Basic Training

Certification in Contemplative Psychology

About The 
Basic Training


Karuna Training uses time-tested skillful means to unlock our innate health.
Karuna Training teaches us how to work skillfully with ourselves first—and then how to offer ourselves to others through the innate potency of the heart. The program combines deep study of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist principles with contemplative practice, skills development, embodiment training, and ongoing group interaction and community support.

Karuna Training is a journey of discovering one’s own brilliant sanity, and of learning how to exchange ourselves for others so that we can transform everyday life challenges into opportunities for openness and wisdom.

The Karuna Basic Training is a 1.5 year, comprehensive training in Contemplative Psychology. It is divided into weekends, extended retreats, and ongoing small groups. A more detailed description is below on this page.

CEUs: Karuna Training (license #137058) is approved by the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists to sponsor continuing education for mental health professionals.

107 CEUs are available in the 2023-2024 Basic Training

Elements of Karuna Basic Training

Mindfulness Awareness

In Karuna Training we become familiar with our own mind, and discover that mindfulness and compassion are natural and healthy components of the human mind and heart. Through training in meditation and contemplation, we learn to recognize and nurture these innate qualities. This is the basis for working with others in a wakeful and compassionate manner. It is also the basis for the healing and transformative processes that are part of the contemplative psychology journey. Learning to anchor one's awareness first in the body is key to working with emotional energy.

Embodiment Training

Embodiment training is learning to drop out of the head and into the body—this cultivates embodied mindfulness. Karuna Training concretely increases body awareness. When we learn to feel emotions directly in the body first and stay with the energy (instead of the content) of emotions, we learn to transmute the pain and confusion of emotions into their innate wisdom.

Community Process

Karuna Training takes place in community. In fact, the journey of our own personal transformation is dependent upon our cohort and the personal transformation of all its members. We call this Mutual Recovery—meaning the path works on us through our interactions in our relationships with others.

Therefore, no new members will join the program after the second meeting of the Basic Training. Through fostering this type of trust and intimacy, we begin to realize there is no relationship in our lives that's not worthy of love, respect, and openness. And, we see that the quality of our relationships are a mirror of our own minds, and how these relationships support us to discover the diamonds within us.

Compassionate exchange

Compassionate exchange is a mindful encounter that allows for mutual healing. Exchange is the natural and choiceless present-moment capacity to feel another person's feelings. Working with exchange is enhanced through both contemplative training and navigating the treacherous terrain of difficult emotions. Along the way, through befriending ourselves, we become skillful in offering ourselves to others—utilizing the aspiration to grow our bodhicitta, our awakened heart.

Compassionate exchange is the act of opening fully and completely to another as a vehicle of basic sanity and compassion. It can occur in a micro-moment or be incorporated into skilled sessions of deep listening and reflection.

The Five Buddha Families

In Karuna Training  we draw on the Tantric Mandala of the Five Buddha Families. Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning circle and fringe and is a way of viewing the multiplicitous elements of the world as interdependent and in continual relationship with one another. The Five Buddha Families offer a tool for understanding and working with emotional energies in ourselves and within others. Each of the Five Families relates to color, an element (earth, water, fire, air, and space), a conflicted emotion, and a wisdom potential once the emotional energies are transmuted. Like the facets of a crystal, the Buddha Families are all working together to comprise the brilliant sanity we all experience in the world, and all possess, as well.

Maitri Space Awareness

Maitri Space Awareness (MSA) is a practice that utilizes this mandala and deeply engages physical, emotional and all the invisible energies as a transformational tool. MSA aids in revealing how we cloud over access to intrinsic health. By refining our relationship with the space around and within us; Maitri Space Awareness practice opens and widens our perspective of the world's energies, introduces the magic ingredient of space, points us toward the Buddhist concept of nonduality, and brings us powerfully into the potency of the present moment.

Deep Practices

Karuna Training offers multiple methods that serve to open and strengthen our hearts and minds. We offer a technique called Body, Speech, Mind Groups, a mindfulness-based speech practice that deepens our understanding of the patterns that replicate in our relationships. We offer Speaking from the Heart groups and eventually Process Groups, which help to expand our capacity for more profound awareness of ourselves and skills in deep listening. The Four-Step Practice is a method for investigating, befriending, and transmuting difficult emotions into innate wisdom.

Karuna Training Seminars

224 Total Training Hours For All

Seminar 1:

Foundations of Contemplative Psychology

Participants are  introduced to the view of Intrinsic Health and the mind map of ego as understood in Contemplative Psychology. Meditation methods and the Speaking from the Heart group are introduced. Participants are invited to investigate the inevitability of unconscious and conscious biases in meeting the cohort. This three-day weekend emphasizes forming the community and ways in which we will integrate study and process in-between weekends, online.

Seminar 2:

Foundations of Awareness in Body, Speech, and Mind

A deeper dive into motivation for meditation and the Four Foundations of Mindfulness are explored. The Four-Step practice is introduced for staying with and gleaning the wisdom of emotions. The practice of the Body, Speech, and Mind group is introduced, and we continued to integrate our work around unconscious biases in everyday life.

Seminar 3:

Maitri One: Deepening Week Retreat

A deepening week retreat and first-time introduction of the Mandala of the Five Buddha Families and the practice of Maitri Space Awareness. The emphasis is on ritual invocation of the elements, and the inner experience of the Buddha Family energies. Deepening of Body, Speech, and Mind group, and introduction to Process groups. Continued awareness of unconscious biases, and the evocation of basic sanity in everyday life.

Seminar 4:

Compassionate Exchange One

The cohort moves into working with others, by learning methods for rousing one's bodhicitta (awakened heart), called Tonglen (Sending and Taking practice). The foundations of using exchange are explored in cultivating the practice of compassionate exchange. Understanding how compassion arises from egolessness and extending compassion to others is the focus of this weekend.

Seminar 5:

Compassionate Exchange Two

The four phases of working contemplatively with others in compassionate exchange are affectionately called the Four Bones in Space. Participants learn the skill of offering honest, kind, and helpful reflections, which serve to bring out the brilliant sanity of others as compassionate friends. This practice is affectionately known as 'Shining the Jewel .'

Seminar 6:

Maitri Two: Deepening Week Retreat

A second deepening  week retreat that again engages the Mandala of the Five Buddha Families through Maitri Space Awareness practice. This week focuses on the practice of Compassionate Exchange from the perspective of the greater mandala and all emotional energies arising at once. The emphasis of this retreat transmuting confusion into wisdom through the practice of compassionate exchange.

Seminar 7:

Maitri In Everyday Life (Online course)

Participants explore Maitri Space Awareness in Everyday Life by meeting online weekly to take on another posture and then using Circle  in between the course to follow prompts about the energies and experiences of the Buddha Families in everyday life. This program also serves to support participants in accomplishing their 25-hour projects and final presentation for graduation.

A 25-hour project of Compassionate Exchange

Participants engage in five hours of successive sessions of compassionate exchange, as an outside project of taking Karuna Training into the world. The exercises engage participants to expand the meaning and practice of Compassionate exchange.

Seminar 8:


Participants present  their 25-hour Compassionate Exchange projects to one another in creative ways and describe the impact of Karuna Training on their lives one by one all weekend. This is a celebratory weekend, ending with a graduation ceremony and a certificate in Contemplative Psychology when all criteria for graduating has been accomplished.

Course summary

The Karuna Training Includes
  • 166 hours of in-person training
  • 244 hours of training in total
  • Participation in our online forum for ongoing discussion and relative prompts for each seminar.
  • 18 hours of online training
  • 107 potential CEUs
  • One-on-one mediation and 
    mentoring through the program
  • 40 hours of integration calls online between seminars
  • Bi-monthly online integration calls held by rotating faculty to practice meditation and deepen methods introduced in training.
See available basic training cycles

I feel like Karuna has really has opened the door for me to different ways of experiencing the world. And it’s constantly refining my sense perceptions. And there’s a mystery of life that Karuna touches into and allows me to be closer to myself and to other people and the phenomenal world

Margot Geist - Student
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