The role of the instructor in compassion education

By | Compassion

In my last post, I wrote about how and why compassion can’t be taught. One of the great responses I recieved was from a fellow CCT teacher. She asked what I think about the role of the teacher, if compassion can’t be taught. Good question! Here’s a helpful analogy from my partner James I’m happy to share with you:

We can’t teach water how to flow, but we can create a pathway, a channel for it to flow.

Compassion is like water. It flows naturally when unobstructed. 

A good instructor can point out what gets in the way of the current of compassion, revealing her own experience of resistance, barriers and objections. That’s what I aim to do. I introduce a perspective, tools, exercises and practices. I share my experience of creating the conditions for compassion to flow, and what I’ve noticed as a result. 

In compassion education we gather to explore this phenomena called compassion. Instructor is a role I play for discrete periods of time. In the role, I facilitate a conversation where compassion can reveal itself through stories and examples. I remind us of what we already know, what we want to live. At other times, you may remind me.  

The real learning in compassion education is in noticing (without judgement) what gets in the way (negativity, judgement, self centeredness), and training the mind and heart to open pathways for compassion to be more and more our default, go-to response.

When we strip away our stress, busy-ness, self doubt and distraction, compassion is there. When we commit time to really listening to another, or reflecting on what life might be like for them, compassion is there.

We invite compassion in and then we notice what happens when it takes its natural course.

Do you feel less isolated when you’re struggling? Do you appreciate people you used to breeze by in a rush to the next thing? Do situations that used to bother you bother you less?

Compassion Can’t Be Taught

By | Compassion

Compassion can’t be taught. It can be experienced, enjoyed, offered, noticed, studied, shared, cultivated and practiced. Compassion can’t be taught because it is what we are. It arises naturally when we’re fully present with another. Compassion is the awareness of another’s suffering coupled with a willingness to do something to relieve the suffering.

Compassion can’t be planned in advance. Attempting to plan out what I would do in x, y, z situation to enact compassion is a form of suffering. It’s a form of suffering because it takes me out of the moment, which is the only place where compassion can happen.

Compassion is a principle we can commit ourselves to, allowing it to have its way with us. It can look like saying no, staying still, not doing. It can look like saying yes, moving toward and helping. Compassion isn’t defined by ‘doing’ at all. It’s better understood as a stance, a motivator and an attitude.

We can reflect on compassion, choose it, make ourselves available to it, get out of the way and allow it to happen. Ideas about what compassion should look like, or how compassionate people do things, are not helpful. Comparing ourselves to others we see as more compassionate than we are doesn’t help.

Compassion education can be thought of as a process of remembering, practicing, living and being in alignment with our true nature, which is compassionate.

 

Welcome to Bend, Margy!

By | Compassion

Happy June, friends!

I’m excited to welcome my friend, colleague and fellow CCT instructor, Margy Lim, to Bend!

Margy and I will be co-facilitating CCT in the fall and working together to grow the CCT community in Central Oregon. Here’s an introduction to you from Margy:

Durinmy years of working as a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist both in private practice and as a staff clinician at the Stanford University Faculty Staff Help Center, I observed that compassion for self is in short supply. In our competitive culture, many people are hard on themselves and suffer as a result.

When I was introduced to the study of Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) at Stanford, I learned a valuable set of science-based skills and ideas developed to alleviate suffering and have since taught them to clients and the general public. Self-compassion is, in the deepest sense, self-care and fosters resilience and a feeling of connectedness, often reducing feelings of anxiety and depression.

In teaching CCT, my aim is to teach the skills necessary to cultivate and maintain a sense of kindness toward self and others and to enhance the sense of wellbeing in our homes, communities and places of work in order to prepare us for life’s inevitable challenges.

Recently retired from clinical work at Stanford, my husband and I relocated to Bend to be with our daughter’s family and to welcome their first baby. My interests include the study of new developments in neuroscience, particularly where it supports the teaching of compassion cultivation; the study of classical piano; hiking and maintaining my working knowledge of French.

I certiainly look forward to working with Margy! I hope you can join us for our co-facilitated CCT class this fall at OSU-Cascades on Mondays from 4 to 6pm September 17th through November 5th.  Click here for more info and to register.

Wishing you love, joy and fun! ?

-Aly

Science of Compassion

By | Compassion

Everytime I facilitate a Compassion Cultivation Training© class, I learn more and deepen my practice of compassion. It’s an incredible, ever-renewing and endless resource for me – a source of strength, purpose and calm.

Here are a few of my favorite Science of Compassion resources for you to explore:

  • Video of Emiliana Simon-Thomas describing the brain structures involved in compassion.
  • Randomized controlled trial of CCT and enhancing compassion, 2012 full paper
  • CCT study on mindfulness, affect and emotion regulation published in 2013, full paper.
  • Study on CCT and mind wandering published 2015, full paper.
  • Videos of past conferences, presentations and events at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE).
  • Peer reviewed CCARE articles.
  • The Wellspring Institute’s library of key scientific papers on brain science, relationships, well-being, and more.

Happy researching!

-Aly

Enhance your life with compassion

By | Compassion

Compassion is an awareness of others’ suffering coupled with a willingness to take action to relieve the suffering.

Actively practicing compassion boosts your courage to be present and resourceful in the face of life’s challenges.

Compassion can calm your nervous system and strengthen your capacity for meaningful relationships, connections and intimacy with others. It enhances your well-being and happiness by reducing stress, anxiety, loneliness and empathy fatigue.

Compassion can also connect you with your values and purpose to increase your clarity and focus.

Compassion is perhaps the most powerful and effective tool you can use to care for yourself and others. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama famously said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

And yes, compassion can be cultivated and enhanced! There are specific exercises you can do to build your compassion muscle. Like a great workout, it feels amazing.

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