what is compassion meditation

What is Compassion Meditation – A Beginner’s Guide!

Brain improvement meditation

Learning to love and appreciate others is a good way of knowing how to love and appreciate ourselves. Through understanding others and appreciating them as they are, we are also able to know ourselves better and get to love and accept who we also are.

And while we are not born knowing how to do this, life, through the practice of meditation, has offered everyone an opportunity to increase in compassion, in order to improve our overall well-being.

Compassion meditation brings inner peace and self-love which also helps us to have true relations with others as we grow in emotional intelligence.

Moreover, the practice helps to build the virtues of love, compassion and kindness and extend them to others, which make our lives easier and happier.

What is Compassion Meditation?

Compassion meditation, which is also referred to as Karuna meditation, is a practice that aims at helping us cultivate deep thoughts of compassion and train our minds towards living with compassion for others as well as ourselves.

This exercise allows us to keep at bay self-absorption, selfishness and isolation within ourselves which is brought by the sufferings we have gone through in the past, and get to become more appreciative of others a midst the suffering.

Suffering is experienced by all people and living beings.

And with the understanding that these sufferings we have had through our lives have not only been experienced by us but also by other people, we open our hearts more and become concerned and caring towards them.

Compassion is defined as the sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings and misfortunes of others.

Through creating connections with our sufferings together with those of other people, we are able to stir up compassion that exists permanently within us and spill it over to others.

Through this practice, we become aware of the pain, unhappiness, discomfort and distress, and we put our focus on the desire to alleviate the suffering with love and great care.

There is a Buddhist quote that says, “Have compassion for all beings, rich and poor and alike; each has their suffering. Some suffer too much, other too little.”

How Compassion Meditation Works

Compassion meditation is a practice that originates from Buddhist traditions but can be done by everyone despite their religious and spiritual beliefs.

It is designed as a way to work on ending the suffering we have by connecting with it at a deep level.

With the exercise, you receive a number of deeply profound phrases based on compassion that are meant to help you shift your focus from being judgmental to being a genuinely concerned and caring person.

They help you overcome the negative thoughts and energy and become a more positive, loving and truly compassionate person.

These phrases are like wishes you send out to other people, living beings such as your pets hoping the best for them. It also involves sending good wishes to yourself too.

In your mind, you get to visualize the person or being you are wishing well and feel like you are directly saying those wishes to them.

As you do this meditation, your energy and focus is directed to the phrases and their meaning as you say them, meaning every word from your heart.

Ideally, this kind of meditation should be used as baby steps to cultivating the virtue of compassion within yourself. As you meditate more and more, your mind and thoughts are strengthened in compassion which you should then apply in your daily life.

Compassion is one of the 4 sublime states that the Buddha always encouraged people to take up as their permanent habits as they go a long way in helping to create good connections with themselves, other people, the world and all there is in it.

The 4 sublime states are:

1. Compassion (karuna)

2. Loving kindness (metta)

3. Appreciative joy (mudita)

4. Equanimity (upekkha)

How Compassion Meditation is Different From Loving Kindness Meditation

Compassion meditation and loving kindness (which is also referred to as metta meditation) are often used together and many people tend to think they mean the same thing, which they don’t.

There is a slight difference between the two forms of meditation.

The goal of loving kindness meditation is to give out full comprehensive love that is unlimited. With this meditation, we send out wishes of love and kindness to all people, including those we don’t admire that much as well as those who cause suffering in our lives.

In loving kindness meditation, we keep our attention on our breath and the phrases of love and kindness which we are reciting.

Compassion meditation also has the element of love but there is an extra aspect of having the awareness of the pain and suffering not to mention the wish to overcome that suffering in love.

Compassion meditation is categorized as “Tonglen” which is an ancient Buddhist practice that is based on giving and taking.

Tonglen uses visualization to build compassion for all beings that are capable of feeling and perceiving which results to a healing experience of the mind of the person working with it.

It helps us get rid of the old habits of selfishness and ego centrism.

In this practice, we essentially visualize ourselves taking in the suffering of other people as we breathe in giving out relief and compassion as we breathe out.

Many people fear that this practice could be allowing them to take in the bad habits and energies from others but it is quite the contrary.

It is only a way of visualizing and becoming aware of the suffering and how it changes to become compassion.

Benefits of Compassion Meditation

Here is a list of benefits associated with practicing compassion meditation:

1. Strengthens relationships with others – By understanding the universality of suffering through compassion meditation, and by wishing other people well, we are not only able to relate to their pain but also share in the overcoming of it, which strengthens our bond with them.

2. Reduces stress and depression – Compassion meditation, in the long run, seeks to build the attitude of love, kindness and acceptance of the suffering of the meditator together with others. Also, by trying to understand the suffering of others, our levels of stress and depression caused by our own suffering are reduced since we get to understand well that we are not the only ones who are suffering.

3. Builds compassion – Compassion meditation helps to establish the value of compassion and kindness in our lives, which makes us more compassionate. Studies have also revealed that this practice has an effect in the areas of the brain that are responsible for empathy and compassion (1).

4. Reduces the chattering and wandering of the mind – Unlike other forms of meditation like Vipassana meditation and mindfulness meditation that require you to observe your thoughts and feelings without any opinions and judgments, compassion meditation allows you to direct your thoughts and feelings of love and compassion towards yourself and others, which is much easier, more involving and interesting than simply observing them.

5. Encourages better control of emotions – By understanding what others go through based on what you yourself see and experience, you are able to see how suffering weighs down other people and cause them to react in various negative ways towards you. And with this knowledge and understanding, you are able to react in a much better way.

6. Changes the structure of the brain – Studies show that frequent meditation on compassion increases the activity in some areas of the brain such as the insula and the temporal parietal juncture which are essential in detecting emotions, mapping body responses to emotions and in processing empathy, most especially in perceiving emotional and mental state of others (2).

7. Controls the symptoms of some major health disorders – Studies on veterans with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) showed that there are reduced symptoms of PSTD in the participants after undergoing cognitive based compassion training (3).

How to do Compassion Meditation

Here are the steps to follow to practice compassion meditation for optimal results:

Step 1: Find a place that is quiet and free of distractions

Step 2: Sit fairly comfortably and keep your spine erect

Step 3: Close your eyes or keep them open but maintain a low gaze

Step 4: Take note of your breathing. Don’t feel moved to change the way you are breathing. Simply observe the way air is getting in and going out of your body. Be aware of your breathing pattern in the present moment.

Step 5: Visualize someone, a pet or anything you know you deeply care about. Try to feel the care within you and hold on to it for a moment as you breathe in and out.

Step 6: Try to imagine the challenges and difficulties they are experiencing. Let your sympathy flow out to them.

Step 7: In case you find your attention is drifting away to other things, observe it and gently redirect it to the practice. But don’t shut the distraction out as it is an important aspect of the exercise. The mind tends to lose attention often and this is natural. And by accepting that fact and bringing your attention back to the exercise, it helps to strengthen you on that.

Step 8: As you hold the person, pet or thing you care about in your mind, say these phrases in your mind as if you are telling them:

* May your challenges come to an end

* May you get joy and happiness

* May you know and find perfect peace

* May you get everything you need

Step 9: You can always change the phrases to suit the situation or the object you are reaching out to in terms of compassion.

Step 10: If you can, spread your compassion to your family, your relatives, your community, any other people you know are suffering and maybe to those who are bringing the suffering on others. Although, you are not obliged to be compassionate about those who cause the suffering, but you can do it if you can.

Step 11: Remember that compassion should flow naturally and it should be genuine, which means, if you cannot pass true compassion to any of the mentioned people or groups, you should not do it at all. Don’t feel pushed to do it. When you are able to do it in the future, you will do it that time.

Step 12: Remember yourself too and be compassionate to yourself and your current circumstances.

Step 13: As you come to the end of your session, still seated in the same position, be aware of yourself, without focusing on your breath and without saying anything.

Step 14: Slowly open your eyes and your are done with the session!

Please note that this walk through is a standard version of this meditation practice that everyone can do. There are different ways to approach the practice based on many factors,

You may also want to visit any Buddhist center or compassion based training center near you for proper guidance and training to got your specific needs and to have all the questions you have about compassion meditation answered by a qualified professional.

You can also work with compassion meditation resources such as compassion meditation scripts, apps, websites, podcasts, videos and audios from credible sources.

But remember to be careful with the resources that you settle for and make sure that they offer everything you need for the practice.

Ultimately, compassion meditation is not about trying to get solutions for the pain experienced in the world. It is all about facing the pain with a heart that has compassion and using that pain to understand what other people are going through.

It helps you understand that other people desire peace and happiness just as much as you do.

People want to end suffering in their lives, and practices that are based on compassion help you see that at a profound level. They also help you to learn to love, forgive and accept others the way they are.

And as you grow in this practice, you find that natural desire to do acts of compassion. You naturally find yourself doing things for people who are in real need that not only makes them happy but also brightens your heart.

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12 thoughts on “What is Compassion Meditation – A Beginner’s Guide!

  1. Hello, I really want to first appreciate your effort in putting this great website together and writing this article. It is funny how I want to learn about mudita. Your article has helped me differentiate between compassion meditation and that of loving and kindness. Thank you for such a great post

    1. Improve Your Brain Power Team says:

      Hallo there Benny, 

      You are welcome. We appreciate your thoughts and feedback.

      We wish you the best with mudita and look forward to hearing your experiences.

      Cheers, 

      The IYBP Team

  2. shariful islam says:

    Many thanks to you for sharing such an excellent article with us .Compassion meditation is very important to us because any day spent helps us to feel deep sympathy.Just imagine what we have given in our lives has been felt by other people and we have opened up to us and have not been able to do much.I do this practice almost every day because it makes me aware of my pain and my illness and my anxiety and my desire for love and elimination for the Alliance government.After reading your article, everyone will know about Compassion Meditation and will share with you new things.

    1. Improve Your Brain Power Team says:

      Thanks a lot Shariful for stopping by.

      We are glad to hear your thoughts and experiences with the meditation.

      We are also appreciative for sharing our post.

      We wish you more success with it in the coming days.

      Cheers, 

      The IYBP Team

  3. When one is at peace with himself, i believe that is only when they can be at peace with other and have a good relationship with others without much controversy to deal with. Self love is really important because with the rate at which anxiety disorder is common among people, compassion meditation would play as really vital role to help lots of people especially teenagers in the society.

    1. Improve Your Brain Power Team says:

      You are right, Benson.

      You first have to love yourself before you are able to love others genuinely.

      We are grateful for your thoughts on the practice.

      Thanks for dropping by.

      Cheers, 

      The IYBP Team

  4. Parameter says:

    I practice meditation, infact I spend not less than 45 minutes every day on this practice since I discovered the great strength I draw from it.
    But I must be very frank with you, this is the first time I am hearing of compassion meditation. I strongly believe that practicing this form will help me to learn to love, like you said it will me shift my focus from been judgmental, to being genuinely concerned.

    1. Improve Your Brain Power Team says:

      Hallo there, 

      It is nice to hear you meditate on a daily basis and the good experience you’ve been having.

      We look forward to hearing your feedback on compassion meditation.

      Good luck.

      Cheers, 

      The IYBP Team

  5. I found this a very interesting read, and when someone refers to meditation, I think about Eat, Pray, Love and how desperately she wanted to feel that inner peace because looking at the people in the temples and how at ease they were and fully connected to themselves and their surrounding was something that she craved and attempted to perfect day after day.  Now I am a bit like her, they seem to have it all, that inner peace and tranquility, and I know that to maintain that takes alot of dedication.  But after reading your post on the thoughts we are mean’t to have and realizing that we are straying in thought, is somewhat comforting to know.  My thoughts tend to go everywhere, almost in the same direction as just before I drift off to sleep at night.  In saying that, do you think if i continue to practice this art that I will be able to control my thoughts and focus and do you have any additional advice?

    1. Improve Your Brain Power Team says:

      Hallo there, 

      Thanks a lot for stopping by and for sharing your thoughts.

      About your question, yes, you can gather your focus and concentration by doing meditation.

      You only need to do it often and train yourself to maintain your focus on the practice.

      Soon enough you will be able to direct your focus and attention where you need it.

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers, 

      The IYBP Team

  6. Hey there, 

    Really interesting post and just what I needed! 

    I’ve never heard of these kinds of meditations but I like the idea of Tonglen to get rid of old habits. 

    I’m pretty interested in meditation and buddhism after reading the benefits, such as better control of emotions. 

    Thanks for the great info!

    Anna

    1. Improve Your Brain Power Team says:

      Hallo there Anna, 

      It’s great to have you here.

      Thanks for your contributions.

      We wish you luck with tonglen and hope to hear how it works for you after some time.

      Cheers, 

      The IYBP Team

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