Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life: Video Book Review

Compassion is an attitude.  It’s principled and consistent concern for another. It’s about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, feeling their pain, as though it where your own, and entering generously into their point of view.  It’s not about pity or feeling sorry for someone else.

To be compassionate is to live the golden rule; to treat others as you wish to be treated yourself.  The golden rule is the core belief of all major religions.  Belief is not the same as practice though.  And that disconnect leads us to Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong. She believes you only understand religion when you put it into practice.

Armstrong is author of numerous books on religious affairs, including A History of God, Islam, and Buddha.  In February 2008 she was awarded the TED Prize and began working on the Charter for Compassion, created online by the general public and crafted by leading thinkers in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. The charter was signed in November 2009 by a thousand religious and secular leaders.  Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, the book, followed.  It has much to teach conflict resolvers and collaborators alike, as I touch on in this video:

(Can’t see the video? Click here)

Armstrong asks us to think big; to go beyond just having compassion for our group.  Any ideology that doesn’t promote a global understanding and appreciation of each other is failing a test of the time.  She believes we need to move beyond just tolerating the other; we need to move to appreciation of the other.

Here are the 12 steps to compassion.  (Yep, there’s 12, the author’s homage to AA; Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Steps) Notice the last step; love your enemies.  It’s the hardest.  It is for me.  And, I’m guessing for you, too.  Toleration won’t get us to there.  Generous appreciation may

  1. Learn about compassion
  2. Look at your own world
  3. Compassion for yourself
  4. Empathy
  5. Mindfulness
  6. Action
  7. How little we know
  8. How should we speak to one another?
  9. Concern for everybody
  10. Knowledge
  11. Recognition
  12. Love your enemies

For each of the steps, Armstrong explains and gives simple action suggestions for putting belief into practice, and rising above our base instincts to the next step,

I love the way some people, who have an amazing breadth of understanding of the human experience, can find the essence, the patterns out of things that seem immeasurable, and make them so accessible for others (not so in the know), and do it with passion and humor.  Armstrong does.  Huston Smith did.  Both knock me out.

Nobody is born a friend or an enemy; last year’s friend can become next year’s enemy.

What step on the compassionate life ladder are you on? How’s it going?

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