Mindfulness-Based Compassionate Living (MBCL)

MBCL is a follow-up course to an 8 week MBSR or MBCT course. It is suitable for anyone who has benefitted from mindfulness training and would like to deepen their practice with “heartfulness”. It consists of eight  sessions of two and a quarter hours and a silent day of practice after week 7 to deepen and integrate the practices.

Practising mindfulness means paying attention in a non-judgmental way, which is the very basis of kindness. As we develop awareness, we are also cultivating an inner attitude of kindness toward what our experience is. When we struggle with our difficulties, and add further to our suffering, there is room for the inner attitudes of kindness and compassion to be developed. The practice of opening the mind and the heart go hand in hand.

Compassion is a human potential in every individual and through training, compassion can be developed and deepened. This is the aim of MBCL. Compassion involves commitment to alleviate and prevent suffering, whoever is the (potential) sufferer. Therefore, whenever we speak of compassion, we include “self-compassion”.

Many recognise their tendency to overlook themselves while trying to be compassionate.

For various reasons, compassion may not have come to blossom in life. The subjective goals most often expressed by those who apply for the course are: to develop a kinder and warmer relationship with themselves; to find a healthy balance between caring for others and caring for themselves; and to find ease with life’s inevitable pain and suffering.

The emphasis on the course is on experiential practice. Key practices will be taught and suggestions given for home practice each week. Suggestions for home practice are made to emphasise the importance of compassionately choosing the exercises that connect best with the learning phase participants are in. Participants commit to up to an hour of daily practice at home with the help of course materials and audio recordings. The structure thus reflects a basic mindfulness course, but with more options of practice to choose from than an MBSR/MBCT course. Apart from deepening mindfulness practice and developing compassion practices, individuals are also introduced to some of the background information underlying compassion training.

Course materials including a workbook and guided audio recordings of the practices are provided. The course teacher is available for support in between classes with any difficulties that might arise with your practice.

Benefits of Compassion

  • Psychological well-being and life fulfillment.
  • Mindfulness, emotional intelligence and positive emotions.
  • Self-respect and sympathy with one’s own shortcomings.
  • Coping with adverse life events.
  • Being less afraid to make mistakes or be rejected.
  • More social connectedness; empathy and care for others.
  • Better immune response; healthier eating; self-care.

Who is the Course For?

The course is suitable for anyone who has completed an MBSR or MBCT course and would like to deepen their practice with “heartfulness” and be more compassionate in life. The MBCL programme offers a way of dealing with suffering in whatever form it prevents itself, and helps to cultivate an attitude of care. MBCL is not only suitable for care-seekers but also for care-givers, non-professional and professional.

Following an 8 week mindfulness course, people often report having greater awareness and openness to the richness of their sensory experiences, feeling more at home in the body, more responsiveness in stressful situations and greater capacity to observe thoughts and feelings as passing events. And they also report being kinder to themselves and others. Yet often because of habit and old patterns, participants find it more difficult to take this gentler approach and attitude to heart. The deepening of mindfulness is increased and enriched by the development of kindness and compassion.  Experienced mindfulness teachers, who have followed the program, often share that the exercises have enriched their personal lives and their teaching skills.

Precisely because we develop a healthier relationship with ourselves, the way opens towards more empathy and compassion for others.

When we truly meet our pain we develop a sensitivity that will benefit ourselves and others. We learn to respond wisely and compassionately to suffering whoever is the sufferer. Compassionate living is based on this realisation of our common humanity and interconnectedness with all beings.

Erik van den Brink

Key Practices

  • Soothing breathing rhythm
  • Compassionate imagery (safe place, compassionate companion, embodying compassion).
  • Dealing compassionately with resistance, desire and maladaptive patterns.
  • Loving kindness (secular metta) towards ourselves and others.
  • Compassionate breathing (secular tonglen)
  • Compassionate body scan.
  • Walking and moving with kindness.
  • Compassionate letter writing
  • Practising sympathetic joy, gratitude, forgiveness and equanimity
  • Informal practices for everyday life.

“I came onto the course to get a better understanding about suffering and why does it persist to make me miserable. This course is revolutionary and valuable in that it is enabling me to see that my life doesn’t have to be this way. It is not solid, set in stone. Compassion is changing me and I’m learning to swim in the river of life.

This is one of the most valuable courses I have even taken part in. I had imagined that compassion was something that was “out there” and that by adhering to the discipline of practice, I would somehow become this new re-invented person. What I actually learned was that it was part of me. A part that had become lost, defended over; but nevertheless it was me. That was the most valuable thing. I am incredibly grateful.

I liked the balance between theory, practice and discussion. I felt the teaching was very sensitive and so wonderfully gentle. I found the course worked at so many levels, thanks to your gifted teaching. Perhaps most importantly, it helped secure a few simple tools (or structures) that help ease one through any day, such as the “four friends”, having awareness of the “three systems” and the simple gift of the phrase ‘just as I wish for happiness and harmony, may you also have happiness and harmony’, which really helps support connection with oneself and others.

I am so thrilled I undertook the course. It has opened up so much for me. It has given me the knowledge to notice and accept more in life. The facilitation was fantastic. Gwennie has exceptional skill in being able to keep all members of the group safe, allow each to have a voice if they need one, and link the theory and practice to make it accessible to all.

My expectations were that I would deepen my practice and find ways to be more compassionate to myself. I learned that I can be both compassionate to myself and others. The content was fascinating, joyful and beautifully interpreted.  Gwennie’s facilitation was brilliant. The format was inclusive, non-threatening and enlightening. Part of the richness was learning from others on the course. The pace was perfect and the length of sessions just right. I think this was superb. It has made a profound and positive difference to my outlook on life and has given me the tools to connect with compassion. I can’t thank you enough for sharing it.