Compassion for Difficult People: A Mindfulness Meditation

In an earlier post, I wrote about a mindfulness meditation called, “The Pebble” by my favorite author, Thich Nhat Hanh, an elderly Vietnamese Monk. Hanh is a practical Zen teacher who has written many books on how to apply mindfulness to daily life. If I had to recommend one of his books to you right now, I’d recommend, “At Home in the World: Stories and Essential Teachings from a Monk’s Life,” You will only need to read 2 – 3 pages a day of this book to get a glimpse into his transformational thinking.

Today, I wanted to share another mindfulness meditation by Hanh called, “Compassion for the person you hate or despise the most.”  This meditation comes from his 1975 book, “The Miracle of Mindfulness.” If you would like to read this book for free online, here is the link.

I really love this meditation because it frees us from the anger and unforgiveness created by a difficult person. The section of Hanh’s meditation that created compassion for me was, “seeing whether the views and insights of a difficult person are open and free…” and “seeing whether or not he is master of himself.” Difficult people are not open or free, and they are not masters of themselves. They are unconscious and create suffering for themselves and others.  In turn, they project their pain and shame onto us to carry for them. Compassion for difficult people is the only way out of our own suffering. For practical advice and tips, please read my blog post “A Compassionate Approach with Difficult People.

To practice the meditation below, I recommend that you read through it once. Then sit down and read it slowly to yourself. The beauty of this meditation is that you can do it anywhere. Just read it wherever you are and contemplate the questions. You might practice this meditation once or twice per day and see how it affects your anger toward a difficult person.

Compassion for the person you hate or despise the most.

“Sit quietly. Breathe and smile the half smile. Contemplate the image of the person who has caused you the most suffering. Regard the features you hate or despise the most or find the most repulsive. Try to examine what makes this person happy and what causes suffering in his daily life. Contemplate the person’s perceptions; try to see what patterns of thought and reason this person follows. Examine what motivates this person’s hopes and actions. Finally consider the person’s consciousness. See whether his views and insights are open and free or not, and whether or not he has been influenced by any prejudices, narrow-mindedness, hatred, or anger. See whether or not he is master of himself. Continue until you feel compassion rise in your heart like a well filling with fresh water and your anger and resentment disappear. Practice this exercise many times on the same person.”

Contact me. If you would like more information on meditation, please email me through my website.

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