A Practical Guide to Mindfulness-Based Compassionate Living


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Table of Contents

(Practices and exercises are marked with ※)

Foreword by Mark Williams


A warm welcome

The gift of mindfulness

The mindfulness wave


How MBCL began

Based in science

Is MBCL for you?

How to use this book

1. Wired to survive rather than thrive
Session One: How we evolved – The threat, drive and soothing systems

The challenge of being human
Compassion: not for the faint-hearted
※ The Breathing Space with Kindness The human brain and its flaws
Like Pandora’s box
Insight: the good fairy

Three emotion regulation systems
The stress of threat and drive
Rest and digest
※ Contemplating the Three Systems in Your Life
Getting out of balance

Restoring the balance

※ A Safe Place

※ Kindness Meditation: Yourself

Suiting your soothing system

※ A Pleasure Walk

※ Calendar: Soothing System

Summary and Suggestions for Practice

2. Embracing inner demons
Session Two: Threat and self-compassion

Exploring inner landscapes

※ Compassionately Dealing with Resistance

Outer and inner threats

Three components of self-compassion

※ The Self-Compassion Mantra

※ The Breathing Space with Compassion

Tend and befriend

Me-first, you-first or we-together

Survival of the kindest

Pathways to self-compassion

※ A Hand on Your Heart
When compassion itself seems to be the demon

A gentle pace

Wobbles on the way

Using imagery

※ A Compassionate Companion

※ Kindness Meditation: A Benefactor

※ Calendar: Threat System

Summary and Suggestions for Practice

3. Treating habits kindly
Session Three: Untangling desires and patterns

Ulysses’ courage

※ Compassionately Dealing with Desire


Why we can’t get no satisfaction

Habits and patterns

Three basic modes

Love thy inner critic as thyself

Self-conscious emotions

Don’t kill the messengers
※ Compassionately Dealing with Inner Patterns

Comfort zones without comfort

Befriending inner patterns

Taking a more scenic route
※ Kindness Meditation: A Good Friend

※ Calendar: Drive System
Summary and Suggestions for Practice

4. Out of the mud into the light
Session Four: Embodying compassion

Flow directions of compassion

Pretend play

※ Doing as If

※ Embodying Compassion
The Lotus of Compassion
Feeding an inner helper
※ Kindness Meditation: A Neutral Person

※ Kindness for The Body

Mindful Movement

※ Examples of Mindful Movement
※ Walking with Kindness

※ Calendar: Inner Critic
Summary and Suggestions for Practice

5. Receiving and giving with every breath
Session Five: Self and others – Widening the circle

‘Dear Self’

※ A Compassionate Letter
Who are you?

The problem with over-identifying

‘Selfing’ on autopilot or by choice

※ Kindness Meditation: A ‘Difficult’ Person
Notes on Kindness Meditation

Challenges in Kindness Meditation

A wordless alternative
※ Compassionate Breathing: YourselfBuilding resilience

※ Compassionate Breathing: Others

※ The Breathing Space with Compassionate Breathing
※ Calendar: Inner Helper

Summary and Suggestions for Practice

6. Making friends for life
Session Six: Growing happiness

Kissing joy as it flies
※ Revisiting the Good

Three doors to happiness

Four Friends for Life

Giving peace a chance

※ Forgiving Yourself

※ Asking Forgiveness

※ Forgiving Others

Gratitude: The memory of the heart

※ Gratitude
※ The Silver Lining
※ Your Values

※ Kindness Meditation: All Beings

※ Calendar: Receiving Compassion

Summary and Suggestions for Practice

Silent Session
※ An Appreciative Body Scan
※ The Horse Whisperer

7. Heartful mind, mindful heart
Session Seven: Weaving wisdom and compassion into daily life

※ A Day in Your Life

Draining or sustaining

Egosystem or ecosystem

From formal to informal practice

※ The Breathing Space for Wise Compassionate Action

Action in deed

Practical ethics

※ Equanimity Meditation

※ Sympathetic Joy Meditation

Caring for the future

※ A Compassionate Prevention Plan

※ Calendar: Giving Compassion

Summary and Suggestions for Practice

8. Healing life
Session Eight: Living with heart

A crack in everything

Wounded healers

※ The River of Life

At home wherever you go
Tending your inner garden
Further support
Spreading your wings
Summary and Suggestions for Practice

List of audio downloads

List of worksheet downloads

Further reading


About the authors

About the Author

Erik van den Brink studied medicine in Amsterdam and trained to become a psychiatrist in the UK. He has extensive experience in meditation and specialised in mindfulness-based and compassion focussed approaches to mental health.

Frits Koster is a vipassana meditation teacher and certified mindfulness teacher and healthcare professional. He has taught mindfulness and compassion in healthcare settings for many years. . He studied Buddhist psychology for six years as a monk in Southeast Asia.

Victoria Norton is a qualified MBSR and MBCL trainer with a professional background in teaching and communications management.


A practical yet rich guide in living with a wise heart.Tara Brach PhD, meditation teacher, USA, and author of Radical Acceptance and True Refuge, tarabrach.com.From the first page of this book it is clear that Erik and Frits have a burning desire to help people ease the pain in their hearts and minds with their MBCL course. Building on the wonderful work of their first book 'Mindfulness-based Compassionate Living', they have now produced a volume where accessibility is paramount, with the eight-week course clearly laid out to make it easy for the reader to follow and get the most out of their excellent, kind, heart-felt work. They have a gift for synthesising vitally important ideas into an easy-to-follow programme that anyone can access and benefit from. Highly recommended.Vidyamala Burch, co-founder of Breathworks, UK, author of Living well with Pain and Illness (Piatkus, 2008) and co-author (with Danny Penman) of Mindfulness for Health (Piatkus, 2013).Mindfulness-Based Compassionate Living is spreading beautifully into the world and touching lives in transformative ways. This new book makes the work more accessible to everyday people. It offers us a personal training pathway for enabling compassion to emerge in our daily lives. The book is a gift to us all. Rebecca Crane PhD, director of Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice, Bangor University, UK, author of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (Routledge, 2009).This wonderful guidebook will benefit any reader interested in the healing power of mindful compassion. The authors have dedicated their lives to these teachings and have produced a clear and practical way to integrate the best of science with the insights of the contemplative traditions. I feel this eight-session approach is powerfully innovative and exactly what the world needs right now. I can't recommend this book highly enough.Susan Gillis Chapman, Vancouver, Canada, Faculty for Karuna Training, Acharya, Buddhist teacher and author of The Five Keys To Mindful Communication (Shambhala, 2012).Erik and Frits have crafted a programme that carefully builds on the learning from mindfulness-based programmes such as MBSR and MBCT. From this foundation, they introduce compassion-based practices explicitly. There is a solid and compelling theoretical base to the programme, which Erik and Frits have thoughtfully adapted to make it particularly relevant for clinical settings. The practices and exercises offer the potential for a thorough exploration of compassion in one’s life. In this practical guide, each week a menu of options is offered with the encouragement to explore and work with what is needed, possible and helpful at any one moment in time. I have a sense I will revisit its delights often.Alison Evans, founder and co-director of the Mindfulness Network CiC, and core teacher at the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice with specialist interest in Mindfulness-based Supervision, Bangor University, UKThis pragmatic and user-friendly workbook brings forth a powerful integration of compassion practices for people who have some mindfulness experience "under their belts" already. Underpinned by evolutionary understanding of why human beings are so driven to bring hurt to ourselves and others, it provides a supported pathway for people to meet and transform distress, and connect with their capacity to feel and express more kindness and compassion moment by moment in their lives. May many be touched by it!Timothea Goddard, Sydney, Australia, Founding Director of Openground Mindfulness Programs and Mindfulness Training Institute - Australia and New ZealandThis is a thoroughly friendly book, in which the authors show great care and respect for their readers, both service users and professionals. The work is very down-to earth and accessible, including vivid and engaging examples, poems and stories to encourage the reader on this life-changing journey. The Mindfulness-Based Compassionate Living course detailed here is closely based on mindfulness with the same experiential method of learning, and deepens that knowledge into heartfulness. I very much enjoyed this book and am sure that many will benefit from it by learning how to make the comfort of compassion for themselves and others an essential, fundamental part of their lives. Judith Soulsby: Senior teacher and trainer with the Centre for Mindfulness Research & Practice, Bangor University, UK; Certified teacher and teacher trainer with the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion.

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