NEW: Here is a link to this entire explanation and experience to listen to. The theory and explanation is below.
This technique saved my life.
That is not an exaggeration.
This is the most important practice I can possibly recommend.
It is also the shortest one I have found to peace, healing, and happiness.
Most people will read this page, think ‘oh that’s nice’ and move on.
Don’t do that.
Let’s move on.
What is this hyper-valuable technique I am so excited about? (And not just me…here’s what people say about the results in their lives: amazing sex, better sleep, better relationships, better health, the results go on and on.)
I call this the Self-Empathy Meditation.
You might ask: “What is ‘self-empathy’? And why do I need any kind of meditation?”
How we Got this Way
Most of us are cut off from the experience of being in our bodies. We don’t really feel how we feel. We are absorbed in trance and thought most of the day, and don’t notice all of the messages our bodies are sending us, whether those are aches and pains, tension, or feelings and emotions.
These are some reasons:
- We are discouraged from expressing needs and emotions as children.
- We probably never were given time and space to feel and express our feelings as we grew up. Instead, our behaviors were judged and we were punished or rewarded accordingly. We were taught that feelings were ‘beside the point’.
- We are told we need to be ‘productive’.
- We are afraid of what pains and aches might mean.
As a result, when we get tired, we drink coffee. When we get sad, we eat chocolate or drink alcohol. When we have a headache, we take a pill and keep working.
If these become habits to constantly plaster over our feelings, eventually we develop illness, our relationships collapse, we develop dis-ease, or we go through some other form of crises.
I wish you none of these.
This process undoes these effects.
What is Self-Empathy?
Empathy is the process of understanding and relating to someone’s feelings. In self-empathy we are learning to relate to our own feelings.
And not just to our feelings, but to our physical sensations as well.
Our sensations and our feelings are the building blocks of our us-ness. Before you could speak and before you could walk, you could feel and sense things with your body.
When you were hungry or cold or felt alone, you could cry and express that your body wasn’t comfortable.
Ironically, this ability that you were born with has been trained out of you as you got older.
And, because of all the reasons I named, you have to actually practice giving yourself empathy now.
Most people wait for a financial or medical or relational crisis to shake them up and force them to pay attention to themselves.
If you find yourself in crisis, now is the perfect time to start. If you aren’t in crisis, it’s a great time to start so that you can avoid as much crisis as possible.
What is Meditation?
My definition of meditation is simple. It’s simply ‘being in the here and now’.
When we meditate, we connect to what’s actually happening with our bodies. Are we suffering? In pain? Relaxed? Peaceful? Is there discomfort in your body? Or tension? Right now?
What about emotion?
Become aware of that.
When we meditate, we are not:
- Worrying about what might happen in the future
- Thinking about what happened in the past
We let go of all we have to do and all that we have “messed up”, “failed at”, or “gotten wrong”.
As simple as that sounds, it is very very difficult in practice.
Especially at first.
If you are used to plastering over anything uncomfortable that is happening, (which I compare to putting black electrical tape over your dashboard warning lights) when you begin to listen to your body, all sorts of sensations and feelings that you have been repressing (through distraction or medication) will all begin to bubble up at once.
When I first began to meditate I felt:
…as if I was locked in my head with a dozen crazy people babbling at me.
I wanted OUT.
Every feeling told me to stop.
But I didn’t. And, as I said, that has made all the difference.
In addition, the forms of meditation that are usually taught don’t work as well for me. I tried at least a dozen forms of meditation before I intuitively started using this method.
It has the advantage of being perhaps the easiest meditation that you can do as a beginner, and it can yield incredible results for ‘advanced meditators’ (!) as well.
What I Got
I said earlier that this meditation saved my life. I don’t know what might have happened if I hadn’t discovered it, but it became the path for me to finally, really live.
I put together a list of all the things that have changed in my life as a result of what this practice brought to me here.
As you can see, there is some pretty major stuff there.
Putting it Together
Using our previous definitions, Self-Empathy Meditation boils down to: “Being in the Here and Now to Understand and Relate to your Feelings and Sensations“.
But very, very worth it.
I want to explain to you how to get started in the process. I have tried to make the instructions as simple as possible, but, if you have any questions or challenges, feel free to contact me.
I believe that, whatever your goals, the path to peace in this world individually and collectively would be massively served by as many people as possible practicing this or a similar method of self-enquiry.
In fact, as Tim Ferris notes, almost every top performer uses some method of meditation to accomplish what they do.
Ok. Are you ready?
Great! Let’s start.
What You Will Need
- A quiet, peaceful place
- Either: A firm place to lie down or a firm, straight-backed chair. If you choose or need to lie down for the process, I recommend either a yoga mat on the floor, or on a towel with carpet.
- A timer
- No distractions
- Temperature that works for you (possibly a blanket if you are on the floor.)
- A journal to record your experiences
Ready? Set? Stop!
Here are the actual steps of the process.
- Set your timer for 1+ minutes.
You can start with a minute and work up. I haven’t found a maximum time. You will feel what is right for you.
- Assume the position!
Lie down flat on a comfortable, firm space in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Put a towel, yoga mat, or blanket on the floor rather than using a bed or couch (I have found that if the surface is too soft, we tend to fall asleep, which is great–just not meditation!). If you are lying down, keep your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Or, you may also sit upright on a firm chair with your back away from the chair and your knees at a 90-degree angle to the floor. [For yogis, use a meditation cushion or chair if you want].
- Take a few deep, slow breaths.
- As you breathe, bring your attention to where there is the most pain, discomfort, or tightness in your body.
Shoulders feel tense? Or belly pain? Or face tight? Wherever you notice the most tension, pain, or discomfort, breathe in and imagine you had a mouth there bringing air and energy to that place.
- As you put your attention on that tight or uncomfortable place and breathe, be aware of what happens at that spot. Some possibilities are:
- The pain/tension/discomfort gets more intense
- The pain/tension/discomfort decreases
- The pain/tension/discomfort (P/T/D) stays the same
- Emotions seem to happen ‘for no reason’ (anger, sadness, joy, or fear)
- You become aware of another place in your body where the pain/tension/discomfort is even stronger
- If the P/T/D gets more intense, or remains, just continue breathing into it deeply. If it decreases, eventually another place will probably become more prominent and you can switch your focus there, imagining a mouth ‘breathing in’ at that place.
- Continue this process until the timer goes off.
- After the timer goes off, slowly begin to re-orient yourself back in the space you are in, sit up, stretch, take a few breaths…and wonder at the magnificence of what you just experienced.
Congratulations! You have just experienced your first self-empathy meditation (the most basic version). To get the most out of this experience:
8. Write about the sensory experience you had. In other words, write down the exact things you felt in your body during the experience. Such as:
“At first, I noticed some tightness in my chest. It relaxed eventually. Then I felt a pain on the right side of my neck. As I focused on it, it became more intense but then subsided. At this point, I was aware of a dull throbbing in my left temple….”
And so on. Simply *observe and report* what your senses are telling you.
Do not, either during the meditation or when journaling about it:
- Analyze the experience (“I think it must have been because of my accident earlier”)
- Speak in generalities (“I wasn’t really feeling good” instead –> “I had a throbbing on my left temple when I started.” )
- Concern yourself with thoughts (“My report that was due in an hour….”) [unless they feel like ‘breakthrough insights’]
- Evaluate the experience (“This must mean that I need to forgive my father”)
Simply record your neutral, sensory observations.
Again: Here is a link to this entire explanation and experience to listen to.
How was it? Tell me. Also, if you have any questions or comments, let me know and I will answer them for you.
Once you have done it a few times and are ready for more, let me know and I will send you more advanced instructions.