Breathing Compassion In & Out

As I mentioned in my last post, mindful meditation has become an increasingly important part of my lifestyle, and has proven to be a colossal part of my recovery from severe anxiety and depression. So I’m going to share with you some of the meditations I use, and maybe even help you to discover new methods that you like the sound of to try out too.

I’ve only just started practising meditation properly- well, from about a month ago now- on the advice of my doctor. Previously I had always had an interest in it, and had dipped my toes in various ideas from time to time, but never really committed to it. But now I almost feel like I have been given this new opportunity to really dive in and pursue it, so thanks, anxiety 😉

One group of meditations that have been suggested to me by my psychotherapist, and I use almost daily now, are ‘Mindful Self-Compassion’ meditations by a guy called Christopher Germer, who is a clinical psychologist, specialising in mindfulness and compassion based psychotherapy.

Breathing Compassion In and Out is a 20 minute guided meditation from his series. The meditation focuses on the idea of accepting pain, and then finding compassion, all from within your own breathing. Sounds confusing, right? Let me try and explain it to you.

Germer explains that his Breathing Compassion In and Out derives from a Tibetan meditation practise called Tonglen. In Tonglen, you are acknowledging that pain and suffering exists, not only inside of you, but also all around you in others. As you inhale, you breath in that suffering, opening yourself to it. That might sound like a very alarming and depressing concept, but in this meditation it is only when you open yourself willingly to pain that you are then able to offer a real understanding and compassion in return.

As you breath in, you welcome the world exactly as it is, without trying to change it. You are not pitying the sufferer (even if that sufferer is yourself) but instead offering them a gentle kindness and acceptance of their situation. Note that recognition and acceptance of pain is not the same thing as showing approval or resigning to it.

The practise relies on trust, as you give yourself openly, in the full knowledge that you yourself are also just as vulnerable to suffering as others. But, ultimately, what this meditation is about is healing and love, as you are also opening yourself to your own answering kindness from within.

In Germer’s meditation, the premise is similar, but not quite to the same extent. It seems almost like his is a gentle gateway meditation to true Tonglen, which, admittedly, seems like quite advanced meditation to me. Germer begins his meditation by bringing attention to stress and suffering you are feeling, but then the focus shifts slightly. While on every exhale you breath out compassion for those around you, your inhale is about bringing soothing for yourself.

So that’s what I was practising today. If you feel like giving it a go yourself, or are just curious, you can listen to Germer’s full 20 minute meditation here.

Enjoy, and feel free to share any ideas/comments or even your own meditations below.

Warmest wishes,

Roo xx

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3 thoughts on “Breathing Compassion In & Out

  1. Hi Roo Mandy here – I’m a friend of Caroline and Ed’s, based here in Birmingham. We run a small community arts organisation, Secret City Arts http://www.secretcityarts.com, and are looking for a volunteer for a project coming up – and also involved with arts and mental health project stuff, which I wondered if you’d be interested in… Be good to be in touch anyway. Hope to hear from you

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    1. Hi Mandy,

      Thanks for contacting me about this, it sounds really interesting- and certainly the kind of stuff I’ve really enjoyed doing in the past! I am going away over the summer but will be returning to Birmingham in July, if that is any help in your time scale? If you could drop me an email at r.frith@outlook.com with details outlining the project so that I can consider it properly, that would be really helpful and I’ll get back to you asap 🙂

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