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Sunday, June 7, 2015

Compassionate Image: a Guided Visualization Practice

Serge Betasius Photography for

by Paul Gilbert and Choden

“Compassionate Image” is a sample activity from the book Mindful Compassion and is reprinted here with permission from New Harbinger Publications, Inc.  The purpose is to imagine what complete compassion might feel like so we can access that feeling during difficult times.

One word of caution: while this type of visualization can lead to warm, positive feelings, it can also bring up strong feelings of sadness and loneliness.  If you're new to practicing or teaching mindfulness and meditation, you might want to try some of the other activities first and come back to this one when you feel ready.  (There are a couple of suggestions at the end of this post.)
Settle into a comfortable, alert position and breathe in a restful and soothing way. 
Imagine your ideal compassionate image, perfect for you, fitting your needs exactly.  What would your compassionate image look like?  Old or young?  Male or female?  Maybe not a human, but an animal, the sea, or light?  What would its voice be like?  How might it smile at you or show concern for you? 
Now imagine that your compassionate image has certain specific qualities.  Focus first on the sense of kindness.  It helps you to feel safe.  It’s not overwhelmed by your pain or distress; and it isn’t put off by any strange things that might go through your mind.
Next imagine that your compassionate image has great wisdom, which enables it to truly understand your hopes and fears. 
Now focus on your compassionate image having a very deep commitment to you.  Imagine that its kindness, wisdom, and commitment are given freely to you; this is its sole objective, and there is nothing you could do that would cause it to go away unless you really wanted it to.
Now imagine your compassionate image saying the following words to you:  May you be free from suffering.   May you be happy.  May you find peace and wellbeing. 
In your own time, let your compassionate image begin to fade.  Remember this is your own imagination at work: As you learn to notice these feelings and focus on them, they can be called upon at any time.

Adapted from Mindful Compassion by Paul Gilbert PhD and Choden© New Harbinger Publications, 2014. Reprinted with permission.