Basic training
2024 - 2026

Certification in Contemplative Psychology

About The 
Basic Training


Karuna Training uses time-tested skillful means to unlock our innate health.
"I can offer so much more value to the people around me and to my communities."
Carolyn Sykes
Karuna Training is a comprehensive training in Contemplative Psychology. The training combines deep study of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist principles with meditation and contemplative practices, embodiment training, skills development, and ongoing, community support.

Karuna Basic Training centers on the view that we are all fundamentally good, awake and healthy. Through this view of intrinsic health, we learn how to work skillfully with ourselves and others, transforming everyday life challenges into opportunities for openness and wisdom.

The Basic Training is a 20-month intensive that consists of in-person retreats, weekend seminars online, and ongoing, small group meetings online. A more detailed description of the training is included below.

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

97 CE Credits are available in the 2024 Basic Training

Training Elements introduced in the Karuna Basic

Mindfulness Awareness

In Karuna Training, we become familiar with our own mind and how it works. Through training in meditation and mindfulness awareness, we discover that compassion is a natural and healthy component of the human mind and learn to recognize and nurture these innate qualities. This is the basis for working with others in a wakeful, compassionate manner. It is also the basis for the healing and transformative processes that are part of the contemplative psychology journey.

Embodiment Training

Embodiment Training and practices teach us how to drop out of the head and into the body—this increases body awareness and cultivates embodied mindfulness. Learning to anchor one's awareness in the body is key to working with thoughts and emotional energies. In Karuna Training, we learn to feel emotions directly in the body first and practice staying with the energy of emotions rather than our thoughts and discursive contents. In this way, 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. After the training begins, no new participants will join the cohort community after the first online module. This fosters deep trust and intimacy within the cohort. In community, we begin to realize all the relationships in our lives are worthy of love, respect and openness. We see that the quality of our relationships are a reflection of our own minds. These relationships act as a mirror that supports us to discover the diamonds within us.
"I feel appreciation beyond measure for the privilege of having access to the resource that Karuna Training has become."
Candace Peterson-kahn

Compassionate exchange

Compassionate exchange is a mindful encounter that facilitates mutual healing. Exchange is the natural, present-moment capacity to feel another person's feelings. Working with exchange is enhanced through contemplative training and learning to navigate the terrain of our own difficult emotions. Along the way, we become skillful in offering ourselves to others in 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.
Main Training hall at Ari Bhöd

The Five Buddha Families

In Karuna Training we study the tantric mandala of the Five Buddha Families. Mandala is a Sanskrit word that means circle and fringe. It presents a way of viewing the many elements of the world as being interdependent and in continual relationship with one another. The Five Buddha Families offer a tool for understanding and working with the emotional energies that arise in ourselves and others. Each Family relates to a different color, an element (earth, water, fire, air and space), a conflicted emotion and the wisdom potential of transmuted emotional energies. Like the facets of a crystal, the Buddha Families and the elements are working together to comprise the brilliant sanity we naturally possess and experience in the world.

Maitri Space Awareness

Maitri Space Awareness (MSA) is a practice that corresponds to the mandala of the Five Buddha Families and deeply engages the physical, emotional, and invisible energies as a transformational tool. Maitri space awareness helps to reveal the habitual tendencies that obscure our brilliant sanity and intrinsic health by refining our relationship with the world and its energies. MSA broadens our perspective by introducing the magic ingredient of space. Ever-present, both in and around us, relating with space in MSA practice, points us toward the Buddhist concept of nonduality and brings us into the potency of the present moment.
"Karuna gatherings, retreats, and community are a place where I have been able to "try on" more authentic ways of living, loving, and interacting with others."
Amy Kemp

Social Action and Societal Awareness

Karuna Training offers several methods for opening and strengthening our hearts and minds. We mainly apply our methods to social action and society's woes, which include discrimination against race, sexual orientation, disability, and other areas like our implicit biases, where we may not see the more profound implications of our cultural conditioning. Body, Speech, and Mind is a group mindfulness-based practice that deepens our understanding of the patterns that replicate in our relationships, personally and intergenerationally. Speaking from the Heart is another group practice that helps us grow deep listening skills and expand our capacity for profound awareness of ourselves in relationship to others. The Four-Step Practice is a method for investigating, befriending, and transmuting difficult emotions into innate wisdom.
See Costs & Dates

Karuna Basic Training
2024 - 2026 Hybrid Cohort

262 Total Training Hours

KTB Seminar 1:

Foundations of Contemplative Psychology

In this residential retreat, participants are introduced to the view of intrinsic health and offered instruction and practice in sitting meditation, foundational methods, and elemental work. This retreat is an introduction of the Mandala of the Five Buddha Families and working with the elements of space, water, earth, fire, air, with emphasis on the ritual invocation of the elements and the inner experience of the skandhas and realms. In addition instruction and practice of Speaking from the Heart and Body, Speech and Mind practice is introduced. The cohort community is formed, and monthly continuity (small groups) are established.

KTB Seminar 2:

Abhidharma in Everday Life

In this online course, participants study ego and egolessness, the development of the six realms, and how to work with difficult emotions. The Four Step Practice for staying with emotional energies and gleaning their innate wisdom is introduced.

KTB Seminar 3:

Compassionate Exchange

In this online course, the cohort begins practices of opening the heart and skillful ways of working with others by learning Tonglen: Sending and Taking practice of rousing "bodhicitta", the awakened heart. In this Course, we explore the transformative power of non dual Compassionate Exchange practice and learn the Four Bones in Space: the four phases of working with others in compassionate exchange. We also learn Shining the Jewel, an approach to offering honest, kind, and helpful reflections to bring out the brilliant sanity of others.
"Karuna marked a turning point in my spiritual journey. It gave me, first and foremost, a community of practitioners that I love and trust, and who share my deep desire for spiritual growth."
Michelle Morris

KTB Seminar 4:

Maitri and Compassionate Exchange: Residential Retreat Two

In this residential retreat, participants are introduced the practice of Maitri Space Awareness. Using colored glasses and specific body postures, participants undertake practice to become aware of their habitual patterns of mind and unconscious biases. The cohort continues Compassionate Exchange practice in small groups. After the retreat, Continuity meetings led by mentors continue bi-monthly.

KTB Seminar 5:

Maitri in Everyday Life

In this online course, Maitri Space Awareness will be practiced at home in seven sessions. Participants will be given a set of colored glasses at the retreat. The maitri glasses will allow participants to practice at home and integrate their experience of the Five Buddha Families Mandala into their everyday life. Online practice sessions will occur bi-monthly with presentations on the families in everyday life. Questions and discussion of MSA experiences will be prompted on the community social media platform Circle.

KTB Seminar 6:

Compassionate Exchange Community Project

Nine months of online mentoring and time for participants to complete a Compassionate Exchange Project that is incorporated into their everyday lives. Each participant will design a 25-hour project to be approved by the continuity group mentor. Monthly continuity group meetings will continue throughout. Participants will also receive 3 hours of independent mentoring.
"A tremendous experience. I saw my cohort and myself settle into something profound together by the end of the two-year program. It was incredible and moving to witness."
Byron Blum

KTB Seminar 7:

Bardo Series - Ritual Transitions

In this online course, near the end of the training, the Bardo series will be presented to bind the cohort and guide participants towards a centered and peaceful closure. The Bardo teachings illustrate the importance of opening to impermanence, death, and dying.

KTB Seminar 8:


In the final Residential Retreat, participants continue Maitri Space Awareness practice. Each participant makes a creative offering on their 25-hour Compassionate Exchange project and the impact of Karuna Training on their lives. This is a celebratory retreat that ends with a graduation ceremony and certificate in Contemplative Psychology.

Course summary

The Karuna Training Includes
168 hours  of in-person retreat time

262 hours of total training

Participation on Circle, Karuna's private Online Membership App
60 hours of online training

97 potential CE Credits dependant on your attendance

One-on-one mediation and 
mentoring through the program
34 hours of Continuity Group calls online to support Karuna Method integration
See Cost and Dates

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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