Self-Compassion in Meditation

IMMUNITY LESSON 1 It is Time for You to be a Hero

In this lesson you will learn: 

  • How emotions cause us stress
  • The importance of noticing emotions vs identifying with emotions
  • A compassionate technique for dealing with distraction in meditation practice

The WHY: Did you now that a healthy emotion has a lifespan of approximately 90 seconds? It arises, stays for a while, and dissipates. When emotions cause us long term stress, it’s because we’re mistakenly identifying with them by telling a story that keeps the body in a repetitive physiological loop. We have emotions, and that’s great – but we are not our emotions.

Bottom line: Through mindfulness meditation, we begin to see the difference between “I’m angry!” and “I notice that anger is arising in my body.” We learn to create a little more space between noticing the emotion and reacting to it – something that’s good for us, and everyone around us.

If you’ve made it this far, you’re trying to get good at meditation, and that’s great! Once we try to get good at something, our tendency to attach to the outcome can cause frustrations to arise. Not only that, but in all that time being still, a whole slew of emotions we may not have noticed before rises to the surface.  

When emotion arises in our meditation, a lifetime of habits triggers an attempt to push them away, or get far too involved in chasing those emotions with a story. Emotions are energy moving through the body. If we let that energy do its thing, it’s 90-second life cycle will play out. It’s in our attempt to repress, or in our latching on, emotions get stuck with us far too long, causing stress that’s felt in both body and mind. 

When emotions arise, pulling us away from our practice with the breath, we can use the following familiar techniques to return to mindfulness. 

  1. With a subtle emotion, we can use the three-step technique: (1) gratitude for noticing, (2) return to the breath, and (3) repeat. 
  2. With stronger emotions, try turning towards them with mindfulness. Zero in on the particular emotion that’s distracting you. Where is it in the body? Does it have a form, smell, taste, color, sensation? Let yourself feel the emotion, separate from the story surrounding it. You may find the emotion changes, or that you can no longer pinpoint it at all. In this moment, return to the breath.
  3. Direct compassion towards your emotion. When experiencing a particularly strong negative emotion, balance it by generating kindness and loving thoughts toward yourself and that emotion. Generate gratitude for all the ways in which you are getting to know yourself better.   

Sometimes mindfulness is the very thing we need to recognize deep seeded emotions like anger or sadness. When what arises is too much to tackle on our own, our mindfulness practice shows us when we need to ask for outside help.

Task 1: Continue practicing your 5 minute meditations. If you’re feeling good, add one minute to your sessions. 

Task 2: Emotions arising in meditation? Practice using one or more of the techniques listed here.

Task 3: Distraction in meditation? Practice directing loving kindness not only to your negative emotions, but to the distraction of the body, or your thoughts. 

When anything arises that pulls you away from the breath, silently say “I love you, but not right now.” Return to the breath. 

Extra Credit:


Guided Meditation:


“You are not your emotions. Mindfulness can help us recognize emotions as impermanent energy moving through the body, not a character trait.”

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