Books Magazine

Empathy Meditation #CompassionateSunday

By Joyweesemoll @joyweesemoll
Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen ArmstrongA process for developing personal compassion to engage in compassionate community for a more compassionate world

Welcome to Compassionate Sunday. We’re working through Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong, one step per month.

If you live in the St. Louis area, an in-person study group started working with this book and will continue for the next few months. Let me know if you’d like to join us and I’ll you hook you up!

If you’d like to share a post about what you learned about compassion (The First Step) or what you’re seeing in your world (The Second Step), self-compassion (The Third Step), or empathy (The Fourth Step) use the link list below. Or join the discussion in the comments or on Facebook.


The Fourth Step of Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life is “empathy.” Last week, I talked about the first half of the chapter — how stories, from Greek plays to modern films, help us develop empathy.

This week, I’m looking at the second half the chapter which lays out a meditation for developing empathy. The meditation is based on the Buddhist idea of the “immeasurable minds of love,” four ways of orienting one’s self toward others. I made a sketch note to help me keep this in my mind.

Empathy sketch noteSketch note for the meditation on the “immeasurable minds of love.” Click on the image to see a larger version.

Of course, the difficult part of this process is directing all those positive energies toward the person that I dislike. Here’s Karen Armstrong’s advice about that:

She has good and bad qualities, just as you do. Like everybody else in the world, she longs for happiness and wishes to be free of pain. She suffers in ways that you will never know. How, therefore, can you single her out for your dislike and refuse to direct your feelings of friendship, compassion, joy, and even-mindedness to her?

She also counsels patience at this work, harking back to the previous chapter on self compassion.

I suck at meditation. I would rather draw this than do it (and that’s saying something because I’m not confident about drawing either). Do you have advice about how to do this sort of meditation or something that would have a similar effect?


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