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Posted on Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 5:50 a.m.

Debunking a meditation myth: Focusing on yourself is not selfish but allows us to experience more compassion

By Susan Scott Morales, MSW

This week I read a New York Times article in which science is validating what we meditators have known: Go Easy on Yourself, a New Wave of Research Urges.

As a meditator I have not heard many disparaging comments, and the ones I received were a long time ago — for example, “What do you have to escape from?” Another more prominent misunderstanding is that meditation leads to self-indulgence. I believe the logic is if you’re focusing on yourself, you must be selfish.

But how many people truly delight in their internal reality? Most people in our culture, I sense, avoid it. There are so many distractions, it’s easy to do.

By the time we’re adolescents, the inner life is usually full of confusion — conflicting and sometimes overwhelming feelings. When we meditate, we are intimate with our feelings — both emotional and physical — with only our thoughts to distract us. Hence, we have difficulty quieting our thoughts.

You think it’s hard to stop your thoughts? Maybe, but it is easier than being quiet with your feelings. That is what is hard.

My friends who meditate regularly are among the strongest, most compassionate people I know. Meditation leads to self-awareness: facing your shortcomings, your limitations and taking responsibility for them. It can also give glimpses of our amazing potential, which can be the scariest of all.

What I’ve observed is that meditation also leads to self-compassion, which allows us to be more compassionate with others. What’s more important than that?

Susan Scott Morales is a meditation teacher, psychotherapist, published poet, novelist, and community contributor to Tweet her @susanscottmoral, reach her at or visit her website:


Linda Chapman

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 4:43 p.m.

It was interesting to take the 'self compassion' test found on the site listed in the NY Times article. It is clear to me that meditation allows for a kind of self acceptance that is hard to find. Delighting in the mind and finding comfort in our emotional playground is such a gift!


Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 12:52 p.m.

I just love the Meditation Articles! They teach and guide with helpful tips on reaching our Quiet. I get so much out of each one. Like today's. I did have personal issues about 'focusing' on myself would be selfish. Ms. Morales gently validated the importance of going within, reach out. I think I can accept that principle.