Self-examination is a form of awareness practice that can help you develop your capacity for hospitality to enemies. It begins with receptivity through honest perception, but it naturally leads into the realm of reverence and compassionate acceptance if you can keep practicing it. In this exercise, you will be looking for motivating feelings and underlying attitudes that may further enmity rather than hospitality.
Decide how much time you want to spend on this exercise. Five to ten minutes might be all you can manage in the beginning.
Begin by bringing to mind a person with whom you have had hostile interactions. If there is a particular situation you can focus on, all the better. Remember the setting of that event. Whether it was at your workplace, your place of worship, book club, or bowling team, visualize the last place you saw this person. These details will help you get in touch with the memories and emotions.
In your imagination, remember how the person looks, dresses, and does or doesn't approach you.
Now, turn your attention to yourself. Notice how you feel physically while remembering this person or situation. Notice sensations: Clenching teeth? Queasy stomach? Watch whatever sensations you find for a few moments.
Begin to name emotional states that come up, such as anger, frustration, fear, confusion, sadness, shock, rage, grief, and so on.You may find that you get distracted or lose your focus. Simply return to visualizing the physical place in which you know this individual. Once you're reconnected, you can return to contemplating your physical and emotional reactions.
If one emotion rises to the forefront or seems particularly potent, focus on it more directly for a while. Follow the trail of thoughts that are connected to it and ask yourself questions about it: Where is this anger coming from? What am I afraid of? Why do I feel so sad? Allow yourself to fully witness these feelings and compassionately accept that they exist in you.
As you practice receptivity and reverence toward yourself, your awareness may expand and your adversarial feelings may begin to loosen their grip within you. If and when this happens, you can take the next step and turn your receptive awareness toward your adversary. Can you perceive the Buddha nature or image of God deep within him or her?
As your time begins to draw to a close, notice any changes in how you feel here and now in relation to the person or situation you've been exploring.
Although we may react to people and events outside our control, we do have the power to understand our responses and to make choices about how we direct our thoughts and how we act. With greater self-awareness, we have more freedom to respond proactively from our point of power, rather than reactively from unacknowledged human impulses. Awareness of and receptivity to ourselves and others lays the foundation for transformational hospitality.— Nanette Sawyer in The Forgiveness Handbook by Editors at Skylight Paths