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Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by…

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life (edition 2011)

by Karen Armstrong

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5651617,607 (3.79)10
Title:Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life
Authors:Karen Armstrong
Info:Vintage Canada (2011), Paperback, 240 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:religion, self-help

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Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong



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I liked this book, but I'd hoped to love it. Perhaps I didn't spend enough time with it...of course, I didn't do the prescribed exercises...does anyone really do them all? Lovely ideas here, but I think I've lived in macho-posturing Texas too long to have any real hope that compassion will take hold of our people. I will press on with the exercises; one must try. ( )
  debnance | Feb 21, 2016 |
This is an immensely thoughtful book, and it is hard not to appreciate Karen Armstrong's project here: to outline a very practical, ethical path by which readers can develop compassion and empathy, and ultimately make the world a far better place. That said, if you are already familiar with world religions - and especially if you are more interested in what makes each distinctively itself, rather than in how to blend them together - Armstrong's exercise is likely to seem somewhat tedious. I skimmed the book twice, and suspect I'll have to be in the right mood to find it a compelling read. One of the details in the background of Frank Herbert's Dune series is a sort of universal religion, cobbled together by religious leaders from multiple terrestrial faiths, with a core text known as the Orange Catholic Bible. Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life feels like a one-author Orange Catholic Bible, with all the wisdom and yet also the ersatz quality that implies. ( )
1 vote bezoar44 | Feb 15, 2016 |
I liked this book a lot. In it religious historian Karen Armstrong suggests a series of simple and easily achieved mental exercises that can help one increase one's capacity for compassion. Armstrong offers justification for these exercises by way of copious examples from the history of religion. Some of the examples I was familiar with from her longer and more detailed The Great Transformation, about religious development during what is known as the Axial Age (900-200 BC), though the impetus here is on personal transformation. Basically, and I don't mean to be reductive for the book is filled with intellectual riches, but the two key lessons here are, first, The Golden Rule -- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you -- and second, the discipline of mindfulness, which I know from my Buddhist studies but which has parallels across the religious spectrum. The book seeks to be practical. Armstrong's great gift is for showing how religions agree on certain principals across cultures and broad spans of time. She then prescribes simple exercises for instilling these helpful habits into one's daily life. It's really rather wonderful. I think, however, that the exercises themselves might have been set out typographically because they tend to get buried in the text. But this is a quibble. Highly recommended. ( )
2 vote William345 | Jun 11, 2014 |
Believing the world could improve dramatically through kindness, Karen Armstrong urges listeners to develop a greater aptitude for compassion. Here, Armstrong offers a twelve-step guide that will show listeners how to merge their hearts with their minds. ( )
  jepeters333 | Sep 16, 2013 |
Armstrong knows a lot about many religions, and shows convincingly the common values of these. Conservatives of any of the religions probably wouldn't like the book. ( )
  Fernhill | Aug 20, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
Armstrong’s 12-step process attempts to peel away the fetters of the ego and enlarge our sympathetic capacity. For her, when we go beyond our likes and dislikes, our sense of self grows and our perspective fans out. Her commitment to this end is so fierce that long-time Armstrong fans may bridle at her direct instruction. But her goal is sure. Compassion for her is not simply warm-heartedness; it is energetic.
I would bear all this with a better grace if she were at least a lively writer but, to be brutally frank, her style sets my teeth on edge. Certain favoured sentimental words recur with maddening regularity, and feel like bossy little tugs on the sleeve – “see things this way”: “spiritual”, “deep”, “profound”, “mystery”, “transcendent” – one begins to loathe the sight of them. This is inseparable from her rigorous avoidance of humour, wit or irony, her immovable earnestness, her sincerity. I agree with her that compassion is an important value, but it is not incompatible with lightness of touch.
But is she correct in suggesting that, au fond, the essence of the main religions boils down to compassion? It is probably correct where Buddhism is concerned and it is from Buddhism that her best insights and examples come. I think she is on shakier ground when she applies it to Christianity and Islam. Christianity and Islam are redemption religions, not wisdom religions. They exist to secure life in the world to come for their followers and any guidance they offer on living in this world is always with a view to its impact on the next.

This radically compromises the purity of their compassion agenda. Let me offer one example to prove my point. At a meeting of primates of the Anglican communion, I was accused by one archbishop of filling Hell with homosexuals, because I was giving them permission to commit acts that would guarantee them an eternity of punishment, for no sodomite can enter Heaven. My worldly compassion for gay people, my campaign to furnish them with the same sexual rights as straight people, was actually a kind of cruelty. The price of their fleeting pleasures in this world would be an eternity of punishment in the next.
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In November 2007, I heard that I had won a prize.  (Preface)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307595595, Hardcover)

One of the most original thinkers on the role of religion in the modern world—author of such acclaimed books as A History of God, Islam, and Buddha—now gives us an impassioned and practical book that can help us make the world a more compassionate place.

Karen Armstrong believes that while compassion is intrinsic in all human beings, each of us needs to work diligently to cultivate and expand our capacity for compassion. Here, in this straightforward, thoughtful, and thought-provoking book, she sets out a program that can lead us toward a more compassionate life.

The twelve steps Armstrong suggests begin with “Learn About Compassion” and close with “Love Your Enemies.” In between, she takes up “compassion for yourself,” mindfulness, suffering, sympathetic joy, the limits of our knowledge of others, and “concern for everybody.” She suggests concrete ways of enhancing our compassion and putting it into action in our everyday lives, and provides, as well, a reading list to encourage us to “hear one another’s narratives.” Throughout, Armstrong makes clear that a compassionate life is not a matter of only heart or mind but a deliberate and often life-altering commingling of the two.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:50 -0400)

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Taking as her starting point the teachings of the great world religions, Karen Armstrong demonstrates in twelve practical steps how we can bring compassion to the forefront of our lives. Armstrong argues that compassion is inseparable from humanity, and by transcending the limitations of selfishness on a daily basis we will not only make a difference in the world but also lead happier, more fulfilled, lives.… (more)

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