It is liberating to be less critical of yourself and be milder towards yourself. It reduces the fear of being judged by others.

What is compassion?

Compassion teaches you to face up to difficult and stressful experiences with a desire to ease them, so as to make them easier to deal with. In the words of Jack Kornfield: 'Life is hard. How can we be anything other than kind?' Compassion is a human quality that everyone possesses, but which often, for all kinds of reasons, fails to fully develop.

This training will help you strengthen the qualities of the heart, teaching you to:

  • adopt a milder and kinder attitude towards yourself, especially when you really need it
  • gain insight into elements from Western and Buddhist psychology that relate to the practice of compassion
  • develop helpful skills in dealing with discomfort, pain, or stress
  • practical exercises to do in your day-to-day life

I am more accepting in unpleasant situations or with negative emotions. Difficult moments used to bring out an inner bully in me. When I started to realise that, I became able to comfort myself. Merely acknowledging a need for self-compassion already had a greatly soothing effect.

Different modules, same content

In the Netherlands, there are two types of compassion training that are widely given, i.e. Mindfulness-Based Compassionate Living (MBCL) and Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC). Both programmes are made up of nine sessions and depart from an existing foundation of mindfulness. These programmes use the same sources, and you will see many of the same exercises in both. And yet, there are some differences. MBCL, for example, draws more on participants’ ability to imagine situations, while MSC makes greater use of the group dialogue method. But these differences are minor compared to what these programs have in common: development of a kind attitude towards yourself through exercises and group dialogue.

Program with a scientific foundation

Like mindfulness training, compassion training is rapidly becoming an evidence-based approach. A leading scientist called Kristin Neff has published an extensive bibliography on the efficacy of self-compassion training. Fellow developers Christopher Germer and Paul Gilbert have also published works on self-compassion.

Programme

Compassion training consists of nine sessions of 2.5 hours each. As in mindfulness training, practice at home is key. You will make the most of the training if you practise and reflect every day for between 30 minutes and one hour.

Compassion training is also experience-oriented training, just like mindfulness training, offering exercises that are focused on growing your acceptance of and harmony with yourself and others. Difficult experiences are not avoided, but there is also room for humour and leisure. Using self-exploration, you will delve into your personal experience to figure out what is salutary and what is not.

Begrudging myself less, also when I ‘pressure’ myself to allow it. By being less judgemental after pressurising myself, I activate the stress system less.

Who it is for

You are interested in building on your mindfulness practice with the practice of compassion as one of the qualities of the heart. To develop self-compassion, you need a foundation of mindfulness. Therefore, you have taken mindfulness training first. (Only in exceptional cases - such when you have an unusually strong inner critic - it may be advisable to do compassion training first. If you think this could be the case for you, ask your trainer for advice.)