Compassion can change your life and increase your levels of happiness and well-being. Sound too good to be true? Not for hundreds of students, professionals, and community members who have been trained in compassion over the past couple years through well-known universities like Emory University in Atlanta, GA and Stanford University in northern California. You might be thinking: People were actually “trained in compassion”? That sounds like some sort of court-assigned program for people with anger management issues. I don’t need compassion training… I’m already compassionate. But do you really know how compassionate you truly are? If increasing your compassion level beyond where it is today could bring you more happiness and heightened physical and mental health, would you want to explore it further?
Many people believe that you either have empathy and compassion or you don’t. When it seems like some of the people in our workplaces, neighborhoods and in the media have no capacity for the expression of these qualities, it’s easy to conclude that “it’s just not in them.” We also know that sometimes we simply don’t feel the desire to have compassion for people we don’t know or for people we feel have harmed us in some way, who are harmful to others, or seem incompetent or careless to us. We have a tendency to reserve our compassion for certain people and situations and don’t extend it to everyone all the time. But the reality is that both empathy and compassion can be learned and developed in every one of us, to the point of expanding it to all people and situations, and the results of doing so can be incredibly transformative and enriching to the quality of our lives.
While Stanford, Emory, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have been training various groups of people to cultivate higher levels of compassion in their daily life, they’ve also been conducting scientific studies that demonstrate the tangible benefits of this kind of training. Proven benefits of compassion training (including compassion meditation practice) by researchers at these universities and others include: