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.