Compassion has been a core virtue espoused by most religious, spiritual, and philosophical traditions for millennia. However, in the last couple of decades, it has received more focus due to the Dalai Lama, whose Buddhist lineage hold compassion as central, and to Karen Armstrong, who made her wish to form a Charter for Compassion the subject of her TED Award in 2008.
Heather Blenkinsop, who designed this website, was the first person to tell me about the Charter and ask whether the University of Edinburgh might become involved. That was in 2009, just after the international Council of Conscience, which Karen had convened, composed and published the actual Charter for Compassion. Shortly thereafter, I signed the Charter and since then, I have followed the Charter’s development with great interest. To learn about current initiatives, programs and resources, and to sign the Charter itself, see Charter for Compassion.
Charter for Compassion Education Network (EdNet)
In 2020, I joined the Charter for Compassion Education Network (EdNet), which for the past ten months has been learning about innovative and holistic global education programs that reflect a not a patriarchal paradigm of dominance and control, but in the words of Ole Kjörrefjord, who worked with Barbara Marx Hubbard, a paradigm in which ‘evolved people (whom I call Resonant Homo Universalis) with aligned life purposes can co-create solutions, if they form a small group (up to eight) and meet regularly’.
For Ole, his colleague Juan Carlos Kaiten, and many of us who learned from Barbara Marx Hubbard, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Jean Houston, and others about the evolution of life and consciousness, Resonant Homo Universalis are (again, in Ole’s words) ‘awakened and ignited Homo Sapiens’ – ‘people who are only motivated by their higher purpose (not personal recognition) and who fully trust others to take over and perform some functions.’ Ole imagines ‘an ever-growing number of interconnected teams who know about each other’ and ‘are sufficiently evolved to co-create with others without a need for control’ – a network of networks nurturing and supporting each other across the entire ecosystem.
Again, stay tuned for updates on how this particular network of pioneers learns to evolve our individual and collective paradigms, discover new ways of being and doing, and co-create a better world for all. Meanwhile, in the Community section of this website, you’ll find ‘Compassionate Communities’, which I will update soon, in order to share with you some of the resources and theories we are discovering. In the Purpose section of this website, you will ‘Values-Based Transformational Leadership’, which I also will update to include initiatives by Richard Barrett of the Barrett Values Center and the Barrett Academy and by Laura Burgis, founder of the Human Values Center. Both participate in this EdNet adventure.
The Compassionate Edinburgh initiative has continued to grow. After the Charter for Compassion hosted a Compassionate Edinburgh Webinar last November, I then facilitated a Compassionate Edinburgh Workshop for the Edinburgh Fire Starter Festival in early February of 2021. A small planning team emerged from that event, and we now have completed a short document designed to inspire and invite a broad range of people to become involved in taking concrete steps to grow Edinburgh as a kind and compassionate city. Our next steps include working with those who can back, support, endorse, and spread the word about this initiative. Stay tuned.
Through the Charter for Compassion Education Institute, Charter for Compassion Education Institute, I’ve taken online courses such as: ‘Emotional Intelligence for a Compassionate World’, ‘The Essence of Compassion’, ‘Awakening the Sage Within’, and Compassionate Integrity Training (CIT), which was developed through a collaboration between Life University’s Center for Compassion, Integrity, and Secular Ethics. In 2020, I became a CIT Facilitator Compassion Integrity Training.
Before Charter courses became available, I started attending compassion and empathy conferences and training programs in the UK and the USA. One of the training programs was a five-day retreat with Joyce Rupp through the Institute of Compassionate Presence in Omaha. Now called Boundless Compassion, in June of 2018, I completed training to become a Boundless Compassion Facilitator. See Boundless Compassion Program on Charter Website and Boundless Compassion Facebook Page.
Sponsored by the Scientific and Medical Network in the UK, one of the conferences I attended included presenters, such as Karen Armstrong, Paul Gilbert, Iain McGilchrist, and other insightful speakers talking about mirror neurons, neuroplasticity, and the relationship between our brains and compassion. It was exciting to discover such powerful connections between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ perspectives on compassion. It also was fun to meet Iain McGilchrist a few years later, when he came to speak at the University of Edinburgh.
One offering I took in 2019 related to brain research and compassion was through the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM). Entitled ‘The Clinical Application of Compassion 2019’, it had an impressive faculty and was available online through NICABM (https://www.nicabm.com).
As a result of my work as a Cultural Transformation Tools (CTT) Consultant through the Barrett Values Center, I was asked to contribute essays to a World Book of Values, which was published in 2013. The values I chose were spontaneity and compassion. Below is an excerpt from the compassion essay:
Compassion appears to grow out of a worldview in which all life is an interconnected whole. When part of the whole suffers, and I’ve done all I can to relieve or alleviate that suffering, I show compassion when I don’t withdraw, but still hold a space of loving presence and kindness. The word itself means to ‘be with’ (com) another in the suffering or pain (passion) the other is experiencing.
To do that, I must learn how to ‘walk in the shoes’, ‘see through the eyes’, or ‘feel from the heart’ of another, which is the core of empathy. However, I think compassion calls us beyond empathy to a place of non-judgment, nonviolence, non-attachment, and an openness of heart that recognizes we’ve done all we can do, but we can’t turn away.
In her book Compassion, Christina Feldman says, “The ultimate journey and skill of a human being is to discover how encompassing our hearts can be.” That is challenging, not easy.
Finally, my experience in multifaith and diversity of belief and values compels me to see this movement toward compassionate action as something that transcends ideological and dogmatic difference. As global citizens, it is what we need to inspire our lives and work as we co-create a globally just society rooted in compassion with right action for the common good.