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LEARNING TO SEE EACH OTHER

This exercise is derived from the Buddhist practice of the Brahma-viharas, also known as the Four Abodes of the Buddha, which are loving-kindness, compassion, joy in the joy of others, and equanimity. Adapted for use interactively in a social context, it helps us to see each other more truly and experience the depths of our interconnections.

In workshops I offer this as a guided meditation with participants sitting face to face in pairs or pausing to meet each other silently as they move about the room. At its close, I encourage them to proceed to use all or any portion of it, as they go about their daily lives. It is an excellent antidote to boredom, when our eye falls on another person, say on the subway or in a check-out line. It charges that moment with beauty and discovery. It also is useful when dealing with people whom we are tempted to disregard or dislike; it breaks open our accustomed ways of viewing them. When used like this, as a meditation-in-action, one does not, of course, gaze long and deeply into the other's eyes, as in the guided exercise. A seemingly casual glance is enough.

The guided group form goes like this:

Behold each other silently and relax. Take a couple of deep breaths, centering yourself and releasing any tension...If you feel discomfort or an urge to laugh or look away, just note that gently with patience, and return your attention, when you can, to the living presence of this being. He or she is unique, different from anyone who has ever lived, or will live…

As you behold this person, open your awareness to the powers that are there...to their gifts and strengths and the potentialities. In this being are unmeasurable reserves of courage and intelligence...of patience, endurance, wit and wisdom...There are gifts there, of which this person her/ himself may be as yet unaware...Consider what these powers could do for the healing of our planet, if they were to be believed and acted on. As you consider that, feel your desire that this person be free from fear...Experience how much you want her/him to be free from greed, released from hatred and from sorrow and from the causes of suffering… Know that what you are now experiencing is the great loving-kindness…

Now, as you behold this person, open your awareness to the pain they have known… Here, as in all human lives, there are sorrows, disappointments, failures and losses, loneliness, abuse... There are hurts this person may never have told to another living being… As you open to their suffering, you know that you cannot remove it. You are not that powerful. But you can be with it. As you experience your readiness to be with the pain of another, know that what you are experiencing is the great compassion... It is excellent for the healing of our world…

Now, as you take in the presence of this person, consider how good it would be to work together--on a joint project, toward a common goal... Imagine what it would be like…planning, conspiring, taking risks together... each helping the other find their strength and creativity, celebrating the successes, consoling each other over the setbacks, forgiving each other when you make mistakes...and simply being there for each other… As you open to that possibility, what you open to is the great wealth: the pleasure in each other's powers, the joy in each other's joy…

Lastly, let your awareness drop deep within you like a stone, sinking below the level of what words can express, to the vast currents of relationship that underlie all experience. It is the web of life that supports and interweaves our lives through all space and time...See the being before you as if seeing the face of one who, at another time, another place, was your lover or your enemy, your parent or your child… And now you meet again on this brink of time...And you know your lives are as inextricably interwoven as nerve cells in the mind of a great being… Out of that vast net you cannot fall. No stupidity or failure or cowardice can ever sever you from that living web, because, you see, that is what you are… Rest in that knowing. That is the Great Peace. Out of it you can act, you can risk anything...and let every encounter be a homecoming to your true nature...Indeed it is so.