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Seeing the other as another you and exchanging places

Choose a person with whom you have difficulty understanding and communicating with, for any reason. Or, choose someone it is impossible to communicate with in a normal way, due to mental illness or loss of cognitive function.

Seeing the other as another you

Instead of seeing the person in their usual role--as your parent, colleague, sibling, or patient--see him or her in your mind's eye as just "another you." Consider that this person is the same as you. Just like you, the other person has a strong desire to be happy and a fear of suffering. Spend some time really seeing the other person as the same as you, as just another you.

Exchanging places

Once you have established this feeling, then imagine changing places with the person. Now you are in that person's life, standing in their shoes. You have their present experiences of suffering: perhaps feelings of being misunderstood or unfairly judged, hidden insecurities, chronic physical pain, fears of being unloved, deep frustrations, or loneliness.

Imagine as well that you have this person's history--which may include accomplishments and good memories. It may also include experiences of tremendous loss and pain, physical illness, trauma, or rejection and isolation.

Still considering yourself as the other person, you also have whatever ideas and fears they may have about their future: aging, with its physical deterioration and increasing dependence and loss of control, the grief of future losses, fear of poverty and homelessness, or fear of being abandoned and left alone while going through illness, old age, or dying.

From this perspective of seeing the world through the other person's eyes, now imagine seeing the former "you" enter the room to have a conversation. And ask yourself: What would I most want from the person now coming to see me? What would I most need from him or her? How would I want the person coming in the room to view me?

Stay with your insights

Stay with these insights for awhile, conclude the reflection and dedicate.

Once you have completed this meditation for awakening compassion, if you find that your heart is more open and understanding of the other person's suffering, you may want to include him or her in your daily spiritual practice.

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