Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. – Dalai Lama
Have you heard about Compassion Meditation but aren’t quite sure what it is or how to practice it? Sometimes it’s known as ‘loving-kindness meditation’ and it is an exercise that involves forgetting for a moment all of the self-criticism that fuels many people’s daily rituals and concentrating on self-love, appreciation and compassion. Through these meditation sessions the mind is not only trained to be kind towards itself, but also opens the yogi up to becoming more benevolent towards others.
It comes from Buddhism where it is known as Metta Bhavana and is in essence, a form of meditation that cultivates love. It is a practice that centers on feeling and giving loving-kindness to yourself first but then learning how it can be shared with others; people you know, acquaintances and even people who you have no connection with. Learning self-love can sometimes be a difficult achievement, but through the practice of compassion meditation, we are able to alter the brain to make significant changes to begin to accept this self-love.
Compassion Meditation health benefits
Not only is meditation good for the soul and mental health, but it has also been proven through scientific studies to change brain function in a variety of ways. Subjects who had been practicing compassion meditation showed changes in their fMRI scans as the mind began to learn to become more compassionate, “in the same way as playing a musical instrument or being proficient in a sport” (Land, 2008). Being compassionate will then in turn make you a happier person. Areas in the brain that experience happiness are activated not only when we experience pleasurable moments, but also when we observe someone else being empathetic towards someone else for example. Compassion creates happiness, and happiness helps to reduce stress, and bring on more space for joy.
Another study which was conducted was under the watchful eye of the Dalai Lama and a Neuroscientist – Richard Davidson set out to prove compassion meditation’s effect on health and the body in general. In this 1992 study, they looked into the brain function of eight Buddhist monks who had been practicing this meditation for years. The results were astounding, Davidson said
“The systems in the brain that support our well-being are intimately connected to different organ systems in our body, and also connected to the immune and endocrine systems in ways that matter for our health.” The brain scans showed that “compassion is a kind of state that involves the body in a major way.”
Since then, many studies have been conducted comparing individuals who had practiced meditation, and compassion meditation in particular and ones who had not. Many of the studies showed that having gone through even just a few weeks of compassion meditation practice, that their minds were more open to change, and more compassionate with a better acceptance of positive emotions.
With a good amount of practice, say once a day, compassion meditation has helped to improve not only the brain, but also has had an effect on the body’s inflammatory system, helping to reduce inflammation significantly in individuals who practiced on a very regular basis.
A Typical Compassion Meditation Session
With a lot of things out there, getting started is the hardest part. Having a guided session can help to strengthen one’s understanding of the basics of compassion meditation which in turn can fortify a yogi’s practice.
These sessions are based on making a truthful, patient and gentle effort to rid yourself of any negative feelings and developing a sense of self-loving and self-acceptance. Once you’ve mastered a relaxed state, where the body is soft, breathing is controlled and the attention is directed at the sensation of the breath, the repetition of mantras or phrases is key in this practice.
- Key ones might be:
- May I be happy
- May I be well inside and out
- May I be healthy and strong
- May I be free of mental suffering or distress.
- May I be at ease with myself
- May I be filled with loving kindness
The repetition helps to strengthen and internalise the message.
Are you interested in learning more about Compassion Meditation?
May 4th Open Heart – Compassion, loving kindness and making a gentle acquaintance with ourselves
Perhaps you are further interested in the Heart-Brain connection?
Join Celia Roberts and Leanne Davis this May 2018
CLINICAL YOGA THERAPY FOR HEART HEALTH, MEDITATIONS FOR HEALING RELATIONSHIP, YOGA FOR DEVELOPING INTUITION, & MEDITATIONS FOR UNWAVERING FAITH
Saturday 26 May 2018 & Sunday 27 May 2018