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Compassion Meditation

All forms of meditation include on being present and focusing on an element. When we practice compassion meditation, our focus is well-being: the well-being of others as well as of ourselves. Compassion is a quality that can be trained and “muscled” through exercise and repetition. And as it also happens, focusing on others’ well-being actually—and quantifiably—makes us feel better too.

In Positive Psychology, Compassion is seen as a way to relate to the self and a pathway to happiness.

The proven benefits of compassion range from increased well-being, to relief from illness, and improved relationships.

Compassion meditation is also about love, but there’s an added element of being aware of distress, dissatisfaction, unhappiness or pain. Here we’re focusing on the wish to lovingly relieve that suffering. Once again, we can include anyone or everyone in our practice, including ourselves, pets and other animals. The ancient name of this meditation is karuna, which evokes the quality of generating compassion instead of running away, shutting down, becoming righteous or angry, or succumbing to the feeling of being ineffective in the face of suffering. If we can’t do something to concretely improve the situation we’ve brought to mind, we can at least be with the thought of it and allow that thought to open our hearts

Compassion meditation involves silently repeating certain phrases that express the intention to move from judgment to caring, from isolation to connection, from indifference or dislike to understanding. ... Notice whatever has captured your attention, let go of the thought or feeling, and simply return to the phrases

  • To begin, take a comfortable position. You may want to sit in a chair or on cushions on the floor (just make sure your back is erect without being strained or overarched). You can also lie down. Take a few deep, soft breaths to let your body settle.

  • Closing your eyes or leaving them slightly open, start by thinking of someone you care about already—perhaps she's been good or inspiring to you. You can visualize this person or say her name to yourself, get a feeling for her presence, and silently offer phrases of compassion to her. The typical phrases are: "May you be free of pain and sorrow. May you be well and happy." But you can alter these, or use others that have personal significance.

  • After a few minutes, shift your attention inward and offer the phrases of compassion to yourself: "May I be free of pain and sorrow. May I be well and happy."

  • Then, after some time, move on to someone you find difficult. Get a feeling for the person's presence, and offer the phrases of compassion to her.

  • Then turn to someone you've barely met—the supermarket checkout woman or UPS man. Even without knowing his or her name, you can get a sense of the person, perhaps an image, and offer the phrases of compassion.

  • We close with the offering of compassion to people everywhere, to all forms of life, without limit, without exception: "May all beings be free of pain and sorrow. May all be well and happy."

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