Meditation for Compassion: Becoming the Holder of The Suffering

Another wonderful meditation from Tara Brach PhD.

Compassion begins with the capacity o hold your own life with a loving heart. Whenever you’re aware that you are suffering, if you offer yourself care–through attention, words and touch–compassion will naturally awaken. This meditation is especially useful when you are feeling emotional pain. Even if you do not immediately feel compassion for yourself, your willingness alone can reconnect you to your loving heart. Because compassion is intrinsic to your nature, it inevitably flowers.

Find a comfortable position and take a few moments to breathe naturally and relax. Turn your attention to the hurt or grief, shame or fear you may be feeling. You might use your breath to deepen your attention to this suffering–breathing in and directly touching the feelings of vulnerability; breathing out and sensing the space of awareness that holds your experience. Invite the painful feelings to express their fullness, allowing them to swell and intensify through your body and mind.

Begin offering words of care to the place within you that feels most vulnerable. You might silently say, “May I be free from suffering” or as Thich Nhat Hanh suggests, say to yourself, “Darling, I care about your suffering.” Your prayer might be more specific: “May I be free from fear,” or, “May I feel safe and at peace.” As you continue to offer your caring prayers you might also place your hand on your cheek or your heart, letting the tenderness of your touch express compassion.

Be aware of how your heart feels as you offer care to your suffering . Do you feel sincere, open or tender? Or do you feel mechanical, blocked or numb? If you feel distant and disconnected without any judgment simply affirm your intention to be present and kind and continue offering these gestures of care. If your intention to be compassionate is genuine, with time your heart will naturally soften and open.

As you etend care to yourself, notice how the sensations and feelings of emotional pain change. Do they become more intense? Do they begin to subside? Does the emotion you first felt transform into a different one? You may find that embracing yourself with kindness brings up a deep sadness. Whatever you are feeling, old your pain with the same presence and tenderness you would offer to a beloved and frightened child.


Feel free to experiment with whatever communicated genuine care to your inner life. You might softly whisper aloud the words of care. You might physically hug yourself or imagine holding yourself as a child. Take the time to listen inwardly and sense what particular weave of words or gestures feels most healing. It may be as simple as acknowledging with tender care that you are hurting. With practice you will begin to find that when fear or hurt arises, you respond with a spontaneous and gentle compassion.

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