along with many who suffer from depression, i experience feelings of worthlessness and guilt. i find it tough to shut off that inner voice that is putting me down and telling me i’m not good enough. it’s not realistic to tell myself to suddenly snap out of having feelings of worthlessness – i can’t wish my symptoms of depression away, no matter how hard i try. instead i need to actively work to develop a new way of thinking.
one practice that i use to cultivate self compassion is loving kindness meditation, also known as metta meditation. according to the center for contemplative mind in society:
“metta bhavana, or loving-kindness meditation, is a method of developing compassion. it comes from the buddhist tradition, but it can be adapted and practiced by anyone, regardless of religious affiliation; loving-kindness meditation is essentially about cultivating love. we begin with loving ourselves, for unless we have unconditional love and acceptance for ourselves, it is difficult to extend it to others. then we include others who are special to us, and, ultimately, all living things. gradually, both the visualization and the meditation phrases blend into the actual experience, the feeling of loving kindness.”
i practice loving kindness meditation by setting aside some quiet time – usually from five to thirty minutes. before i begin, i select a loving kindness phrase or thought to focus on. i prefer to sit on the floor. i begin by breathing, slowing and deepening my breath and focus on my inhales and exhales. once i feel centered, i either read aloud or think about the loving kindness phrase i have chosen. other thoughts may come across my mind, but that’s ok – experiencing distraction is part of meditation. i just keep bringing my focus back to that same caring phrase, again and again.
here are some loving kindness meditations that i have found or written:
- i have enough. i do enough. i am enough.
- may i be well, in body, mind and spirit.
- may my body, mind and spirit find peace with the day. may i recognize that i did the best i could.
- i am strong. i am powerful. i am resilient.
- may i accept my words. may i accept my actions. may i accept my thoughts. may i accept myself.
- may i treat myself with kindness. may i respect myself, wherever i am.
- i am beautiful, inside and out.
- may i find the inner strength to meet life’s challenges.
- may i find sources of renewal to sustain me through difficult times.
- may i be happy. may i be well. may i be safe. may i be peaceful and at ease.
- i deserve love. i deserve kindness. i deserve respect.
- may i be free from suffering. may i be free from suffering. may i be free.
over time these new messages can take the place of the old ones, and my mind will become used to treating myself with kindness. while i may still struggle with the symptoms of depression, the practice of loving kindness meditation can help to counterbalance my feelings of worthlessness. meditation is referred to as a “practice” because it is just that – something we need to work at in order to get the positive benefits. even five minutes of loving kindness meditation each day can make a big difference in how i talk to myself. hopefully self compassion will become an everyday way of being for me – and for you, too.