Programs Overview

Compassion Education Alliance provides online and live secular contemplative education courses. Our mission is to inspire social change through compassion cultivation, contemplative education, and community building.

For individuals, skills targeted include emotion regulation, stress resilience and interpersonal connection in order to better manage significant situational stressors including economic hardship, prejudice and isolation. For society, they offer a means to heal division and conflict and bring people together in a more inclusive world characterized by interdependence, solidarity, and kindness towards one another. 

Established in early 2021, CEA is led by a team of educators, researchers, and mental health professionals who were previously affiliated with Stanford University Medical School’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education as program developers, designers, administration, or trainees.

CEA is organized as a learning community and social movement with three pillars: 

  • Contemplative education courses and workshops for the public: We offer evidence-based courses in compassion, mindfulness, emotional balance, and resilience. These techniques and practices develop skills in meditation, gratitude, awareness, compassion cultivation, and mind-body connection.
  • Professional development: We partner with academic institutions, and social and human services organizations to train and certify their staff and providers. We offer compassion education certification to selected individuals through our contemplative-based teaching programs.
  • Movement building: Our online platform connects and supports champions for social change who come from all walks of life, including teachers and educators from a variety of contemplative practice traditions; mental health professionals; physicians, nurses, and social workers; as well as lawyers and business entrepreneurs. Live online Drop-in sessions are offered regularly at no cost on the platform.

What is contemplative education?

The field of secular contemplative education – a field at the intersection of psychology, philosophy, neuroscience, education and medicine – is growing rapidly. 

Contemplative science is often referenced in secular contemplative programs. Contemplative science involves investigation of practices such as meditation, gratitude practice, compassion cultivation, and mind-body connection. Research projects have been organized through organizations such as the Mind and Life Institute, The Greater Good Science Center at University of California at Berkeley, the Emory-Tibet Partnership at Emory University, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, The Center for Mindfulness at University of Massachusetts Medical School, and The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Social Emotions Group at Northeastern University. 

Key milestones in the field include Jon Kabat-Zinn’s creation of the 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course in 1979. MBSR has been studied extensively, and research suggests the course can result in increased attention and reduced physical pain and rumination. It has also been employed as a professional development program to reduce teacher burnout.

Daniel Goleman’s 1995 book Emotional Intelligence popularized the term and definition of emotional intelligence. “Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer coined the term ‘Emotional Intelligence’ in 1990 describing it as ‘a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action.'” (article here). 

Goleman described the Emotionally Intelligent as having 4 key qualities:

  1. They were good at understanding their own emotions (self-awareness)
  2. They were good at managing their emotions (self-management)
  3. They were empathetic to the emotional drives of other people (social awareness)
  4. They were good at handling other people’s emotions (social skills)

A few other courses in the field include:

  • Cultivating Emotional Balance – created 2000
  • Cognitively Based Compassion Training – created 2005
  • Mindfulness Based Emotional Balance – created 2007
  • Compassion Cultivation Training – created 2008
  • Mindful Self Compassion – created 2010

The need and appetite for secular contemplative courses to train in mindfulness and emotional intelligence is great, perhaps especially as interest in secular spirituality increases.

Demand for training in mindfulness, compassion and resilience has grown in the wake of the global pandemic which has magnified social inequities and injustices experienced disproportionately by low-income communities. We hope to make these skills available for all who are interested, regardless of their income.  

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