Book review: ‘Compassionate Mindful Inquiry in Therapeutic Practice’ by Karen Atkinson

At the time of writing this book review, I have read ‘Compassionate Mindful Inquiry in Therapeutic Practice’ several times and know it is one of those books/ practical guides that will continue to offer me learning/consolidation with each reading. My first reading was with the intention of interviewing the author Karen Atkinson, which I had the great pleasure of doing in May. In addition to being an author, Karen is the Senior Partner and Co-Founder of MindfulnessUK and Director for Mindfulness UK @Work and her teacher training courses can be found at If you haven’t already read her interview, check it out here Interview with Karen Atkinson, author of ‘Compassionate Mindful Inquiry in Therapeutic Practice’

This post is part of a charity initiative reaching out to communities worldwide in the hope of sharing key information, education materials and discussion points for groups of women and girls to come together in a safe, empowering space. Some of these communities are ones where I have lived and worked over the years and consider many to be my family and friends. It is therefore a personal honour to be able to share the authors and books which will provide thought-provoking material and value at the same time. My thanks and appreciation for Karen, her time and taking part in this charity initiative are all contained and offered up within both the interview and book review. With the above in mind, permission to share with any women groups or any communities you feel will benefit from this book review and Karen’s interview, is not only granted but encouraged. As the book is current, the interview and book review are published on the blog rather than being channelled off as usual to the communities and I’m pleased many more will have access to them. 

With these communities in mind, this review is written for them with language chosen to facilitate translation and focussed on the elements which will bring value and offer discussion points along. There will therefore be many areas not included, however their absence is no reflection of my personal or professional views. I wholeheartedly encourage you to read the book and find your own value in it as I’m sure you will. (There is a link to Amazon at the end).     

‘Compassionate Mindful Inquiry in Therapeutic Practice’ is a practical guide for Mindfulness teachers, yoga teachers and Allied Health professionals. Although some of the readers of this book review will belong to those categories within the communities, areas highlighted below are written so that all girls and women can be involved in discussions. My hope and intention is always that every girl and woman may walk away with a feeling of increased confidence and self-belief, knowing their value and worth even if the discussions are just the start of that journey. 

Mindfulness and Compassion run through every part alongside and throughout the guide for inquiry. Here, the inquiry guide is useful for self-inquiry as well as the inquiry performed with others, after all how do you know the benefits of inquiry if you haven’t at first started with yourself. The relationship between mindfulness and compassion (page 22) is described as engaging mindful awareness to be able to choose how to move forward in our lives through recognising our needs and thoughts arising in the present moment. Through integrating compassion, this allows us to make those choices leading to change in a safe and supportive way. The self-inquiry and perhaps the inquiry with others, may enable more significant understanding or a deeper awareness of oneself, thoughts and feelings. This may bring about an understanding of an area of change that can be implemented into our daily lives without too much effort or obvious external differences to others. 

‘Compassion can help to change the relationship with who we are, what we do and what we feel, and to think about ourselves, other people, our situation and the stories that we have created about ourselves and our lives before now and into the future’ (page 23) 

Within communities worldwide, I have noticed many mindful activities and have certainly felt and benefitted first-hand from many acts of kindness. Therefore, I know that mindfulness and compassion are already embedded within the lives of the women and girls reading this, even if they aren’t labelled as such. Below, are examples adapted to the information provided within ‘Compassionate Mindful Inquiry in Therapeutic Practice’ which can best suit the target audience of this blog.

For example, an activity which can be viewed mindfully is the walk to collect water from wells or washing clothes in a river or stream. The gratitude for the water, the process of collecting water or washing the clothes, the sights and sounds around, the laughter and chatter arising around and the kindness and compassion of the women towards each other as they check on health, family life and what is still to do. These chores done collectively can bring space both in the act and the opportunity to see others and I have witnessed and experienced how mindful and joyful these moments are. What would be added to these moments if the compassion they share for each other was also directed towards themselves? Would they feel differently? What would be noticed in the body? What emotions and thoughts would arise? Would that awareness bring positive change either in appreciating the moment more or looking for ways to change and move forward differently? Is there even a need for any change? (I’m certainly not suggesting in this example that anything has to change as that is only something the communities will know for themselves).

The Iceberg Model of Compassionate Mindful Inquiry presented in Chapter 2 provides more detail around this process along with guidance for teachers at every stage and questions for inquiry. This offers greater learning and can act as a tool to take forward for those wanting to build confidence in conducting inquiry through having starting points. I’m not including any questions here as it would be wrong to assume which ones would be fitting for the worldwide readers of the review. I do however, encourage those readers to find their own, in their own language with words that resonate for them. I know that the example above will spark this discussion and that their own questioning will arise. For others, if interested then please access the book on Amazon through the link below. Chapter 3 explores the Neuroscience of Mindfulness and Compassion written by Dr Trudi Edgington for those of you wishing to go into detail of the impacts of the Compassionate Mindful Inquiry on the brain. 

My favourite parts of the book are chapter 4 Modelling a Compassionate Mindful Teacher and chapter 5 Leading Skilful Compassionate Mindful Inquiry with Clients where teachers are taken compassionately through many aspects of their work which may arise and how to deal with different situations. This is where you hear the author’s voice coming through giving the sense that you are accompanied and guided at every stage with compassion, support and encouragement. 

There is a part where inquiry is likened to the challenge of learning a foreign language. As a Modern Foreign Languages teacher who has also lived in cultures where the local dialect/ language is completely differently to any I had learnt before, I can maybe offer a fuller perspective which may resonate with the reader. Language learning is so much more than simply listening to words and responding, it’s about using the body to express what you can’t in words as well as watching other peoples’ body language, watching for cultural pointers and responding accordingly being willing to adjust your behaviour very quickly if necessary. It’s making quick judgements around the situation at hand from reading the atmosphere emanating from the people and the situation itself, being willing to try even when you aren’t fully confident in your abilities, being willing to make mistakes because that is where the learning is rather than holding back for the perfect expression and moment. It’s about being curious in the most natural way and wanting to know the person/people in front of you from their point of view rather than from your own and taking all of that into future interactions. All of this was embedded from my time living within the communities this book review is written for. There lies my acknowledgement and my gratitude for all that I have learnt and all that I now am thanks to all those women and girls who impacted my life throughout my time in Cameroon and Nepal, healing me in ways I never knew were possible or even knew I needed. 

The link below will offer you more information and the chance to buy the book: 

#Compassion #CompassionateMindfulInquiryinTherapeuticPractice #KarenAtkinson #Mindfulness


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