Listen: How Stanford Got a Center for Compassion
San Francisco Public Radio did a lovely 1-hr show on the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. The piece features the founder of CCARE, the scientists who are studying compassion, as well as one of my compassion cultivation courses, and stories from students in it.
Below is one of my favorite excerpts:
Deborah Defilippo heard about CCARE when she attended the 2010 discussion between scientists and the Dalai Lama. Researchers talked about the health benefits of meditation.
“I am, I guess you could say I’m a type A, high achieving person,” DeFilippo says. “And I’m now catching myself when someone in front of me is driving below the speed limit, saying the phrases that are in almost every single meditation practice that Kelly has. And that is, you say for each individual and yourself and the world, ‘May you be happy. May you be free from pain and suffering. And may you experience joy and peace.’ …It’s like taking a deep breath and a lot of calm does instill within me.”
Stanford’s CCARE program has its critics. Some worry this type of secular practice will lose something, and perhaps lack substance. Others say the aspirations of CCARE – to make a more compassionate world — are too idealistic. They question how much students can learn in nine weeks.
But McGonigal says many students do connect what’s taught by CCARE with what’s occurring in their lives.
“One of my favorite stories was a man who was in a church setting and a homeless woman had approached this group that was meeting at the church…. And he could feel in himself that little bit of threat or stress arising that would normally have led him to maybe get rid of that person as quickly as possible so that she didn’t disturb the group that was meeting.”
The man remembered a lesson from the previous week in class.
“He considered the other ways of thinking about her,” McGonigal said. “That, just like him, she was human. She was suffering. Going down the checklist, does this person need help? Do I have the resources to help? And turns out that she had diabetes and she needed food and there wasn’t food available in that moment and the people in the group were able to get her something to eat and the whole thing ended very differently because he was using this framework from the study that we talked about … People can take something from a study and use it in everyday life.”