“The cultivation of compassion is no longer a luxury, but a necessity, if our species is to survive.”
- Dalai Lama
The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, or CCARE, was founded by Neuroscientist Dr. James Doty and after meeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his prompting to explore the relationship of science and compassion, CCARE emerged. With good fortune, I attended the program that was developed at Stanford on Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT). This training took place at Vajrapani Institute in Boulder Creek over the course of a four-day emersion.
The program includes science, psychology and contemplative practices that support the process of living a more compassionate life. One of the highlights that seemed to emerge over and over throughout the course was Self-Compassion and how often we turn to provide compassion for others and forget about ourselves.
The risk to such forgetting may lead to empathic burnout and the subsequent physical and mental health issues that result from this burnout has some fairly significant consequences. When the tank of empathy begins to show it’s initial signs we may find ourselves fatigued, to frequent colds/flu’s, to complete despair and hopelessness. The remedy while seeming very simple at first blush, is often more challenging for us than we may think, but self-compassion is the antidote.
Kristin Neff, a Professor at University of Texas, Austin, is the leading researcher in Self-Compassion. Her work on self compassion, explores how being kind to ourselves is what is necessary to most effectively provide the framework for giving compassion to others. While this seems obvious, I think many of us still find it easier to help others first before ourselves.
My intention for taking this course was to understand the more current research on compassion cultivation and how I might integrate this new material into my mindfulness curriculum that I’m currently utilizing with law enforcement. I discovered the more important aspiration was self-compassion. So with a filled empathic tank and ready to spread compassion, I might suggest a very valuable book from Kristin Neff, "Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself."
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