Breathing Compassion In & Out

As I mentioned in my last post, meditation has become an increasingly important part of my lifestyle, and has proven to be a colossal part of my recovery from anxiety and depression. I’ve only just started actively practising meditation, from about a month ago now. Previously I had always had an interest in it, and had dipped my toes in from time to time, but never really committed to it. But now with my days spent in bed, nothing better to do, and with hearing all the hype, I am going to use this opportunity to really dive in and see what it can do for me.

So I begin, with ‘Mindful Self-Compassion’. This is a group of guided meditations written and spoken by a guy called Chris Germer. This was recommended to me as a starting point by my Cognitive Behaviour therapist at Birmingham Healthy Minds. There are 18 meditations in total, varying in length from 5 minutes to half an hour in bitesize chunks.

Breathing Compassion In and Out is a 20 minute guided meditation from the series, and is probably the meditation that I was most averse to begin with. It derives from a Tibetan meditation practise called Tonglen, which focuses on the idea of accepting pain and finding compassion through the breath. Now, to me, the idea of thinking about, accepting, or even just acknowledging that there is pain in the world is pretty alarming. I find it hard to cope with any negativity at the moment. My depression and anxiety has made me hypersensitive to anything even remotely unsettling, so I have been desperately trying to avoid anything thats going to bring me down for weeks now. Think about all of the pain in the world you say? I think I have enough pain going on without breathing in everyone else’s ****.

But in Tonglen meditation, you are asked not only to acknowledge that pain and suffering exists, but to actually accept that it is an inescapable part of you, inside of you and also in everybody else, and beyond. It is a collective pain that fills the world. As you inhale, you breath in all of that suffering, just opening yourself up to it. You welcome the world exactly as it is, without trying to change it. Tell me that isn’t just asking for trouble.

However, the idea is that it is only when you truly and willingly open yourself up that you are then able to offer a real understanding of a situation. So rather than picking and choosing what you feel, maybe feeling sorry for the sufferer but not really understanding, instead you really really accept the situation, just as it is. And only then can you offer them real compassion, understanding, and kindness. Acceptance in this case does not mean showing approval or resignation to a situation – acceptance means to recognise the reality of the situation- however hopeless it seems- and be able to turn to the sufferer and say, yes, it’s really tough, I know, and none-the-less I am here.

The practise ultimately relies on trust in yourself, as you give yourself openly, with full knowledge that you are putting yourself in a vulnerable position. You are trusting that somewhere in you there is the strength to face that of that suffering- to face it with courage and patience and love- not in spite of it but because of it. You are telling yourself that you believe that you can carry the pain. You are taking suffering and your sensitivity to it and turning it into understanding, and love, and compassion; you are turning your demons into your super power. How the tables turn.

I know it can be hard to get your head around all of this meditation stuff, and I’m sure I still don’t understand half of it, but i’d love to know your thoughts.

Feel free to share any comments/questions or even your own meditation ideas below.

I hope you and your loved ones are really well.

Stay breezey,

Roo xx

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, 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


    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 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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