On January 6, 2012, the West Hill book study group began looking at Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" by Karen Armstrong.  Janice Meighan has put together a schedule and template for facilitators which you can download and review.

Below under each session date are the videos reviewed and the questions discussed in each small group.  For more information, please contact Janice Meighan through the church office (416-282-8566).


Session 3 - February 3, 2012


Suggested small group questions

Step 3:  Compassion for yourself


  1. Armstrong states throughout the step that it is critical to love yourself which will lead to compassion. What does it mean to you to love yourself? (pgs. 67-74);
  2. Armstrong quotes St. Paul often in this step. She equates the ego with selfishness, greed, and the reptilian brain. Further she believes that it is essential to lose your self-image and your ego. What does it mean to you to lose your ego? (see pgs. 78-79 especially) 


Step 4: Empathy


  1. A Protestant cross looks very different from a Catholic cross. Yet, Armstrong uses the cross imagery and crucifixion story as a way of helping us identify with the suffering of another. What does the crucifixion story mean to you? (pg. 83-85);
  2. After reading this step, what are some practical ways you can put yourself in another person’s shoes? 



Session 2 - January 20, 2012



Suggested small group questions:


1. Step 1 - Learning about Compassion.  In reading this step: a) did you learn something new about compassion, if so what was it?

2. Myth as a gateway to compassion: In demanding “absolute” faith/belief (Protestants - since the 17 century) in the historical “fact” of the biblical text, and/or because of our ignorance of what “myth” truly means – Have we lost the significance and importance of some universal truths found in the biblical narratives?

3. Given the last 3000-5000 years of all the great thinkers and religious leaders who, as Armstrong lists, contend that compassion is a ‘true and superior’ way to be in the world, Why has the world’s people, for the most part, ignored the call to compassion?

4. Step 2 - Look at Your Own World.  At the core of your being – Are you willing to change and accept the risk that doing so involves?

5. If you were willing to change AND given the recommended exercises in this step, how could you be more compassionate in your life (give concrete examples: what area of your life; with whom; in what way; etc.)?

6. Choose anything else you'd like to discuss from the book or interview.



Session 1 - January 6, 2012


Suggested small group discussion questions:

1. What is compassion? What does it mean really?

2. Is being compassionate, being religious?

3. Re: New Brain & Old Brain in the Preface. Old brain = 4 R’s (reptilian, basic drives) when triggered, there is no room for compassion or concern for “the other.” The new brain allows us to be compassionate and have concern for “the other.” Armstrong does not really address ‘the old brain’s force’ – but says that we need to focus/develop the New Brain. Is this realistic? Is it realistic that people, when faced with real life challenges will not give way to the drives of the Old Brain?

4.  Is the world in such a state that it doesn’t really matter what we do?

5.  In the TED video, Armstrong said that the term “Belief” as we know it didn’t come into effect until the 17th C. But that it originally meant “to love, to hold dear.” Can we ever go back to this understanding or has the term/language been changed forever?

6.  Is the “Golden Rule” really ‘a rule’ to live by?