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Compassion Ninja Meditation

Compassion Ninja Meditation 

Part 1

Meditating on compassion, or love for yourself and others, has many therapeutic properties and has been shown to have a positive neuroplastic effect on the brain. Attention and empathy improve, cortical thickness increases, and you feel a lot better. Reducing stress, it seems to make you smarter – intellectually and emotionally. The immune system perks up and benefits, as does your overall health and flourishing.

Compassion is neither pity nor self-pity, nor is it patronising. It’s a genuine feeling of warmth and empathy encouraging someone who’s in pain to quickly feel better – a deeply spiritual and altruistic act. You move from feeling genuine sorrow for someone to feeling warmth and joy for them, progressing from compassion through to happiness, rapture, bliss and equanimity for them. You want them to be happy and take joy in their success.

Sounds and feels good, right?

And this starts with yourself – after all, if you can’t truly love and feel good about yourself, how can you do the same for others? And if you are in the midst of a life or death battle with a Toxic, some time for self love and compassion for yourself is all the more desirable.

Compassion meditation is one of the areas of neuroplasticity that has attracted much scientific exploration. It’s a compelling example of how the mind makes lasting changes to the physical structure of the brain. Through meditation, the mind observes itself, potentially liberating itself from negative emotions and developing positive tendencies (focused attention, compassion and empathy).

When you generate feelings of compassion (according to research based on experienced meditators such as Tibetan monks) your brain activity indicates that many neural structures synchronise with one another, especially at twenty five to forty times per second, gamma band oscillation. This promotes increased mental health and resilience, reduced stress and a shift to the more positive left prefrontal cortex.

There are many traditions and techniques from all cultures, some religious, some philosophical, some of which are complex. Here’s a version you can use immediately and anywhere. It engages a number of senses to increase its effectiveness. You’ll be using your fingers to create a mudra, which helps concentration and co-ordination, and you’ll be reciting a mantra to focus attention.

Read it through a couple of times to get the overall feel. Some people like to record this and play it back to use as a guide. Or sit comfortably and get a partner or close friend to recite it to you. The more you customise it, the more it will work for you. You can perform this in a group or personal context.

Step 1.

Whilst standing, stretch your muscles and breathe deeply. Lift your arms and form a Y shape, feel yourself gently stretching upwards and outwards. Inhale and exhale deeply seven times – make sure you clear your lungs on the exhalation, drawing fresh oxygen into your system. This re oxygenates your brain, making you feel fresh and gives you a nice combination of alertness and relaxation. It’s like a fast and impactive form of yoga and is the mind clearing prerequisite to your meditation. The deep breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which is associated with calmness and feeling relaxed.

Step 2.

Relax in a comfortable seated position, or you can lie down if preferred. Choose anywhere you feel secure and free from potential distraction, a location where you can feel relaxed, safe and alert. Opt for a quiet place with the minimum of disturbance and switch off your gadgets.

Step 3.

Acknowledge and accept whatever’s going on around you, the buzz of an insect, the sound of traffic, the murmuring of people in the street, the smell of cooking in the house, the aroma of coffee from the kitchen, maybe the fragrance of incense if you choose to burn some. Be aware of all this and let it form the background to your meditation. Sensations come and go, like each breath you calmly take, just let yourself surf on the multiplicity of experience.

Step 4.

Calm your mind; don’t concern yourself about any thoughts or images that emerge. Just observe them, label them if you wish (emotions, thoughts, observations) and let them go. There’ll be another thought any moment, so no need to linger on the current one. Your brain, specifically the left prefrontal cortex, is comfortable with words, the labelling helps to understand and classify your emotions and deal with them – you don’t need to let them hijack your meditation.

Step 5.

If you happen to have a thought about the Toxic, just label it Toxic and say, “you’ve long disappeared from my life, bye”. Let the thought dissolve away. You could see it as a balloon rising up and disappearing forever, or a cloud momentarily scudding across the pure blue sky. Stay calm and relax, you’ll really enjoy the sensation.

Step 6.

Let the words “loving kindness” enter your mind, repeat them, play with them and try to see them project onto an imaginary cinema screen in front of you. How do they sound, what timbre? How do they feel, are they sensual, relaxing, warm, or coolly beautiful? In what colour do they appear, and are there any images or visual resonances? Can you engage any other senses, how do they smell, can you stroke the letters with your fingertips, if so, how do they feel? Some people visualise the words cascading around each other, like the DNA double helix, others see a caduceus or two serpents entwining.

Step 7.

Let the words resonate in you and enjoy them for as long as you wish. What do they trigger within you? Start to think about yourself and let them soak into you. Feel good about yourself, happy about who you are, calm and comfortable. Let love and kindness saturate your very being.

Step 8.

Now begin to really feel some love and compassion towards yourself at the deepest level of your being. Relax and feel great about yourself. This is your time. Come up with some phrases, such as “I’m happy, fit and healthy, all that I truly desire comes into my life”. Experience intense self-love and relax and roll with it. You are now fully engaging your mirror neurons, which help you empathise with both yourself and other people. Enjoy it and luxuriate in it. Feel that dopamine rush and serotonin flow as the reward centre of your nucleus accumbens perks into life.

If you are lying down, roll around if you wish. Stretch out and yawn as if you are a contented, well-fed and much loved cat. If you are sitting and gently want to move your body in tune with the feelings, go ahead. Feel free and enjoy.

Step 9.

Now that you are relaxed and filled with feelings of happiness, rapture and bliss, extend those feelings to someone else you really care about – a partner, parent or close friend, a lover, a mentor, maybe your favourite pet. Let those feelings become enhanced and share them. Let them expand and envelop whomever you are thinking about. You may find that endorphins rush and the bonding hormone oxytocin is released. Visualise them in a happy, enlightened state. Wish them the best using whatever spontaneous phrases come into your mind. Let your emotions play.

Step 10.

If you wish to go further, think of someone you know but are quite neutral about, someone who you say “hi” to, but know little else about, your barman, hairdresser or postman, maybe? Extend these feelings to that person.

Step 11.

Relax, enjoy those sensations, and whenever you feel ready, come back to yourself, gently open your eyes, breathe deeply and luxuriate in whatever positive feelings you have.

Step 12.

You can practice the compassion meditation anytime you wish. As your experience deepens and your meditation progresses, you may, like some practitioners, choose to go further, extending the feelings of kindness and love to people all around the world, all sentient beings. It’s entirely up to you, but the first stage is self-love and self-healing.

 

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