Compassion is the capacity to feel concern with the pain and suffering of ourselves and others. This capacity is accompanied by the wish to relieve this pain and suffering and the willingness to take responsibility for it. Every human being has the potential to be compassionate but for various reasons this may not be fully realized. Fortunately, by means of practice, compassion can be developed and deepened. This is the aim of Compassion Training. While pity is mostly driven by fear and sentimentality, compassion is characterised by courage and generosity. Especially in Western countries, being kind to ourselves is not so obvious. We can be tolerant and compassionate to others but we easily omit the person we deal with most in our life …. we forget to be compassionate to ourselves. The practice of self-compassion is not a self-centred activity. Rather, it helps us to develop a healthy relationship with ourselves and leads to greater empathy and openness towards others.
Many people with prolonged or recurring mental and physical health problems, whatever their nature, have low self-esteem and suffer from shame and strong self-criticism. They can be gloomy, anxious, angry or distrustful and may have great difficulty feeling at ease and allowing warm feelings towards themselves and others. They may withdraw in isolation or pursue unhealthy activities or find themselves in relationships that are not really fulfilling. Psychotherapeutic interventions are not always a solution. They may contribute to valuable insights but do not always reach the experiential level sufficiently. (‘I understand it, but cannot feel it’). This is where Compassion Training can be helpful. The exercises that are offered in the MBCL-training help the individual to experience warmth, security, acceptance and connectedness with oneself and others. The emphasis in the course is on developing self-compassion; later on in the course developing compassion to others is also encouraged.
MBCL appears to connect well with patients in mental health care, but also people with less unfavourable backgrounds and more inner stability find the MBCL course very helpful, as a way to deepen mindfulness with heartfulness.