Once we have quieted down our minds by focusing on the breath, which is a prerequisite for any type of meditation, we are now ready to generate a positive, constructive state of mind. For interacting with others, what is most important is to have sincere care and concern for them. This means taking them seriously as human beings, someone who has feelings just as we do. It is easy to lose sight of this fact, however, and become insensitive when we are busy, stressed or in some way preoccupied with ourselves. But the more narrowly we focus on ourselves and on our own problems and feelings, the unhappier we become. We are out of touch with the broader reality around us.
As human beings we are social animals; we all rely on each other for our welfare and well-being. We need to interact with them. Therefore, to interact with others in a realistic and healthy manner, we need to be sincerely concerned with their welfare and well-being. In particular, we need to be sensitive to the reality of their situations and their feelings, especially in response to the ways in which we interact with them.
Just as when we meet someone, what we have experienced earlier in the day has affected the mood we’re in, the same is true with them. They’re not coming out of nowhere when we meet them. The mood they’re in is going to affect our interaction, as is ours. If we are insensitive to the truth and reality of this, with respect to both ourselves and them, our interaction may turn out to be quite different from what we would like. In addition, how we speak with them and how we treat them will affect their feelings, just as the way they speak with us and treat us will affect ours.
When we remind ourselves of these facts and stay mindful of them whenever we’re with others – whether friends, strangers or people we dislike – our interactions will become more fruitful and satisfying, both to us and to them.
- Calm down by focusing on the breath.
- With a quiet mind, not being judgmental, think of someone you feel close to and like to be with.
- Regard them with the understanding that you are a human being and have feelings,
- Just as I do.
- The mood you are in will affect our interaction,
- Just as my mood will affect it.
- How I treat you and what I say will further affect your feelings.
- Therefore, just as I hope that you care about me and about my feelings in our interaction, I care about you. I care about your feelings.
- Repeat the entire sequence while focusing on someone who is merely an acquaintance or a stranger, someone toward whom you have no special feelings, like someone who takes your ticket at a movie theater.
- Repeat the entire sequence well focusing on someone you don’t like and find uncomfortable to be with.
This meditation has many applications and can be expanded widely. We can also focus on people of different ages, different genders, different races and so on in the above three categories. We can also focus the meditation on ourselves. We, too, are a human being and have feelings; and the way that we treat ourselves and speak about ourselves in our minds affects our feelings very much. This way we develop a caring attitude toward ourselves as well.