Empathy, Compassion, and Connection:
A Speaker Series

*The Windhorse Educational Initiative is a branch of community programs that began in the fall of 2022. These opportunities encourage the expansion of WZC’s definition of community to a larger, democratic, and more all-embracing space. Our focuses will include positive mental health, inclusive community, Earth stewardship, and secular meditation offerings that could be stepping stones into Zen practice.


This class provides an opportunity to explore the psychological, spiritual, and scientific ways in which we can deepen our ability to empathize and connect with one another. Participants will hear from a variety of speakers from unique backgrounds to widen our ideas of who and what makes a community. Further, various meditation techniques that specialize in deepening compassion (in all forms) will be shared and practiced.  This program is offered free of charge; however, we will be offering donation links to Windhorse, and other nonprofits featured, throughout the course. 


This course welcomes anyone who yearns for a safe space to develop and enhance the skills of empathy and compassion. Additionally, it welcome anyone who is interested in “stepping into the uncomfortable” as we explore sensitive and vulnerable life experiences with a variety of speakers. Finally, while this opportunity is sponsored by a Buddhist organization, all spiritual paths (or no spiritual path) are welcome.


All classes are on Thursday evenings from 7:00-9:00 PM, EST.

Thursday, February 9:

The Psychology and Spirituality of Empathy and Compassion 


Thursday, February 16:

Coming to Terms with Cancer

Speaker: Karen Lasker — program director of Sage Institute in Taos, New Mexico. 


Thursday, February 23:

Living with (and Surviving) Eating Disorders 

Speaker: Jenny Schug — social worker with Neighborhood Family Practice in Cleveland, Ohio.


Thursday, March 2:

Supporting Transgender Veterans and LGBTQ+ Youth 

Speaker: Giovonni Santiago — Senior Field Organizer for Athlete Ally in Akron, Ohio.


Thursday, March 9:

The Holocaust and Music

 Speaker Dr. Kellie Brown — Violinist, Conductor, and Chair of the Music Department at Milligan University. 


Thursday, March 30:

Homeless in Asheville

Speaker: Jean DeLau — graduate of Transformation Village in Asheville, North Carolina 


Thursday, April 6:

Application to Spiritual Practice: Strengths, Struggles, and Going Forth)




See our article below

The Why behind "Empathy, Compassion, and Connection: A Speaker Series"
-- thoughts from Windhorse Resident Lani Banner

“O that my monk’s robe was wide enough to gather up all of the suffering people in this floating world.” – Ryokan

 Let’s do an experiment. 

Open the News App on your phone. What do you see? 

On January 20, 2023 (the day I write this), I see the an article from People Magazine that features the article, “Disneyland Employees Accused at Laughing at Disabled Woman Before Injury that Lead to Her Death.” The next headline I notice is, “A New bill could fine you $1,500…for using correct pronouns for their transgender colleagues or students.” After some more news on the latest Kardashian kerfuffle (I skipped that one), and then seeing one on “The World’s Oldest Living Dog” (I clicked there), I stop at a CNN post: “San Francisco Art Gallery Owner Arrested After Spraying Water on Homeless Person.” Finally, the Atlantic shares the results of the “Longest Study on Human Happiness Found the Key to What a Good Life Is.” The findings: “Deep well-nurtured relationships are the answer,” but this is juxtaposed with “the average American in 2018 spent 11 hours every day on solitary activities such as watching television […] and interacting with media.” 

Did you find similar results? 

Perhaps, you found yourself questioning, where have words like “community,” “connection,” “compassion,” and “empathy” have gone? Are they simply replaced with “I, me, and mine?” Or is it something deeper? 

So let’s dig deeper.

In 2021, Harvard University found “Americans value caring, and are engaged in caring acts;” however, “most Americans don’t have substantial concern for people who are different from them in terms of race, ethnicity, and religion,” — amongst a host of other perceived differences. This study also shared “Americans are far more likely to prioritize their own happiness over caring for others, and they’re far more invested in cultivating their children’s happiness than their children’s caring for others.” And even with all of this information, “73% of Americans believe that society would be better if people were more empathetic.” 

I am guessing none of this information surprises you. Still, I find myself questioning where this “73% belief” unfolds into direct action and connection. 

The purpose of our next Thursday Night Series is to foster the skills of empathy, compassion, and connection — as well as to take this call to develop and practice empathy to heart. It will expose its participants to individuals in our community with diverse backgrounds, as well as bring a human face to experiences we may or may not have encountered before: 

  • What is it like to live with cancer? 
  • What does it mean to struggle with and survive an eating disorder? 
  • How does someone navigate being transgender and a veteran? 
  • How can we advocate for LGBTQ+ youth? 
  • How can ordinary people hold the suffering and atrocities of the Holocaust in their hearts, and still enter into the world with love and equanimity? 
  • What does it look like to be a member of the homeless community here in Asheville? 
We’ll also spend some time learning and practicing secular forms of meditation to help deepen our compassion and empathy for all sentient beings. 

Classes are on Thursday evenings from 7:00-9:00 PM and will be hosted on Zoom: 

  • Thursday, February 9:  Introduction to the Psychology and Spirituality of Empathy and Connection
  • Thursday, February 16: Coming to Terms with Cancer — Speaker: Karen Lasker 
  • Thursday, February 23: Living (and Surviving) with an Eating Disorder — Speaker: Jenny Schug
  • Thursday, March 2: Supporting Transgender Veterans and LGBTQ+ Youth — Speaker: Giovonni Santiago 
  • Thursday, March 9: The Holocaust and Music — Speaker: Dr. Kellie Brown 
  • Thursday, March 30: Homeless in Asheville — Speaker: Jean DeLau
  • Thursday, April 6: Application to Spiritual Practice (Strengths, Struggles, and Going Forth)

Each class/topic will have readings and/or videos for you to watch prior to participation. The course materials are provided free of charge. 

If this information speaks to you, please register for the course:

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to: