also know as Learning to See Each Other
This meditative practice is adapted from the Buddhist Brahmaviharas, or Heavenly Abodes, sometimes called the Four Abodes of the Buddha, which are loving-kindness, compassion, joy in the joy of others, and equanimity. It helps us to truly see each other and experience the depths of our connectivity.
We offer it in workshops as a guided meditation, either as a Milling with four different partners or with people sitting in pairs facing each other. At its close, we encourage people to use 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 waiting in a check-out line. It charges that idle moment with beauty and discovery. It also is useful when dealing with people whom we are tempted to dislike or disregard; it breaks open our accustomed ways of viewing them. When used as a meditation-in-action, one does not, of course, gaze long and deeply upon the other, as in the guided exercise. A seemingly casual glance is enough.
In many cultural settings, it is considered rude to look directly into another’s eyes. Even in American culture, sustained eye contact can provoke embarrassment. Be sure you don’t imply that participants should do this, but rather invite them to become aware of the full presence of the other. You may suggest that they still face each other, but with their eyes closed, picturing the other’s face in the mind’s eye. Then from time to time as they wish, they can open their eyes and look at the other’s face to refresh their memory, for as long as is comfortable.
Here are some words you can use for guiding this practice after you’ve started the Milling:
Stop now in front of another person and take their hand in yours. Rest into your breathing. Before you is a human of planet Earth. The opportunity to behold the uniqueness of this particular being is given to you now…
To enter the first abode, open your awareness to the gifts and strengths in this being… Though you can only guess at them, there are behind those eyes unmeasured reserves of courage and intelligence… of patience, endurance, wit and wisdom… There are gifts that even this person is unaware of having… Consider what these powers and potentials could do for the healing of our world, if they were to be believed and acted on… As you consider that, experience your desire that this person be free from fear… free from greed… from hatred and confusion and from all the causes of suffering… As you feel how much you genuinely want this, know that what you are experiencing is the great loving-kindness… It is such good medicine for our world.
You may bow to this person and take your leave in any way that feels right, and go back to milling.
Finding yourself in front of another person, take both their hands in yours. Again, open your awareness to the unique, unrepeatable human being before you, as we enter the second abode. Now let yourself open to the pain that is in this person’s life. As in all human lives, there are sorrows in this one. Though you can only guess at them, there are disappointments and failures, losses and loneliness and abuse… There are hurts that this person may never have told to another human being… Now you cannot take that pain away, but you can choose to be with it. As you sense your readiness to be with another’s suffering, know that what you are experiencing is the great compassion. It is excellent for the healing of our world…
Again we bow and take our leave in any way that feels right, and after more milling find ourselves in front of yet another person.
Entering the third abode, put your palms together at shoulder height. As you behold the person before you, consider how good it would be to work together… on a joint project, toward a common goal, perhaps something big… What it would be like to plan and plot and conspire together, take risks… discover each other’s strengths in working together… celebrating the successes along the way, consoling each other over the setbacks, forgiving each other when you mess up… and simply being there for each other… As you open to that possibility, you open to the great wealth, the power in each other’s powers, the joy in each other’s joy…
Again we bow and take our leave in any way that feels right, and after more milling find ourselves in front of a fourth person.
Now entering the fourth and last abode, let your awareness drop deep within you like a stone, sinking below the level of what words can express… to the deep flows of relationship that interweaves our lives through space and time, through myriad encounters and countless forms… 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, almost as if by appointment… And you know that your lives are as inextricably interwoven as nerve cells in the mind of a great being… Out of that web you cannot fall… no stupidity, or failure, or cowardice, can ever sever you from that living web. For that is what you are… Rest in that knowing. Rest in the Great Peace… Out of it we can act, we can risk everything… and let each encounter be a homecoming to our true nature… Indeed it is so.
Let us close with the same suggestion that often closes our workshops. It is a practice that is a corollary to the earlier death meditation, in which we recognize how threatened now is each person we meet. Look at the next person you see. It may be a lover, child, co-worker, bus driver, or your own face in the mirror. Regard him or her with the recognition that:
In this person are gifts for the healing of our world. In him or her are powers that can redound to the joy of all beings.