cultivating compassion

Most of us are so hard on ourselves. Our self-criticism and negative self-judgments can undermine our enjoyment of life, our sense of our own competency, and our ability to take action.

Compassion helps us to meet ourselves and others with tenderness, kindness, openness, patience and love.

As with any growing thing, it takes time for these good feelings to develop strong roots and flourish. We can nurture the growth of compassion with just a couple minutes, whenever the time is right.

Start by making yourself physically comfortable. Are there any adjustments to your posture that could help you to feel more relaxed, open and grounded? It might help to have your feet flat on the ground and your back supported. You might want to inhale deeply and raise your shoulders tight up to your ears, then exhale fully as you let your shoulders drop. Feels so good to let tension go!

Notice the sensations in your body, the thoughts in your head, the emotions in your heart. Then allow your attention to focus on your breath, noticing the sensations of inhaling and exhaling.

Bring one hand gently over your heart. Notice the warmth of contact, the rising and falling of your chest, the rhythm of your heart beat.

With your inhale, say to yourself: I breathe in love and compassion.
With your exhale, say to yourself: I release judgement and shame.

Perhaps there is a color that matches love and compassion. Imagine this color filling your heart and expanding through your whole body as you breathe in.

Imagine that the shame and criticism also have a color, that is released as you exhale, dissipating into the air.

You may choose to begin with 10 breaths. You can use the pressure of your fingers to keep count – one finger for each inhale/exhale. You can also do this practice for as long as feels right to you. The more you practice, the more effective it will be.

Elements of this practice are adapted from meditations offered by Thich Nhat Han and Jack Kornfield, and benefit from the wisdom of countless others: the Dalai Lama, Buddha, Jesus, and Kwan Yin are names that are known.

I’d love to hear from you about your experiences with compassion. If you’d like support in your practice, please contact me to schedule a meeting. May you be well!