By Dr. Joti Samra, CEO & Founder of the Psychological Health & Safety (PH&S) Clinic and MyWorkplaceHealth
Loving-Kindness Meditation – Meditation for Self-Compassion
Meditation practices can seem intimidating but they don’t have to be. While many of us may think the point of meditation is complete stillness and thoughtlessness, that’s not the case. The goal of this meditation practice is self-compassion (learn more about self-compassion here), it’s a guided practice that focuses on the ways we can include ourselves in our circle of kindness. But before we get into the practice, let’s talk about what meditation is.
What is meditation? There are countless definitions, approaches, techniques and schools of practice relating to meditation. However, at its core, meditation is a mental exercise that involves quieting the mind with simultaneous concentrated focus (typically on the breath or a mantra) for the purpose of attaining an enhanced state of inner awareness.
What’s the difference between mindfulness and meditation? Counsellors and psychologists often speak about mindfulness, and others use these two terms interchangeably. Mindfulness and meditation are related but they aren’t the same thing.
Mindfulness is about being aware, and psychologically present, in the moment. It focuses on paying attention to your present thoughts, feelings, urges and behaviours. Mindfulness can be practiced informally at any time and is often paired with simple breathing exercises.
Mindfulness can be used in conjunction with meditation practices and can certainly help those new to meditation begin the process.
How to Practice Loving-Kindness Meditation for Self-Compassion
The goal of this meditation practice is to bring your awareness to the value of kindness and the importance of bringing yourself into your circle of kindness.
Get into a comfortable position as you would with any mindfulness or meditation practice. Close your eyes full or partially and take a few deep breaths to settle in your body and into the present moment.
Then put your hands over your heart to remind yourself you’re bringing not only your attention, but loving attention, to your experience. Feel the warmth of your hands, the gentle pressure of your hands, and feel how your chest rises and falls beneath your hands with every breath.
Then bring your mind to a person or other living thing that makes you smile. This could be a child, your grandmother, your cat or dog – whomever naturally brings you happiness. Perhaps it’s even the bird outside your window. Let yourself feel what it’s like to be in the presence of that being. Allow yourself to enjoy the good company.
Then, recognize how vulnerable this loved one is – just like you, subject to sickness, aging, and death. Also, this being wishes to be happy and free from suffering, just like you and every other living being. Repeat softly and gently, feeling the importance of your words;
May you be safe.
May you be peaceful.
May you be healthy.
May you live with ease.
Remember that if you notice your mind wandering, slowly bring your attention back to the words and the image of the loved one you have in mind. Savour any warm feelings that may arise. If you have the time, go slowly.
Then, add yourself to your circle of goodwill. Put your hand over your heart and feel the warmth and gentle pressure of your hand, saying:
May you and I be safe.
May you and I be peaceful.
May you and I be healthy.
May you and I live with ease.
Visualize your whole body in your mind, notice any stress or uneasiness that may be lingering within you, and offer kindness to yourself.
May I be safe.
May I be peaceful.
May I be healthy.
May I live with ease.
Then take a few breaths to just rest and sit quietly in your own body, savouring the goodwill and compassion you’ve found. Know that you can return to these phrases anytime you wish.
Gently return back to the room, open your eyes if you closed them and enjoy the rest of your day.
If you can, take the time to reflect on how this meditation practice impacted self-compassion. Did it feel weird to include yourself in your circle of kindness? Did you experience some resistance? If you were able to get past that, how did it feel? What were the impacts of providing yourself with self-compassion?
Final Thoughts on Meditation for Self-Compassion
Although meditation is a great way to practice self-compassion, it isn’t the only way. If you’re struggling with meditation, first we recommend being gentle with yourself and continuing to practice. Learning these skills that’s time and patience – remember that it’s okay for your mind to wander, if this happens simply notice and gently bring it back.
Enhancing psychological health, wellness and resilience