A way of life that includes healthy empathy with an intention and conscious action to prevent, minimize, or alleviate suffering is one way to describe Compassion, though the above chart provides an even clearer and more comprehensive picture of what that might mean (from Boundless Compassion program – see below).
Compassion is a value and core virtue that has been espoused by most religious, spiritual, and philosophical traditions for millennia. However, in the last couple of decades, Compassion 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.
Charter for Compassion
Heather Blenkinsop, who designed this website, was the first person to tell me about the Charter and suggest that the University of Edinburgh become involved in exploring and integrating compassion into the University Ethos. That was in 2009, just after Karen published the actual Charter for Compassion. I soon signed the Charter and since then, I have followed the Charter’s development with great interest.
Rather quickly, the Charter formed its Education Institute, and I began taking 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. For current options, see Charter for Compassion Education Institute,
Also during the past 5 – 8 years, I’ve participated as a member of the Charter’s UK Task Force, presently referred to as Compassionate UK. One of the people, who regularly attended those meetings, collaborated with others to design and implement a Map of Co-Creators to connect ‘like-hearted, like-minded people and communities’ throughout the globe. I’ve placed myself on the Map. To learn more – and perhaps sign up yourself, see https://charterforcompassion.org/programs/map-of-co-creators.
Starting in 2020, I began attending the Charter’s EdNet Forum, which has focused on learning about innovative and holistic global education programs related to compassion, especially for younger people. To attend, check the Charter website for upcoming programs that interest you, and register at https://charterforcompassion.org/ed-net-forum.
To learn more about the Charter’s current communities, sectors, programs, and resources AND/OR to sign the Charter itself, see Charter for Compassion.
One of the earliest programs in Compassion was a five-day retreat with Joyce Rupp through the Institute of Compassionate Presence in Omaha, which I attended in 2011. Joyce and her colleagues continued evolving the program, which was renamed Boundless Compassion. In June of 2018, I participated in an enhanced retreat that was followed by training to become a Boundless Compassion Facilitator (BCF).
Since then, BCFs participate in monthly online Enrichment Sessions to deepen our understanding and exploration of how we might apply existing and new resources related to Compassion. BFCs also meet online for quarterly in Core Groups of Compassionate Presence to offer mutual support, information-sharing, and possible brainstorming about new ideas. For information about available/scheduled programs, see https://www.boundlesscompassion.org and https://www.facebook.com/BoundlessCompassion.
Compassionate Integrity Training
After taking the basic Compassionate Integrity Training (CIT) program Compassion Integrity Training online in 2019, I decided to join other colleagues I’d met in that course and take CIT Facilitator Training in 2020. That led to co-facilitating an online course for participants in Australia, monthly online connection with friends/colleagues from that basic course, monthly facilitator meetings designed for continuing education and support, and monthly explorations of community engagement.
The pandemic emerged, as I was beginning my CIT training. Recognizing the importance of compassionate presence and support during stressful times, CIT leadership initiated a Resilience and Practice group that started meeting weekly to check in with each other about how they were managing, identify ways to remain in a ‘resilience’ zone’ during challenging times, and actually practice some of the skills that can cultivate equanimity. I joined that group in the winter of 2020. Like some my collagues from the 2019 basic course, this Practice Group continues to meet weekly – now as a group of colleagues who have become friends.
Other Compassion-Related Conferences and/or Programs
Sponsored by the Scientific and Medical Network in the UK, one conference 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.
An online offering I took in 2019 through the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM) was entitled ‘The Clinical Application of Compassion 2019’. Related particularly to brain research and compassion, it as very informative and had an impressive faculty. For information about more NICABM offerings, especially related to compassionately addressing trauma, see https://www.nicabm.com.
Compassion and Values
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. Values also play an important part in both the Boundless Compassion and the CIT programs I described above.
Through the Charter for Compassion, I met Wendy Elliott, who created the Flourish Model as central to the Flourish Project, which embodies an ‘Ecology of Wellbeing’. Her model holistically encompasses the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs and values we have as humans, beginning as children. Wendy says those needs include: Security, Relationship, Independence, Engagement, Fulfillment, Contribution and Growth. These values match the seven levels of consciousness in the Barrett Values Center training I experienced. I think they are well-founded and worthy of study. Check out this work at https://www.flourishproject.net.
Wendy also directly relates her model to Compassion – for Self, Others, our Natural World, and the Planet. Explore this further at https://www.flourishproject.net/compassion.html.
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.