Love & Money | Fetzer Institute

image credit: Kevin A Connors

Fetzer Institute provides funds for projects that support forgiveness, love, and compassion and that make a profound impact on people’s lives. “[They] seek to understand the motivations and preconditions of exemplary cases of love and forgiveness in the world. From these examples, [they] develop projects to grow an even greater awareness of love and forgiveness in action in individual and community life.”

One of the current projects they’re focusing on is Karen Armstrong’s Charter for Compassion, a strong encouragement for people of all backgrounds “to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.”

Overall, Armstrong’s work is about creating unity among all people and helping religious leaders work together for peace. Being a speaker and a religious historian, she’s noticed that even among folks who practice their spirituality with intent that they would rather be right than be compassionate–that folks have forgotten the importance of compassion altogether, something that she feels is imperative in order to build a global society rather than the cultural silos we all tend to live in. And so, she created the Charter for Compassion.

image credit: morguefile.com

A second project, the Shamatha Meditation project, “explores the role of meditation and contemplative practice as gateways to transformative experience. [It’s] a longitudinal study of how an intensive meditation training retreat over three months affects development of positive human qualities, especially those qualities associated with love and compassion, and the psychological and physiological pathways involved.”

Shamatha meditation is meditation which asks us to focus our attention on a single point–a flower, a candle flame, our breath, for instance–and from this we begin to develop compassion, wisdom, and loving-kindness. Vipassana is the second type of meditation and is considered analytic. The point of Vipassana being “to pull out the seeds or imprints that are left in our psyche by these manifest emotional defilements and distorted thoughts so that disturbing emotions and thoughts will never reoccur.” (from angelfire.com) 

The approaches used in the project at Fetzer “include meditation training that fosters attentional vividness and stability, as well as compassion, loving-kindness, empathetic joy, and equanimity. The expected benefits include greater attentional control and increased ability to regulate emotions and apply pro-social values. The Shamatha Project explores whether well-developed attention is useful in controlling the thought processes that evoke “afflictive” emotions and are antithetical to expressing love and compassion.”

Because of our often cavalier way of receiving words like love and forgiveness, it’s almost easy to emotionally deflect what these projects present, but as we’re reminded in a Fetzer newsletter, love and forgiveness are a foundational, primary human emotions. They root us, give us ground and allow us to move forward in our lives in full and complete ways. When embodied, they can change the trajectory of our lives. Indeed, “each of us has power to transform the world by strengthening the connection between the inner life of mind and spirit with the outer life of service and action.”

Learn more about Fetzer Institute

Sign the Charter for Compassion

Learn more about Shamatha Meditation

 

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