Generally, I like to think I’m in control. Excuse the religious cliché, but I treat my body “like a temple.” My disposable dollars are spent on organic, nourishing foods for myself (and my animals!). I am diligent about getting my exercise, spending time in nature, making time for creative expression, and spending time with friends/family. I am stable. Educated. Young. Etc. On paper, I have got myself “together.” But when faced with uncomfortable feelings, like sadness, I become frustrated. I chastise myself and think, why bother doing all of *the things* if I am just going to feel bad anyway? Essentially, I feel bad about feeling bad. I vented to my therapist about it. And in response, she recommended that I try compassion meditations with Sharon Salzberg.
What is compassion meditation?
Meditation (and compassion meditation) are supported by clinical research in their efficacy.
Compassion meditation, specifically, entails setting an intention of care and non-judgment during meditation. Our minds are not machines and we all have thoughts while meditating. That’s natural. But in compassion mediation, you simply acknowledge your feelings and return to a place of understanding. With enough practice, ideally self-kindness and acceptance will transcend into other aspects of life.
Why Sharon Salzberg?
Sharon Salzberg is a meditation guru and New York Times-bestselling author. Sharon co-founded the first Western meditation facility, the Insight Meditation Society, in Barre, Massachusetts. Salzberg has been teaching meditation for over three decades and it definitely shows. Her approach is both accessible and enjoyable. She offers guided meditations and meditations with less structure. Happiness, love, and kindness are central to Salzberg’s meditation philosophy and she hopes to provide everyone with the tools to reduce stress and worry in their lives.
I bet she gives the best hugs.
I started dabbling with compassion meditations. Salzberg has many videos on Youtube, so I started there. But now, I practice alone.
DIY compassion meditation
Come to a comfortable seat. Relax your muscles, including your facial muscles. Take a few deep breaths, in through your nose, out through your mouth. Return to your regular breath. Next, think of a few kind phrases, such as “May I be safe,” “May I be happy,” and “May I feel well.” Treat these phrases as a mantra throughout your meditation, coming back to them (and your breath) whenever your mind wanders.
And after a couple of weeks of practice, while talking to my therapist, she noted that I seem more assertive. Assertiveness is not negative, like many folks—especially feminine folks—have been socialized to think. The ability to be assertive is as simple as being able to state your needs. Because I am acknowledging that I deserve kindness and happiness, I am better able to articulate my needs.
Further, I can notice when I’m being self-critical. In the past I often judged my own feelings or experiences. For example, I recently started feeling that a certain relationship in my life has been abusive. I realized how I normalized abuse in the past and I used the word “bizarre” to describe this revelation. I felt embarrassed by my feelings and my inability to address the situation. But then I realized that this isn’t treating myself with kindness. That isn’t acceptance of where I ‘m at right now.
Compassion meditations have taught me that feelings are not rational. I am not in control of everything. And instead of judging myself for where I’m at, I’m learning to love myself for it. Compassion meditations are playing a critical role in my journey and I highly encourage others to check it out.
Get more like this—Sign up for our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!
Photo: JD Mason via Unsplash, Insight Timer