ACT 2021 Featured Capstone:
Applied Compassion: Going Beyond Mindfulness
Sunil S. Nethisinghe
Teacher and Coach, Mindfulness and Applied Compassion – Cupertino, California, USA
Who did your Capstone Project serve ?
My capstone had a two-step approach to cultivate and share the practice of compassion. The first was embodying compassion with my family because extending compassion to loved ones is often the hardest due to the short emotional distance, preconceived expectations, and challenges in setting boundaries. Second, I shared my experience and knowledge with the public through courses focused on addressing suffering caused by strained relationships.
What was the suffering that your project addressed?
I addressed the dynamics of contrasting communication styles. I classified them as 'Engineering Minded' (EM) and 'Viscerally Intelligent' (VI). EM persons tend to be logical, analytical, objective, impersonal, linear, brief, and lead with their heads. VI persons tend to be intuitive, relational, subjective, non-linear, elaborate, and lead with their hearts. I requested that participants identify a strained relationship in their lives for them to practice the principles of compassion and alleviate suffering.
How did this project address that suffering?
In my practice with loved ones, I used the principles of mindfulness to become aware of my unmet desires that led to my suffering. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) gained through mindfulness and curiosity helped identify suffering in others and their unmet desires. Once identified, suffering is alleviated using appropriate principles of compassion.
Who was your audience and how many people participated?
In addition to my seven adult family members, I invited participants from my mindfulness classes to join a focused course. There were ten participants who shared their experiences and gave feedback on the effectiveness of the techniques.
How was the project delivered (the format)?
Mindful Rotarians Affinity Group in the Rotary Club of Cupertino, California, organized four one-hour classes held weekly via Zoom meetings. At the end of these classes, I also had one-on-one meetings with each participant to get direct feedback on their experience and ideas to make the course more effective.
What was the reported impact on or feedback from participants? On yourself?
The embodiment of compassion had the most profound impact on me. My family experienced a positive transformation in our family dynamics. Nine out of the ten participants attending my course were able to apply the principles and reported that they had significant improvement in alleviating their suffering.
How has the ACT Program helped you become an Ambassador of Compassion?
My experience prepared me to be a better teacher and coach. Applied compassion will be a vital part of my talks, classes, and workshops, and I will continue to tailor them to different audiences. Additionally, with three decades of experience in the high-tech industry, my passion is to encourage those in the industry to adopt compassionate design principles that will help curtail the exploitation of human vulnerabilities that are detrimental to user wellbeing.
What advice would you give to someone who's considering participating in the ACT Program?
The opportunity for camaraderie with like-minded individuals across the globe is auspicious. ACT also prepared me to become a better teacher and coach, and most of all, a happier human being equipped to face life's challenges. "When you learn to be in touch with yourself, you will be in touch with everyone else."