Expanding the Category of “Us”…

Inspired from Rick Hanson, P.H.D and Budda’s Brain – The practical neuroscience of happiness, love, & wisdom.

Loving Kindness

Let’s be mindful of the automatic mental processes that cause us to identify with a particular group (gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, political party, nation), and then regard members of different groups as others. Focus on similarities between “us” and “them,” not differences. Recognize that everything is connected to everything else, that “us” is the whole wide world – that, in a deep sense, the entire planet is our home and the people on it are our extended family. Deliberately create mental categories that include us along with people we usually regard as not-us. For example, when we see someone in a wheelchair, consider the fact that we are all disabled in one way or another.

Be particularly mindful of the default processes of valuing our own group while devaluing others. Notice how often that valuing actually has no rational basis. Be aware  of the little ways that our minds regard others as less of a person than our individual selves. Focus on the good things about people in other groups. Regard people more as individuals than as representatives of a group, which reduces prejudice.

Meditation on Loving Kindness

Find a posture that helps you remain relaxed and alert. Settle into your breath, establish some equanimity, some mental spaciousness and balance.

Be aware of the sensations of the breath in the region of your heart. Bring to mind the feeling of being with someone you love. Keep that feeling of love. Sense that love flowing through your heart, perhaps in a rhythm with your breath. Feel how that love has a life of its own, flowing through your heart, not specific to any one person.

Sense the love toward people you know, your friends and family. Feel that loving-kindness extending further out, to people you know who are neutral to you. With them the best, wish that they suffer less, and that they truly be happy.

You may feel loving-kindness like warmth or light or like a spreading pool, with gentle waves that extend further out to include more people. Feel this loving-kindness including even difficult people and people who may have harmed you. Wish that even they suffer less and be truly happy.

The peacefulness and strength of this loving-kindness flows outward even to people who you don’t know, whether you agree with them or not, whether you like them or not.

Keep feeling that flowing love as you watch your breath enter and leave your body.

 

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