“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” Albert Schweitzer
Over the past several years, compassion has emerged as the answer to many of the challenges of the fast-paced, technology-driven society today. The quote by Albert Schweitzer reflects how important compassionate individuals can be at a difficult time in life and that we need to be grateful for someone who can renew our inner strength depleted by suffering. Decades of clinical research have explored the psychology of human suffering. That suffering, as unpleasant as it is, often has a bright side: compassion.
Human suffering often inspires beautiful acts of compassion by people wishing to help relieve that suffering. What propels someone to serve food at a homeless shelter, pull over on the highway in the rain to help someone with a broken down vehicle or feed a stray cat?
In his article published in March 2004, “The Compassionate Instinct,” Dacher Keltner, psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and founding faculty director of the Greater Good Science Center, summarized the emerging findings from the new science of human goodness, which suggests that compassion is an evolved part of human nature, rooted in the brain and biology. Research since then – from neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, behavioral health, developmental science and other disciplines – supports this theory. Again and again, studies have suggested that compassion is indeed an evolved part of human nature, vital to good health and even to the survival of the human species. What was a relative handful of intriguing studies has become a scientific movement that is transforming the views of humanity.
Compassion is what inspires the Rekindle the Spirit Institute. The institute began over 10 years focused on holistic stress management seminars for nurses. Health care in the United States has since faced major changes. As demands on health care providers increase, compassion becomes more difficult to sustain. This is often referred to as compassion fatigue. The Rekindle the Spirit seminars focus on teaching nurses specific strategies they can integrate into their lives to help them maintain the care and compassion needed in their roles as caregivers.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, research in the field of the neurosciences has grown exponentially. The Stanford Institute for Neuro-Innovation and Translational Neurosciences has documented that humans have a natural capacity for compassion. However, everyday stress, social pressures and life experiences can suppress it, potentially resulting in physical and psychological problems. Dr. Emma Seppala, research psychologist and Associate Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, suggests that compassion may well be the most important thing in a person’s life. The outcome of compassionate behavior makes people happy, uplifts those around them, spreads like wildfire, boosts health and is even good for the environment.
The Rekindle the Spirit Institute recognizes the importance of cultivating compassion and has expanded the offerings through the institute to include holistic seminars and retreats for all interested in holistic stress management. Using research from the neurosciences, as well as the practices of great spiritual teachers, the Rekindle the Spirit Institute is for anyone who desires to foster their own compassionate behavior and management their stress in healthy ways. Rekindle the Spirit Institute’s core values include hospitality and compassion, and invite all to learn new tools to cultivate compassionate behaviors.
Bernadette Beach, RN, MSN is a certified holistic stress management educator, trained in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.