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Archive for March 13th, 2015

I am embarking on a sequence of new posts which examines a number of ideas from books I have recently read. These ideas relate to where our society is heading and what we as individuals might be able to do about that. I will be posting links to related topics as and when I find them as this sequence of posts unfolds. Below is an extract from an article on compassion at work by Jill Sutie recently posted on the Greater Good website: for the full post see link

Most would agree that we need more compassion to help reduce human suffering in the world. But few prioritize building compassion in the place where we spend most of our waking time—our jobs.

Research suggests that compassionate workplaces increase employee satisfaction and loyalty. A worker who feels cared for at work is more likely to experience positive emotion, which in turn helps to foster positive work relationships, increased cooperation, and better customer relations. Compassion training in individuals can reduce stress, and may even impact longevity. All of these point to a need for increasing compassion’s role in business and organizational life.

But how can we increase compassion in the workplace? Though research indicates compassion is a trainable skill, current compassion training programs often involve large investments of time and energy, making them inaccessible to most working Americans. Also, compassion may seem unnecessary to some, with the word “compassion” conjuring up images of Mother Teresa tending the poor rather than an average Joe trying to earn a living.

Now, some researchers want to make compassion training more convenient and appealing for those in the best position to spread its benefits: business leaders. Dan Martin from California State University, East Bay, and Yotam Heineberg of Palo Alto University—both visiting scholars at Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education—have come up with a promising format: compassion development dyads, or CDD for short. They hope that their CDD program will help to revolutionize the workplace.

Working together for compassion

CDD is a hybrid of compassion training and technology. Two people “meet” online via Skype for an hour a week for eight weeks to have structured discussions on topics gleaned from the science of personal and social well-being—topics like mindfulnessemotional literacy, and the importance of having a growth mindset.

The curriculum, based in large part on the work of researcher Paul Gilbert, the psychologist who pioneered compassion-focused therapy, helps people to become aware of how they typically respond to stress and threat in social and work situations, and then trains them to respond in more appropriate ways using tools like self-soothing, empathic listening, and compassion.

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Cool Toys Pic of the day - Charter for Compassion

Charter for Compassion Website

I have embarked on sequences of new posts which examine a number of ideas from books I have recently read. These ideas relate to where our society is heading and what we as individuals might be able to do about that. I decided that I also needed to republish other posts from the past that related in some way to that basic theme. This post was first published in 2010 and, along with the next two, is preparing the way for a lengthy consideration of Jeremy Rifkin’s book on empathy and civilisation. 

I am possibly cottoning on rather late to the Charter for Compassion website.  I got the heads up from reading the opening of Karen Armstrong‘s recent book Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. On the very first page, even before she gets to quoting the charter itself, she writes:

One of the chief tasks of our time must surely be to build a global community in which all peoples can live together in mutual respect; yet religion, which should be making a major contribution, is seen as part of the problem. All faiths insist that compassion is the test of true spirituality and that it brings us into relation with the transcendence we call God . . . ‘

And she then goes onto refer to the so-called Golden Rule of treating others as you yourself would wish to be treated, even if they are your enemies.

This, not surprisingly, caught and held my attention, creating a keen interest which the Charter itself did nothing to dispel:

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

Compassion, for her, has a particularly strong meaning involving enduring ‘[something] with another person.’ She concludes (page 6):

Compassion can be defined, therefore, as an attitude of principled consistent altruism.

There is a short video relating to the background to this on YouTube which I include here: there is a profoundly moving and deeply insightful longer video of her initial talk on the TED website.

The spirit of this is completely in accord with the spirit of the Bahá’í Faith. For example, in The Summons of the Lord of Hosts (page 203) we find:

Lay not on any soul a load which ye would not wish to be laid upon you, and desire not for anyone the things ye would not desire for yourselves. This is My best counsel unto you, did ye but observe it.

Its recoil from fanaticism also resonates with the message from the Universal House of Justice to the world’s religious leaders in 2002 when they wrote exhorting these leaders everywhere to do all in their power to combat religious fanaticism, and stating:

. . . that interfaith discourse, if it is to contribute meaningfully to healing the ills that afflict a desperate humanity, must now address honestly and without further evasion the implications of the over-arching truth that called the movement into being: that God is one and that, beyond all diversity of cultural expression and human interpretation, religion is likewise one.

And they close with the following appeal:

The crisis calls on religious leadership for a break with the past as decisive as those that opened the way for society to address equally corrosive prejudices of race, gender and nation. Whatever justification exists for exercising influence in matters of conscience lies in serving the well-being of humankind.

The overlap between Karen Armstrong’s position, as she explains it in the TED video, and Robert Wright’s perspective, as quoted in a previous post, is very great.

Any religion whose prerequisites for individual salvation don’t conduce to the salvation of the whole world is a religion whose time has passed.

(Robert WrightThe Evolution of God page 439)

I think the Charter for Compassion deserves the careful consideration of all of us who are concerned about the state of the world at present. There are also sites with ideas for how to convey its essence to children. We could all do a great deal worse than learning how to use the compass of compassion more effectively to navigate our way through life.

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