Speaker: Tim Harrison

Compassion Based Education

Timothy Harrison of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia joined the university's Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-Based Ethics (formerly the Emory-Tibet Partnership) in 2013 and currently serves as the associate director for Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT). Inspired by the works of His Holiness, the XIV Dalai Lama – a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Emory University Presidential Distinguished Professor – the Center offers programs focusing on the interdisciplinary investigation and application of compassion.

Tim oversees the teaching and research programs of Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT®), a contemplative protocol for cultivating compassion in a secular context.  He teaches CBCT regularly at the Emory Schools of Medicine and Law, Emory College, Spiritual Health at Emory Healthcare, and in the Atlanta Public Schools, and he guides the CBCT teacher certification.

Tim also contributed to founding the Center’s new education program, SEE Learning (Social Emotional and Ethical Learning), an educational framework for teaching compassion-based ethics beginning in kindergarten and continuing through high school.  SEE Learning is launching for international use, translated into a dozen languages, at a conference in Delhi, India, April 4-6, 2019.

The Center collaborates with a wide range of scientists, scholars, professionals, and educators to offer multiple programs for the Emory community and beyond. Drawing from ancient Indo-Tibetan lo-jong practices, or "mind training," CBCT provides a secular, research-based approach to cultivating compassion. It was developed in 2004 by the Center's executive director, Lobsang Tenzin Negi, PhD, a former Tibetan monk who trained in the lineage of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for 27 years, and achieved a Geshe Larampa degree from the 600-year-old Drepung Loseling monastic educational system, the highest academic degree granted in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Designed to strengthen and sustain compassion, CBCT practices include training in attentional stability and increased emotional awareness, as well as targeted analytical reflections to better understand one's relationship with self and others.

Prior to joining Emory, Tim earned his master's degree in architecture from Harvard University in 1994, practicing and teaching design for 20 years while developing a contemplative practice "on the side." A longtime practitioner of both lo jong and Zen meditation, he initially learned to meditate by stumbling into Kopan Monestary in Nepal after a hiking trip was cut short due to a bout of illness.

"With little to do but sulk, on a lark I wandered into my first meditation class," he says. "There, a monk talked about the causes of happiness: 'If we come to Nepal to see the mountains, and then something stops us from seeing the mountains, we become very angry and miserable, and we blame that something, whatever it is, for our misery.' He calmly went on to explain that happiness is not due to the circumstances of our life, but rather to our perspective on those circumstances. The short meditation that followed, guided by the kindness of his voice, was my first chance to explore this radical idea in the context of my own inner experience."

Tim went on to study with his main teacher, Sandy Stewart, and practiced for many retreats in the Rinzai Zen tradition. In recent years he has benefited from teachings and retreats at Upaya Zen Center, and continues to benefit from CBCT's structured approach.

Tim has taught CBCT nationally and internationally in academic institutions and healthcare settings, as well as in prison and adolescent foster care settings. In his current role, he coordinates the expanding CBCT Teacher Certification program as well as the provision of CBCT for research studies. Additionally, he offers CBCT courses to students at the Emory School of Medicine and to residents in the Emory Healthcare Spiritual Health education program; teaches CBCT to undergraduate students through Emory’s Counseling and Psychological Services; and works with several community outreach and research programs, providing CBCT to public school teachers, vulnerable children and adolescents, and participants in numerous research studies including veterans with PTSD, cancer survivors, neonatal intensive care unit nurses, breast cancer survivors, parents of autistic children, and HIV patients. 

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