Nov. 24, 2020

Three things you didn’t know about compassion

Compassion is an essential concept to thriving in our everyday lives
Compassion is a term we use frequently, but what is it exactly and how can we use it in our everyday

Compassion is a term we use frequently, but what is it exactly and how can we use it in our everyday lives? Daranne Harris, doctoral student and ordained clergyperson, has spent years training in and researching compassion, and has shared some insights.

Compassion can be strengthened

Compassion is a response to another person’s suffering and the action to lessen this suffering. The root of the concept is transforming empathy you feel into a response that will help the person in distress. This response might be as simple as helping to refer a person in distress to supports like the Student Wellness Centre and offering to go with them.

Compassion is based on a foundation of being mindfully aware, using breath work, focusing your mind on compassion, and using compassionate actions in daily life. A group of adult educators at Stanford University started Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) at the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE). The group wanted to bring together science and contemplative practices to create a secular program. In other words, they wanted to create a program based on the science around mindfulness, emotion and altruism, and make it accessible to people of all spiritual backgrounds.

3 Flows of Compassion

Compassion is for others and for yourself

Your compassion flows outward to others and inward for yourself. You can also receive compassion from others. Being mindful of this flow of compassion helps remind you of others’ difficulties and of your own personal challenges. You can also use these practical tools to combat negative self talk and meet your own needs in stressful or difficult situations.

Researchers studying the effects of compassion have noticed that when we practice compassion, it isn’t always fatiguing and in fact, chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin are released in our brains, which give us a glowing feeling. Offering compassion can also give a greater sense of making a difference in everyday life. Students of compassion have also reported a shift of their perception of the world, leading to better connections with others, reduced anxiety and higher resilience during difficult times.

Compassion Cultivation Training at UCalgary

Daranne Harris completed the Compassion Cultivation Training teaching program and received her certification in May 2019 through the Compassion Institute and Stanford University. She is the only certified CCT trainer in Alberta. She sees her role as supporting student well-being and help students be more compassionate with the world. Her supervisor, Dr. Shane Sinclair, is the founder of the compassion research lab on UCalgary campus.

Sarah Ashton (pluralistic engagement coordinator), Reverend Margaret Propp (faith representative) and Daranne Harris worked together to bring the Compassion Cultivation Training course to UCalgary. You can take the free, 8-week CCT course to learn more about taking compassionate action and developing resilience. Want to know more about cultivating compassion in your life? Sign up for the winter course.


Tuition for the first 25 participants has been covered by an SU Quality Money grant.