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Download Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life (Thorndike Press Large Print Nonfiction Series) epub

by Karen Armstrong

The award-winning author of A History of God shares practical recommendations for promoting world peace by cultivating one's intrinsic tendencies for compassion, outlining a program for achieving mindfulness and engaging in acts of kindness. (spirituality).
Download Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life (Thorndike Press Large Print Nonfiction Series) epub
ISBN: 1410435032
ISBN13: 978-1410435033
Category: Religion
Subcategory: Religious Studies
Author: Karen Armstrong
Language: English
Publisher: Thorndike Press; Large Print edition (February 19, 2011)
Pages: 289 pages
ePUB size: 1530 kb
FB2 size: 1523 kb
Rating: 4.6
Votes: 110
Other Formats: mbr mobi doc lit

As an armchair person interested in religion and spirituality, I have read and enjoyed many though not all of Karen's books. Usually her book are not for the faint of heart. The reading often is heavy going but rewarding. This book is different. Karen pulls from the heart of the matter in several different spiritual traditions to illuminate something they all have in common: compassion. What is even more surprising in that Karen gives the reader techniques to access compassion to put into practice what she preaches. When I first read the book, I found it disquieting that the each chapter got shorter and shorter and seemed more repetitive. Upon reflection and reading the book a second time, I realized that each chapter lays the foundation for subsequent chapters and that there are subtle changes in points of view as the practice of compassion is expanded outward. This book is more invitation to act than knowledge to put in one's head like Karen's other books. Nonetheless Karen does not shrink from the hard questions and hard work. This is a book I will read many more times and expect to get something each time. I have decided to join the men's group which is discussing this book. I first heard about the book in the announcement about the men's group. I should hasten to add that this is a book for everyone. I have also decided to join the Charter for Compassion group founded by Karen.
This is a phenomenal book extremely well-researched with a long bibliography. If anyone has any desire to learn to live a more compassionate way of living, of treating others more compassionately, this is vital reading.

Jesus tells me in the New Testament to love my neighbor as myself as God first loved me. That's quite a challenge and this book helped me understand a whole lot better how to have compassion for all people and our planet.

Study guides for a group experience are available on the website for the Charter for Compassion.
At a young age, we likely heard from our parents the importance of the Golden Rule--a maxim that we should treat others the way that we would want to be treated. In our polarized world today, however, we've failed to understand and to apply the Golden Rule, says Karen Armstrong in her Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. A reader of Armstrong's works for the past ten years, this latest installment differs in that it provides us with practical steps that anyone can embrace toward becoming a person of compassion.

Known primarily as a scholar of religious history, Armstrong incorporates evolutionary science in her first step Learn About Compassion to support her position that compassion is wired in the brain as much as the 4 Fs--Food, Fight, Flight, and reproduction--are. Armstrong builds upon "the two brains" concept throughout the remaining eleven steps as a way to gauge our own progress toward a compassionate life but also to ground our thoughts, behaviors, and failings in scientific fact. Bringing evolution into the religious arena may be too much for some to swallow; however, Armstrong is fair-minded when recommending that we review our own faith tradition as we progress through the twelve steps.

The other eleven steps--Look at Your Own World, Compassion for Yourself, Empathy, Mindfulness, Action, How Little We Know, How Should We Speak to One Another?, Concern for Everybody, Knowledge, Recognition, and Love Your Enemies--are organized from examining ourselves, to learning how to be compassionate with people around us, to enacting compassion in the world. There is a predictable pattern to each chapter. Armstrong provides an anecdote that demonstrates the step, follows it up with examples of how spiritual leaders of the past have approached it, and then ends with related questions and advice for us to accomplish the step.

A skeptic may look upon these as nothing more than failed idealistic virtues, but, as Armstrong points out, becoming compassionate takes rigorous work up until our final moments of life. In other words, as the twelve steps for an alcoholic can be demanding, so too are these twelve. If we are truly committed to living a compassionate life, then we must be willing to dedicate ourselves the same way the sages of the Axial did during violent and destructive times.

I will not do an exhaustive review of each step because that would take too long and would be a mistake on my part for attempting to impose myself on your interior space. However, the eighth step How Should We Speak to One Another? and the tenth step Knowledge speak volumes about the polarization we now encounter in the world around us. One unfortunate trend today is the attack and counterattack model, where, for example, "experts" appear on popular cable channels not only to present their position but to annihilate and humiliate the opposing viewpoint.

Instead of resolving anything, all that is stirred is our emotions, and, as a result, we watch the next episode hoping to hear how the expert from "our side" will belittle the opponent. If we truly want ourselves, our country, and our world to live according to the Golden Rule, this type of rancorous speech must end. What should that mean for us? According to Armstrong, a compassionate person must admit that we do not know everything (in fact, very little) and that we must be willing to listen to our enemies with an open mind and heart. Unfortunately, we are so used to fighting our opponents and then fleeing to a channel that supports our views that we never cross over into a realm of possibility.

A little over two hundred pages, Twelve Steps is probably one of Armstrong's shortest books, but because it is, I will return to it periodically as I work through each step. If you read this book in a day or two and then shelve it, then likely you've missed the point. This is a book calling all of us to action, and if you believe in a more compassionate world, then this book is a great resource for you to begin that important journey.
In a world where people think they know it all and are willing to argue and insult complete strangers for not agreeing with them, where drivers insult and sometimes hurt or kill strangers, because their driving displeases them and where the simple courtesy to welcome strangers, rather than sending them away is becoming the norm, this book provides refreshing steps to remind us to be a little kinder, to take the time to understand another's situation and to be aware that as we know more, we should also realize how little we know and therefore to avoid jumping to conclusions about others. I read a few pages every morning, to start my day positively.
I studied this with a local interfaith group, meeting monthly for a chapter at a time. It stimulated lots of discussion, lots of reflection, and some interest in Project Compassion, based on the book's key points. It was beneficial to refer to the website that offers sugested discussion questions. I highly reccomend this for book clubs, religious study groups, or individuals. Since Armstrong is a historian of world religions, she draws on a multicultural perspective and quotes from the world's scriptures and religious leaders. This approach was what appealed to me.
This book really touched a chord on the problems we have today in communicating and problem solving together.
Although there is a lot of religious history, the history provides examples of how compassion helps us understand others and their fears so we can listen with an open mind, without insisting only our way is right. Sometimes you feel Armstrong is speaking directly to you the way she expounds on every obstacle to the way we can view our enemies, or those we just don't like. Thee steps are practical and easy to follow. I have become calmer in discussions of issues I feel passionate about now that I can recognize how being too assertive backfires.