“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries, without them, humanity cannot survive.”
Compassion manifests itself when acts of kindness are carried out in response to the presence of suffering. Compassion is what makes it possible for our empathetic reaction to manifest in kindness. Kindness can be seen as compassion in action.
Compassion can be shown towards others or towards self in the form of self-compassion.
I first met the founders of MBCL, Erik van den Brink and Frits Koster presenting their Compassionate Living courses at a CMRP (Centre for Mindfulness & Research) conference in Chester in the summer of 2015. Having taught MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) and related courses for some years, I knew that I had found something special that naturally integrated and led on from mindfulness practice. Having taken time to deepen into these practices for myself, I would now love to offer back and particularly to those who already have a mindfulness background and practice.
Kindness and compassion are implicit in the MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) course. During MBSR we learn that it is the attitude that we bring to our mindfulness and meditation practice that is crucial for the work to be done effectively. In the MBCL course, we take Kindness and Compassion more deeply into ourselves and we get the chance to explore the transformative effect on our own patterns and behaviours when we work with them more explicitly.
Key to the MBCL course is that we have the ability to step into the present moment whenever we need to as we explore this work – our original meditation/mindfulness practice is our foundation as we develop the strength and courage to turn towards the suffering both within ourselves and in the world.
I have personally benefited enormously from initially taking this Mindfulness-Based Compassionate course, as well as from the generous and heartfelt training to teach MBCL by Erik and Frits and to share alongside my colleagues.
‘Compassion is the capacity to feel concern with pain and suffering, our own as well as others. It involves the wish to relieve this pain and suffering and also the willingness to take on the responsibility in doing so. It is a universal human quality, inherently present in everybody, but not fully cultivated. Fortunately, compassion can be developed and deepened through practice, and this is the aim of compassion training.’
Erik Van den Brink and Frits Koster
Erik and Frits live in Holland and work in the mental health arena. Here is a snapshot of their individual journey to the development of MBCL. I give you this background so that you get a flavour of the commitment they have to their work in this field.
Erik is a psychiatrist and from the start of his training as a doctor, he has been interested in the importance of compassion and care towards the patient and not just the treatment of the illness. He travelled during his training and began to get know Eastern wisdom traditions. Back in Holland he first experienced the power of meeting with others in silence through the Quaker meetings he attended. He became a psychiatrist and began to devote time to developing a formal meditation practice first through the Vipassana tradition (It is from this tradition that MBSR was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn) and later Zen. With the development of MBCT courses being run in the field of mental health, Erik was delighted to combine his personal interest in mindfulness with his work since 2002.
At the age of twenty-two, Frits was first taught the basic principles of Vispassana meditation and knew from the beginning that it would help him to understand life better. Planning to study psychology in the future Frits attended a retreat in Thailand. Understanding that in South East Asia up to 85% of all monks are only temporarily ordained Frits, with the encouragement of his teacher, was ordained. After 5 years in Thailand Frits was invited to return to Holland to establish a meditation centre in Gronigen. After some time, he disrobed as he found living as a monk hard especially as he also fell in love and eventually married! Frits now works in psychiatric health care, delivers MBSR/MBCT courses and organises and teaches various meditation activities.
Erik and Frits met in the Vispassana Meditation Centre in Groningen in 2000 and for the last 7 years have been working together in the Centre for Integrative Psychiatry also based in Groningen. Together they developed the MBCL course and the book from which the base of this course is taken was published in 2015. MBCL has been led in Holland and Germany for a number of years and they are now very busy providing training opportunities for other countries. MBCL is being received with great enthusiasm and provides an important tool for the continued development of mindfulness.
Erik and Frits have worked in close collaboration with many of the experts who are working in the field of mindfulness and compassion including Paul Gilbert, Kristen Neff, Christopher Germer, Tara Brach, Daniel Segal and Rick Hanson.