January 20, 2018…

Women and men are marching in record numbers in cities across the US and around the world in solidarity with the Women’s March in D.C. At the same time, I am busy searching the internet for #metoo messages such as “Make America THINK Again” and “Grab’em by the Ballots: vote.gov.” Then, the moment of truth occurred. I open the Washington Post. First disbelief. The Washington Post chose to publish an article by conservative reporter Mollie Ziegler Hemingway on this day of all days. Yes, I did say conservative, and it was printed in the Post on the very day that women and men were affirming their power and their solidarity in opposing sexism, racism and hate. The article begins like this: “This may seem like an odd moment for saying so, but a year into the presidency of Donald Trump, I’m elated.” My bubble burst immediately. My state of righteous sisterhood decomposed into an angry ball of mush right in the center of my belly. How could a conservative view be featured in the Post on liberal affirmation day? And how could I, a Compassion Cultivation Training facilitator become so upset upon encountering someone else’s elation? Are we wired to feel empathy and compassion for people whom we perceive to be just like us, and feel hatred and separation from people who have different views?

In the 2009 article “From dehumanization and objectification to rehumanization: Neuroimaging studies on the building blocks of empathy” Susan Fiske, Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at the Princeton University Department of Psychology, answers these questions by arguing that in order to feel empathy or feel with someone else, we must first believe that this someone else is our equal — a human being with intentions, thoughts, and feelings. Then we are likely to recognize and envision them relieved of their suffering. If we view people based on stereotypes, by applying our cultural bias, prejudice and conditioning, we deprive people of their humanity and are not likely to feel empathy towards them. It is time for me to pause, time for me to recognize and accept that it is through my own lens of cultural bias, prejudice and conditioning that I view the world.

Righteousness gave room to a mix of gratitude and empathy; gratitude for the 8 years of President Obama, and the many “wins” and joys he afforded me as a liberal, democrat woman; and empathy for people like Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, who during those 8 years were suffering, the same way that I am suffering now under president Trump. Some of the weight was lifted from my heart in this moment when common humanity was allowed to rise. Just like me, Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a political being, whose worldview is shaped by cultural bias, prejudice and conditioning. Just like me, she is affected by her political circumstances. Just like me, she lives in a country where freedom of expression allows us all to speak out, resist and act, based on our values.
According to Fiske, how much we empathize depends on what kind of social attributes we give people. Neuroimaging studies showed that when research participants looked at photographs of people similar to them, social attributes such as warmth and competence were high and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) region of their brain associated with perception was activated. When participants looked at pictures of people unlike them, such as homeless people, their perception was low on warmth and competence, and the mPFC region of their brain failed to activate, indicating a lack of empathy. When Fiske shifted the question and asked research participants to imagine what vegetables the homeless guy might be eating, the emotions of the participants also shifted, and the mPFC regions of their brain activated. This softening of perceptions, from not acknowledging the person at all, to ” they are us, under different circumstances,” is good news. I had come to this place of understanding in terms of Mollie’s article and her views and was able to see her as a human being with her own worldview. Her perspective was very different from mine, but I could see her as a person entitled to her own choices.

One year of President Trump in office has passed. The holidays are gone, and a new year ushered in. As I pause to reflect and contemplate, how will I make it through the days, the months, and the years of this presidency without feeling overwhelmed by the political climate? 3 more years of crazy tweets and dark ages politics… Like-minded friends and colleagues complain: “I told my Dad that if he wanted to spend the holidays with his grandkids, he couldn’t watch Fox news in my house. He replied that we could all learn a thing or two if we watched Fox news!” Can connections endure the political divide? Will a wall of hatred separate us by the end of this president’s political term?

Fiske’s research shines a light on the potential benefits that regular contemplation practices can have in opening our hearts to less stereotyping and more compassionate perceiving of the world. A non-judgmental perception of others, characterized by friendliness, kindness and an open curiosity is key. Feeling another person’s pain and suffering is often a prerequisite to feeling compassion. Now that I have freed myself from “othering” Molly and conservatives, would I be able to move to the next step and actually wish ALL human beings, even the anti pro-choice, even the religious, even the Alt-right; could I mindfully include them in my wishes “to be free from Suffering, to be Happy, to experience Peace and Joy?”
As Richard J. Davidson, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and founder and chair of the Center for Healthy Minds has shown, we can learn to regulate our empathy by focusing and envisioning the person being relieved of their suffering. Regular mindfulness practices such as focusing and repeating a phrase silently in our mind such as, “may you be happy, may you be free of suffering,” shifts the pathways in our brains from experiencing painful empathy to more rewarding areas of compassion. But if I wish Mollie to be relieved from her suffering, does it mean that I should be ok with a President like Trump? Wouldn’t I be giving up my own beliefs? Should I be rejoicing at Trump espousing the anti pro-choice cause? Should I, like Molly celebrate the undoing of the Clean Power Plan regulations? Should I be sharing Mollie’s hopes that the new tax plan will benefit the middle and lower classes in a trickle-down effect? That’s against my beliefs! Wouldn’t I be expecting Mollie to send the same wishes to me, that I be free from Suffering, Happy… and how could she do that when she is religious and I am not? How could she do that if I am a liberal, and she is a conservative? How would it be possible as I am a middle-eastern Arab immigrant, and she applauded Trump’s move to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel?

This may well be where the work begins, where we reassure ourselves that compassion does not mean giving up on our beliefs. We should keep an open mind, question, study, contemplate, thoroughly explore different sides of the argument, and not lose sight of the humanness of the other. It is our moral obligation to realign ourselves with our own core values and come up with our own course of action, that is what a democracy requires from us. This is how we can live and manifest freedom and justice. We wouldn’t be marching today if Trump had not been elected. I know I will judge, critique and misjudge, but I do not give up on finding a clear, strong and courageous manifestation of compassion. I extend a peaceful salute to Mollie, because I accept that she too is desirous of a just and free world. Mollie, I will not give up my beliefs, and I will keep acting my own compassionate way that is very different from yours, but I do see you sister, and you are a beautiful human being, just like me.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3777639/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/i-wasnt-a-trump-supporter-i-am-now/2018/01/19/58abd43a-fca2-11e7-a46b-a3614530bd87_story.html?undefined=&utm_term=.e702ff47b263&wpisrc=nl_most&wpmm=1

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How do we make it through the day without feeling overwhelmed by life?

How do we make it through the day without feeling overwhelmed by life? Are we wired to feel empathy and suffer with every drama that we witness every day?

In the 2009 article “From dehumanization and objectification to rehumanization: Neuroimaging studies on the building blocks of empathy” Susan Fiske, Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at the Princeton University Department of Psychology, answers these questions by arguing that in order to feel empathy or feel with someone else, we must first believe that this someone else is our equal — a human being with intentions, thoughts, and feelings. Then we are likely to recognize and envision them relieved of their suffering. If we view people based on stereotypes, by applying our cultural bias, prejudice and conditioning, we deprive people of their humanity and are not likely to feel empathy towards them.

According to Fiske, how much we empathize depends on what kind of social attributes we give people. Neuroimaging studies showed that when research participants looked at photographs of people similar to them, social attributes such as warmth and competence were high and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) region of their brain associated with perception was activated. When participants looked at pictures of people unlike them, such as homeless people, their perception was low on warmth and competence, and the mPFC region of their brain failed to activate, indicating a lack of empathy. When Fiske shifted the question and asked research participants to imagine what vegetables the homeless guy might be eating, the emotions of the participants also shifted, and the mPFC regions of their brain activated. This softening of perceptions, from not acknowledging the person at all, to they are us, under different circumstances, is good news.

Fiske’s research shines a light on the potential benefits that regular mindfulness practices can have in opening our hearts to less stereotyping and more compassionate perceiving of the world. A non-judgmental perception of others, characterized by friendliness, kindness and an open curiosity is key. Feeling another person’s pain and suffering is often a prerequisite to feeling compassion.  As Richard J. Davidson, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and founder and chair of the Center for Healthy Minds has shown, we can learn to regulate our empathy by focusing and envisioning the person being relieved of their suffering. Regular mindfulness practices such as focusing and repeating a phrase silently in our mind such as, “may you be happy, may you be free of suffering,” shifts the pathways in our brains from experiencing painful empathy to more rewarding areas of compassion.

Compassion Cultivation Training at UW CCFW starts Feb 7

8 weeks. Wednesdays, February 7 – March 28, 2018 | 6:00pm – 8:00pm

Registration is required. Please register here.

What to expect: A two hour weekly class that includes discussion, and in-class partner and small-group listening and communication exercises
Daily meditation practices to develop kindness, empathy, compassion for others, and self-compassion
Real-world “homework” assignments to practice compassionate thoughts and action

Course Description

Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) is an 8-week educational program designed to help you improve your resilience and feel more connected to others—ultimately providing an overall sense of well-being. A compassionate attitude can greatly reduce the distress people feel in difficult situations and can become a profound personal resource in times of stress. Thupten Jinpa, the senior author of CCT, describes the program in these words: “What CCT aims to do is to make people become more aware and more connected with their compassionate nature so that their instinctive response to a given situation will come from that compassionate understanding standpoint rather than negative excessive judgement.”

There is a growing body of research which asserts the value of cultivating compassion. As a wholesome state of mind, compassion is essential to individual well-being. As an ethical orientation, compassion is also essential for sustaining rich nourishing relationships. As a social force, it is crucial for addressing global, socio-economic dilemmas.

Participants probe real-world questions such as: What is compassion? What blocks it? Are there limits to compassion? Is there a difference between empathy and compassion? If living from compassion is all it is cracked up to be, why is self-compassion so difficult? How do I enhance my resilience while decreasing worry? How do I jumpstart a sustainable meditation practice? How do I have more meaningful connections with family, friends and co-workers?

You will learn through instruction, meditation, mindfulness and experiential exercises how to cultivate the daily-life skills needed to strengthen the qualities of compassion, courage and resilience. We will discuss how you can “move your attention at will, and how attention is like a spotlight,” as Dr. Paul Gilbert says, “whatever it shines on is what becomes brighter in the mind…”

Not only has cultivating compassion been found to reduce the frequency and intensity of destructive emotions (such as anger and hatred), it is also a sustainable response to the suffering of others, and actually alleviates empathetic distress and burnout. Consequently, Compassion Cultivating Training is relevant to those in health and human services roles who regularly witness suffering in their work. The program is also of value to anyone challenged by suffering in themselves or in our world. This includes parents, caregivers, educators, healthcare professionals, therapists, executives, public servants, and people in a wide range of professions and life contexts. No previous meditation experience is required.

Class Dates: 8-week course
Wednesdays, February 7 – March 28, 2018 | 6:00pm – 8:00pm

Course Fees

$320.00 regular registration
$325.00: Registration with a certificate of completion to use for CEUs
$240.00 (25% off): UW Affiliate Registration, which requires department approval and budget number

Scholarships and income-based reduced fee options available. Please see the registration page for details, or email mindful@uw.edu

Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) and Yoga Workshop, starts Tuesday February 6 on Mercer Island. Offered by Michelle Chambers and Maya Nader

What to expect:  
Each three-hour weekly session will include 2 hours of CCT and 1 hour of yoga asana. The 2-hour CCT format is comprised of meditation, review of related scientific findings, and exercises in group or self-discovery. The yoga portion of each session will offer mindful movement and breathing practices to encourage embodiment of the tools and concepts introduced in CCT.
Daily guided meditation to develop kindness, strength, resilience, courage, connection with others, and self-compassion. You will have permanent access to 8 guided meditations. No prior meditation experience required.

Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT)
CCT is an 8-week course that was developed at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) to support adults who want to live a more grounded and meaningful life. The guided meditations offered in this protocol are derived from practices found in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition yet they have been adapted to an urban, modern life and are non-denominational and secular.

Step 1: Settle the mind
Step 2: Cultivate loving-kindness
Step 3: Develop loving-kindness and compassion for oneself. 2 sessions for this step as it is often the most difficult one!
Step 4: Establish our shared common humanity, recognizing Interdependence
Step 5: cultivate compassion toward all others
Step 6: Building resilience to recognize the pain and suffering, and facing it with a warm embrace. Last session is to integrate all the steps in one meditation Yoga and Mindful Movement
The Yoga practice offered in this workshop is specifically designed to accompany and enhance the CCT curriculum. It provides a platform for integrating loving-kindness and compassion into body, mind, and heart. This practice is accessible for all levels of practitioner, and no prior yoga experience is required.

COST: $360 for the whole workshop
8 sessions: Tuesday February 6, 13, 20, 27. March 6, 13, 20, 27.
Location: 5472 West mercer Way
Contact: manader@hotmail.com Gracefulyogi@gmail.com

CCT and Yoga!

Interested in jumpstarting -or activating- a sustainable meditation practice AND an intelligent yoga practice? Building resilience, strength and courage in Mind, Heart and Body? More meaningful connections with family, friends, self?

What to expect:
Each three-hour weekly session will include 2 hours of CCT and 1 hour of yoga asana. The 2-hour CCT format is comprised of meditation, review of related scientific findings, and exercises in group or self-discovery. The yoga portion of each session will offer mindful movement and breathing practices to encourage embodiment of the tools and concepts introduced in CCT.
Daily guided meditation to develop kindness, strength, resilience, courage, connection with others, and self-compassion. You will have permanent access to 8 guided meditations.

Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT)
CCT is an 8-week course that was developed at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) to support adults who want to live a more grounded and meaningful life. The guided meditations offered in this protocol are derived from practices found in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition yet they have been adapted to an urban, modern life and are non-denominational and secular.

Step 1: Settle the mind
Step 2: Cultivate loving-kindness
Step 3: Develop loving-kindness and compassion for oneself. 2 sessions for this step as it is often the most difficult one!
Step 4: Establish our shared common humanity, recognizing Interdependence
Step 5: cultivate compassion toward all others
Step 6: Building resilience to recognize the pain and suffering, and facing it with a warm embrace. Last session is to integrate all the steps in one meditation
Yoga and Mindful Movement
The Yoga practice offered in this workshop is specifically designed to accompany and enhance the CCT curriculum. It provides a platform for integrating loving-kindness and compassion into body, mind, and heart. This practice is accessible for all levels of practitioner, and no prior yoga experience is required.

COST: $350 for the whole workshop, $325 for early birds –sign up by September 14.
Please ask about our sliding scale!

Contact Maya at: manader@hotmail.com​Contact Michelle at: gracefulyogi@gmail.com

CCT at UW starts June 14, 2017

6:00pm – 8:00pm
CCFW UW
Wednesdays, June 14 – August 9, 2017 | 6:00pm – 8:00pm

Please note there will not be class on July 5.

Registration is required. Please register here: http://summer2017cct.eventzilla.net/web/event?eventid=2138883817

Course Description

Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) is an 8-week educational program designed to help you improve your resilience and feel more connected to others—ultimately providing an overall sense of well-being. A compassionate attitude can greatly reduce the distress people feel in difficult situations and can become a profound personal resource in times of stress. Thupten Jinpa, the senior author of CCT, describes the program in these words: “What CCT aims to do is to make people become more aware and more connected with their compassionate nature so that their instinctive response to a given situation will come from that compassionate understanding standpoint rather than negative excessive judgement.”

There is a growing body of research which asserts the value of cultivating compassion. As a wholesome state of mind, compassion is essential to individual well-being. As an ethical orientation, compassion is also essential for sustaining rich nourishing relationships. As a social force, it is crucial for addressing global, socio-economic dilemmas.

Participants probe real-world questions such as: What is compassion? What blocks it? Are there limits to compassion? Is there a difference between empathy and compassion? If living from compassion is all it is cracked up to be, why is self-compassion so difficult? How do I enhance my resilience while decreasing worry? How do I jumpstart a sustainable meditation practice? How do I have more meaningful connections with family, friends and co-workers?

You will learn through instruction, meditation, mindfulness and experiential exercises how to cultivate the daily-life skills needed to strengthen the qualities of compassion, courage and resilience. We will discuss how you can “move your attention at will, and how attention is like a spotlight,” as Dr. Paul Gilbert says, “whatever it shines on is what becomes brighter in the mind…”

Not only has cultivating compassion been found to reduce the frequency and intensity of destructive emotions (such as anger and hatred), it is also a sustainable response to the suffering of others, and actually alleviates empathetic distress and burnout. Consequently, Compassion Cultivating Training is relevant to those in health and human services roles who regularly witness suffering in their work. The program is also of value to anyone challenged by suffering in themselves or in our world. This includes parents, caregivers, educators, healthcare professionals, therapists, executives, public servants, and people in a wide range of professions and life contexts. No previous meditation experience is required.

What to expect:

A two hour weekly class that includes discussion, and in-class partner and small-group listening and communication exercises
Daily meditation practices to develop kindness, empathy, compassion for others, and self-compassion
Real-world “homework” assignments to practice compassionate thoughts and action
Please see the course handout for more details.

Class Dates

8-week course on Wednesday evenings for 2 hours
Wednesdays, June 14 – August 9, 2017* | 6:00pm – 8:00pm

* Note: there will not be class on July 5.

Course Fees

$300.00 regular registration
$305.00: Registration with a certificate of completion to use for CEUs
$225.00 (25% off): UW Affiliate Registration, which requires department approval and budget number

Scholarships and income-based reduced fee options available. Please see the registration page for details, or email mindful@uw.edu

About the Instructor

Maya is a certified CCT instructor by CCARE, Stanford University. A native of Beirut, Lebanon, Maya earned her B.A. in Political Science from the American University of Beirut. She moved to the US in 1989, at the height of the Lebanese war. As she continued her quest for peace in her country and region, Maya obtained a Master’s degree in Communication and Marketing from Boston University. She speaks French, Arabic, and English and is grateful for the cultural richness these languages encompass. Through this lens, Maya views compassion as a bridge between cultures and religions and as the cornerstone of a more peaceful world. In her teaching CCT, Maya continues to practice self-help and assist others in broadening compassion, which ultimately creates opportunities for peace. Maya is a certified yoga teacher, and teaches yoga in prisons to residents and staff.

Fall Session

Compassion Cultivation Training starts mid October on Mercer Island: Please contact me for more info if interested!

WHEN: Wednesday evening October 19, 26 November 2, 9,16,30 December 7,14

TIME: 6:30-8:30PM

WHERE: Mercer Island

The CCT program is offered in 8 weekly sessions, 2 hours each, and consists of six steps

Step 1, Session 1, involves settling the mind and neutrally observing one’s own thoughts and emotions

Step 2, Session 2, teaches participants how to cultivate loving-kindness and compassion for a loved one

Step 3, Session 3 and 4, helps the participant develop loving-kindness and compassion for oneself

Step 4, Session 5, establishes our shared common humanity, recognizing the interdependence of all living creatures and our fragile blue planet

Step 5, Session 6, deepens the ability to cultivate compassion toward all others, including those we perceive as difficult

Step 6, Session 7, involves visualizing transforming others’ pain and suffering and offering them one’s own happiness and joy

Session 8: The course culminates with an integrated daily compassion meditation practice

 

CCFW asks Maya…

What inspired you to start teaching Compassion Cultivation Training?
I noticed the impact of CCT on my personal relationships when I was still going through the CCT teacher training. I felt more in sync with my feelings and more clear and courageous during difficult interactions. I was able to hold the sorrow of grief in an open tender light.In our culture, compassion is often perceived as a weak trait. Yet my grit and courage were manifesting actively when I was engaged in compassion training. I felt a sense of urgency to teach CCT and share what I was learning: that cultivating our inner compassion makes us stronger, more resilient, and more courageous in embracing difficulties.

What two take-aways do you hope participants get in you CCT course?
First and foremost, I want participants to experience how moments spent in meditation are moments of growth, nourishment, and self-discovery: it makes us more aware of values such as the interdependence of life and equanimity of all things. I also hope that participants learn how meditation can take many forms and shapes as well as be adapted to an urban busy lifestyle.

What have you learned through your personal mindfulness practice?
Initially, I resisted starting a meditation practice because I thought that power yoga was enough and that I wouldn’t have time (or use) for both in my life. I discovered that meditation was a catalyst for my yoga practice to become more meaningful, and more conducive to self-discovery and healing. Now I slow down movement at times and “observe” how my body and mind are doing. I am able to realize how connected thoughts, feelings, emotions and sensations are, and I am less likely to disregard my sensations.

My meditation practice nourishes and manifests in all aspects of my life. For example, now I can see the red and orange leaves of a tree while stopped in traffic and let the awe sweep away the frustration. If an unpleasant memory about someone is gripping my stomach, I softly direct my thought towards the fact that this person is also a human being, and just like me they are thriving to be happy and free from suffering. I am grateful for the many ways meditation has given me tools for simple mind shifts.

Maya’s course runs from July 21 through September 8. Classes meet on Thursday evenings from 6:00 – 8:00pm. The cost is $275; scholarships and income-based fee reductions are available. Visit the CCFW website for details and to register.

What people say about CCT

“The most important part of this CCT class for me was the continued understanding of the science behind mindfulness so as to pass on the understanding and practices to my 4th grade students. I loved hearing about the honest struggles with self compassion from the other CCT participants.  It helped me relate and open my heart to them and to be open to the possibilities of what might be going on in the minds of my students in elementary school as they learn more about mindfulness and compassion. When I heard the other CCT participants’  speak out about their questions and struggles with compassion during our time in class, it deepened me.” Kim Longmore, 13 April 2016

“I see this meditation course as a seed that has been deeply rooted within me. I now have the opportunity to continue to learn more about myself and others – knowing we all love and suffer. Instead of jumping to conclusions and judgments, I am now reminded that I can pause instead of reacting.” Patti Vogel, 13 April 2016

Dear Maya, with gratitude I would like you to know that this time we have shared has been an informative, opening, wonderful step in my journey. I felt that I was ready for it and as I hoped it has challenged me, opened my heart and mind wider, and allowed me to have the tools to continue to focus on my intention and work to be a more open, foregiving and loving person.

My advice? Sometimes the best thing is for someone to shine a light on our momentary bitchiness. It can allow us to see it and grow into someone better.” Jess, 13 April 2016

This class has changed how I feel about compassion. I have been able to find compassion easier and in a way I was never able to before. I have watched how it has changed and evolved my interactions with people around me in a positive way. Also with myself. Reminding myself to have compassion for myself. When I am in a situation where I am uncomfortable, take the steps I need to, to take care of myself.

I struggle to make time to meditate. I have learnt from CCT to embrace the time I have. Not to be hard on myself for not meditating. Finding other ways to meditate. Throwing on the wheel, Drawing, Breathing.” Lauren Halvorsen, 13 April 2016