Compassion Festival

Telluride Compassion Festival

“Compassion it.” That’s a bumper sticker you might see on the back of one of the many Subaru Outbacks in Telluride, Colorado. You might not have known the word “compassion” could be used as a verb, but at the annual Compassion Festival and Conference, it surely can.

For the past few years in Telluride, Stanford University’s CCARE Center and the Telluride Institute have collaborated to investigate and create a scholarly dialogue on the science of compassion. Held in July, in the town of Telluride, this festival is rapidly gaining momentum. In the heart of the San Juan Mountains, researchers are looking at the ways in which compassion can be extended in community, both locally and beyond.

His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, himself, has urged the study and practice of compassion across cultures, and this festival seeks to perpetuate that idea.

With questions like, “How compassionate is this community?” or “What is the future of compassion?” and “How is the act of compassion affecting people and cultures?”, the festival jumps right in to exploring this big idea.

What is interesting though is the science behind the heart. Besides the study of the ways in which compassion can be approached, there is the clinical aspect of this festival, which examines the health benefits and the biological factors that are affected, from neuropeptides and brain chemistry to genetics. At the Compassion Festival, you might say that reason and spirit marry, or at least fall in love.

For those that participate in this experience, the festival offers techniques for practicing compassion, as well as mindfulness exercises and stress-reduction activities. And, the research of compassion is brought into the dance, with the festival looking at the bigger picture of the health of communities.

Like all festivals that happen in Telluride, planning is key. Summer is a busy season for southwest Colorado. Flights can be found in and out of Grand Junction, Montrose, Durango, and even Cortez, but rental cars are a must to make the drive up. Four-wheel drive is not required, but rain gear and layers are suggested for the varying climate at 9,000 feet. Lodging should be made in advance, but options exist at hotels in both Telluride and the gondola-ride up to Mountain Village.

There is something ancient about this new festival. Perhaps it’s the idea of experts and teachers gathering at high altitude to discuss the bigger questions of humanity. It is reminiscent of the yogis in the Himalayas seeking the truth like they have for thousands of years.

While the Compassion Festival might still sound new-age or hippie in some form, a glance at the schedule of presenters will surely prove that this is serious business, this compassion subject. With experts in the fields of neurology and psychology, this festival pulls in forty-plus scientists trained at the doctorate level from around the country and farther. This is all for the discovery and dialogue of compassion.

You might say the Compassion Festival is serious about the “heart” of the matter.  For more information see the Compassion Festival site.