Build Your Own Self-Compassion Meditation
Offering kindness to ourselves can be a powerful tool when we struggle or encounter difficulty. Practicing self-compassion can help reduce negative mind-states (e.g., anxiety, depression, stress, perfectionism, shame, body dissatisfaction) and increase positive mind-states (e.g., life satisfaction, happiness, self-confidence, body appreciation). Follow along to learn how you can create your own self-compassion meditation, which is inspired by the works of clinical psychologists Kristin Neff, Chris Germer, and Tara Brach.
Step 1. Recognize Your Common Humanity
The world is imperfect and so are we. Everyone struggles with difficult life events, feelings, and relationships. We struggle with self-doubt, loss, grief, aging, shame, and with feelings of unworthiness or not being good enough. We fear death, failure, rejection, loneliness, the unknown, and loss of control.
Step 2. Understand What Is Self-Compassion
Self-compassion is bringing awareness to our experiences, giving ourselves kindness and recognizing our common humanity (Neff, 2003).
Step 3. Listen to Your Heart, Find Your Compassionate Voice
“To love a person is to learn the song that is in their heart and to sing it to them when they have forgotten.” —Arne Garborg
What words do you long to hear from others? What words do you long to be whispered in your ear? Write these words down. Give yourself these nurturing words when you are struggling with self-doubt, feelings of not being good enough, shame, failure or pain. For example:
- I accept you just as you are.
- You belong.
- I love you.
- I am here for you.
- You’ve been here before; you always pull through.
- You can do this.
- I believe in you.
- You are not alone; others feel this way too.
Or in the form of a wish:
- May I know love.
- May I be whole.
- May I know peace.
- May I live with ease.
- May I accept myself just as I am.
- May I care for myself.
- May I stand up for myself in this moment of pain.
- May I know my own goodness.
- May I believe in myself.
- May I know that I am enough.
If you are having trouble finding the right words, think of a time when someone showed you kindness during a difficult life event or moment of suffering. This can be when you were a young child, a teenager or as an adult. Write down what they said to you when you were in pain, or what you felt in your heart in their presence. These words can become your words for this self-compassion meditation.
Step 4. Make Your Compassionate Words a Meditation
Once you have listened to your heart and found your compassionate words, experiment with these words as a mantra that you repeat during your meditation, as an anchor to your meditation.
First, allow yourself to come into your body and notice your physical sensations and breathing. Focus your attention on breathing in and breathing out.
Then, with every in-breath, silently offer yourself your compassionate words. Repeat this over and over with each in-breath, allowing yourself to feel these words in your body and heart.
On your out-breaths, imagine breathing compassion out into the world.
Step 5. Practice When You are Hurting
This meditation practice can be as short or as long as needed. Self-compassion takes practice. It takes experimentation. It takes effort to hear the song in your heart, and that song can change, based on your needs and life circumstances. Think of self-compassion as giving yourself kindness when you are in pain. Experiment with different words. Listen to what you need. You can offer yourself compassion whenever you are hurting.
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“We plant these words in our heart so they can grow. We need them because we are not sure or don’t believe them." — Chris Germer.