Imagine someone whom you hold dear, someone you find it easy to care about and love. This could be a family member, such as your young child, an aging parent or a grandparent, or a close friend. For some, it could be a loving pet. Don’t just think about the object of your affection in the abstract; see if you can feel his or her presence.

Notice any pleasant feelings that form within you as you picture this dear one. Now imagine being this person, and see how easy it is for you to acknowledge that he or she has the same aspiration for genuine happiness that you yourself do.

Now bring to mind another person. Someone you recognize but have not had significant contact with, someone for whom you have no special sense of closeness. Think of a real person you see quite often, perhaps someone you see at your workplace, in your class, a bus driver, someone who works at your local café or library.

Noticing the feelings that may arise in you as you picture this person, see how these feelings may be quite different to the ones you felt in relation to your loved one. Usually we do not concern ourselves with the thought of whether or not such a person is happy. Even when we happen to interact with this person, we do not give much thought to what might be the person’s situation. We get what we came for and just move on. But now try to imagine being this person. Imagine this person’s life, his or her hopes and fears, which are every bit as real, multilayered, and diverse as your own.

Recognize the profound similarity between yourself and this person at the fundamental human level, and reflect, "Just like me, he or she too wishes to achieve happiness and to avoid even the slightest suffering."

Next, bring to mind a person with whom you may have some difficulty, someone who irritates or annoys you, someone who may have done you harm, or someone who you think takes satisfaction in your misfortune. Picture this person in front of you.

If, as a result of imagining this person, you happen to experience uncomfortable feelings simply acknowledge them. You might recall painful interactions with him or her, how you felt then about uncomfortable feelings that arose in you. Don’t suppress the feelings, and don’t reinforce them either by trying too hard to accurately recall those exchanges "(Then he said . . . but I said . . .").

Now put yourself in this person’s shoes for a moment, recognizing that he or she is an object of deep concern to someone, he or she is a parent or a spouse, a child and a dear friend of someone . . . . Acknowledging that this person, too, shares the same fundamental aspiration for happiness that you have . . . . Letting your mind remain in this awareness for a while.

Finally, picture all three people together in front of you, and reflect on the fact that they all equally share a basic yearning to be happy and free from suffering. On this level there is no difference at all between these three people; in this fundamental respect, they are all exactly the same . . . . See if you can relate to each of these three people from that perspective, from this basis of the aspiration for happiness that we all share.

This aspiration for happiness and wish to overcome suffering are a common bond that unites us with all other beings . . . Let your mind abide in this awareness for a while.

With this deep recognition that the wish for happiness and the wish to overcome suffering are common to all, silently repeat this phrase: "Just like me, all others aspire to happiness and wish to overcome suffering."

Thupten Jinpa in A Fearless Heart