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Excerpted from Cultivating Compassion by Jeffrey Hopkins. Copyright © 2001 by Jeffrey Hopkins. Excerpted by permission of Random House, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"You practice in this way until compassion and altruism seem to form even the very stuff of your body."

  Jeffrey Hopkins
Cultivating Compassion
, Part 1

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to keep track of your thoughts? The mind wanders so easily from the topic we want to keep it on. 

It even may seem that the mind is, in its own nature, like bubbles on a river or a ball floating in a stream. Actually, the nature of the mind is like the water—not the bubbles or ripples on the surface or the movement but just the water itself. Nevertheless, because of our addiction to the superficial appearances of things, we feel that the mind naturally goes from one thing to another.

It is as though we are in a bus and the driver takes us wherever she wants, at which point we decide that wherever we have arrived is a nice place to be. This is what makes it difficult to engage in practice like unbiased compassion that opposes the conditioned flow of the mind.

Since an attitude such as unbiased compassion, which runs against the grain of our usual outlook, is not easy, it has to be cultivated in meditation. Gradually, feeling develops, and then the felt attitude comes with only slight effort, and eventually it arises naturally and spontaneously. You practice in this way until compassion and altruism seem to form even the very stuff of your body.

It takes long meditation over months and years for new attitudes such as profoundly felt compassion to be sufficiently strong to remain of their own accord. Therefore, in the initial stages, the test of success is incremental progress, slight changes in daily behavior. Even with effective meditation, in which strong experience is gained during the session, it is easy—outside of the session—to fall back into old attitudes in the midst of daily activities.

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