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Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

By Karen Armstrong

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Format: Paperback, 224 pages
Published In: United Kingdom, 01 January 2011
Drawing on a wide range of material - ranging from the spiritual character of the world religions to the findings of contemporary neuroscience - Karen Armstrong argues that compassion is hardwired into our brains, yet is constantly pushed back by our more primitive instincts for selfishness and survival. Since time immemorial religion has enhanced our altruistic tendencies: all faiths insist that the Golden Rule is the test of true spirituality - 'Always treat others as you wish to be treated yourself'. 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. These steps both reveal the inadequacies of our knowledge of ourselves and others and enable us to unlock our potential for understanding, empathy and altruism that can be translated into acts of kindness and charity. They culminate in the most radical and challenging of all religious maxims - love your enemy. Yet in today's world, compassion in no longer a luxury but, in the words of Martin Luther King, 'an absolute necessity for our survival'. Practising these steps will not change our lives overnight and turn us into saints or sages: the attempt to become a more compassionate human being is a lifelong project. Yet Karen 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.

Promotional Information

After the bestselling The Case for God, Karen Armstrong makes the case for compassion - an urgent appeal to establish empathy and altruism at the centre of our private and public lives.

About the Author

Karen Armstrong is one of the world's leading commentators on religious affairs. She spent seven years as a Roman Catholic nun, but left her teaching order in 1969 to read English at St Anne's College, Oxford. In 1982, she became a full time writer and broadcaster. She is a best-selling author of over 16 books. An accomplished writer and passionate campaigner for religious liberty, Armstrong has addressed members of the United States Congress and the Senate and has participated in the World Economic Forum.

Reviews

Armstrong (The Case for God), one of the most celebrated writers on religious subjects in the world, here tries to show readers the steps toward a life of compassion, which she views as both an attainable and a desirable goal, something that lifts us out of our self-involvement or our sense of anger and depression in a hard world. VERDICT Armstrong, a splendid scholar for the popular market, does not often speak so directly in her own voice; many readers, both men and women, both thoughtful believers and nonbelievers, will take an interest in her perspectives. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

The prolific, well-informed, and passionate Armstrong (The Case for God) writes a somewhat different book this time out, stemming from her winning a $100,000 prize in 2007 to promote an idea worth spreading. She always has a thesis in her books as she sweeps over the historical development of world religions, but this is a book with an agenda: you ought to be more compassionate, and here's how. So instead of being her usual somewhat academic teacher of religious history, she is more of a personal spiritual teacher, in the vein of the Dalai Lama. That task, and corresponding tone ("Be patient with yourself during this meditation"), is not her long suit. Still, this slightly self-help-y book is deeply grounded in what Armstrong knows, and presents, well: the core teachings of all religions that can make us better, more compassionate humans. The former nun pulls ideas and references from religions Eastern and Western with aplomb and respect for all sources. This counter to the religion-is-homicidal-and-superstitious school of invective passing for thought is well-informed, welcome, and practical. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

"A profound and lucid mixture of philosophy, theology and self-help. It's a perfect detox for the soul... Spry, eloquent, pacy.... Armstrong has a knack for grappling with complex ideas in the lightest of ways" * The Times * "It sees Armstrong combine in this brief volume both her usual high quality historical scholarship and an explicit self-help programme that echoes her rousing lectures... Challenging, persuasive self-help book that seeks to distil the very best of religion" * Independent * "Straightforward without being simplistic...frequently fascinating" * Metro * "Flashes of sheer brilliance" * Scotland on Sunday * "One of the charming things about Armstrong's book is its deliberate descents into bathos. We move from the high thoughts of the old sages to the demands of everyday life...from an exquisitely intelligent exposition of Sophocles's Oedipus Tyrannus to a meditation upon how we might overcome a personal dislike of a colleague or family member" * Financial Times *

EAN: 9781847921581
ISBN: 1847921582
Publisher: Bodley Head
Dimensions: 21.6 x 13.5 x 1.6 centimetres (0.24 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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