Mindfulness and Compassion, and why I wrote a book about it. By Karen Atkinson

This book by Karen Atkinson from MindfulnessUK is a practical guide and explores compassionate mindful inquiry.

‘Compassionate Mindful Inquiry in Therapeutic Practice: A Practical Guide for Mindfulness Teachers, Yoga Teachers and Allied Health Professionals’ (Atkinson, K 2020. Singing Dragon).

The impetus to write my book is multifaceted. Personally, inquiry has enabled me to explore deeply ingrained and unhealthy patterns from my upbringing, giving me the opportunity to find ways to change them, to such a degree that I have completely changed my life.

Having honed this self-reflective skill with my mindfulness and other meditative practices, my diagnosis and treatment for cancer enabled me to shine a light more brightly on self-compassion. It became extensively apparent that this was vehemently discouraged in my childhood and had resulted in some resistance to it in adulthood, though I had always been compassionate to others.

Inquiry continues to help me profoundly in developing new ways of relating to myself with kindness, ensuring that the connectivity I feel for myself is extended authentically to others and the choices I make in my life.  Offering the opportunity to explore these skills, when I worked for the NHS, to my patients who suffered with chronic pain, trauma, anxiety, and depression resulted in significant shifts within their lives.

Then once I founded MindfulnessUK, offering mindfulness teacher training, it became apparent that this skill could be developed both through theoretical understanding alongside practical application. I therefore decided to focus on how mindfulness and compassion teachers, with no clinical background, could develop these skills in a whole range of sectors to support the health and well-being of their patients, clients, and course participants.

With this knowledge and understanding I introduced a foundational underpinning of the theory of inquiry into our teacher training programmes and developed a one-day masterclass to focus on the Process of Inquiry in more detail.

Becoming aware of the benefits of this approach I realised that a book that focuses on this subject would be extremely beneficial for committed meditators, and mindfulness students and teachers.

As there wasn’t another book dedicated solely to this subject, I decided to write one as an offering to the mindfulness and compassion field. I also recognised the need for information about inquiry to be placed in the secular context and to provide a clear framework from which to guide it.

Initially inquiry can appear scary due to misunderstandings, seeing it as random and boundary-less. This is absolutely not the case, as I explore fully in the book, and to help explain I developed the Iceberg Model, showing the relationship between mindfulness and compassion.  Granted, we all need more kindness to ourselves and others but there seems to be a shift towards compassion at present without the recognition of the need for the wisdom and equanimity that mindfulness can bring.

Only yesterday I was talking about this with Heather from the Mindfulness Association, saying how if we open our hearts to our vulnerability without something to steady us, we will become overwhelmed.  As with anything in life, balance is key.

I am thrilled that the booked has been so well received with students often saying how informative, helpful and confidence-boosting it has been.  In fact one former student, Lena Shah, found the model to be such a pivotal moment in her experience of her meditation practice and life that she included it in her book of poems, “Impetus” (Shah, L. 2021. Austin Macauley Publishers).

It’s appreciated as a guide to the terrain of inquiry, offering pathways and familiar territory, which supports the development of exploration of patterns and new ways of being, through trust, intimacy, patience, and safety.

Joyously my book is being well received in America too, as compassion centres spring up everywhere and the word “kindness” is on the lips of many.

It seems that the subject matter has resonated during this period of the global pandemic. Rather ironically, I launched the book in February 2020, having an incredible launch party at the MindfulnessUK’s Centre, only for the pandemic to take hold in March. I knew the compassion surge was coming but it has been energised by Covid-19 and it’s needed even more than I ever imagined it would be.

It excites me to consider all the teaching of practices and the skillful inquiry that is being offered as a result of people reading my book and putting all that is learnt into practice. The ripple effect of enabling others to gain insights and make sustainable changes warms my heart every single day and I encourage you to try it for yourselves and reap the rich, deep rewards that it yields.

To get your copy click here.

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