Good and consistent meditation practice involves getting deep within ourselves, calming our minds, and lowering our stress levels. Compassion meditation combines good meditative practices and benefits, while fostering a sense of connectedness to those around us.
Compassion meditation activates the prosocial areas of the brain, which are normally stimulated by other social activities you might partake in, such as spending time with family and friends, going to a social event, celebrating in a social setting, or even something as simple as waving to your next-door neighbor or chit-chatting with your Uber driver.
This all goes to show how much power socializing and connecting can have, especially when we’re feeling alone and isolated as certain situations present themselves. Compassion is an incredible feature we all have written in our genetic codes, but only by consciously activating it can we truly use it towards helping others, and consequently, ourselves.
The Difference Between Compassion Meditation and Regular Meditation
Although the “meditation” part is completely the same, the intention and the energy we’re sending into it is different. While regular meditation practice is focused on routines that help you focus— whether it’s listening to your own breath, counting your inhales and exhales, repeating a certain mantra, or listening to a meditation app—compassion meditation involves having a certain “people focus” in mind, thinking of a loved one or someone who’s hurting, and silently repeating certain phrases that help you focus outwards.
The point is to redirect your positive energy to someone in need, and to send the person you’re thinking of a sense of happiness and ease of any anxiety or suffering they might be going through. In return, your anxiety and worry will drop, as the overall sense of positivity will prevail.
How to Practice Compassion Meditation?
You can practice compassion meditation in many ways. They will probably always differ from person to person, as well as be dependant on the exact “focus person” someone will have in mind and what their intentions are. Still, the general idea is the same, so follow these steps and join in:
- Find a comfortable position you can easily maintain for at least 5-10 min, whether it be sitting or lying down. Try to make it as comfortable as possible, bringing cushions and blanket around you for support.
- Close your eyes and start with your breath; focusing on your inhales and exhales and feeling your body relax, your shoulders drop, the space between your eyes soften, and your mind getting calmer.
- Stay with your breath for a while, simply preparing yourself for sharpening your focus.
- Once you feel good and ready, shift your attention to a person you believe needs your positive energy right now. That can be anyone, from a family member or a dear friend to a grocery clerk or a more prominent figure in your community.
- Visualize this person by recalling your last encounter or conversation, remembering a time when you saw them smiling or happy, or simply thinking of their name and pretending they’re there next to you, talking to you.
- Now imagine what words of encouragement or positivity you could say to them to help ease their anxiety or pain, and silently offer these typical phrases: “May you be free of pain and sorrow. May you be well and happy.” Of course, you can alter these to your liking, or completely disregard them and say something of a more intimate and personal significance.
- After a few minutes, turn your attention back to your breath and envision that same energy and those same words turn into “May I be free of pain and sorrow. May I be well and happy,” or anything else you chose as your mantra, channeling throughout your own body, energy vibrating through your cells.
- You can end your meditation here, or repeat as many times as you’d like, focusing on as many different people as you’d like.
Many people find this meditation as a sort of “prayer”, where the focus isn’t solely on them and their inner peace, but instead on the relationships and community as a whole, where actions invoke reactions, and positive emotions can have a much higher impact when they’re shared.
Almost everyone experiences moments of sadness, worry, and elevated anxiety, and by keeping them in your thoughts, you can offer at least a few minutes of your day to wish them happiness and ease of pain and suffering, even in the most helpless of situations. And, as you’re sharing the bubble of positivity you created with yourself, it’s a win-win situation for everyone.
When times get rough and there isn’t much we can do, it can be difficult and frustrating to think of the ways we can change the current situation or at least help find some relief. Compassion meditation works wonders as it tunes into that connectedness the whole world desperately depends on and offers a sense of hope and happiness when it’s needed the most.