This module is designed to provide a clear framework for applying mindfulness to cultivate the positive qualities such as loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy & equanimity. In Buddhism this is sometimes simply referred to as compassion practice.
Recommended reading: The Four Immeasurables by Alan Wallace
The Eight Sessions
- Dealing with Attachment
- Dealing with Anger
- Empathetic Joy & Equanimity
- Exchanging Self with Others
- Tong-len (giving & taking)
- Compassion in Daily Life
The two main wings of practice are wisdom and compassion. And the foundation for the compassion wing of practice are the four immeasurables. They are:
- loving-kindness (session 1)
- compassion (session 3)
- empathetic joy (session 5)
- equanimity (session 5)
In the context of discussing these practices we will also look at how to deal with attachment (session 2) and how to deal with anger (session 4). We will then be building on this foundation in sessions 6 & 7 in terms of exchanging the selfish attitude with the attitude of cherishing others.
And finally in the last session we will look at how to integrate compassion into daily life.
Session 1: Loving-kindness (Four Immeasurables p.87 – 126)
Loving-kindness is the wish for ourselves and others to have happiness and its causes.
Thus to effectively cultivate loving-kindness we need to know
- What is happiness?
- What are the causes of happiness?
- How do we cultivate those causes?
We will discuss these questions and then engage in a loving-kindness practice first focussing on ourselves and then expanding out to others.
Session 2: Dealing with Attachment (Four Immeasurables p.114 – 116)
We begin this session by clearly defining attachment and discussing where it comes from.
Then looking at some ways to deal with attachment using mindfulness and also applying antidotes.
We will also be discussing some common misconceptions regarding attachment including:
- Without attachment my life would become very bland and boring.
- I need attachment to have a relationship.
- I need attachment to be creative.
Session 3: Compassion (Four Immeasurables p.127 – 142)
Compassion is the wish for ourselves and others to be free of suffering and its causes.
Thus to effectively cultivate compassion we need to know
- What is suffering?
- What are the causes of suffering?
- How do we eliminate those causes?
We will discuss these questions and then engage in a compassion practice first focussing on ourselves and then expanding out to others.
Session 4: Dealing with Anger (Four Immeasurables p.107 – 112)
We begin this session by clearly defining anger and discussing where it comes from.
Then looking at some ways to deal with anger using mindfulness and also applying antidotes.
We will also be discussing some common misconceptions regarding anger including:
- Anger is necessary in dealing with difficult situations.
- Anger is a sign of strength and compassion is a sign of weakness.
- Why we get angry at others who behave badly.
Session 5: Empathetic Joy & Equanimity (Four Immeasurables p.143 – 162)
Empathetic joy is a rejoicing in our own and others virtue and good fortune.
Equanimity is a mind of impartiality towards others, not having attachment to friends, apathy to strangers or aversion to difficult people.
Having briefly introduced these two qualities we will then look at how to overcome the near-enemies of each of the four immeasurables. The near-enemies are:
- Loving-kindness (attachment)
- Compassion (despair/pity)
- Empathetic joy (meaningless rejoicing)
- Equanimity (indifference)
We will then engage in a simple practice of cultivating empathetic joy following which we will also look at how to purify our mind of negative habits.
Session 6: Exchanging Self with Others (Buddhism With an Attitude – Alan Wallace)
In this session we will begin to look at how we can build on the four immeasurables through a five step process of exchanging self with others.
The heart of this process is to first see the disadvantages of the selfish attitude and the advantages of the attitude of cherishing others. And then on this basis to exchange the selfish attitude for an attitude of cherishing others.
Also dispelling some common misconceptions such as:
- Won’t I just get taken advantage of if I just cherish others.
- And won’t I just end up with compassion burnout.
- Isn’t it just being selfish if I do things for myself.
Session 7: Tong-len (giving & taking) (Attention Revolution p.95 – 96)
The fifth step in the five step process of exchanging self with others is the tong-len practice. Tong-len is a Tibetan word meaning giving and taking.
In this practice we imagine taking on the sufferings of others and we imagine giving them happiness. This is a very powerful way of exchanging self with others, a very powerful way of transforming attachment and aversion into loving-kindness and compassion.
We will engage in a simple tong-len practice beginning with ourselves and then expanding out to others.
And finally we will dispel some misconceptions about the practice and also how to apply it in daily life.
Session 8: Compassion in Daily Life (Mental Balance & Well-Being – Alan Wallace & Shauna Shapiro)
In this last session we will look at the importance of adopting an integrated approach to the practice of mindfulness, selflessness and compassion.
We will do this based on a model presented in an article called “Mental Balance & Well-Being: Building Bridges Between Buddhism and Western Psychology” by Alan Wallace and Shauna Shapiro.
This article presents a model based on the four types of mental balance.
- Motivational (conative)
- Emotional (affective)