What is Compassion?

Compassion is the capacity to be sensitive to the suffering of ourselves and others and the willingness to relieve and prevent it (Paul Gilbert, 2014). It is a capacity inherent in all of us which for many reasons does not always come to flourish. Fortunately, it can be trained, developed and deepened through practice. Compassion is characterized by kindness and receptivity as well as courage and responsibility. Many believe compassion should be directed towards others rather than ourselves. But self-compassion is not a selfish activity. Research increasingly shows that self-compassion is – like mindfulness – key to mental health and goes hand in hand with greater openness and empathy towards others.

It's freeing to be less self-critical, to be kinder towards myself. Thanks to this, the fear for the judgement of others has decreased as well. Participant

What is Mindfulness-Based Compassionate Living (MBCL)?

MBCL is a mindfulness-based program that supports the development and training of (self-) compassion to enhance physical, emotional and relational health and well-being. It is grounded in science and integrates work of Paul Gilbert (Compassion Focused Therapy ), and Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer (Mindful Self-Compassion) as well as elements of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Positive Psychology. The MBCL program is suitable as an advanced course and only suitable after having followed a mindfulness training (MBSR, MBCT or equivalent). It is similarly structured and consists of eight weekly sessions of 2.5 hours, offering explicit exercises to nurture compassion with oneself and others. The training can be particularly supportive for clients suffering from shame and self-criticism, social isolation, depression, anxiety, trauma, chronic pain or illness. It was originally developed in the mental health setting but the scope of its application extends much further. It can be helpful to anyone – care-seeker or care-giver – wishing to deepen mindfulness with ‘heartfulness’.

ParticipantI am less critical and more allowing with myself – even when I am hurting inside. By being less judgmental of myself and others after hurtful behavior, my stress system is far less active. Participant


What does this MBCL Foundation Course offer?

In this three-day workshop participants will experience key features of the MBCL curriculum, including the main themes as well as the major exercises. Themes include: the evolutionary perspective and multi-layered brain; the three basic emotion regulation systems and the value of training our soothing system; expanding the stress theory with the psychological equivalents of fight, flight, freeze and their antidotes self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness of suffering; tend and befriend; cultivating a compassionate mind and an inner helper rather than an inner critic; overidentifying and disidentifying; and Four Friends for Life: loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.

Exercises include: soothing breathing rhythm, compassionate imagery (safe place, compassionate companion, embodying compassion); compassionately relating to resistance, desire and inner patterns; loving kindness towards ourselves and others; compassionate breathing; a compassionate bodyscan; walking and moving with kindness; compassionate letter writing; practicing sympathetic joy, gratitude, forgiveness and equanimity; informal practices that can be integrated into daily life.

During the workshop, relevant scientific insights underpinning compassion training will be interwoven in the teachings.

Learning Objectives

  • Participants will have experienced the main exercises of the MBCL program as a first step to understand their meaning for their personal and professional lives.
  • Participants will have a basic understanding of the content, the main themes and scientific background of the MBCL program.
  • Participants will have a basis to further cultivate and deepen (self-) compassion practice for personal and professional benefit and continue with MBCL Teacher Training seminars, if they wish to.

Further reading
  • Erik van den Brink & Frits Koster (2015): Mindfulness-Based Compassionate Living – A new training program to deepen mindfulness with heartfulness. London/New York: Routledge.
  • Erik van den Brink & Frits Koster (2018). A Practical Guide to Mindfulness-Based Compassionate Living – Living with heart. London/New York: Routledge.

For whom

Participant requirements:

  • Participants are expected to be familiar with basic mindfulness practice, preferably by having followed an eight-week mindfulness training (MBSR, MBCT or equivalent).
  • Participants can be mindfulness teachers, psychologists, psychotherapists, doctors, social workers, counselors and coaches and are expected to have a professional interest in the applications of (self-) compassion.
  • Participants are expected to be responsible for themselves and willing to deepen their self-inquiry by engaging in experiential exercises, share experiences and engage in mindful dialogue with the teacher and each other; all in an unforced way.
  • The workshop will be English and is not suitable for participants without mindfulness meditation experience.

NB: If you are not sure whether this workshop is right for you, please contact us to discuss your interest and experience.

MBCL Teacher Training

Teacher training seminars are increasingly offered across Europe, either in 2 modules of 3 days or in one residential retreat of 6 days. The Centre for Mindfulness in Amsterdam will organize a residential and English spoken MBCL Teacher Training Program in the Netherlands from Saturday March 21 to Thursday March 26, 2020 .

Completion of the Foundation Course or having followed the 8 sessions MBCL program in an experiential way with a qualified MBCL teacher is a requirement for participating in a Teacher Training curriculum. To become MBCL teacher one should be a certified mindfulness (MBSR or MBCT) teacher. However, many professionals who are not mindfulness teachers can benefit from the seminars to deepen mindfulness-based and compassion focused interventions and enhance their therapeutic skills in individual or group work.

Starting dates

New dates will be published soon.
Registration will be possible when new dates are published.