A Bold Octagon Initiative
An Octagon Offshoot
The Center for Compassion Integrity and Secular Ethics is a Life University Octagon initiative that is dedicated to creating social change that brings about a healthier world. The areas of change focus are education, health care, community empowerment and transformational leadership, all of which impact both individual and social health.
The fullest expression of individual and social health goes far beyond the mere absence of physical and mental disease. The emerging field of positive psychology is illustrating that basic human values like gratitude, generosity, meaning in life, contentment and an ability to forgive contribute to physical health, mental resilience, and optimum performance.
Recent scientific research shows that compassion is especially important to individual and social flourishing. Compassion is the wholehearted motivation to benefit others and alleviate their suffering. Studies show that compassion and related processes like empathy are not only important values for individual and social well-being, but also skills that can be taught and cultivated through contemplative practice. Cultivating compassion changes the brain and body in measurable ways, increasing cortical thickness in key areas of the brain, strengthening immune function, promoting prosocial behavior, and decreasing the likelihood of chronic illness.
Helping others out of genuine compassion requires integrity as its foundation. Being able to remain true to one’s deepest values, regardless of pressures or temptations to compromise them for short-term gain, is not only essential to a life well lived, but is also of profound benefit to both oneself and others. Moreover, like compassion, it is a skill that can be learned and developed.
Knowledge of the benefits of basic human values like compassion and integrity is not enough; these values must be promoted, taught, and studied in all aspects of society. Such efforts need not go against anyone’s religious beliefs. In public settings, they must occur in a secular, open way. This is the approach of secular ethics. Here, “secular” does not mean a rejection of religion, but impartiality and respect towards all religious and humanistic traditions. The idea that ethical values, which are so crucial to our survival and our flourishing as a species, can be taught on the basis of science and our common humanity is both new and exciting.