Center for Building a Culture of Empathy

   Home    Conference   Magazine   Empathy Tent   Services    Newsletter   Facebook    Youtube   Contact   Search

Join the International Conference on: How Might We Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion?

Empathic Design
Empathy Circles

  Restorative Empathy Circles
Empathy Tent

Expert Interviews
Obama on Empathy


    Empathy Tests


Empathy Movement > Video > Empathy Circle 10 - 12 Steps for Compassion Book Club

Book Reading Empathy Circle: Karen Armstrong’s Book: Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.

With the Charter for Compassion and Compassionate Action Network International (CANI) Staff and Board members.
Fridays 12 pm - 1:30 pm - starting Nov 30 for 12 weeks 

See the Shared Group Google Doc Work Page

We will be using a different chapter of the book as an entry into each Empathy Circle.
We ask the question, How does this chapter help foster building a culture of empathy and compassion.



"I think the circle is very powerful and I feel always moved by the reflections... Thank you Edwin for providing this sacred space to reflect about Compassion as it is presents itself in our daily life following the great guidelines

in Karen Armstrong Book" 
Yaffa Maritz,
Chair, Board of Directors

Compassionate Action Network International (CANI)


  "What a wonderful experience, thank you all so much! That was a memorable first session of a virtual - yet so live and heartfelt - [Empathy Circle] book club.
 I'm looking forward to the next meetings."
Maya Nader,
Board of Director
Compassionate Action Network International (CANI)

  " I think theses circles are wonderful, " Bob.


We begin the circle by setting our intention to build a culture of empathy and compassion.
We light the candle to represent our intention.



Preface - Chapter 1.

Circle 10.1 - Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong

Preface - Wish for a Better World

  • About the TED prize and Charter For Compassion project

  • Compassion Definition:

    • So compassion means to endure something with another person, to put ourselves in somebody else's shoes, to feel her pain as thought it were our own, and to enter generously into his point of view.

    • Compassion can be defined, therefore, as an attitude of principled, consistent altruism.

Chapter 1. Learn about compassion

  • Reading and learning about compassion

  • seek out teaching about compassion

  • reading discussion groups

  • collect passages, quotes, poems that speak to you

  • make notes

  • (history of social development)

    • India

      • Buddha felt a moment of empathy that took him out of himself p38

      • In order to enhance the natural impulse of empathy and compassion, Gotama developed a special form of meditation. p39

        • 1. visualize loving kindness

        • 2. visualize compassion

        • 3. visualize pure joy

    • China

      • Confucius - family and expanding circles of compassion

      • Mozi - concern for everyone

      • Xunzi -likening to oneself - golden rule

    • Abrahamic Traditions

      • Judaism

        • Hillel - what is hateful to yourself, do not to your fellow man. This is the whole of the Torah and he remainder is commentary. Go Study it.

        • Akiva - love your neighbor as yourself

      • Jesus - love your enemies

      • Paul - without love, then I am nothing at all.

      • Islam

        • no one can become a believer, unless he desires for his neighbor what he desires for himself.

Chapter 2. Look at your World

Empathy Circle 10.2 - Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

Chapter 2. Look at your World

  • Joseph Campbell

    • myths - and Heroic Journey

    • many religious leaders did Heroic Journey

  • Start with Family

    • takes self sacrifice

    • make list of how family nourishes you

  • Workplace - how to observer the golden rule?

  • The Nation - a compassionate modern state

    • Education

  • What should your contribution be?

Chapter 3. Compassion for Yourself

Empathy Circle 10.3 - Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

Chapter 3. Compassion for Yourself

  • golden rule requires self knowledge, use our feelings a guide to our behavior with others

  • without denying your faults (into self judgment)

  • practice mindfulness to distance yourself from anger, hatred, greed.
    (different view than addressing then, speaking then and see what's underneath)
    (the solution is in yourself, just be compassionate) 

  • we all have a dark side

  • Meditation - 4 minds of love (a very individualistic approach)

    • maitri - imaging friendships

    • karuna - imaging a past hurt, send it compassion

    • mudita - imagine joy 

    • upeksha (self judgment p86)

  • compassion is to dethrone ourselves

  • (is compassion a conscious choice? a mater of will?)


Chapter 4. Empathy

Empathy Circle 10.4 - Book Club: Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life


  • open up to seeing suffering.

  • empathy from the arts, film, plays, acting, etc

  • 3 meditation stages

    • concentric circles

    • imagine positive thoughts

  • (really not much on empathy here)

Empathy Circle 10.4.b: Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life: Empathy-Compassion Definitions
We stayed on Chapter 4 and discussed our understandings of the definitions of empathy and compassion.



Empathy Circle 10.4.c: Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life: Empathy-Compassion Definitions




Chapter 5. Mindfulness


Empathy Circle 10.5: Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life: Mindfulness


  • observe the way the mind works

  • (first 30 minutes of the Circle we talked about our experience with Reflective Listening)




Chapter 6. Action


Empathy Circle 10.6: Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life: Action


  • make resolution to do one act of golden rule per day



Chapter 7. How Little We Know

Empathy Circle 10.7.1: Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life: Chp 7: How Little We Know


  • Zhuangzi -  This emptiness leads to empathy.  " the perfect man has no self. Once he has lost the belief that he is special and particular, he regards all other people as "I". "People cry, so he cries - he considers everything as his own being."

  • threefold step

    • appreciate the unknown

    • don't be overly certain

    • likes mystery

  • Several open mindedness exercises

    • Socratic Questioning

    • Look at your opinions

    • Look at what distinguishes you from others.

We felt this chapter had so much to say that we spent another circle exploring it.
Empathy Circle 10.7.2: Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life: Chp 7: How Little We Know - 2013-03-01  




Chapter 8. How Should We Speak to One Another

Empathy Circle 10.8: Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life - Chp. 8

  • Dialogue types

    • competitive

    • Socratic - understand your ignorance

    • listening means hear underlying message

    • interesting insights about fundamentalism - attacking it doesn't help


Chapter 9. Concern for Everybody

Empathy Circle 10.9: Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life - Chp. 9  

  • Mizi - concern for everybody

  • Tribalism

  • she proposes  a lot of questioning to examine reality

  • Buddhist exercise - imagine people who build the world

  • let go of tribal egoism



Chapter 10. Knowledge

Chapter 11. Recognition: To see oneness in yourself, your community and the world.


Empathy Circle 10.10-11 - Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life - Chp. 10 & 11






Chapter 12. Love Your Enemies:

Empathy Circle 10.12 - Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life - Chp. 12 : Love Your Enemies 





Extra Photos