Cover image for The lost art of compassion : discovering the practice of happiness in the meeting of Buddhism and psychology
The lost art of compassion : discovering the practice of happiness in the meeting of Buddhism and psychology
Ladner, Lorne.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
[San Francisco] : HarperSanFrancisco, [2004]

Physical Description:
xxi, 304 pages ; 24 cm
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Call Number
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BQ4360 .L33 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Now in paperback, this practical guide to cultivating compassion delivers Buddhist and psychological insight right where we need it most--navigating the difficulties of our daily lives.

Compassion is often seen as a distant, altruistic ideal cultivated by saints, or as an unrealistic response of the naively kind-hearted. Seeing compassion in this way, we lose out on experiencing the transformative potential of one of our most neglected inner resources.

Dr Lorne Ladner rescues compassion from this marginalised view, showing how its practical application in our life can be a powerful force in achieving happiness. Combining the wisdom of Tibetan Buddhism and Western psychology, Ladner presents clear, effective practices for cultivating compassion in daily living.

Author Notes

Lorne Ladner, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in private practice near Washington, D.C., and an adjunct faculty member in the counseling program at Argosy University. Dr. Ladner is also center director at the Guhyasamaja Buddhist Center in Northern Virginia

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

According to Buddhism, cultivating compassion is the most effective means to living a happy and healthy life. Clinical psychologist Ladner agrees and here attempts to bring Western psychology into cross-cultural dialogue with Tibetan Buddhist traditions to help readers nurture compassion, love, affection, and joy. In Buddhist psychology, compassion refers to the mental state of wanting to relieve others' suffering. In the West, however, psychology and emotion typically have been kept at arm's length. Medical schools and other Western institutions are notorious for actively discouraging compassion in professional training, and Ladner believes Western science is the lesser for it. Citing anecdotes and meditation techniques that actively engage the intellect and the imagination, he offers practical approaches to transforming the heart and cultivating compassion personally and, in effect, generally, by overcoming emotional obstacles, changing how one communicates so that messages are true and beneficial, and developing empathy even with the bitterest enemies--in essence, breaking down unhealthy and destructive patterns. The suggested methods aren't unique to Buddhism, nor need one be Buddhist to use them. --June Sawyers Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

As the president of the Guhyasamaja Buddhist Center in Virginia, Ladner is a strong proponent of the Buddhist practice of compassion, which develops positive emotions through mental exercises. "Cultivating compassion is the single most effective way to make oneself psychologically healthy, happy and joyful," Ladner writes. "[It] is a direct antidote to prejudice and aggression." The author, who also works as a clinical psychologist, bemoans the lack of attention compassion receives in the West, and argues that most psychotherapists do little to help their patients increase their feelings of happiness. Nonetheless, Ladner does draw upon both Eastern and Western examples in this book, referring to sources as diverse as Jesus, T.S. Eliot, Lama Zopa Rinpoche and the Dalai Lama, as well as including numerous anecdotes from his clinical practice. Though the exercises that Ladner recommends are sometime quite elaborate-one them involves identifying your "narcissistic patterns," personifying them as enemies and battling against them-he carefully walks readers through them one chapter at a time and then organizes them into a helpful "Summary of Compassion Practices" at the end of the book. To inspire readers, Landner cites the many recent studies showing that aspects of practicing compassion can significantly improve people's stress levels and their communication and relationships with others. Readers eager to test those findings for themselves should appreciate this book's realistic, manageable approach to dispelling bitterness and anger and replacing it with empathy and patience. (Jan.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal Review

One of the ways that Buddhism is making its presence known in the West is through a perceived affinity with psychology. Ladner, a psychologist and Buddhist practitioner, presents a way of using time-tested spiritual practices from the Tibetan tradition as aids for psychology professionals and clients to develop a healthier and happier outlook. Dealing specifically with the concept of compassion, Ladner illustrates the Buddhist understanding of this term, which proceeds from the concept of "no-self." This distinguishes it from the altruistic connotation usually applied by Westerners, and, in a therapeutic setting, using the practices described, it allows for a unique uncovering of some essential and health-giving human qualities. The methods of practice are reiterated in a summary, and anecdotal illustrations of their application in Western psychological practice are given throughout. The blending of psychology and Buddhism appears to be inevitable, and there is much debate regarding how this can be achieved without watering down both areas of inquiry. This book provides one nice model for respectful and productive integration; it is an important addition to the growing literature on the meeting of Buddhist practice and Western psychology.-Mark Woodhouse, Elmira Coll. Lib., NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The Lost Art of Compassion Discovering the Practice of Happiness in the Meeting of Buddhism and Psychology Chapter One Living Deliberately Buddhist masters always have emphasized that each moment of life is precious. In any given moment, we can allow life to pass us by or we can be mindful of what's most essential, living with genuine purpose, energy, and joy. Too often we find ourselves hurrying to grab our coffee, commute to work, and get to a meeting, rarely pausing to take a deep breath and seriously consider how we spend the limited number of precious moments that we have. When we're aware and awake in a given moment, we have the capacity to make that moment extraordinary. So many of us come home from tiring days at work or school and automatically turn on a television or radio. We spend our evenings freely on such distractions, as though we had an endless supply. Once, my closest Buddhist teacher, Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche, came to stay at our home for a few days. Rinpoche is particularly famous for using each moment of life with great awareness and compassionate purpose. After a busy day we had dinner together, and Rinpoche then retired to his room to meditate. So my wife and I cleaned up a bit and then sat down, as was our habit at the time, to watch a late-night talk show. After some time Rinpoche came out and sat down by us. He said, "Oh, is he the one who makes fun of people?" It struck me that Rinpoche looked at his own life and our lives as an anthropologist might look at the rituals of a tribe in some remote forest, with a mind always open and fresh, wondering what the purpose of these actions might be. As the talk-show interview about some recent scandal continued, I too began wondering what the purpose was. We spend so much of our time doing things automatically that it is important to assess whether our habits bring us real joy. Whenever we think that how we spend a given day or even a given hour is unimportant, and whenever we think we need to rush through what we're doing so that later we can get to something more relaxing, meaningful, or important, we are cheating ourselves. In fact, we never know for certain that we'll be around for the future that we imagine. What is certain is that any of us can pause in this moment to consider what's most essential and then live this moment in a deliberate, meaningful, beautiful way. Wholly in the Moment Although each of us has only a limited number of evenings, thoughts, and breaths left in our lives, we rarely take the time to consider how they are spent. Such questions usually come up strongly during adolescence and early adulthood, when we challenge the values of our parents and our society and try to decide what in the world to do with our lives. These issues also may come up when we are faced with significant losses or transitions; a divorce, getting laid off, the death of a loved one, or the onset of an illness often cause people to reflect more deeply. As a psychotherapist and teacher, I often ask people what they believe is most essential to living a happy and meaningful life. Many people say that although there is no question more important than this, they haven't thought about it in years. We become so busy and so engrossed in the small tasks of our lives that we find it difficult to step back and ask ourselves what matters most. If we haven't thought much about such issues and don't have a clear, personal answer, we probably will lack an overall sense of direction in life. It then becomes difficult to tell if we're making progress or going in circles. If we want to have a genuinely happy life, it's important to contemplate this question of what brings us joy and meaning throughout our lives. The more we consider what is most essential, the better our experiences can help us discover deeper answers. When we ask what makes a happy and meaningful life, one problem that can arise is the tendency to respond with an answer that doesn't really come from the heart. At such times the conscious mind has one answer and the unconscious has another, so we become conflicted. An easy way to tell if you suffer from such an inner conflict is to see how well your daily activities match up with your beliefs. If you say that family is important but somehow don't find much quality time with yours each week; if you say that spirituality is important but spend only a few hours a week actively engaged in spiritual practice; if you say that helping others is important but you can't think easily of recent examples of your doing so, then there's probably a significant gap between the beliefs you hold consciously and the unconscious ones that are running your life. Tibetans don't talk about unconscious beliefs, but they have a saying that's relevant. They say that a soup won't taste good if some of the vegetables just float around on the surface and don't get cooked. First we need to find our own deepest beliefs about what makes a meaningful and happy life. Then those ideas need to sink down and be cooked, flavoring our whole lives. One simple method taught in the Tibetan tradition to help facilitate this process is to begin each morning by thinking about how lucky you are to have another day of human life. You recall that no one is ever promised another day; you could have died last night, and this very day might be your last ... The Lost Art of Compassion Discovering the Practice of Happiness in the Meeting of Buddhism and Psychology . Copyright © by Lorne Ladner. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from The Lost Art of Compassion: Discovering the Practice of Happiness in the Meeting of Buddhism and Psychology by Lorne Ladner All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. ix
Introductionp. xiii
Part 1 Compassionate Visionp. 1
1 Living Deliberatelyp. 3
2 Overcoming Obstaclesp. 12
3 Seeing with the Eyes of Compassionp. 32
Part 2 Cultivating Compassionp. 47
4 Compassion for Yourselfp. 49
5 Mourning the Livingp. 71
6 Seeing Through Projectionsp. 97
7 Loving Communicationp. 121
8 The Radiant Heartp. 148
9 Gratitude and Inner Wealthp. 166
10 The Key to Happinessp. 186
11 The Inner Enemyp. 203
12 Joyfully Losing an Argumentp. 225
13 Taking and Givingp. 241
Conclusion: Vision and Embodimentp. 263
Summary of Compassion Practicesp. 277
Resourcesp. 295
Bibliographyp. 299
Acknowledgmentsp. 303