Thinking empathetically about other people improves your own health, research shows. Regularly meditating on the wellbeing of others reduces your body's inflammatory responses to stress and that lowers your risk for heart disease, diabetes, dementia and other stress-related health problems.
The goal of compassion meditation is to reshape your responses to other people by concentrating on the interconnectedness of every human being.
It's easy: Try the following technique for 10 minutes a day, three to four times per week.
Week One. Sit comfortably, eyes closed, breathing deeply. Think about a time when you were kind to another person for instance, helping a loved one through a crisis or simply holding a door for a stranger. Recognize your great capacity for goodness. For the last few minutes of your meditation, repeat, “May I be free from suffering...may I find the sources of happiness."
Week Two. Repeat the same exercise, this time building compassion toward a loved one. Think about someone close to you—your mother, daughter, dear friend—and focus on what a blessing she is in your life. Then think about any suffering she is experiencing...and what you can do to ease her pain.
Recite: "May she be free from suffering...may she find the sources of happiness."
Week Three. Think about someone with whom you have only a minor connection-a bus driver, a waiter at your favorite café. How is he a blessing in your life? How might he be suffering? How can you ease his pain (for instance, with a smile and a sincere word of thanks)? Conclude with the recitation.
Week Four. Focus on someone you dislike—a whiny neighbor, a critical cousin. Identify blessings, perhaps as lessons you have learned about being patient or not judging others. Consider how the person may suffer...for instance, from being a quitter or having few friends. Finish with the recitation.
Moving Ahead. Continue to practice several times weekly, incorporating all four types of compassion into your meditation.
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