Center for Building a Culture of Empathy

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

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Culture of Empathy Builder:  Erika Rosenberg

Erika Rosenberg: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Education

Erika Rosenberg offers scientifically- and practically-based training and consultation in a wide range of areas associated with the study and/or understanding of human emotion, facial expressions of emotion, and the improvement of emotional functioning through meditation.

Erika has been practicing meditation for over 20 years. She is a senior teacher for Project Compassion at the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University where she teaches the 9-week Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT). The training combines science, mindfulness and Compassionate Communications traditions.
Sub Conference: Science and Education 




Erika Rosenberg & Edwin Rutsch: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Education





  • 00:00 Introduction

  • (transcription pending)

  • (Video Transcriptions: If you would like to take empathic action and create a transcription of this video, check the volunteers page.  The transcriptions will make it easier for other viewers to quickly see the content of this video.)




2012-05-14 - Bringing Compassion into Everyday Life

"Compassion is a gift that keeps on giving. When you develop a sense of connection and genuine concern for others, you not only help them with your presence and actions, you also give yourself a gift. How? By engaging in each moment with an open mind and heart, you learn not to run from any experience. As such, you become increasingly able to handle whatever life throws your way. Opening the heart develops strength, not weakness.

One can practice compassion both on and off the cushion. Here I offer a simple sitting meditation practice as well as 10 informal exercises for bringing compassion into your daily life. Pretty soon, the distinction between these modes of practice loses meaning. All of life becomes practice."


Watch interview with Erika Rosenberg on the meaning & cultivation of compassion

  • You studied with Paul Ekman and have done Contemplative Practices. What is Compassion?

    • truly connecting with the condition of another, whatever that condition may be.

    • Buddhism says suffering, she sees it going beyond that. (like empathy)

    • suffering with another's pain, connecting with it and offering to help relieve the suffering

    • my definition as a mother and mindfulness practitioner

    • Science just starting to study this

  • Compassion is connecting with the suffering of others. How is that distinct from empathy?

    • compassion is not a slice through time, it's a process, it emerges

    • you can feel at a movement compassionate

    • the quality of mind and heart of compassion is

      • connecting to the other  - their suffering

        • Buddhism talks about feeling the others suffering to be motivated to alleviate it.

        • somehow you have to feel it yourself.

        • shared feeling of empathy is part of the development of compassion.

        • once you can do it, it can happen quickly.

        • then you don't need a long time of sympathy and empathy to get to the compassion state.

      • wish to do something about it. ease their burden

    • Buddhism - feel the sadness - bitter sweet.

      • Sadness is beautiful 

  • 5:45 You want to be honest about sorrow - needs to be present in compassion? Can you take it too far and fall into the sorrow trap?

    • the near enemy and far enemy of

      • loving kindness

      • equanimity

      • sympathetic or empathetic joy

    • the near enemy masquerades as that state but is not it.

    • the far enemy is it's opposite

      • compassion 

        • near > grief - get stuck in it,

        • far > cruelty

  • 7:00 Immeasurable?

    • when you cultivate compassion or loving kindness it has a limitless quality

    • Opens you up to the mystery of the universe?

    • right and you can't have to much of it.

    • don't want to confuses it with notion of compassion burnout

      • they're talking about the near enemy

      • or you could say it's empathy burnout

      • stuck in the stage of sharing the feeling and not move into helping.

  • 8:30 How do you measure it?

    • scales and questionnaires - have some place but are of limited value

      • self reporting has difficulty capturing this complex process

    • can only approximate it from different angles

      • I think  it is immeasurable

    • What is compassion supposed to do?  What does it work against?

      • measure if there's more reaching out

      • or a reduction of negative responses

    • Can look at states of compassion descriptively

      • we map the territory

      • create tools

  • 11:30 Are we looking at the right areas? how do we know that's compassion?

    • we don't know.

    • create behavioral tests in the mix

    • what would compassion as a construct, as a theory look like?

    • do tests

      • are people acting compassionately?

      • implicate association tests

      • etc.

      • we can't measure it like we can blood pressure, etc

      • we want multiple indicators


 Presentation of the CCT program to His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Stanford University.

Compassion training

  • 8 week training program

  • can compassion be cultivated?

  • we are wired for compassion

    • but have become disconnected from that

  • Aims

    • program is secular

    • accessible (simplicity) to many people

    • standardized

    • is also a research tool

  • Progression of skills

    • settling of mind

      • open the heart

      • (bringing up memories of concerns)

      • (return to caring for one selves - soothing self - self care)

        • cultivating connection

        • (cultivating an empathic connecting with other beings)

        • (see our sameness and interdependence)

          • active compassion

  • Sample Class 4: Enhancing connection with others

    • settling the mind

    • pedagogy and discussion

      • reconciling interdependence

      • (empathy research, mirror neurons)

    • empathy exercises in pairs

      • active listening

      • imaging being in their shoes - empathic shared feeling

      • shared resonance

    • guided meditation

      • compassion for others

      • shared aspirations

    • practical exercises

      • gratitude practice

    • home practice

  • Future plans

    • Training

      • CCT Teacher certification program

      • disseminate program widely

    • Research

      • establish effectiveness

      • targeted populations

        • caregivers

        • teachers

        • patient populations

New speaker: Training Results

  • evaluation

New speaker: Empathy and Compassion for convicted killer

  • ....