Compassion, our ability to connect with our own and others’ suffering along with the sincere motivation to relieve and prevent it, is instinctive in human beings when the one who suffers is someone closer to them.
However, contemplative traditions suggest that it is possible to expand our circle of care and compassion beyond the instinctive. When compassion arises in our heart, our mind is freed from hatred, negative judgments and obsessive self-care, constituting a natural source of inner and outer peace.
The Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) is an eight or nine week program designed to develop the qualities of compassion, empathy and love for oneself and others.
The CCT integrates traditional contemplative practices with contemporary psychology and scientific research on compassion, being developed at Stanford University’s Center for Research and Education for Compassion and Altruism by a team led by Geshe Tupten Jinpa, Tibetan scholar and principal translator of the Dalai Lama, along with a team of contemplative scholars, clinical psychologists and interdisciplinary researchers.
What do we understand as compassion?
Compassion is a process that unfolds in response to suffering. It begins with the recognition of suffering, which arises thoughts and feelings of empathy and concern for the well-being of those who suffer. This in turn motivates action that alleviates suffering.
Having compassion for the person who suffers does not mean
s to feel sorry but to have the strength to alleviate that suffering, benefiting and far from harming us, both those who suffer and those who carry out compassionate actions.
Human beings have a natural ability to feel and express compassion. However, daily stress, social pressures, and life experiences can limit the full expression of this ability.
Each of us can choose to nurture and develop our compassionate instincts, just as a plant can be cultivated from a seed. This process requires patience, care, as well as the appropriate tools and a supportive environment.
Cultivating compassion goes beyond feeling more empathy and concern for others.
Cultivating compassion brings forward the strength to cope with suffering, the courage to act with compassion, and the resilience to prevent «compassion fatigue.
These qualities in turn facilitate and support a range of positive changes, from improving interpersonal relationships to making a positive difference in the world.
Cultivating compassion can also support one’s health, well-being and happiness. Recent studies suggest that the CCT program can increase self-care, self-compassion and connection with others, while reducing stress, anxiety, depression and isolation.
Weekly meetings of 2 and a half hours (possibility of doing it in two hours a week) that includes guided meditations, talks, group conversations about the practices and about the theory and science behind them.
Mindfulness practices, visualization practices, and breathing exercises to develop love, empathy, and compassion.
Each exercise is both a means of training empathy, deep listening, and authentic speech.
Concrete practices to apply the contents of the course in daily life.
Learning to develop qualities such as warmth, appreciation, joy, gratitude in one’s relationship with oneself. While the previous step focuses on self-acceptance, this step focuses on self-appraisal.
In this session we learn to develop qualities such as self-acceptance, non-judgment, kindness and caring in our relationship with ourselves. Connecting with our own feelings and needs, and relating to them with empathy and compassion is the basis for developing a compassionate attitude towards others.
Establish the foundation of compassion for others through the recognition of our shared humanity, appreciating the kindness of others and how we human beings are deeply interconnected.
This step includes explicitly evoking the desire to do something about the suffering of others. In formal meditation practice, this intention is cultivated through the practice of visualization where the practitioner imagines taking the suffering of others and offering them all that is beneficial to him or herself. This practice is known as «Tonglen» or «give and take» in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
Compassion training in a maximum security prison
The Louisiana State Prison in Angola is the largest high-security prison in the United States, with more than 75% of its population serving a life sentence. This video shows testimonies of men who have participated as students of this program.
In their own words they reflect on the importance of holding compassion as a value and the impact this has had on their lives.
¿Why cultivate compassion?
In this video we hear the voices of people involved in creating the Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) program at the Center for Research and Education in Compassion and Altruism at Stanford University.
Descalzos al Bosque means Barefoot in the Forest which is the union of souls´ result, the fusion between the feminine and the masculine and the alliance between the earth and the sky.
In this fusion, Shanti contributes with the spiritual work through Yogic, Tibetan and Vedic practices, and Ivan contributes to the transformation work through the practices that connects with nature.