This is a lovely and unusual question.
I would like to share with you how I occasionally do karuna meditation.
It’s a little convoluted but it really makes me feel deeply and arouses compassion strongly for me. I’m glad you’ve reminded me actually!! I should do it more often!
Because, it seems to me, karuna requires some acknowledgement/understanding/empathy with regard to suffering, I usually direct it to a suffering being. I start by saying, to myself, “I know you’re in pain and I deeply acknowledge your suffering”. Then I say, “I know there’s not a great deal I can do to alleviate your pain, but if there was something I could do, I would” (and I really try and mean it). Crucially, I steer clear of the other being’s suffering becoming a cause for me to feel suffering too…rather, a strong sense of love, understanding and deep care is aroused. It’s not as ‘carefree’ as the feeling of metta in my opinion, but it is still a very nice feeling…in a sense, it is deeper (because of the need to understand suffering perhaps) than metta, i think.
I once directed this exact practice at a little bird that had been rescued from a cat. It was lying in front of me on a little towel in a small box and was expected to die of shock…apparently this is what usually happens. However, after a couple of minutes, it stirred a little, looked at me, got up, hopped on to the edge of the box, looked at me for a few seconds further, then flew off!!! I was extremely happy and joyously surprised. I’m not daring to take credit here…but it was a very nice coincidence and reinforced my faith in compassion and understanding. I’d forgotten about this incident…I should do more of this!
With regard to developing formal practices of this kind…I think it’s a lovley thing to get ideas from others and to play with them and then come up with your way that is tailor made just for you.
The way I’ve described, is something I came up with that works nicely for me.
You could do it, or some other method, in the way Bhante S teaches metta and start off with yourself and so on… Or you could do it to all beings… Or a combination… Whatever makes the love and peace and understanding flow the most deeply and pleasantly and easily…that’s the one for you.
Thank you Bill for your beautiful question…it’s made me feel happy to remember this and to write about it…you’ve inspired me to do it next time I sit.