Compassion-based courses offered by CMRP
There is currently much interest in secular courses that combine mindfulness with compassion training. Such courses help us to be kinder to ourselves and others – something that is much needed in our world at present. Compassion is the capacity to be sensitive to the suffering within and around us, and the willingness to relieve and work with it. It’s a natural human capacity inherent in all of us but often not very well developed, and many of us find it easier to be kind to others than to ourselves.
In compassion-based courses, the elements of kindness and compassion are taught more explicitly than they are in MBSR and MBCT, and there is more focus on developing these qualities. As compassion activates strong emotions, we use particular methods to develop it through our learning on the course, and through formal and informal practice.
There has been an explosion of research into self-compassion and compassion over the past decade. This shows a clear link to well-being, with reductions in negative mind-states and increases in positive mind-states; easier management of difficulties including chronic health conditions; and increases in coping, resilience and motivation (for more information see Kristin Neff’s website http://self-compassion.org). Increasingly, understandings from neuroscience about the way the brain works are supporting the best methods for and the benefits of compassion training.
The Centre for Mindfulness Research & Practice offers two different compassion-based courses, both of which have an initial or foundation course, then a path to Teacher Training. Both were developed to meet different aims and needs by experts in the field. Both are being researched, so are based on evidence of their efficacy.
For full details, see https://www.bangor.ac.uk/mindfulness/calendar.php.en.
Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC)
Developed by Christopher Germer and Kristin Neff in the USA, who have both written books on Self-Compassion. This course focuses mainly on developing the resources of kindness and self-compassion, upon a foundation of mindfulness training and practice. It is taught as an 8-week program and also offered as a 5-day intensive. It is not necessary to have taken a mindfulness course before training in MSC. It’s three bases are: recognising when we suffer, understanding that suffering is part of human life, and learning how we can best bring kindness to ourselves. It gives information about the different elements that are taught, and fosters resource-building through reflective exercises as well as short formal and many informal practices. For more information see http://www.centerformsc.org.
Mindfulness-Based Compassionate Living (MBCL)
Developed by Erik van den Brink and Frits Koster in the Netherlands, who have written ‘MBCL: a new training programme to deepen mindfulness with heartfulness’. This advanced training course builds on already established mindfulness skills for those who have previously taken MBSR or MBCT, and offers exercises in cultivating compassion for both ourselves and others. It is taught along the same principles as other mindfulness-based interventions. Some practices are secular adaptations from traditional practices, such as metta and tonglen, others use compassionate imagery, such as that adapted from Paul Gilbert’s Compassion Focused Therapy, folded into mindfulness practices. To provide practical alternatives to the 8-week course, one can follow a 3-day foundation course or a 7-day retreat to become familiar with the formal meditations. Those who wish to teach MBCL to groups of MBSR or MBCT graduates must already be trained as mindfulness teachers. For more information see http://compassionateliving.info/ and http://www.mbcl.org.