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Contemplative Training for
Meditations of Natural Awareness, Deep Replenishment and Compassionate Connection for People Who Serve Others
John Makransky, PhD
Guiding Meditation Teacher, Foundation for Active Compassion
Associate Professor Buddhism & Comparative Theology, Boston College
History: Over the past eight years, John Makransky has developed contemplative trainings in natural awareness and compassion that can help people who serve others turn inward and reconnect with their best inner resources for social service. Based in Tibetan lineage transmission, this contemplative training is borne out through the experience of many generations of accomplished practitioners, but has now been adapted and made newly accessible for people of all backgrounds and faiths. To date John Makransky has taught over 5,000 people meditation practices of natural awareness and compassion. John’s organization, the Foundation for Active Compassion, provides the vehicle for John, with associate teachers Julie Forsythe, Leah Weiss Ekstrom and the practice leaders that he has trained, to nourish people in social service with contemplative methods that evoke greater positive motivation and energy, fuller presence to others, and joy in the midst of challenging work.
Content: The contemplative training in these workshops and retreats is designed for all who serve others either professionally or in home or community—teachers, counselors, social workers, pastors, therapists, nurses, doctors, hospice workers, community volunteers, those who take care of elderly parents, etc. Guided meditations ease participants into a state of compassionate communion and simple, natural awareness, for their own deep replenishment and for more effectiveness and joy in their work with others. These meditations are adapted from the natural ease tradition of Tibetan Buddhism to make them fully accessible to people of all backgrounds and faiths. The workshops are both for people new to meditation and for experienced meditators who want to revitalize their spiritual lives in service. They provide theory, guided meditations, discussion, and guidance on integrating meditation into relationships and service.
Reasons that people in social service train in natural awareness and compassion:
1— ALLEVIATING BURNOUT AND COMPASSION FATIGUE — People who serve others, in professional settings or in homes and communities, face many challenges and much stress in their work. We need clear methods to prevent or heal from burnout and compassion fatigue. The meditations offered here help us access a level of awareness beyond stress and burnout, where we can find deep rest, inner safety, and replenishment of energy and motivation. From there we can embody a real sense of safety, peace and care for others.
2— BECOMING MORE FULLY PRESENT — People in social service professions are most effective when most fully present to those we serve—connecting to others in their deep worth and dignity, listening with full attention and empathy, relating to them in their best potential, and helping them to bring out their hidden strengths. But how do we enhance and actualize such abilities in ourselves? The meditations offered here can bring out our capacities for much fuller attention, empathy, discernment, and joy in others.
3— ENHANCING OUR ABILITY TO EFFECT CHANGE — Sometimes we need to challenge dysfunctional patterns of thought and behavior in those we serve or in our communities. Meditation tools can help us find the equanimity and inner strength to do so skillfully, while strengthening our compassion for everyone involved.
How meditations of natural awareness and compassion address the needs of people who serve others: The meditations guided in these workshops help the mind relax into its most natural state of simplicity and openness—beyond the turmoil of ego-reaction and stress. This natural state is a place of profound rest, replenishment and care for ourselves—a ground of sanity and renewal. From that place we can be more fully present to others, attuned to their hidden strengths, while tapping our own capacity for more positive energy, compassion, equanimity and joy in those we serve.
Meditations of compassionate communion and presence are taught in progressive steps. We learn to recall loving persons and special places in our lives and to receive loving energy deeply into every part of body and mind, permitting us to settle into a natural state of tranquility, openness and unobstructed awareness. In that state of simplicity we can be more fully present to others while naturally extending compassionate energy and unconditional regard. Such practices can bring out our underlying capacity for fuller presence, connection and enjoyment in our lives and work.
Selected Readings: Awakening through Love by John Makransky, Medicine and Compassion by Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, How Can I Help? by Ram Dass and Paul Gorman, Keeping the Peace: Mindfulness and Public Service by Thich Nhat Hanh, Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman.