Powerful Practices for Challenging Times: An Introduction to Karuna Training

By Miriam Hall

We all know as life gets harder, we need more compassion. But what is compassion? One Sanskrit word is karuna, which is used to point to any action that lessens the suffering of others. It is a fitting name for the offerings of Karuna Training, which a program based in contemplative psychology teachings, where the emphasis is on active empathy, and a willingness to bear the pain of others.

Applying Buddhist teachings of karuna to psychology is an intuitive pairing. It challenges the status quo of Western psychotherapy, and even the most seasoned meditation practitioner. It also highlights some of the key areas where psychology and Buddhism overlap, in a directly applicable and approachable way.

The inclination towards how to better be of service is exactly what Karuna Training is focused on. The main practices: Body, Speech and Mind, Compassionate Exchange and meditation, parallel the psychotherapy/psychology program at Naropa University, which also has a view of service. However, the Karuna program is structured to allow that service to take whatever form it takes in your life: being a cleaner vessel for the concerns of your aging parents or growing children, holding space to resolve conflict more clearly at whatever job you do, being able, in the everyday one-on-one conversations that build society, to be truly present and able to listen without aggression.

  1. Mutual Healing/Recovery
  2. Commitment to Living in Naked Reality
  3. Strong Commitment to Meditation
  4. Background Teachings of Suzuki Roshi and Chogyam Trungpa, which developed out of finding some students attracted to meditation who had psychiatric difficulties
  5. Mahayana Practice with a Vajrayana View
  6. All Relationships with Other Begin with friendship with Self


The practice of contemplative psychology embraces all that is happening in the present moment. Staying with what is happening now is a lovingly relentless aspect of Karuna Training. In all dyads and groups, we are repeatedly encouraged to speak to the present experience. Not the past, not focusing on cause and effect, but what is happening now. This is a stunningly vulnerability-enhancing practice, removing the contexts that give us a sense of a solid self.

To attend Acharya Melissa Moore’s Powerful Practices for Challenging Times: An Introduction to Karuna Training on June 8, register here. Free and open to all.  

Melissa Moore, PhD is the Executive Director of Karuna North America. She has her MA in Contemplative Psychotherapy from Naropa University and her PhD. in Psychological Anthropology from California Institute of Integral Studies. Over twenty years ago, Melissa co-founded Karuna Training in Europe where it is offered as an accredited training for licensed professionals; now in Germany, Austria, France, Netherlands, Spain, and Poland.

In addition, Melissa is empowered as an Acharya (Senior Teacher and Preceptor) in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition and a long time student of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche since 1979.

This blog was written by Miriam Hall who is an assistant Karuna Training teacher, and a senior Nalanda Miksang Contemplative Photography and Shambhala Art teacher.  She runs her practice of teaching these programs as well as Contemplative Writing on the web at www.herspiral.com