Noble Living, Noble Caring, Noble Dying

Guided Compassion Meditation

This Guided Compassion Meditation includes a gentle introduction to Metta (loving kindness). This practice has proven to be very useful for those who are new to meditation, but especially for those who are ill or at the end of life.

Guided compassion meditation practice allows the participant to surrender to the experience of meditation in a kind, safe, and loving way. Patients have found it helps re-frame their experience and offers a new way of viewing from a safe place in the presence of a kind, compassionate, and empathetic witness (the facilitator).

Families can enjoy doing this together. It helps people to learn how to relax into their bodies and sleep, which is something that is so hard to do in an institutional setting. Very often there is much to share and talk about afterwards (even the next day or week) as life events unpack in the session. Most participants engage naturally in reflection and contemplation that happens post session.

This practice can be helpful for fear and anxiety, but one of the greatest benefits is how people can reframe their pain and suffering. In some cases the pain just disappears, although the facilitator should be careful about developing that expectation.

Guided Compassion: Empathetic Attention

This practice and the others to follow are best applied with an awareness of therapeutic presence. This includes deep listening, and moving calmly, slowly and quietly with full empathetic attention on the patient and their family, guests, and care team. We recommend that the facilitator prepares him/herself with the three minute breathing space practice before even entering the room.

The transcript is provided so that we can adjust the practice to the patient. We need to be aware of their body resting position and the length of time available. And we mindfully use common sense. For example, if the patient has a breathing problem then asking them to focus on the breath could cause anxiety. Please allow common sense and flexibility to arise to serve the patient best and adjust the script as needed. For example, if a patient has anxiety about a part of their body, feel free to give them permission to skip over it in the body scan for example.

Know the Needs

It is helpful to do an assessment interview when first meeting a patient. This does not need to be elaborate, but establishes a rapport. Begin by asking about what is the underlying condition, what the discomforts are, and what fears or concerns the patient is feeling. Allow them to say whatever they wish to express. Non-judgmental listening comes to the fore; it is important that the patient feels seen and heard. Remember the patient and their team are learning to trust you, so listen for their cues.

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Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.