First sit for a while, bringing attention to the center of the chest via the breath. Feel the texture, the quality, in the heart area.

Bring to mind your own physical or emotional distress. Feel it, as physically as possible, rather than focusing on the story line.

Then bring to mind people who have the same or similar difficulties you are dealing with, such as illness, fear, shame, and so on. You can imagine the many people all over the world who share this pain; and as you think of them, breathe this image into the heart on the in-breath. And, on the out-breath, extend to them your wish that they be healed in their difficulties.

Feel the universality of the pain all people share. You are not taking on the burden of other people's pain; you are only bringing awareness to the fact that many people are suffering as you are.

Then again feel your own pain. On the in-breath, breathe the sensations of yourself in pain into the center of the chest, and on the out-breath, extend to yourself the wish to be healed.

As you stay with your distress, feel the sense of kinship with all of the other people who share in this pain. Feel the universality of the "shared being," the sense of connectedness with all people and life. This is the heartfelt sense of kinship with humanity. This is the awakened heart that can encompass pain with compassion.

Continue breathing in your distress, extending a benign awareness toward yourself, connecting with the shared pain and the shared being of humanity.

Even if you don't connect with the shared pain or the shared being, just come back to simply breathing in and out of the center of the chest for a few minutes. Feel the texture there. Rest in the spaciousness of the heart.

Ezra Bayda in Zen Heart