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


Culture of Empathy Builder: Karen Armstrong

Karen Armstrong

  Working on the Charter for Compassion. She talks about how compassion is the core value of all religions.



Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life (Google books preview)

 Preview first 13 pages


Book Reviews:

  •  Advice leans toward practical acts of kindness
    Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life is a much briefer book. Its emphasis on the practical, rather than the theoretical, side of spirituality makes it easy to dip into, but even with its brevity, the book doesn't oversimplify the many religious traditions from which it draws. Compassion in the sense in which Armstrong uses the term doesn't mean pity. It's something closer to the golden rule in one of the many variations in which nearly every religion teaches it.

  • Try a Little Tenderness -
    But each of us can pursue that elusive goal, she suggests, by learning from the religious tradition of our choice. Each tradition, she says, offers myths to teach us kindness and empathy. It doesn't matter much what myths one embraces, because, "at their best, all religious, philosophical, and ethical traditions are based on the principle of compassion."


Empathy Circle 10 - 12 steps for Compassion - Book Club

Karen Armstrong’s Book: Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.
Book Club with the Charter for Compassion and
Compassionate Action Network International (CANI) Staff and Board members.
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.


Book Outline
 Reading Guide.pdf

  • 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.

  • The 12 Steps

    • 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.

    • 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?

    • 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?)

    • 4. Empathy

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

      • 3 meditation stags

        • concentric circles

        • imagine  positive thoughts

      • (really not much on empathy here)

    • 5. Mindfulness

      • observe the way the mind works

    • 6. Action

    • 7. How Little We Know

      • Zhuangzi -  this emptiness leads to empathy

      •  perfect man has no self

      • threefold step

        • appreciate the unknown

        • don't be overly certain

        • likes mystery

      • Open mindedness exercise

    • 8. How Should We Speak to One Another

      • Dialogue types

        • competitive

        • Socratic - understand your ignorance

        • listening means hear underlying message

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

    • 9. Concern for Everybody

      • 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

    • 10. Knowledge

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

    • 12. Love Your Enemies:


Insight: Ideas for Change - Karen Armstrong - Charter for Compassion

  • About the Charter for Compassion

    • Golden Rule

    • Religious should make a contribution.

  • Business people have the most to pick up the charter.

    • in Pakistan

  • Q 3:00 - how to integrate it?

  • what compassion means?

    • not pity or feeling sorry

    • in Buddhist tradition it means to take responsibility for the pain you see in the world

  • Q 5:10 Yearning for non violence?

  • Q 6:40 media and see pain and suffering?

    • we all have it.

    • can bring us together

    • let people in

    • pain is there

    • if we deny our own pain will deny others pain

    • dialog -  not much Socratic dialog - instead we have bludgeoning dialog

  • Q. 8:30 - The media's role?

  • Q. People say human nature isn't compassionate?

    • look into your own heart and discover the wickedness there

    • discover what causes you pain and refuse to inflict it on others

  • Q. is this hard?

    • yes, 12 steps, addicted to our hates

    • train ourselves.

    • let go of righteousness

  • Q. Capitalism and Compassion?

    • many business people are supporting this.

  • Q. Commonality of religions?

  • Q. Is this an axial age


2011-01-12 - Charlie Rose Show - Video: Karen Armstrong on her book 'The Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life'

2011-01-12 - On the 12 steps to a compassionate life: Q&A with Karen Armstrong
"On Christmas eve, the TED Blog had a chat with Karen about the ways people around the world are embracing the Charter for Compassion — the result of her TED Prize wish –- a year from its launch, the importance of kindness in discourse, and the perennial human struggle to put others first."

2011-01-10 - Twelve Concrete Ways To Live A 'Compassionate Life' - NOR Radio
"From Confucius to Oprah, people have preached compassion for centuries. But how often is it put into practice? Karen Armstrong believes religion, which should advocate for compassionate living, is often part of the problem. In Twelve Steps To A Compassionate Life, she describes ways to add kindness to daily routines".





Soul to Soul with Karen Armstrong - Super Soul Sunday - Oprah Winfrey Network 


Karen Armstrong: "I Became Anti-Religion for 13 Years" - Super Soul Sunday - Oprah Winfrey Network

How You Can Live a More Compassionate Life - Super Soul Sunday - Oprah Winfrey Network

Why Karen Armstrong Says the Golden Rule Still Matters - Super Soul Sunday - Oprah Winfrey Network


Karen Armstrong: "The Biblical God Is a Starter Kit" - Super Soul Sunday - Oprah Winfrey Network 





Karen Armstrong - How Little We Know - Empathy and Compassion in Society 2013 


Action Happiness: Karen Armstrong on Compassion

  • Action Happiness

  • happiness gets mixed up with emotions

  • illusive and just out of reach

  • problems - difficult brains

    • reptiles brains -  4 Fs - all about me

    • rational mind.

  • Me first thinking. - Self preoccupation

  • Dethroning yourself  - put the ego in it's place

    • chastise yourself.

  • It's ego, ego, ego



2009-08-14 - Chautauqua Lectures - Karen Armstrong: Charter for Compassion


Introducing Karen Armstrong

  • one of the most prolific religious authors

  • lecturer on role of religions

  • TED winner

  • Sees yearning around the world for compassion

  • A world of peace through compassion

Karen Armstrong - Title of Lecture - Why compassion?

  • Compassion as the Core of Faith

  • My study for 20 years - religions always come back to compassion to faith.

  • Why do we need compassion now?

  • Every major religion has this golden rule. first we know of is Confucius

  • Confucius - 600 BC

    • what is central thread of your teachings?

    • likening to the self

    • do not do to others which you would not like done to you.

    • look into your own heart - and don't inflict pain

    • Which teaching and we  -golden rule

  • Buddha

    • behave as if self did not exist

    • self - grasping, fearful, greedy, insecure, self cause of pain, hatred.

    • get past this and you'll be on the road to enlightenment

  • India - Ahimsa - nonviolence - 8th century BC

    • need to master Ahimsa

    • takes you beyond fearful self

  • Rabbi Hillel 

    • That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor

  • Jesus

    • Do to other's which you would like them to do to you

  • Mohammed

    • Desire for others what you desire for yourself

  • Have concern for everyone  - no out-group

    • Break down the bonds of ego

    • love the stranger

  • 15:00 Empathy - it's that same principle of empathy, that we found in Confucius.

  • Compassion - 'to experience with'

    • Not emotions and feelings - they come and go

    • Need dedicated action '

    • it's hard work

  • Dangers of not getting rid of the self

    • God is me

  • 20:00 Core of compassion demands constant hard work

  • The religions all say selfishness holds us back

    • compassion is be way to get past that

    • dethrone yourself

    • step outside of self

  • Scientists - the brain is wired for compassion

    • David Hawkins - survival skill

  • Compassion needs practice

  • Global reason for compassion - We are in one world

    • environment, stock markets, etc

  • Religious Leaders are talking about doctrine, hate, etc, not compassion

  • Won the TED prize

    • Create Charter for Compassion.

    • Bring compassion back to central life.

    • Another Arcane attractive statement?

    • Done online create a movement 

    • 53 partners

  • Golden Rule is essence of morality

    • point of this is Action

    • a call to Action

  • There are many initiatives

    • Muslims

    • Australia

    • NT Art

    • Wall of compassion in Malaysia

  • A culture of greed or compassion

    • Hard work and dedicated work

  • Be Sensitized to hateful speech

    • rapid response teams to counter

    • need many initiatives to promote compassion

      • learn about the other

      • dialogue/discourse vrs. debate - what kind?

        • listening

  • Spectacle of Suffering

    • Compassion fatigue

    • Acknowledge self-pain

    • If you deny self-pain you will deny others pain

  • Story of Kindly Nun

  • Q1: Influence of Texts in Religion?

    • Downplaying negative parts of religious texts

    • ie. Catholic Church suppressing sex scandals

    • need to examine abhorrent texts

  • Q2: Need for Critical Appraisal?

    • compassion demands critical appraisal but not in ego

    • someone has to break cycle of attack.

    • constantly put yourself in the place of other

  • Q3: Marketing Compassion?

    • Marshall Rosenberg - and nonviolence?

    • Not a new movement

    • bring these communities together.

  • Q4: Incorporating Compassion in Economics?

    • compassionate economics

    • intolerant regimes do not well

    • it's all a call to action

  • Q5: The Trend in Compassion?

    • seek the good in cultures

    • supporting dictatorial regimes is not loving them

    • is society becoming more compassionate?

    • I don't know. one step forward one step back.

  • Q6: Listening with Open Ears?

    • courage to listen

    • listening means more than just hearing the words

    • listening to the pain and rage underlying

  • Q7: Relation with Compassion and Competition?

    • starting a new project on this

    • competition can be just about ego -greed

  • Q8: Opportunities with Contributing?

    • job opportunities in this area?


2010-02-17 - The Charter for Compassion Launch Highlights  Seattle  


  • An important day - Seattle supports the Charter of Compassion

  • We need to bring compassion to peoples notice

  • need to implement compassion in the nitty gritty of life

  • 1:20 - Q: is compassion different in city and country

    • cities have a lot of problems, inequality, alienation

    • these need a response

  • 2:20 Q: Asked - How do you define Compassion?

    • it's not pity

    • we need a lot of work to educate people about the meaning

    • compassion is not about feelings

    • may feel all kinds of empathy for people,

      • but feelings come an go, they are ephemeral

    • compassion is a principled determination to put yourself in someone else's shoes

    • from - endure or experiencing something with somebody else.

    • you realize you are in it together

    • The Golden Rule



2010-04-30 - Karen Armstrong Interviewed by Odyssey Networks at Compassionate Seattle Event




2008-02-xx - Karen Armstrong makes her TED Prize wish: the Charter for Compassion