WHAT IS COMPASSION CULTIVATION TRAINING?
Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) is an eight-week program developed at Stanford University Medical School’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education by a team of contemplative scholars, clinical psychologists, and researchers. The CCT program integrates traditional contemplative practices with contemporary psychology and scientific research on compassion. CCT is designed to develop the qualities of compassion, empathy, and kindness for oneself and for others.
Compassion is a state of concern for the suffering or unmet needs of one's self or others, coupled with the desire to alleviate that suffering. It begins with the recognition of suffering, which gives rise to thoughts and feelings of empathy and concern. This, in turn, motivates the willingness to take action to relieve that suffering. Greater than a single emotion, compassion is a state of being that can encompass a range of emotions and ultimately is a way of understanding the world, the people around us, and ourselves.
Humans have a natural capacity for compassion. However, everyday stress, social pressures, and the competitive lifestyle we are raised in can make it difficult to fully express this capacity. Each of us can choose to nurture our compassionate instinct, like a plant that is carefully cultivated from a seed. This process requires patience, steady care, proper tools, and a supportive environment.
Cultivating compassion requires a concentrated effort and commitment to mindful practices. Once this initial work is put in, compassion can become our baseline mindset from which all of our motivations and actions are born. From there, continually cultivating compassion is easy because we become mindful of the well-being and happiness that compassion brings into our lives.
The process of cultivating compassion involves training our minds, developing specific skills in how we relate to others and ourselves, and intentionally choosing compassionate thoughts and actions. CCT gives participants a tool kit that they can use to continually practice and nurture their compassionate selves.
“What CCT aims to do is to make people become more aware and more connected with their compassionate nature so that their instinctive response to a given situation will come from that compassionate understanding standpoint rather than negative excessive judgment.”
-Thupten Jinpa, CCT senior author
The course consists of a two hour weekly meeting for eight weeks. Each session includes discussion, listening, and communication in partners and small groups.
Meditation exercises are practiced in class and daily practice is in important aspect of success in the course. These meditation exercises help participants develop kindness, empathy, compassion for others, and self-compassion.Daily meditation practices to develop kindness, empathy, compassion for others, and self-compassion.
Participants are given real-world "homework" assignments to practice compassionate thoughts and action.
After each class you will receive an email that highlights the major themes of the class. Emails also provide participants with a number of background reading resources so that they can dig deeper into the research that supports CCT. When you enroll in the class, you will have access to eight guided meditations permanently
Week 1: Learning to settle the mind
Week 2: Cultivating loving-kindness
Weeks 3 & 4: Developing loving-kindness and compassion for oneself
Week 5: Establishing our shared common humanity, recognizing Interdependence
Week 6: Cultivating compassion toward others
Week 7: Building resilience to recognize the pain and suffering, and facing it with a warm embrace
Week 8: Last session we will integrate all the steps in one meditation
WHY Cultivate Compassion
The effects of cultivating compassion go far beyond feeling more empathy for others. It develops the strength and resilience to be with suffering while providing a number of health benefits. Compassion benefits it’s practicers, the people around them, and the world on the whole.
Peer reviewed research on the effect of Compassion Cultivation Training has shown that it has a number of mental and physical health benefits. Research from the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research found that CCT may help people better regulate distressing affects and be less reactive to suffering. Various studies suggest CCT could reduce stress, anxiety, and depression while increasing happiness and life satisfaction as well as generally improving psychological well being. Physically, CCT has also been associated with decreasing practicers’ blood pressure.
In addition to benefiting practicers’ mental and physical self, CCT has been found to improve practicers’ relationship with themselves. Early research has demonstrated that the self compassion gained in CCT enables people to be benevolent toward themselves, increases emotional control, increases resilience in emotional difficult times, and decreases mind wandering toward negative thoughts.
While compassion cultivation can improve people’s relationships with themselves, it can also deepens their relationships with others. Research has shown that after taking CCT, people are better able to receive compassion from others and show compassion. Compassion also allows practicers to connect better with people they may find difficult by enabling them to control negative feelings toward them and to more thoroughly understand their experience.
The ability to better understand difficult people not only helps practicers on a personal level, but also a global level. Compassions ability to make people better understand different peoples’ experiences allows them to act more benevolent to others in their area and across the world.
The benefits listed above support people in a wide range of goals from improving your mental and physical health, to bettering your work life, to changing the world.
In a business setting, compassion can benefit both employers and employees. Stress from job related strain has been linked to employees visiting general practitioners and specialists more frequently. By improving the mental and physical health of employees, compassion training poses the potential decrease the burden on company insurance claims and increase general employee satisfaction.
Businesses can also benefit from compassion training’s ability to help practicers deal with difficult people. This skill could help employees deal with customers more effectively in addition to helping them navigate relationships with coworkers.
Learning to practice compassion can be extremely beneficial for people who work in health and human service role. Research has indicated that CCT may promote mental health resilience, improve patient care, and help prevent burnout among health-care workers. Such findings indicate that patients and workers have something to gain from CCT.
Whether you’re working to improve your relationship with yourself yourself, to your family, your co-workers, or the world, cultivating compassion gives you the mindset to start changing relationships.