10-Minute Guided Meditation for Self-Compassion
How to Practice Compassion Meditation
This popular meditation, often called "Karuṇā" in Buddhist circles is all about opening up the heart and mind to be more compassionate to ourselves and others. Compassion is also one of the four "divine homes", which are the 4 main emotions worth encouraging - goodwill or loving kindness, appreciation, equanimity and compassion. In variation to goodwill meditation which can be directed openly anywhere, compassion is slightly different as more a specific type where it needs an object of focus, rather than a general feeling, which if being general can make the compassion seem shallow.
It is a harder skill to develop than goodwill meditation as some emotions seem like compassion but will cause us more harm than good. Its benefits are very worthwhile in a wide scope of uses in day to day life, including the ability to connect with others and ourselves, but most importantly trains us to consider if our normal ideas and actions are all that wise. As when we can observe that our actions have implications to ourselves and others, compassion drives us towards being wiser.
Build some groundwork before you start in order to get the best results.Unlike other meditations such as loving kindness or appreciative joy, you neither start with yourself, nor direct it to your nearest and dearest in ordinary circumstances. Those who are neutral or disliked also don't get much of a mention, because this meditation doesn't really change your view of them. You have to change it first using goodwill, then turn your mind to these groups.
- Ideally practice Loving kindness before practicing compassion as it can help develop the mind to this meditation, like good rich soil develops beautiful flowers and better crops.
- As compassion can take time to develop, think about this analogy. Its like trying to light a fire while outside in a storm, you need to protect the match-flame from being blown out and when it has grown enough to burn twigs and leaves, you still need to protect it until the fire can support itself. In this the flame is compassion and for beginners it is very weak until it is strong enough to naturally support itself. The light is so easily lost and blown out if there is not enough fuel to build it up with.
- Most important in this meditation is sincerity. The problem is if the practitioner is not sincere in their compassion it becomes shallow and harder to express, but also that it very easily becomes false compassion. For beginner practitioners it is recommended to focus only on those that you can be sincere about in the beginning, then as experience grows expand it more and more broadly until it is limitless. The level of true compassion you have to yourself is proportionate to the true compassion you can direct to another person.
- True compassion is most often spontaneous, but more frequently independent as it can exist without any background or support emotion or idea apart from itself and empathy. Ultimately compassion means caring enough to do the difficult tasks that we'd normally like to avoid and the most difficult compassion is to accept the facts of life and our own limitations and to let go.
Select a comfortable posture in a quiet and peaceful place to meditate.The styles of posture are examined more in detail on the Do Mindful Meditation page. Compassion can be practiced in any posture such as reclining, sitting, standing and walking, although sitting is the default choice. Its best to do what works for you be it sitting on a chair or a cushion.
- Give some time being aware of the mind and body, relaxing any muscle or mental tension that arises. This not only builds mindfulness and focus, but compassion works both ways. Being kind to yourself is equally important as to another because if you limit one, you limit the other.
Turn your mind towards those you have seen or known to have experienced a misfortune.Who they are is not really the focus at this stage. There isn't really a hierarchy, but the ones you feel the most empathy for will likely appear first in the mind. It can be any case such as they might have had a difficult day at work or school, had an accident and was injured, they may have lost a loved one very recently, became ill themselves or whatever the case might be, they all can be the subject of true compassion.
- At this stage focus only on those you can be sincere about. It may be difficult to be sincere about strangers and harder still to those who you do not like, or have done harmful things.
Wish them freedom of their sorrow or stress and recovery to a happier, healthier and more successful present & future.
- You can use words if you wish, such as "May their health improve soon" or "May they have success and happiness at school" if it helps to develop compassion. The larger goal is to practice entirely without words, simply directing compassion towards the subject/s.
- If you feel resentment or sorrow, or if compassion does not arise let go of these feelings and judgments. You haven't failed at this meditation at all by feeling these, you can actually use these feelings as a basis to develop compassion and forgiveness to yourself, as well as for insight purposes as how the mind functions.
Practice gentle mindfulness and awareness of just compassion.This is so that your mind does not wander, or start to become attached or too involved in any issues. Continue directing compassion to any cases you may be aware of.
- You may focus on just one case for the entire time you give to the meditation, or many depending on your level of practice. The goal however is give them the time to let the heart and mind become peaceful, forgiving and develop equanimity towards the subject of compassion.
- Expand your compassion once you are more steady. With care you may start to direct compassion towards someone who has done harmful things.
Regularly let go of any other barriers that occur in your mind.Such examples are any sorrow, frustrations, desires, resentments, hostility and coldness you may feel. These emotions may have been towards yourself, those who are close to you, those who you are acquainted with and finally people you feel hostile to or know are hostile to you. This breaking down of the barriers while developing peace, forgiveness and understanding is just one of the many benefits of practicing compassion meditation.
- To develop this meditation further, measure against your own experiences. Consider the necessity of virtue to be able to be sincere, the wisdom to be compassionate without becoming trapped and the strength of character and skill to act when needed even when it is hard, while accepting the realities of what comes to us and others of what we cannot cure.
Explore with the ways true compassion can become false or harmful.The traps are numerous in this meditation because on one level it seems like compassion but has no benefit and could even cause harm. On the flipside, if you experience these types you have an instant opportunity to examine and investigate them to understand them. The most frequent traps are -
- Often called the "bleeding heart" type. This can lead practitioners to sorrow and despair because of a range of complications such as the limits of our powers, that there is never enough love or virtue in the world and so on.
- The idea that we are obliged, or that we must do something to help all people, because there really is so much unhappiness in the world. Happiness and unhappiness are all common denominators. This is the most cruel kind, as it is solely based in craving and desire to change the way the world is. It does seem noble, but the practitioner must ask how does this lead to freedom or wisdom.
- The compassion where we indulge in pity. Practitioners of this type often imagine they are a saint or saviour sacrificing themselves for others. Likewise is the idea we should convert others to our way of thinking for their benefit, as it is still linked to a self indulgent feeling. This one can be very subtle and often the most dangerous kind.
- Sometimes the practitioner downgrades the person experiencing troubles as a lessor person or not as wise or as good as the practitioner is, or even that the subject-person deserves what they got. This is often a clear sign of insincerity starting to take hold.
- Wishing someone compassion in order to gain merit for ourselves.
- That the compassion becomes tainted with the far enemy which is ill-will or anger.
Consider ways that you can be more compassionate in your day to day life.Some suggestions are to compare the advantages of true compassion and the difference it makes in your life. By practicing compassion, we reshape our mental habits and our brain to be more tolerant and forgiving, but we also can see the ways that it can do more harm than good so we become wise and more prudent in our actions. The lesson of the lotus is that it grows in mud and dirty water, but transcends it all to stand free. Beautiful to all who see it.
QuestionHow do I practice compassion "in action" while respecting myself as well as the feelings of others?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTo feel compassion for another is to focus less on the self and more on others' feelings. You feel with your heart and soul. Compassion involves kindness, empathy, understanding, and finding generosity and a readiness to help others in your heart.Thanks!
- The purpose of this practice is to not only build compassion but come to terms with realization that the individual or people who have caused harm will eventually meet the other end of their actions. It might be sooner or later, which is not important, but no one truly gets away with anything. Such a person could continue to harm themselves or others and never really think about, or understand the harm they do or the effects even when the other end comes around. Ultimately they are harming themselves the most which is where they can be a subject of compassion.
Video: Loving Kindness Meditation to Develop Mindfulness and Compassion
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