What is Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT)?
Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) is an eight-week program developed at Stanford University Medical School’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education by a team of contemplative scholars, clinical psychologists, and researchers. The CCT program integrates traditional contemplative practices with contemporary psychology and scientific research on compassion. CCT is designed to develop the qualities of compassion, empathy, and kindness for oneself and for others.
Compassion is a process that unfolds in response to suffering. It begins with the recognition of suffering, which gives rise to thoughts and feelings of empathy and concern. This, in turn, motivates the willingness to take action to relieve that suffering.
Humans have a natural capacity for compassion. However, everyday stress, social pressures and life experiences can make it difficult to fully express this capacity. Each of us can choose to nurture and grow the compassionate instinct, like a plant that is carefully cultivated from a seed. This process requires patience, steady care, proper tools, and a supportive environment.
The process of cultivating compassion involves training our own minds, developing specific skills in how we relate to others, and ourselves and intentionally choosing compassionate thoughts and actions.
Cultivating compassion goes beyond feeling more empathy and concern for others. It develops the strength to be with suffering, the courage to take compassionate action, and the resilience to prevent empathy fatigue. These qualities support a wide range of goals, from improving personal relationships to making a positive difference in the world.
Compassion cultivation can also support one’s own health, happiness, and well-being. Preliminary research suggests that CCT and similar programs can increase self-compassion and self-care, reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, and enhance connection with others.
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 judgment.”
CCT is designed to support anyone who wants to cultivate compassion for themselves and for others. 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 classes page for upcoming courses
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