Compassion: Creating an internal sense of comfort to overcome distress.

Compassion-based work provides us with an internal reference point of a felt sense of safety and security. Cultivating such a sensed experience can help us navigate stressful and distressing situations when they arise. These situations could be internal, for example harsh self-criticism or external situations that we perceive as distressing. 

Compassion-focused training, soothing distress.

Soothing-based practices can have a calming effect on our nervous system. When children are distressed they readily seek out a ‘care giver’ to help them sooth their arousal and distress. A care giver that is responsive may hug, kiss, talk soothingly to the child (demonstrate appropriate compassion and empathy) and this has the impact of down regulating (soothing) the child’s distress and nervous system.

As adults, we can again reach out to others, and often do, in times of distress. However, we can also cultivate our own ability to sooth in times of distress via self-soothing and compassionate practices. Again, these practices need to enliven a felt sense, when we successfully use these strategies they may result in a felt sense of groundedness, calmness, comfort as if we have ‘come back down to earth’ as a client once indicated.

Compassionate and soothing-based practices (short versions):

Compassionate hand exercise

  1. Sit or lay comfortably.
  2. Recall an experience when you felt cared for, or caring toward someone. Or recall and experience where you have received kindness or been kind to another.
  3. Try to recall the felt sense of this experience.
  4. Once you can do this, cup your hand in front of your chest and visualise or imagine that you are holding this felt sense of kindness or compassion.
  5. Now place your hand over your heart or a part of the body where you experience pain or discomfort. Visualise or imagine that this kindness or compassion is flowing into you and through each cell of your body, or following to the parts of your experience that need it.
  6. Sit with this process for several minutes and experience the impact it has on your body, mind and emotions.

Compassionate visualisation/meditation

  1. Sit or lay comfortably.
  2. Close your eyes if comfortable.
  3. Recall a felt sense of being comforted, loving, warmth or kindness.
  4. With each in breath, imagine or visualise you are receiving these qualities from the earth/environment/universe around you, and they are vitalising every cell in your body.
  5. With each out breath imagine you are sending these qualities of comfort, kindness, compassion, warmth to all beings – friends, family, animals.
  6. Sit with this process for several minutes and experience the impact it has on your body, mind and emotions.

Soothing breath

  1. Exhale completely.
  2. Inhale (nose) to a count of 4 (without tension). Try to breath toward your belly).
  3. Hold your breath for a count of 2-4.
  4. Exhale completely through your mouth with a sigh. Notice the felt sense of release through the whole body.
  5. Continue for 5-10 rounds making sure there is no tension, or unnecessary tension.

Want to learn more about how to cultivate compassion focused training in your life?

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