Last updated on 8th July 2009
This is the third of three posts giving handouts & questionnaires on compassion & criticism. There are a dozen MP3 recordings listed below. It would be possible to use these tracks as a "compassionate mind training" sequence, although I've listed them more to illustrate the kind of approach that it's probably sensible to use. The twelve recordings make up a four exercise training. Each exercise includes a brief (1 to 3 minute) introductory track and then a medium length (15 to 18 minute) and longer (24 to 28 minute) meditation. If you want to follow this sequence, please read the Suggestions for goodwill practice handout (below) first.
There are a number of caveats. I initially made these home recordings for people who had already completed the 8 x 2 hour Autogenic Training courses that I run. Autogenic Training is a form of deep relaxation training. It makes good sense to relax and quieten before moving on to the Goodwill exercises - hence the Autogenic exercise that precedes the Goodwill section on each of the meditations. If you haven't already trained in Autogenics, the approach may seem a little strange at first. It basically consists of moving one's attention through the different body systems - limbs, circulation, breathing, digestion, etc - settling them down. The way I teach is somewhat unusual. I have been practising forms of meditation most days of the week since 1970, so I have a fair amount of experience. The recordings consist of me sitting quietly going through the meditation practice myself and sharing what I am focusing on as I do this. The quality of the recordings isn't great, partly because they are simply made at home, and partly because I have reduced the size of the files by a factor of about six to allow them to be downloaded more easily and quickly.
For various partly evidence-based reasons, I encourage the Goodwill focus to be quite "emotional" rather than "cerebral". I also encourage longer practice sessions where possible, although each meditation is also given as a somewhat shorter "medium length" practice. Many people find that allowing compassion for themselves is particularly tricky - hence the sequence beginning with someone it feels relatively easy to feel love for, then moving on to family & friends in the second exercise, before reaching a focus on oneself too in the third exercise. The fourth exercise then moves to include "all living beings". Typically I encourage people to use each exercise over at least a week or two, before moving on to the next exercise in the sequence. Particularly for people with high levels of self-criticism, I might suggest that they keep returning to the third exercise's compassion for oneself focus, rather than always using the fourth exercise.
It is worth noting that there are a whole series of ways to nourish a greater sense of compassion for others, and for oneself. Much of the recent research has explored how to encourage self-compassion to combat the self-criticism that is a significant risk factor for depression. Goodwill, loving kindness and compassionate mind meditation interventions are one approach that can be useful. Psychotherapeutic two chair dialogue work (with the self-critic), challenging "brainwashing" from traumatic childhood experiences, building wellbeing through increasing competence & relatedness, experiencing real care in a good therapeutic relationship, and other approaches can all also be helpful in changing chronic patterns of self-criticism and hostility.
A final technical point. It's a little difficult to make MP3 files available for download on the internet due to understandable concerns about illegal distribution of potentially copyrighted material. I've got round this by joining MySpace as a band! This allows me to upload MP3 files to a site where they can be a source for subsequent downloads. I'm sure there are more elegant ways of getting round this, but I'm tickled to present myself as a rock band (frustrated ambitions of youth!). When you click on one of the meditation track links, it will hopefully take you to the site where - by clicking on the named file - you can either open and play the file directly or save it to listen to later.
Suggestions for goodwill practice - this is a three page handout that I give clients who are learning goodwill/loving kindness/compassionate mind training with me. It contains references to various aspects of my work that probably aren't relevant to the situation with other teachers. However the vast majority of the handout is either directly relevant to, or easily adapted to, goodwill meditation trainings provided by other trainers.
Goodwill practice record - this is a simple weekly practice record for goodwill/loving kindness/compassionate mind training. It should be pretty easy to adapt this for the particular formats used by other trainers.
Goodwill & Autogenics 1: introduction - this is a brief 3 minute MP3 file introducing the initial practice. There are fuller details in the written Suggestions handout (see above).
Goodwill & Autogenics 1: 16 minutes - this initial exercise begins with an Autogenic Training relaxation and moves on to a Goodwill practice focusing on somebody that one feels particularly caring for.
Goodwill & Autogenics 1: 28 minutes - a longer version of the meditation exercise given above. There is some evidence suggesting that longer practices are more helpful, but there needs to be more research before one could make firm recommendations about this issue of duration.
Goodwill & Autogenics 2: introduction - briefly introduces the second exercise.
Goodwill & Autogenics 2: 17 minutes - again an initial Autogenic relaxation is followed by a Goodwill practice, now extending from somebody one feels particular caring for to also include friends and family.
Goodwill & Autogenics 2: 24 minutes - a longer version of the meditation given above.
Goodwill & Autogenics 3: introduction - briefly introduces the third exercise.
Goodwill & Autogenics 3: 15 minutes - an initial Autogenic Training exercise followed by a Goodwill practice that adds a focus on oneself to the mix. This is probably especially relevant for people who suffer from excessive self-criticism and vulnerability to depression. Interestingly there may also be relevance - as self-soothing - for people who struggle with anxiety.
Goodwill & Autogenics 3: 24 minutes - a longer version of the meditation given above.
Goodwill & Autogenics 4: introduction - briefly introduces the fourth exercise.
Goodwill & Autogenics 4: 18 minutes - Autogenic relaxation followed by a Goodwill practice that moves through the sequence from somebody one especially cares for, to friends & family, to oneself, and out from there to "living beings everywhere".
Goodwill & Autogenics 4: 24 minutes - a longer version of the meditation given above.