by Tim Hall
“Compassion meditation” is the subject of scientific research.
What do you envision when you think of “meditation”? Someone sitting in the lotus position with their eyes closed, softly humming “Ohm” repeatedly as they think of nothing? That’s what has been taught by some as they urge their disciples to “transcend” this world. Most of us have never bought in to such practices or views.
There’s a new kind of meditation being promoted. “Compassion meditation” is the label, and it seeks to retrain people’s minds to think more loving and helpful thoughts toward others. Researchers in scientific settings have been testing this approach and have found that it makes a difference.
A March 27, 2008, article in *Science Daily* reported on research at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, they studied the brain’s response to thoughts of compassion toward others.
They found that “through training, people can develop skills that promote happiness and compassion. ‘People are not just stuck at their respective set points,’ he says. ‘We can take advantage of our brain’s plasticity and train it to enhance these qualities.'”
God’s word has long advocated the practice of retraining our brains. Paul said so in Romans 12:2:
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Transformation is what our world needs. Instead of imitating the violence and greed portrayed on popular media, we need to be changed into something better. It can happen, Paul wrote, when we work at it.
The world was given a powerful lesson on compassion when Jesus came to earth. One vivid example is found in Matthew 14.
“And when Jesus went out he saw a great multitude, and he was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14).
When his disciples urged him to send away the people so they find something to eat, Jesus responded: “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat” (Matthew 14:16).
Using God’s power they were able to feed 5,000 hungry men.
The mission of Christians, put simply, is to look at the world through the eyes of Jesus. When we do that, we will see with compassion. Our repeated practice of “compassion meditation” will make a difference in how we view and treat others. We’ll be demonstrating anew that God’s wisdom has been true all along.
Oh, and one other benefit of compassion meditation, according to researchers: It helps fight depression in those who practice it. God’s ways are always best!
by Tim Hall