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 integrate into your day-to-day life

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 programs are made up of nine sessions and use mindfulness as a point of departure. These programs are similar in that they are beased on the same sources and exercises, 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. The differences however are minor compared to what these programs have in common which is the development of a kind attitude towards yourself.

A program with a scientific foundation

Like mindfulness, 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 multiple studies on self-compassion.

The program

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 practice and reflect daily for between 30 minutes and one hour.


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

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 mindfulness as a foundation. Therefore, you have taken the mindfulness training first. Only in exceptional cases – such as 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.