Frank Rogers and Mark Yaconelli have written a powerful article for Red Letter Christians that captures the central ideas and teaching of our compassion formation program at Triptykos School of Compassion. You can read it here.
The CEC’s has spent the past five years developing a Christian approach to compassion formation through our work with pastors in Zimbabwe, prison chaplains, sexual abuse survivors, Democrat and Republican staff members in Washington D.C., non-profit leaders, social-justice activists, youth workers, and ministers in a variety of church and public settings.
The CEC has now founded the Triptykos School of Compassion which will offer The Certificate in Engaged Compassion, a practical spiritual formation program for persons who seek to deepen their skills and capacities for compassionate living. The program is ideal for ministers, organizational leaders, social justice activists, teachers, parents, and anyone who seeks practical training in compassionate living.
Grounded in the life and teachings of Jesus, this program transforms the desire to love God, self, and others into practical actions that heal oneself, individuals, families, organizations, and the larger world. Taught by Mark Yaconelli, Dr. Frank Rogers, and Dr. Andy Dreitcer from Claremont Lincoln’s Center for Engaged Compassion, The Certificate in Engaged Compassion offers a mixture of retreat, one-on-one spiritual direction, online instruction, weekly spiritual practices, group processes, readings, and radical Christian teachings for personal and social transformation.
The course is available for CEU and academic graduate credit through Claremont Lincoln University. It includes an opening retreat in beautiful Burlingame, Calif. Jan. 23-26, 2014, twelve weeks of online instruction, and a closing retreat Apr. 24-27, 2014.
Andy Dreitcer was an invited presenter-participant at a staff in-service gathering of Brown University’s neuroscience-related “Contemplative Development Mapping Project (CDMP)” January 3-5, at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in Barre MA. (For a description of the CDMP, see this interview with its director.) His presentation, “Roles of Imaginal-Affective Relationality in Compassion-Oriented Christian Contemplative Practices” was the group’s introduction to practices within the Abrahamic traditions, was followed by presentations on Muslim and Jewish practices, and was preceded by presentations on Dharmic practices. Until this gathering, the CDMP had focused on neuroscientifically “mapping” only Buddhist practices.
In March, Dreitcer was the guest speaker for Stanford’s compassion-cultivation training program. His presentation focused on the nature of compassion-formation within Christian contemplative practices.
In 2010, Mark Yaconelli began the exploration of a personal storytelling series (entitled “The Hearth”) in his local town of Ashland, Oregon as a method for building community, eradicating shame, and creating a safe dialogue space for difficult issues. Recent articles in the Huffington Post and Communitas (the Austin Theological Seminary journal) explore this model as a set of practices to help cultivate compassion. You can read the Huffington piece here and Mark’s article entitled “The Gospel According to Everyone” here. For more information on the Hearth and developing a personal storytelling series in your community go here.
In September, Frank Rogers led a weekend-long retreat for prison chaplains in the Los Angeles County prison systems. “Internal Family Systems: A Journey of Self-Discovery and Healing” was sponsored by Prism Restorative Justice Ministries. The gathering explored Internal Family Systems (a contemplative, soulful, and non-pathologizing therapy that nurtures compassion for self and others) as a spiritual path for personal renewal and as a resource for pastoral care in chaplaincy contexts.
Andrew Dreitcer and Michael Spezio presented one of the main-stage addresses at the Mind and Life Summer Research Institute (June 22-26, 2012, the Garrison Institue, Garrison, New York) on “Relational Contemplative Studies of Practices in Christian Communities.” (The Mind and Life Summer Research Institute is a gathering of invited scholars, contemplative practitioners, scientists, and researchers.) Their background paper for the presentation is here. They also led an in-depth seminar on the topic — and Andy led a contemplative practice for one of the plenary evening meditation times.
Comments by Andy Dreitcer are highlighted in a “Spirituality & Health” article about neuroscientific perspectives on how ritual functions in religions: “The use of movement, scent, repetition of mantra or singing, and rhythmic breathing: ‘These appear again and again,” [Dreitcer] says, perhaps because they evoke a “neurophysiology that really responds to intimacy.” When one examines these practices, Dreitcer [continues], “they do the same thing in humans no matter who they are or what the context.’ And this relaxed, focused state might be a doorway to spiritual growth, he says. “If you have that capacity to pay attention without condemning ― even unconsciously ― it opens up all kinds of possibilities.’”
Andy Dreitcer has accepted an invitation to become a Fellow of the Mind & Life Institute (MLI). MLI was founded in 1987 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, neuroscientist Francisco Varela, and social-change entrepeneur Adam Engle. From it inception it has sought “to understand the human mind and the benefits of contemplative practices through an integrated mode of knowing that combines first person knowledge from the world’s contemplative traditions with methods and findings from contemporary scientific inquiry. Ultimately, [MLI's] goal is to relieve human suffering and advance well-being.”
CEC Executive Co-Director Andrew Dreitcer recently participated in Insight Prison Project‘s (IPP) Restorative Justice training in connection with IPP’s “Victim Offender Education Group” offerings at prisons around California. Andy is now helping facilitate a group at San Quentin men’s prison. The group, part of IPP’s “Next Step” program, is meeting twice a month for 18 months, with a focus on issues related to how to navigate life after prison.
Staff members of the Center (including social neuroscientists from Princeton University and from Scripps College & Caltech) traveled to a Christian monastery recently to record EEG readings of monks during meditation. In recent years EEG testing of Buddhist meditators (monastics and laypersons) has been done in a number of locations around the world. As far as we know, this is the first time an adept Christian monastic has gone ‘under the EEG net.’ A vast amount of data was collected over the course of 4 days of testing; this will take much time to collate and interpret.