Before meditating, bring forth your highest motivation, your most meaningful goals and yearnings. Now settle yours body in a posture of ease, stillness, and vigilance. Remember the sequence. For this session, lasting one ghatika, let your body be still. You’ll be bringing images to mind, like reflections in a pool of water. Reflections are clear only if the water is still. Take three luxurious, deep, full breaths, breathing through your nostrils, breathing down into the abdomen, then expanding the diaphragm and finally breathing up through the chest. Exhale through the nostrils, slowly, deeply and fully, three times.
Now let this mind, which has been driven so hard through the day, come to rest and settle back in to a mode of simple awareness. Feel the tactile sensations throughout your body. If thoughts come, just let them float away without sticking, without your grasping. Release them as if with a sigh of relief, thinking. “I don’t need to catch that particular train.” Be aware of breathing. At the beginning of the next in-breath, mentally and ver briefly count “one.” Then, in a mode of simple awareness, continue to attend to the breathing, counting to twenty-one.
Now let’s again call into play the power of the imagination. Move out of this mode of simple awareness, away from stilling the mind, and bring forth your powers of creative thought. Let’s begin with the body. Affirm to yourself that if you will–as a working hypothesis, if not something you’ve experienced directly–the essential purity of your awareness. This dimension of consciousness is conceptually unstructured, primordially pure, and of the nature of sheer luminosity. And imagine it now, in symbolic form, as an orb of inexhaustible, radiant white light at you heart in the center of your chest. In Indian thought this area–not in the heart organ, but in the center of your chest–is called the heart chakra.
Imagine this light to be one of compassion, of goodness, of joy–utterly and primordially pure. Imagine rays of white light–purifying, soothing, and calming white light–emanating from this orb at your heart and saturating your entire body, right out to the pores of your skin, dispelling all mental and physical afflictions and imbalances.
Now extend the imagination outward and bring to mind, as vividly as you can, another being–this could be one of more persons, or it could be an animal or some other sentient being–someone about whom you care very deeply. Direct your attention to someone who is going through a very difficult time right now. It could be because of physical afflictions or disease, a life situation of conflict, depression, anxiety, or pain. Bring that person to mind.
Now imagine you are this person. Picture yourself undergoing these same problems. Imagine taking on this person’s burden. Now return to yourself and then again attend to this loved one. As the Buddha counseled, attend to this person internally, externally, and both internally and externally. “Then, with a sincere, natural, effortless yearning, bring to mind the wish: May you be free of this suffering and the true sources of this suffering.” Allow compassion to rise from your heart. Then, as you inhale, imaging taking in, in the symbolic form of a dark cloud, the problems, the disease, the mental turmoil, whatever it may be that troubles this person. Imagine this as a dark cloud, and with each inhalation draw in this cloud as if you’re siphoning it off. Draw it in, breath it down to this incandescent orb of light at your heart, and let this darkness be extinguished there, without leaving a trace behind. Imagine this person’s burden, sorrow, illness–whatever it may be–lightening as well. Imagine the person’s relief.
With each in-breath let this yearning arise: “Just as I wish to be free of suffering and the sources of suffering, may you too be free of this pain, free of this distress and its causes.” Imagine the person actually experiencing the transformation, feeling the burden lighten, and breathing more easily. And if there is fear, imagine that fear being calmed.
The imagine the cloud utterly vanishing, the darkness dispelled, not transferred but drawn in and extinguished. Just as when you turn a light on in a dark room, the darkness doesn’t go anywhere; it simply vanishes. Imagine this person free of affliction and experiencing a sense of complete ease and profound relief.
Now expand your awareness without limit to exclude no one, from all sides, from above and below, with each in-breath. Let your yearning arise: “May each individual in the world, like myself, be free of suffering and the sources of suffering.” With each in-breath draw in the misery and distress, the pain and the fear of each sentient being. Draw it into this infinite light, this inexhaustible source of light that can hold the suffering of the world and not be dimmed. Draw it in and extinguish the darkness in the light of your own heart. The nature of compassion is just this: the heartfelt yearning that others might be free of suffering and the sources of their suffering.
Now for a few moments, release your imagination, release your thoughts and aspirations, release all objects of the mind. Rest in the simple nature of your own awareness. Be at ease from your very core. Rest your mind in its own pristine and luminous nature. Simply be aware of being aware.