How Good Things Could Be

From Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha (the blook) by Daniel Ingram:

Try this little exercise the next time some kind of strong and seemingly useless or unskillful emotion arises. First, stabilize precisely on the sensations that make it up and perhaps even allow these to become stronger if this helps you to examine them more clearly. Find where these are in the body, and see as clearly as possible what sorts of images and story lines are associated with these physical sensations. Be absolutely clear about the full magnitude of the suffering in these, how long each lasts, that these sensations are observed and not particularly in one’s control.

Now, find the compassion in it. Take a minute or two (no more) to reflect on why this particular pattern of sensations seems to be of some use even though it may not seem completely useful in its current form. Is there a wish for yourself or others to be happy in these sensations? Is there a wish for the world to be a better place? Is there a wish for someone to understand something important? Is there a wish for things to be better than they are? Is there a wish to find pleasure, tranquility, or the end of suffering? Sit with these questions, with the sensations that make them up, allowing them to be strong enough for you to see what is going on but not so strong that you become completely overwhelmed by them.

Notice that fear has in it the desire to protect us or those about whom we care. Anger wants the world to be happy and work well or for justice to be done. Frustration comes from the caring sensations of anger being thwarted. Desire is rooted in the wish to be happy. Judgment comes from the wish for things to conform to high standards. Sadness comes from the sense of how good things could be. I could go on like this for a whole book.

Actively reflecting along these lines, sit with this compassionate wish, acknowledge it, and feel the compassionate aspect of it. Allow the actual sensations that seem to be fundamental to wanting to be directly understood as and where they are. Remember that this same quality of compassion is in all beings, in all their unskillful and confused attempts to find happiness and the end of suffering. Sit for a bit with this reflection as it relates directly to your experience.

Then, examine the mental sensations related to the object that you either wish for (attraction), wish to get away from (aversion), or wish would just be able to be ignored (ignorance). Examine realistically if this will fundamentally help yourself and others and if these changes are within your power to bring about. If so, then plan and act with as much compassion and kindness as possible.

Remember then that all the rest of the suffering of that emotional pattern is created by your mind and its confusion, and vow to channel its force into developing morality, concentration, and wisdom.