The Difficulty of Practicing Love and Compassion for Yourself

By Tergar Meditation Community • 3 min read


Self vs. other

Doing love and compassion meditation for somebody you love, or maybe a cherished pet? Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy! Practicing love and compassion for someone you’re not crazy about? You might find that a bit more challenging. But if you find it especially tough to use yourself as the subject for love and compassion meditation, you’re not alone. For many folks, it brings up powerful, even painful, emotions. Strangely enough, sometimes it’s easier to imagine the vulnerabilities and innate positive qualities of other beings than it is to extend that nonjudgmental kindness to yourself.

 The internalized critique

It’s understandable to approach love and compassion practices with the assumption that they will come naturally. But actually, it’s very common to feel like you’re hitting a wall. Generally speaking, the difficulty comes from your inability to truly love yourself. That’s because you have been programmed to think that you’re not good enough. Even the people closest to you have, at times, seen fit to point out your imperfections. Family members, teachers, religious leaders, significant others, and employers have chimed in at various times to tell you where your performance has fallen short of their expectations — to say nothing of the lifelong parade of advertisements hinting that your teeth could always be whiter, your waistline slimmer. It’s all too easy to adopt these beliefs as the truth, and to think of yourself as a collection of all these defects.


The liberating truth

However, the radical, liberating truth is that you’re perfectly good just as you are, imbued with basic goodness from the moment you were born; the only problem is that you don’t recognize it. This is why the practices in the Joy of Living courses are exercises in re-programming, crafted to reconnect you to your qualities of basic goodness: awareness, the pure pristine quality of mind that simply knows; love and compassion; and wisdom. For your part, you need to persevere and develop patience. You need to show up for your practice. Gradually, you’ll become better at recognizing these innate qualities of basic goodness within you. And over time, those unfortunate yet ingrained mental habits — those thoughts that you’re not good enough, that internal catalog of flaws — will slowly fade into the background. You will realize your true nature, the full potential of your own being, which is liberated and free from suffering.


 Turning the train around

Patterns are persistent. The practice of love and compassion for oneself is like turning around a freight train. You’ve got many big locomotives heading at full steam down the tracks that say you’re no good, and you’re hauling many tons of emotional baggage. But with patience, perseverance, and time, these practices can help you stop the train, turn it around, and get back to the recognition of your basic goodness. As the Dalai Lama reminds us, without developing true loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves, it’s not really possible to develop it for others. So for your own sake and others’, it is crucial to make your best effort.

“Compassion is the spontaneous wisdom of the heart. It’s always with us. It always has been, and always will be. When it arises in us, we’ve simply learned to see how strong and safe we are already.” Mingyur Rinpoche 

– Mingyur Rinpoche –

More Resources:

Love For Oneself

In this video, Mingyur Rinpoche discusses a form of love that is with us all the time, no matter who we are or what we are experiencing.

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About the Author

By Tergar Meditation Community Team

Tergar Meditation Community supports individuals, practice groups, and meditation communities around the world in learning to live with awareness, compassion, and wisdom. Grounded in the Tibetan Buddhist lineage of our guiding teacher, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, our online and in-person programs are accessible to people of all cultures and faiths, and support a lifelong path toward the application of these principles in everyday life.

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