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Compassion / Metta - Sam Harris Daily Meditation 2023.01.21

This is a repeat of 2022.10.18



Sam Harris

See if you can fall into the well of good intention

Today´s meditation is a pure metta (compassion) meditation. In essence, it consists of the instruction to wish other people good things.


That is a rare occasion in Sam Harris´s Daily Meditation. A reason for it may be that this type of meditation is in principle different from the "content-free" non-dual meditations, as Sam Harris explains in his interview with Lex Friman.


  • In compassion meditation, the goal is to change the content of one´s consciousness: e.g. becoming more gentle.


  • In "pure" non-dual meditation, it´s not about changing the content of consciousness of one´s mind: it is about recognising the always there awareness as preceding condition of all experience and content.


But, to balance it, very often he concludes a meditation with a compassion component, e.g. when he suggests that the real purpose of the practice is to become a better human, eg parent or partner, improving the life of others.


The meditation drives this home insistently, by suggesting to intensify this feeling, and stay with it until it feels no longer contrived or artificial.


The meditation is built like an immersion exercise. That is necessary because compassion must be felt instead of conceptually considered. It must be an experience and not a thought to be effectice. You must fall into the well of good intentions.


In a traditional way, Sam Harris increases this exercise's difficulty level by starting with the easy case (wishing good to someone you know) to a more difficult case (someone who is a stranger).


Raising the difficulty: wish well to your enemies

In the traditional literature, the challenge is then raised by extending it to one´s enemies, and later, to the world at large.


Obviously, that may take longer than just doing it with friends and losely known people. Culadasa in "The Mind Illuminated" advises:

You might have to practice loving-kindness for weeks or even months before you are ready for the most difficult people in your life, but that is your eventual goal. (Yates (Culadasa) & Immergut, 2017)


Supporting metta through breath

There are more complex forms of this meditation. Here I will show two.


Breathing and color

This technique uses breathing and color . You breathe in the sorrow/misery of the world by imagining that you breathe in a dark air, where the darkness represents the suffering. Then, you let your own body clean the suffering, and you breathe out white light.



Diamond

This technique extends the breathing technique.


You imagine an indestructible diamond in the center of your heart. This diamond has the power to transform suffering into happiness.


Imagine spontaneously, there's a diamond. It's shining brightly. The diamond is indestructible. Stainless. It's crystal clear. This diamond is full of compassion and care, feels everything. (Dustin diPerna)

Again, you imagine breathing in dark air, the air that carries suffering. But now, instead of your own body doing the work, it is the indestructible diamond. The diamond transforms suffering.


This technique is something like a tool-supported metta meditation. As the diamond is indestructible, it puts a layer of distance and safety between you and the very big, perhaps sometimes unbearable suffering of the world.


This meditation can even be made more complex by embedding this meditation in ocean and wave non-dual meditation.


Compassion and the goal of meditation in Mahamudra

Wanting to do good for others is the hallmark, in Mahamudra, of the awakened person (let´s forget for a while that awakening is empty..).


If you are without compassion, or "awareness-love" as Daniel P Brown formulates it, if you only have wisdom, it´s not enough.


From emptiness arises compassion. As in Sam Harris´ lifecycle review from childhood to death, nothing is permanent, everything arises, stays and vanishes. If one appreciates that, compassion arises, one loses attachment to thoughts and emotions, and the wish to share this with others arises.



Resources


Brown, D. P. (2019). Sacred Sundays with Daniel P Brown. Sacred Sundays. https://youtu.be/0swudgvmBbk


Fridman, L., [Lex Fridman], & Harris, S. (2021, May 20). Sam Harris: Consciousness, Free Will, Psychedelics, AI, UFOs, and Meaning | Lex Fridman Podcast #185 [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved January 24, 2023, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dC_nRYIDZU&feature=youtu.be


Yates (Culadasa), J., & Immergut, M. (2017). The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science for Greater Mindfulness. Hay House Uk.

https://www.amazon.de/Mind-Illuminated-Meditation-Integrating-Mindfulness/dp/1781808201

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