Compassion is - like mindfulness – a human capacity inherent in all of us. For various reasons this capacity is not in everybody so well developed but fortunately it can be cultivated and deepened through practice.
Compassion has been practised for many centuries in various religious traditions and methods have been developed and studied thoroughly in some of these, such as the Buddhist tradition. In Christianity charity has always been a central virtue. The religious historian Karen Armstrong has argued that compassion is the core of all major religions and wisdom traditions, albeit that in some this may be more covert than in others.
Nowadays there are programs to learn and deepen the practice of compassion outside a religious context. Their aim is to address people from different religious and ideological backgrounds in contemporary accessible language. While the benefits of mindfulness in therapeutic settings are well known, new research suggests that self-compassion is also key to mental health. It is therefore not surprising that the practice of compassion is introduced in the health care setting. An example of this is the course Mindfulness-Based Compassionate Living (MBCL) or Compassion Training. Another example is the Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) Program developed by Kristen Neff and Christopher Germer. Both are eight session programs for groups. Whilst for MSC no previous experience with mindfulness practice is necessary, MBCL is developed for those who already have a grounding in mindfulness practice, preferably by having followed a course of MBSR or MBCT. Also Compassion Focused Therapy and Compassionate Mind Training, as developed by Paul Gilbert, have found various applications in mental health care, either in individual or group psychotherapy settings.
From caring comes courage.