Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dr. Charles Raison - Cognitively-Based Compassion Training

Dr. Raison (on our right from the Dalai Lama) and his Emory team meeting the Dalai Lama
This video comes from the Arizona Meditation Research Interest Group (AMRIG) at the University of Arizona. Dr. Charles Raison (CNN health's mental health expert) is new to the U of A, having previously been at Emory University, where he was part of a team that developed Cognitive-Based Compassion Training (CBCT), along with Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, Ph.D. (founder and director of Drepung Loseling Monastery, in Atlanta), Brooke Dodson-Lavelle, M.A., and Brendan Ozawa-de Silva, Ph.D. At the U of A he is part of both the medical school and the department of psychiatry (Barry and Janet Lang Associate Professor of Integrative Mental Health).

Here is their explanation of CBCT model, which is based in part in the Tibetan lojong tradition.

Cognitive-Based Compassion Training (CBCT)

There are doubtless many methods one could employ to enhance compassion beyond the biological level to an impartial altruism, and in fact many religious traditions contain methods for such cultivation. In our studies, we use a protocol for the cultivation of compassion developed by Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, drawn from the lojong tradition of Tibetan Buddhism but rendered into secular form for use by individuals of any, or no, religious inclination. The term lojong means "mind training" or "thought transformation" and refers to a systematic practice of gradually training the mind in compassion until altruism becomes spontaneous. 

Lojong is based on the view that self-centered thinking and behavior cause suffering for oneself and others, while other-centered, altruistic thoughts, emotions, and behaviors ultimately benefit both oneself and others. Compassion is the heartfelt wish that others be free from suffering and the readiness to act on their behalf. It arises from a deep sense of endearment for others, coupled with empathy for and sensitivity to their pain. This empathy arises both from a sense of closeness or connectedness to others as well as a recognition of the causes of their and one’s own suffering. 

The CBCT program therefore aims to help practitioners progressively cultivate other-centered thoughts and behaviors while overcoming maladaptive, self-focused thoughts and behaviors by moving systematically through eight sequential steps. These are: (1) developing attention and stability of mind through focused attention training; (2) cultivating insight into the nature of mental experience; (3) cultivating self-compassion; (4) developing equanimity; (5) developing appreciation and gratitude; (6) developing affection and empathy; (7) realizing aspirational compassion; and (8) realizing active compassion. The adult CBCT program is an 8-week intervention that meets for two hours a week. Each session contains pedagogical material presented by the instructors, a guided meditation of around twenty to thirty minutes, and group discussion, with subjects being asked to meditate daily for the duration of the program using guided meditation recordings. Our team has expertise in adapting CBCT to meet the needs of diverse populations, including elementary schoolchildren, adolescents in foster care and survivors of trauma. Visit our Research page for more information about our ongoing projects.
That should be more than enough background. I had hoped to see this talk in person, but had to miss it due to work obligations, so I grateful to the AMRIG staff for recording and posting this talk.

Dr. Charles Raison - Cognitively-Based Compassion Training

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