Does Being Compassionate Make You Happier, Healthier, Smarter?


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A growing body of research says it does, and a new class in cultivating compassion being offered for the first time in New York City at the Tibet House promises to bring you practices and techniques you can use to help others and, in so doing, help yourself.

At a recent orientation class, Compassion Cultivation Training certified teacher Elizabeth Pyjov jumped right into the experiential aspect of the training, starting a group of about 70 attendees off with a series of stretches and a centering meditation. “You’re more likely to be compassionate toward people with whom you share behavior,” she noted.

In another exercise, participants were asked to imagine a time they felt compassion from or toward someone, reflect on that experience and share the feelings that arose. The responses included heartwarming, gratitude, generosity, happiness, closeness and love.

The training is an initiative of the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE), and will be offered starting March 16th at Tibet House. Through a combination of discussions, readings, exercises and meditations, the class is designed to increase compassion both for oneself and for others, resulting in less stress and anxiety, better mental and physical health, increased feelings of connection, and improved wellbeing.

But does it work? CCARE’s research has shown that our “compassion instinct” is trainable; the Dalai Lama was so committed to the potential of this research that he made a large financial contribution to it. Other research shows that being compassionate also increases our confidence, resilience and longevity.

Pyjov recently finished studying the neuroscience, philosophy and pedagogy of compassion at CCARE, and says she feels “called” to bring the program to the city.

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