The Compassionate Mind

The Compassionate Mind

The Greater Good Science Center at U.C. Berkeley is bringing together leading researchers and educators in the fields of mindfulness and compassion practice for a day of scientific and clinical perspectives on Practicing Mindfulness and Compassion on March 8, 2013. (For those of you not in the Bay Area, the conference will be webcast live.) To register: www.mindfulcompassion.com.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD – founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, author of Full Catastrophe Living and Wherever You Go, There You Are

Kristin Neff, PhD – co-creator of the Mindful Self-Compassion Program, professor at the University of Texas – Austin, author of Self-Compassion (see September 2012 e-newsletter on Self Compassion More Powerful than Self-Esteem)

Paul Gilbert, PhD – founder of Compassion Focused Therapy, author of The Compassionate Mind, head of the mental health unit at the University of Derby in the U.K.

Dacher Keltner, PhD – co-founder of the Greater Good Science Center, professor at U.C. Berkeley, author of The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness

Shauna Shapiro, PhD – professor at Santa Clara University, author of The Art and Science of Mindfulness: Integrating Mindfulness into Psychology and the Healing Professions

Presenters will explore the movement, fueled by neuroscience, to integrate mindfulness and compassion practices to transform modern health care, education, business, government, and our personal lives. Break-out sessions will offer training in Mindful Self-Compassion with Kristin Neff, Compassion Focused Therapy with Paul Gilbert, Compassion Cultivation Training with Leah Weiss and Cognitive-Based Compassion Training with Brooke Dodson-Lavelle.

This e-newsletter explores Paul Gilbert’s book The Compassionate Mind because the science is compelling, the practices eminently useful, and his perspective from 30 years as a psychologist in the U.K. gives us a refreshingly new vocabulary for both ancient wisdom practice and modern brain science.

May these reflections and tools be useful to you and yours.


Gilbert approaches compassion from the science of how the brain works, then draws on modern neuroscience, evolutionary psychology and attachment theory, Buddhist mindfulness practice, Jungian archetypes, cognitive behavioral therapy, and Marxist economics to suggest that the most powerful tool to increase resilience, meaning and happiness today is to train the mind in practices of compassion. He emphasizes the necessity for self-compassion to counter the tribalism of the human psyche and the competitive-comparative-materialistic, self-absorbed tendencies of our modern society, and posits that compassion practices sustain the core of our well-being and are at the heart of transforming our place in the flow of life on earth – to become more humane in our humanity, to relieve suffering for ourselves and others to strengthen cooperation, altruism, resilience, meaning and purpose, to avert the impending destruction of the entire planet.

In Part I, The Science Behind Compassion, Gilbert describes the operation of three emotions systems hardwired into our brains by 200 million years of evolution as strategies to pass on our genes: 1) the threat and self-protection system; 2) the incentive and resource-seeking system; and 3) the soothing and contentment system. Our newer “higher” brain (2 million years of evolution), need to regulate and balance these three systems through its capacities for language, imagination, and reflection that allow us to become self-aware and self-actualizing,.

The threat and self-protection system perceives threats quickly and activates the survival responses of fight-flight-freeze-appease to protect ourselves and those we consider kin or our tribe. Cortisol released through this system generates feelings of anxiety, anger or disgust in our body-brains. This system is essential for our survival, as individuals and as a species, but perpetuates an “us v. them” view and, unchecked, can lead to aggression, violence, war, and barbarous cruelty.

The incentive and resource-seeking system motivates us to seek resources we need to survive and prosper, guiding us toward achievement, winning, pleasure, fueled by dopamine released when we attain those goals. The need to prove ourselves worthy when not achieving those goals in our “go and get” culture leads to frustration, disappointment, defeat, or anger. Our modern societies can exploit this system, fanning the desire for “more” and “better,” leading to experiences of inferiority, failure, not good enough, shame, or depression.

The soothing and contentment system uses human affection and kindness to generate a sense of inner peace and contentment. Loving and compassionate relationships release oxytocin which generates feelings of safety, security and well-being. The hardwiring of this system is the foundation for wiring into our brains pro-social behaviors such as kindness, compassion, and altruism.

These three systems are shaped by genes, the experiences and circumstances of the families we were born into (which can turn the expression of genes on or off and shape the development of the brain itself), and by messages from the larger culture and age we live in. Unfortunately, the first two systems are powerful enough to push the third soothing and contentment system, which is the foundation of compassion, to the side. (Gilbert’s descriptions of this shaping is so eloquent, and so easy to understand.)

Gilbert suggests that because so much of what goes on in our minds has been genetically built and socially shaped, all these developmental factors give rise to patterns in our brains that determine who we are but that, from a scientific perspective, we did not choose. We are programmed and conditioned to develop patterns in the brain that become states of mind and our consciousness of our self, but who we are and how we behave is not our fault.

Mindful awareness and a kind compassion allow us to know that, to understand why we behave the way we do, but without judgment, especially without self-condemnation or self-criticism. Self-compassion can antidote the self-criticism of the threat and self-protection system, and balance the pursuit of self-esteem in the incentive and resource-seeking system (fine when things go well) with self-compassion for the struggles and difficulties of being human when things don’t go so well or fall apart.

Knowing how our brain works allows us to take responsibility now to change our behaviors. Training in compassion is training the mind to harness the innate neuroplasticity in our brains and re-organize those patterns of relating to self and others and to all of our experiences with warmth, kindness, gentleness, and compassion.

Gilbert points out again and again the inevitability of personal losses, setbacks, distress, tragedy, trauma, mortality…suffering in a human life. In our daily lives, we live with fear of losing our job or a loved one, making mistakes, being rejected or humiliated by others. Compassion not only helps us cope; it decreases anxiety, hostility and depression; it promotes physical and mental health; it encourages us to take risks; it creates meaningful relationships with others; it fosters peace and fulfillment within and harmony and peace in the suffering world.

Gilbert sees compassion as consisting of:

* sensitivity – paying attention to suffering and the feelings and needs of self or others
* sympathy – attuning to and being moved by suffering
* distress tolerance -staying with emotional pain in the moment, not denying or being overwhelmed
* empathy – understanding the what and the why of the suffering
* non-judgment – allowing and accepting without resistance, condemnation or submission
* caring for the well-being of ourselves and others – warmth, kindness, gentleness in every behavior, in every response to what is

Gilbert offers a fascinating exploration of the differences between self-criticism and self-compassion as motivators for human behavior. Self-criticism focuses on the past and sees our struggles and difficulties as flaws in our character; it focuses on shame-blame-punishment, which causes us to deny or avoid mistakes, which leads to anger and contempt or helplessness and withdrawal. Self-compassion focuses on the present as a platform for the future, sees struggles and difficulties as being human, focuses on support and encouragement which allows us to face our mistakes and learn from them and engage in self-correction and growth.

He also explores the differences between shame (bad self, hiding and disconnecting) and guilt (bad action, remorse, regret, reaching out to others to repair).

These attributes of compassion lead to compassionate practices:

Compassionate attention: focusing on what has gone well or what has been helpful, what someone can be proud of or feel good about, not the one negative event in a day of goodness; accessing memories of goodness as resources

Compassionate emotions: bringing warmth and kindness to every behavior, every action

Compassionate thinking: looking at events rationally, bringing an accurate and balanced perspective

Compassionate imagery: using imagination to evoke a compassionate other or compassionate self that can listen to various parts and voices of our self with understanding and forgiveness

Gilbert insists that compassion requires that we take responsibility for our choices now. Evolution has no interest in happiness as an experience in itself. Only self-aware beings can take on the responsibility to seek to understand the causes of suffering, how to alleviate it, develop relationships that support compassion and societies that value it. No shame-blame, no fault-finding or self-criticism, but responsibility for self-correcting. For staying attentive, curious, inquiring into our choices of action now. For learning from any mistakes or failures. Gilbert reminds us that compassion is not weak or namby-pamby. It often takes a fierce courage to differentiate from the crowd, from what the culture deems as conscience, and act on behalf of kindness and caring for all.

In Part II, Building the Compassionate Self: Skills and Exercises, Gilbert offers many tools and techniques to train the mind in the practice of compassion from his Compassion Focused Therapy CFT). Many of them will be familiar to readers of this newsletter.

Mindfulness: training our minds to pay attention and remain calmly engaged with our experience in the moment without judgment, resistance, or submission. The observation allows us to break the automaticity of brain patterns. We can step back from problematic patterns, put them in perspective, normalize any bad habits as completely understandable given our genes, conditioning, culture and current stressors, create space to choose alternatives, empathize with differences among fellow human beings, accept limitations, and create more acceptance, contentment, and well-being.

Body-based practices to create the safety and security of connection to then respond to distress, to shift from the threat or incentive systems to the soothing-connection system, and then provide what is needed for flourishing. Breathing, hand on the heart, progressive muscle relaxation, embodying the posture of compassion and moving into the world from there. Gilbert also suggests aromatherapy, mantras (focusing attention on a word like love or peace) and mudras (hand gestures and finger positions that cue the brain or orient toward compassion).

Guided imagery to evoke a compassionate other or compassionate self to work with our shadow, healing parts of self stuck in states of anxiety, hostility, shame or depression.

Loving kindness practice to strengthen the physical sense of kindness and compassion in our heart center.

Inquiry into what actions would be truly helpful in this moment of pain and distress and stimulate patterns in brain of self-nourishing, support and encouragement. Changing automatic negative thoughts into automatic positive thoughts (ANTs into APTs).

Gilbert also offers an exercise from the Gestalt two-chair technique of having the threat system and the soothing system dialogue with each other, strengthening the compassion that can deal with the afflictive emotions that would derail our well-being. (I teach a similar technique of re-conditioning in the forthcoming book, Bouncing Back to strengthen the soothing system and have experiences of it rewire the threat system.)

All of these exercises are offered in the context of a larger shift in the field of psychotherapy, from negativity and pathology to pro-social emotions and well-being, and the increasing integration of Buddhist mindfulness practices into Western psychotherapy. Gilbert suggests our understanding of how the brain works allows us to shift from being the created (in terms of learned patterns in the brain) to the creator, allowing us to develop a compassionate self-nourishing orientation that is not at all selfish or self-indulgent but has the power to heal and transcend suffering through curiosity, kindness, playfulness, discovery, and full acceptance of all that we are.

Gilbert explores the science and practice of compassion with unparalleled warmth, wit and wisdom. He is adept at presenting the paradoxes, contradictions, and unresolved ambiguities of both science and spirituality in using compassion practice as the core practice to transform our place in the flow of life on earth. He reminds us to pursue these practices with diligence and determination, but not succumb to “should’s” that would set us up for failure. To remember, “little and often” is what works and brings to the practices a sense of ease and joy.


Compassion is the radicalism of our time.
– Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

* * * * *

We frail humans are at one time capable of the greatest good and, at the same time, capable of the greatest evil. Change will only come about when each of us takes up the daily struggle ourselves to be more forgiving, compassionate, loving, and above all joyful in the knowledge that, by some miracle of grace, we can change as those around us can change, too.
– Mairead Maguire

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The individual is capable of both great compassion and great indifference. He has it within his means to nourish the former and outgrow the latter.
– Norman Cousins

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We are called to be strong companions and clear mirrors to one another, to seek those who reflect with compassion and a keen eye how we are doing, whether we seem centered or off course…we need the nourishing company of others to create the circle needed for growth, freedom and healing.
– Wayne Muller

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Compassion will cure more than condemnation.
– Henry Ward Beecher

* * * * *

When our communication supports compassionate giving and receiving, happiness replaces violence and grieving.
– Marshall Rosenberg

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Although humans inherit a biological bias that permits them to feel anger, jealousy, selfishness and envy, and to be rude, aggressive or violent, they inherit an even stronger biological bias for kindness, compassion, cooperation, love and nurture –especially toward those in need. This inbuilt ethical sense is a biological feature of our species.
– Jerome Kagan

* * * * *

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in the complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places – and there are so many – where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.
– Howard Zinn

* * * * *

We cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that American must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace….

…It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job, which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.
– Barack Obama, 2008 inaugural address

* * * * *

I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be ‘happy.’ I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all, to matter and to count, to stand for something to have made some difference that you lived at all.
– Leo C. Rosten

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How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because some day in life you will have been all of these.
– George Washington Carver

* * * * *

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
– LeoBuscaglia

* * * * *

Any ordinary favor we do for someone or any compassionate reaching out may seem to be going nowhere at first, but may be planting a seed we can’t see right now. Sometimes we need to just do the best we can and then trust in an unfolding we can’t design or ordain.
– Sharon Salzberg

* * * * *

When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it’s bottomless, that it doesn’t have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space.
– Pema Chodron

* * * * *

I would rather feel compassion than know the meaning of it.
– Thomas Aquinas

* * * * *

A good motivation is what is needed: compassion without dogmatism, without complicated philosophy; just understanding that others are human brothers and sisters and respecting their human rights and dignities. The greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being.
– Tenzin Ghyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

* * * * *

Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts and our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.
– Daniel Goleman

* * * * *

You know, there’s a lot of talk in this country about the federal deficit. But I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit – the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes; to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us – the child who’s hungry, the steelworkers who’s been laid off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came to town. When you think like this – when you choose to broaden your ambit of concern and empathize with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers – it becomes harder not to act; harder not to help.
– Barack Obama

* * * * *

Loving-kindness and compassion are the basis for wise, powerful, sometimes gentle, and sometimes fierce actions that can really make a difference – in our own lives and those of others.
– Sharon Salzberg

* * * * *

But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad little ways, every day.
– David Foster Wallace

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Compassion is not sentiment but is making justice and doing works of mercy. Compassion is not a moral commandment but a flow and overflow of the fullest human and divine energies.
– Matthew Fox

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A religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought at one time, at all times, who suffers harm done to others, whose greatest passion is compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair.
– Abraham Joshua Heschel

* * * * *

Compassion will no longer be seen as a spiritual luxury for a contemplative few; rather it will be viewed as a social necessity for the entire human family.
– Duane Elgin

* * * * *

A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thought and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
– Albert Einstein

* * * * *

Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.
– Kahlil Gibran

Quotes source: Wisdom Quotes


[Excerpted from The Compassionate Mind:]

“Stop and think for a minute about what happens when your incentive/resource-seeking system is thwarted. Say you’re driving to work and thinking about what lies ahead of you. The traffic is really bad today and you’re going to be late. That will set you back on a number of tasks you wanted to get done, or you will miss a particular meeting and look bad. You frantically run through all the short cuts you’ve discovered on your route to work, but there are too many road words today to take advantage of them.

“You arrive at work flustered and snappy. Someone brings you a coffee and you nod your thanks. Two minutes later, you turn around, knocking the coffee all over the report you’ve just finished. ‘Why did they have to put it there’ you think, while at the same time knowing the accident happened because you weren’t careful because you’re stressed. By the time you get home, you feel as frazzled as a burnt sausage and as much use.

“The point is that being thwarted is inevitable for all of us. We are constantly faced with minor hassles and stresses, but if we can train our minds for compassion in the heat of frustration, we’ll find ways of working with those difficulties instead of having tantrums or panics so often.”

I can offer a small, small example of using self-compassion to cope with thwart. Two days ago I spent more than an hour on the phone with various AT&T folks to create an account where I could pay a new phone bill online. As time went on, I noticed I was becoming impatient and reactive, losing my equanimity. I somehow managed to remember that I could practice self-compassion in the middle of these moments. As soon as I put my hand on my heart and said, “Ouch! This hurts!”, my brain was primed to add the “Oh sweetheart! I’m so sorry you’re upset.” Which, as research shows, activates the soothing and contentment system in the caregiving part of the brain. I noticed in that moment the shift to feeling cared about, and as I felt that shift in my brain, I noticed that I was calming down in my body. An astonished “This works!” allowed me to complete the call successfully, with friendliness toward the beleaguered customer service reps.


Gilbert sees the lack of self-kindness and compassion as the root of mental suffering. Here are three exercises he suggests to cultivate the connectedness and acceptance of compassion that helps relieve that suffering.

1. Connecting with the flow of life

This is a guided imagery exercise to evoke a sense of belonging to and being nourished by all of life. Decide for yourself whether you focus on the sea, the sky, or mountains; Gilbert leads you through the exercise focusing on the sea, but the instructions apply to all of nature.

First, engage in a soothing breathing rhythm as best you can, while looking down or closing your eyes. Now imagine that the sea is in front of you and that it is beautifully blue, warm and calm, lapping on to a white, silky, sandy shore. Imagine that you’re standing in the water, which is just lapping gently at your feet. In this imagery, it’s very useful to pay as much attention to as many of your senses as you can. So, for example, imagine a slight warm breeze gently caressing your face, the smell of the sea, the sound of the waves lapping on the beach, the sparkling diamonds on the surface of the water, the sun warming your body. This sensory focusing helps to create the experience that you want.

When you’ve been through each of your senses and you’ve some “feel” for the image, you can now engage in the “connectedness’ part.

As you look out over the sea to the horizon, imagine that this sea, which has been here for eons, is a source of life. Indeed, all life on this planet began here, millions of years ago. This sea has seen many things in the history of life, has been witness to countless species evolving and decaying, and knows many things. Many battles have been fought within it and on its surface. Now imagine that the sea completely accepts you, that it knows all about your struggles and pain, that it recognizes you as a mindful living being in the flow of life. Allow yourself to feel connected to the sea, to its power and wisdom that have total acceptance of you. Try to build a sense of connectedness, of being welcomed by something old and wise.

* * * * *

I might not have understood the power of this exercise when I read it except that it immediately reminded me of a very powerful experience I had years ago, just as this exercise describes. When my dad died, I took his ashes back to the home in Minnesota that he and my mom had lived in for 26 years. The home was on a lake. His neighbor, still living next door, went with me in a rowboat to scatter the ashes in the lake that had been part of his view of the world for a quarter of a century. As we scattered the ashes into the water, it began to rain. I immediately sensed that the ancestors, in the form of the clouds, were weeping that day for his death also. The comfort I felt in that connection to the flow of life of life, in the vastness and timelessness of nature, was indescribable. The memory has stayed with me all these years, evoked again by Gilbert’s exercise above.

2. Thinking about experience compassionately

Remember any event that is upsetting to you. Then ask yourself the following questions about the event, writing down your responses if you wish. If it helps, you can imagine a compassionate other, a compassionate friend, or a compassionate therapist asking you these questions. Hear the question in your mind as a gentle, kind, and genuinely compassionate inquiry aimed at helping you. If you adopt a compassionate facial expression with a gentle smile and take a few soothing breaths, this can help you create that tone.

* How would I typically see this situation if I weren’t stressed, anxious, depressed, irritable, upset or uptight, if I was in a different state of mind, say happy and relaxed?

* Although I can learn from the past, what evidence do I have from what’s happened before to support my view in this moment for this event? What other possible explanations could there be for what has happened that has upset me? Are any of them a more reasonable or likely explanation than my feared ones?

* Although as a human being I have many textures of feeling that are important for my well-being and protection, it’s not helpful for me to rely too much of my feelings to give me an accurate view of the world. So in what way might my feelings not be accurate today?

* Am I telling myself that this is awful and totally unacceptable and I can’t stand it? Is that reasonable? I’ve had setbacks like this before and come through them. They’re part of life and I certainly wouldn’t be the first person in the world to have an experience like this.

* Have I slipped a rule (or two) into my thoughts about life? Am I insisting on something ‘people must” or ‘people should’. Have I ever explained my rules to others? If I haven’t, would they accept them?

* How will I feel about this event in three weeks, three months, or six months? Will I even remember it? It if passes so rapidly, what will make it go away even quicker now?

* Am I underestimating my ability to cope with this event? Am I reacting out of habit? If I give myself a moment to chill out, perhaps I’ll be able to cope.

* What hold me back from really taking on board my own wisdom and understanding? Is there a part of me that’s worried about changing? Is a part of me nervous about that kind of person I might be if I chilled out?

*If I had a friend with me right now, what would I like them to say? What would be the most helpful thing for that friend to focus on?

*If I were advising and supporting a friend in the same situation, what might I say and how might I feel about the support I’m giving?

3. The art of appreciation

Appreciating and savoring what gives us pleasure and joy helps us see the glass of our life half full, or more than, and strengthens the soothing and contentment system that brings inner peace and ease.

Each day when you wake up, focus on the things that you like or give you just a smidgen of pleasure. For example, you may like being in a warm bed. So rather than focusing on how having to get out of bed is annoying, smile to yourself at the enjoyment you’ve had in being comfortable and warm and how, in just 16 hours or so, you can return there. Think about how you’ll enjoy taking a shower, drinking your first cup of tea, tasting your breakfast or looking at the paper. When you make your tea and toast, try doing it mindfully. Pay attention to the water, that life-giving fluid and how the hot water on your tea bag gradually produces a swirl of brown liquid. As for your toast, focus on the taste and feel. Imagine that you’re an ant crawling over your toast – it would be a lunar landscape.. Even when doing something as mundane as the washing-up, notice the warm feeling of the water and the bubbles and the way in which you can almost see rainbows in them. Choose a day and spend time focusing only on the things that you like and appreciate in people, letting go of the things that you don’t like. Think about how all of us are so dependent on each other. People have been us since four o’clock in the morning so that we can have fresh milk, bread and newspapers.

When we deliberately use our attention to practice stimulating the soothing and contentment system, we create more happiness and ease in our minds, and more joy and delight in our day.

RESOURCES to Practice Compassion

Greater Good Science Center

The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley researches the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient and compassionate society. The website offers many free and downloadable articles on compassion , gratitude, altruism, empathy, forgiveness, happiness, and mindfulness

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

MBSR is an 8-week intensive training in mindfulness meditation, ideal for cultivating greater awareness of the unity of mind and body, as well as of the ways the unconscious thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can undermine emotional, physical, and spiritual health. For 30 years, MBSR has been an effective method for practitioners to reduce stress and alleviate health problems associated with stress.


Kristin Neff is considered the world’s leading scientific expert on self-compassion. Her Self-Compassion website offers guided meditations, exercises, research articles and videos to help practitioners deepen their practice of self-compassion.

The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education

CCARE’s Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) is an 8-week course designed to develop the qualities of compassion, empathy, and kindness for oneself and for others. CCT integrates traditional contemplative practices with contemporary psychology and scientific research on compassion. The program was developed at Stanford University by a team of contemplative scholars, clinical psychologists, and researchers.