There are many ways to develop our compassionate mind which can improve our sense of wellbeing.
With practice, these exercises can be helpful for regulating our emotions, becoming more aware of our thoughts and feelings and becoming more compassionate to ourselves and to others.
Mindfulness to the breath
This mindfulness exercise is designed to use our breath as an anchor to help us still our restless mind by noticing our breath and simply returning our attention to our breath when our minds wander.
Mindfulness to sounds
This mindfulness exercise is designed to use our sense of hearing as an anchor to help us still our restless mind by noticing the sounds around us and simply returning our attention to the sounds when our minds wander.
Mindfulness to the body
This is one of the key mindfulness practices because so much is learned from it.The body holds memories for us. We may rather not think about our body so this exercise may be hard. If so, start by initially focusing just on one area of the body that you may find comfortable such as the soles of the feet.
When we turn towards our body we learn that emotions and bodily experiences never stay the same, wax and wane, come and go.
Finding a Compassionate Posture Experiment
In this exercise we invite you to experiment with finding a strong, dignified compassionate posture that can help you begin all our compassionate mind exercises. This posture is important for compassionate mind exercises, particularly if we worry about feeling vulnerable or where we have a tendency to ‘float off’ and lose ourselves when we close our eyes. It also helps us to feel in our bodies that compassion is not ‘soft and fluffy’ but rather a position of strong, dignified, quietly confident courageousness.
Soothing Breathing Rhythm
Soothing breathing rhythm has many functions and provides a support on which other exercises rest. Our breath is always with us so if we can learn to recruit it to help us, we have a powerful way of helping ourselves that is with us all the time.
Imagining Becoming your Compassionate Self
Throughout the day we move in and out of different ‘parts’ of ourselves. We may have an angry part, a part that is anxious or a sad part as well as many many others. In this exercise we are trying to cultivate the part of ourselves that we want to be manifested most in our lives and that can be most helpful for us. With the compassionate mind approach we are aiming to cultivate the part of us that can be strong, wise, supportive, kind and warm in the face of difficulties. Even if we don’t feel we are this person, we can decide that we wish to become a little more like this and practice thinking, feeling and behaving as if we were becoming a more compassionate person. The key message of this exercise is that we can purposefully grow that part of us that we want to become.
Bringing Compassion to ourselves
In this exercise we are going to practice focusing the compassionate self to our selves. We are invited to notice what our heartfelt wishes might be for ourselves; perhaps that we are well, that we are free from suffering, that we are happy and at peace.
As with learning any skill, we work with the easiest rather than most challenging first. So if you find directing compassion to yourselves more difficult than to others you may want to do that practice first and come back to this one later.
Compassion to Someone you Care About
In this exercise we are going to practice focusing our compassionate self to others. As with learning any skill, we work with the easiest rather than the most challenging first. So it might be best to have someone you care about in your mind, someone whom it is easy for you to feel your care for them and who are not too challenging for you. Also, if you find easier to focus on bringing compassion to yourselves you may want to start from there and come back to bringing compassion to others later.
This exercise on our compassionate image is to help us imagine a compassionate other and open to the flow of receiving compassion. Although you are receiving compassion from this image, it has been generated from within you, so you are in effect both giving and receiving compassion. It is a way of developing an inner guide that you can consult when you are struggling.
Music Improvisation For Cultivating compassion for the world
A meditation in music for expressing and receiving compassionate wishes for the world during the pandemic crisis. It was improvised and recorded by Dimitris Katsimpokis, PhD in one of our online peer support meetings during COVID lockdown.
The above exercises are taken from The Compassionate Mind Approach to Postnatal Depression by Michelle Cree (Robinson 2015), with permission from the author and Little, Brown Book Group and can also be downloaded from the resources section of the book.