 minutes daily

Apana Vayu Mudra (Mudra of the Heart)

The index finger bends to touch the base of the thumb while the middle and ring finger bend to touch the tip of the thumb. The pinky finger remains stretched out.
The index finger bends to touch the base of the thumb while the middle and ring finger bend to touch the tip of the thumb. The pinky finger remains stretched out.

Benefits: stimulates healing of the heart and helps physically protect the heart. Can also help reduce gas and heart burn.

Practice: 15 minutes, twice daily

Linga Mudra (Mudra of Heat)

Interlock the fingers of both hands but keep the thumb of the left hand pointing up. Take the right thumb and wrap it around the thumb so it touches the index finger of the right hand.
Interlock the fingers of both hands but keep the thumb of the left hand pointing up. Take the right thumb and wrap it around the thumb so it touches the index finger of the right hand.

Benefits: helps to stimulate heat in the body, helps reduce phlegm and congestion, good for strengthening the lungs, helps to invigorate and balance the body.

Practice: Any time but do not over practice.

Meditation Is Not What You Might Think

It seems everyone is interested in meditation…talking about the wonderful benefits, recommending classes and discussing the different ways to “do it”. But, for a beginner, just what is “it”? And how do you do “it”?

Our busy, hectic, lifestyles may seem to prohibit this peaceful practice, or provide a convenient “excuse” not to begin, or continue, to meditate…but, the happy news is, you CAN successfully benefit even if you practice for short periods. With the simple technique described below, you will begin and incredible journey. There are 100’s of styles, traditions and forms of meditation, but this simple practice has always been highly recommended. It is said, “Here is where the beginner begins and the Master ends”.

Sit comfortably, preferably upright and alert. If unable to sit upright, lie down. When sitting, allow your spine and back muscles to support you, if you’re able, otherwise use the back of the chair. Especially for beginners, if you’re uncomfortable, your mind will be distracted and you will not benefit fully — it will distract you from your process. You may alter things for your needs. If sitting in a chair, feet flat to the floor, thighs parallel to floor, feet aligned with knees, knees aligned with hips and shoulders, back straight (but not rigid), hands resting in lap, palms down. Do not slump or slouch — imagine your head suspended by a golden thread from above. The suspension point is the crown of your head, so your chin is slightly tucked inward. If you slump or tire, just pull your sting upward! You’ll feel weightless and relaxed. Remember, alter your position somewhat if needed. You will slowly become very comfortable with this position.

To sit on a mat, cushion or pillow, sit cross-legged, half or full lotus, depending on your ability. Do not force this, or any other posture; move gradually into it. Whether practicing indoors or outdoors, the air should be fresh and well-ventilated, without draft or high wind and clothes should be loose and comfortable.

You may close your eyes (unless this causes you to fall asleep) or gaze with almost-closed eyes as if looking downward and inward. If you wish, rest the tip of your tongue on your upper hard palate behind your teeth. Unless there is a physical restriction, breathe through your nose.

Traditionally, the best times to practice are upon arising and in the evening or before bedtime. With hectic modern schedules, any time is fine. Don’t allow a “lack of time” to stop you. You can still benefit even if you practice for “odd moments” throughout your day — you will be surprised how a few minutes here-and-there add up for your peace of mind. Recommended practice time is 20 minutes, twice per day — IF YOU CAN … some people practice more often and for more than 20 minutes. Remember, this is personal; just do your best and enjoy. Do not practice when exhausted; avoid eating 30 minutes before or after practice. Practice for a few minutes at first in a quiet environment. The time will lengthen as you become more comfortable…you’ll probably surprise yourself! You may use soothing music as a pleasant background.

Sit comfortably…allow yourself to become aware of your environment as you gently and slowly close your eyes…become aware of your body…feel yourself sitting…feel the contact your body makes with each surface…feel body parts touching other body parts (hands resting in lap, legs crossed)…feel your body resting comfortably and safely in the surrounding air…draw your awareness inward as you feel your body relaxing into the surfaces…calmly be aware of your breathing, without altering your breath…rest your attention either at your navel or your nostrils…calmly feel and be aware of the rhythm of your breathing…if thoughts come into your mind, don’t try to stop or avoid them; just be aware of them and let them drift away — don’t follow them and don’t try to solve problems…thoughts will always come; just smile as you notice them…observe them and let them go as you return to awareness of the soothing flow of your breath…always, as your mind wanders, bring it back to your breathing…You may wish to imagine or think of your breath as a color or a light or a pleasant thought moving in and out of your body in a smooth flow — words like “peace”, “calm”, “tranquility”, “love”, “light”, “safety”, and the like are fine…use whatever you wish…you may repeat such words in your mind in rhythm with the flow of your breathing…smile inwardly as you meditate…just sit and listen to your breath and the calming thoughts…be aware…rest in the stillness and silence of this peaceful, powerful moment…and for just this moment, you can release all thoughts, worries and concerns and just be tranquil and serene.

When you feel that you have practiced for just the right amount of time, slowly return to awareness of your body…awareness of being in your environment…turn your attention outward and slowly, gradually open your eyes. You may stretch and/or rub your palms together, place them over your eyes, then rub gently down your face and back of head and neck several times. Then simply proceed with your normal activities.

Meditation is a cultivation process — be patient and natural, enjoy each moment, do not “try hard”…just allow and everything will naturally fall-into-place. The biggest blocks to meditation are impatience and expectations. Just continue to repeat the simple process and you Will benefit. Don’t wait for or desire “spectacular” results; that is a distracting disturbance…in fact, if you can keep from doing that, THAT is spectacular! Don’t be impatient with yourself or disappointed if today’s practice wasn’t as good as yesterday’s practice…that happens! Just rest for a moment…ssshhhh…rest in the stillness and silence, and enjoy!

  • Allowing your mind to be alert and attentive
  • Allowing your mind to be calm, concentrated without strain and focused
  • Increased awareness of the world around you
  • Being in the moment – not worrying about the past or future
  • Pleasant
  • A process more than a goal…a beautiful, inspiring journey rather than just a destination
  • Decreased stress, tension, depression, anxiety – more balanced emotions
  • Strengthened immune system, improved health
  • Sense of identity and connection, Improved confidence and concentration
  • Peace of mind, optimism and self-worth
  • A sense of greater spiritual connection
  • Falling asleep
  • Going into a trance
  • Shutting yourself off from reality
  • Becoming lost in thought and/or forgetting who and where you are

Good source:

Why we need Meditation

With the hectic pace and demands of modern life, many people feel stressed and over-worked. It often feels like there is just not enough time in the day to get everything done. Our stress and tiredness make us unhappy, impatient and frustrated. It can even affect our health. We are often so busy we feel there is no time to stop and meditate! But meditation actually gives you more time by making your mind calmer and more focused. A simple ten or fifteen minute breathing meditation as explained below can help you to overcome your stress and find some inner peace and balance.
Meditation can also help us to understand our own mind. We can learn how to transform our mind from negative to positive, from disturbed to peaceful, from unhappy to happy. Overcoming negative minds and cultivating constructive thoughts is the purpose of the transforming meditations found in the Buddhist tradition. This is a profound spiritual practice you can enjoy throughout the day, not just while seated in meditation.

The purpose of meditation is to make our mind calm and peaceful. If our mind is peaceful, we will be free from worries and mental discomfort, and so we will experience true happiness; but if our mind is not peaceful, we will find it very difficult to be happy, even if we are living in the very best conditions. If we train in meditation, our mind will gradually become more and more peaceful, and we will experience a purer and purer form of happiness. Eventually, we will be able to stay happy all the time, even in the most difficult circumstances.
Usually we find it difficult to control our mind. It seems as if our mind is like a balloon in the wind – blown here and there by external circumstances. If things go well, our mind is happy, but if they go badly, it immediately becomes unhappy. For example, if we get what we want, such as a new possession or a new partner, we become excited and cling to them tightly. However, since we cannot have everything we want, and since we will inevitably be separated from the friends and possessions we currently enjoy, this mental stickiness, or attachment, serves only to cause us pain. On the other hand, if we do not get what we want, or if we lose something that we like, we become despondent or irritated. For example, if we are forced to work with a colleague whom we dislike, we will probably become irritated and feel aggrieved, with the result that we will be unable to work with him or her efficiently and our time at work will become stressful and unrewarding.

Such fluctuations of mood arise because we are too closely involved in the external situation. We are like a child making a sandcastle who is excited when it is first made, but who becomes upset when it is destroyed by the incoming tide. By training in meditation, we create an inner space and clarity that enables us to control our mind regardless of the external circumstances. Gradually we develop mental equilibrium, a balanced mind that is happy all the time, rather than an unbalanced mind that oscillates between the extremes of excitement and despondency.
If we train in meditation systematically, eventually we will be able to eradicate from our mind the delusions that are the causes of all our problems and suffering. In this way, we will come to experience a permanent inner peace, known as “liberation” or “nirvana”. Then, day and night in life after life, we will experience only peace and happiness.


4 Qualities of Mind that Alleviate Suffering

Article © 2011 Toni Bernhard. All rights reserved.
A Bite of Buddhism | Psychology Today – StumbleUpon

The four sublime mental states (also called the four heavenly abodes) are qualities of mind that we cultivate in order to alleviate our suffering and the suffering of others. In the language of the Buddha (Pali), they are called the brahma viharas, which means “the dwelling place of awakened beings.”
The good news for us unawakened beings is that it’s easy to begin cultivating the brahma viharas. Indeed, they are an integral part of other religious, spiritual, and humanistic traditions. I present them here with a distinctly Buddhist “flavor.”
Metta. The traditional translation for metta is lovingkindness. Meditation teacher, Sylvia Boorstein, uses the word “friendliness.” Some Buddhist scholars say that friendliness (specifically, “boundless friendliness”) is a more accurate translation of metta because metta derives from the Pali word mitta which means “friend.”
Whether you prefer the word lovingkindness or friendliness, the Indian sage Neem Karoli Baba captured the essence of metta when he said: “Don’t throw anyone out of your heart.” That would, of course, include yourself. It would also include that relative who is a thorn in your side. And it would include that politician whose views you abhor.
I like to think of metta as the simple act of well-wishing. Pick some phrases that resonate with you: may I be peaceful; may you be free from suffering; may all beings be safe and happy. I’ve started practicing metta as an antidote to judging others. As soon as I catch myself judging another (“he shouldn’t eat so much,” “she shouldn’t watch so much TV”), I immediately begin to say my metta phrases, wishing that the person be happy and free from suffering. Although I think of myself as a non-judgmental person, I’m amazed at how often I find myself engaged in petty judgments. I love the effect that switching to metta has. The judgment dissolves and I feel such a human connection to others because I’m wishing for them what I wish for myself.
Sylvia Boorstein once said that she practices metta by just looking at a person and silently saying, “I love you.” That’s her well-wishing phrase! When she told this story, I thought “I can’t do that.” But I’ve tried it and I can. I’ve done it in the car. I’ve done it in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. When I do, I feel genuine love for utter strangers. I see that we share this life with its joys and its sorrows, and we share this planet with its beauty and its troubles.
The essence of metta practice is to engage all people regardless of whether we share the same world view. Of course, I have my “edges” (certain politicians), but that’s why we practice. Sylvia says the best way to cultivate metta for someone with whom we vehemently disagree is to recognize that all beings, including that person, want to be happy.
Karuna. Karuna means compassion. It’s often referred to as the quivering of the heart in response to suffering. As with metta, we cultivate it both for ourselves and for others. Responding with compassion to our own suffering gives rise to compassion for others because, as the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron said, “Sorrow has the exact same taste for all of us.” And yet, many of us find it hard to cultivate compassion for ourselves. We’re our own harshest critics.
The Vietnamese Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh, helped me learn to cultivate compassion for myself. In his book, Commentaries on the Diamond Sutra, he describes how our body responds naturally—without thought—to its own pain:

 When our left hand is injured, our right hand takes care of it right away. It doesn’t stop to say, “I am taking care of you. You are benefitting from my compassion.”

I fell and broke my ankle a few years ago. Before any thoughts about what happened formed in my mind, just as Thich Nhat Hanh said, my hands had already reached out to care for the pain.
Inspired by his teaching, I consciously cultivate compassion for myself by picking a phrase that speaks directly to whatever the source of my suffering is at the moment: “It’s hard to be too sick to go out today,” “My sweet body, working so hard to support me.” Sometimes I stroke one arm with the hand of the other as I repeat my chosen phrase. And, just as Pema Chodron said, as I’ve learned to cultivate compassion for myself, my heart has opened to others who are suffering.
Mudita. There’s not a one-word translation in English that conveys the meaning of mudita. So, unlike compassion for example, we are not necessarily raised to value mudita. It means to feel joy in the joy of others. When we’re dwelling in the heavenly abode of mudita, we feel joy when another person is happy.
We may not have a one-word translation in English for mudita, but I’m happy to report that neither do we have a one-word translation for the German word schadenfreude which means feeling joy in the misfortune of others. I wish I could say that I’ve never felt schadenfreude. I have. But since I began practicing mudita, I’ve noticed that the slightest movement of my mind in the direction of schadenfreude intensifies my own suffering. I no longer take joy in other people’s misfortune.
Just as metta is an antidote for our judgmental tendencies, mudita is the perfect antidote for envy. When I became chronically ill, I could be overcome with envy just hearing about people going about their mundane daily activities! It can be a challenge to cultivate mudita. Invariably, when my husband leaves on the six hour drive to visit our ten year-old granddaughter in Southern California, envy still arises, despite 20 years of Buddhist practice. But as soon as I recognize it, I reflect on how unhappy it makes me and how it doesn’t get me any closer to Los Angeles!
Then I begin to practice mudita, reflecting on the wonderful time they’ll be having together. It helps me to be very specific in this reflection—to visualize them talking and laughing together at places I know they love to go. After a while, that envy is replaced with joy in their joy.
Upekkha. Upekkha means equanimity. It refers to a mind that is calm and steady in the face of life’s ups and downs. This is a tall order because it means opening our hearts and minds not just to pleasant experiences but to unpleasant ones too. Resisting the latter just adds our own stress to what is already difficult. Lama Yeshe beautifully expresses the essence of equanimity: “If you expect your life to be up and down, your mind will be much more peaceful.”
Most Buddhist teachers present the four sublime mental states in the order I’ve written about them: metta (lovingkindness/friendliness), karuna (compassion), mudita (joy in the joy of others), and upekkha (equanimity). But in her book, It’s Easier Than You Think, Sylvia, with her usual common sense and clarity, starts with equanimity. She says that an equanimous mind holds all things in “an ease-filled balance.”
Then, she says, from this place of equanimity, when we see people going about their everyday lives, friendliness (metta) is our natural response. When we see someone suffering, compassion (karuna) is our natural response. When we see someone who’s happy, joy in their joy (mudita) is our natural response.
This is such an insightful approach to the sublime states. It’s not surprising that it comes from Sylvia, because being in her presence (whether in-person or through her books) is like being sprinkled with angel dust—”heavenly abode” angel dust! My wish for you is that you begin, even in the most modest way, to cultivate the four brahma viharas.
© 2011 Toni Bernhard. All rights reserved.