If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion." ~ Dalai Lama
What is compassion meditation? And more importantly, how can you benefit from it?
Compassion meditation is simply a meditation, in which you visualize having loving compassion for yourself and others (loved ones, strangers and even people you strongly dislike)- even for all beings.
Why is this type of meditation important?
Numerous research studies have focused on meditation- or mindfulness meditation- recently, showing their vast and numerous benefits. Everything from reduced stress levels and blood pressure, to enhanced creativity and problem solving skills, to increased immune system response. All of these are tremendous benefits that come from a regular meditation practice.
A compassion (or compassionate) meditation is a bit different. There are still numerous health benefits- but studies have also shown that this type of meditation increases an individual's overall empathy and compassion for others. This can have amazingly positive consequences for the individual, their families and communities, the country they live in- the whole world, in fact. For example, in one research study using both compassion meditation and mindfulness meditation, study participants both demonstrated improved emotional stability and response to stress, however, those with the compassion meditation training, showed increased emotional responsiveness when shown images of human suffering.
What does this mean?
It is hypothesized that these individuals (who were “trained” in compassion) actually had more empathy and compassion when it came to overall human suffering- to their fellow human being. This has yet to be studied quantitatively, but you can image how different our world would be if everyone on the planet had more empathy, understanding and compassion for all beings.
So all of this is great in the confines of a research lab. But how can it benefit you in your day to day life? And, maybe more importantly, will it help to positively change the world we live in? Well, compassion meditation all begins with having (and increasing) compassion for one's self. Maybe you are a perfectionist and have unbelievably high standards for yourself. This type of meditation can help with that. Maybe you have a hard time relating to or connecting with others at work. Compassion meditation can help there too. Maybe you have not forgiven someone in your life (or in the past) for how they hurt or wronged you. Compassion meditation can help you get there.
If it seems like a “touchy feely” type of meditation, well, it kind of is. But the science behind it shows that the results are profound. Some of the most recent research has demonstrated that meditation can:
- reduce emotional responsiveness- meaning you respond thoughtfully, rather than react emotionally to stress-inducing or frustrating situations
- reduce overall stress levels, including ailments associated with high stress, such as high blood pressure
- reduce reports of and symptoms associated with anxiety and depression
- reduce reports of physical pain (intensity and duration of)
- increase working memory- the ability to recall information more quickly and retain it for a longer period of time
- reduce the negative effects of an overstimulating world- allowing an individual to be able to concentrate more at the task at hand and have greater overall focus
- improve overall sense of self, compassion for one's self and introspection capabilities
- increase empathy for self and others and extend that empathy and compassion out into the world through their words and actions
As you can see, the benefits from a regular meditation practice are tremendous and vast. The best part is, the positive effects of meditation last long after you finish meditating. You do however have to have a consistent practice in order to see such results.
To your Best Life!