The benefits of compassion meditation: an introduction

Compassion meditation is one of the most important Buddhist practices. There are hundreds of variants, many of which have yet to be scientifically described.

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Compassion meditation is a type of mindfulness practice to cultivate feelings of care, concern, and kindness towards oneself and others. They are particularly associated with Buddhism. Buddhist teachings and practices often emphasize the cultivation of compassion and loving-kindness. Here are a few examples of compassionate practices that are found in various schools of Buddhism:

  1. Metta Bhavana (Loving-kindness meditation): This practice involves repeating phrases of loving-kindness and well-wishes to oneself and others.
  2. Tonglen (Taking and sending): This practice involves visualizing taking in the suffering of others and sending out happiness and well-being to them.
  3. Karuna (Compassion): This practice involves actively working to alleviate the suffering of others and to promote their well-being.
  4. Bodhicitta (Awakened heart/mind): This practice involves a commitment to attaining enlightenment for the benefit of all beings and an aspiration to develop compassion and loving-kindness for all beings.
  5. Dana (Generosity): This practice involves giving to others, whether it be through donations of money, time, or resources.

Different schools and traditions may have their own specific practices, but the goal is often to cultivate compassion and loving-kindness for all beings.

Compassion practices have been found to reduce anxiety, depression, and stress and to increase feelings of well-being, happiness, and social connection. It has also been found to improve immune function and reduce pain.

Examples of scientific studies:

  1. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that a compassion meditation program effectively reduced anxiety, depression, and stress in a group of healthcare workers.
  2. The Journal of Happiness Studies published an article that found participation in a compassion meditation program was associated with increased feelings of well-being, happiness, and social connection.
  3. A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that compassion meditation effectively reduced pain in cancer patients.
  4. A paper in Psychoneuroendocrinology found that compassion meditation was associated with improved immune function in caregivers.

To practice compassion meditation, you can try the following steps:

  1. First, find a comfortable seated position and close your eyes.
  2. Bring to mind a person who is suffering. This could be someone you know personally, or it could be someone in the abstract.
  3. Silently repeat well-wishing phrases to yourself, such as “may you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be safe, may you live with ease.”
  4. As you repeat these phrases, try to bring to mind a feeling of care and concern for the person you have in mind.
  5. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the meditation.
  6. When you are ready, slowly open your eyes.

You can practice compassion meditation for as long as you like, but even a few minutes can be beneficial.


Author: Stephen

Neuropsychologist researching what happens when a spiritual practice (meditation) is translated to a psychological intervention; what is lost and what is gained from the curative potential? A PhD candidate writing the scientific history mindfulness. Also researching how compassion and explicitly nondual meditation methods influence our physical and mental health. Stephen has decades of personal practice in spiritual and secular forms of meditation, he has also been trained in the Himalayan Science of Mind and Perception (Tsema). Alongside the teaching and research of nondual methods, Stephen trains his own brain every day with Dzogchen practices.

One thought on “The benefits of compassion meditation: an introduction”

  1. Would you mind appending a bibliography of the studies you mentioned? Having read many of your other posts, I would also be curious if you think these studies were conducted well and/or have substantial methodological flaws.


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