Book Review: Mindful Compassion – Using the Power of Mindfulness and Compassion to Transform Our Lives by Paul Gilbert & Choden

Title: MINDFUL COMPASSION – Using the Power of Mindfulness and Compassion to Transform Our Lives.

Authors: Paul Gilbert & Choden

Published: 2013

Publisher: Constable Robinson

Pages: 354

Price: £20.00 Hardback £11.99 E-book £8.99 Kindle Edition – Purchase from HERE

Other parts of the world: Various Prices

Genre: Self Help

Publisher’s ‘About This Book.’

“This ground-breaking new book combines the best of Compassion-Focused Therapy with the most effective mindfulness techniques. The result is an extremely effective approach to overcoming everyday emotional and psychological problems and improving one’s sense of wellbeing. 

Based on the latest work from Professor Paul Gilbert OBE, bestselling author of The Compassionate Mind, and Buddhist expert Choden. 

Professor Gilbert has spent the past twenty years developing a new therapy called Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) which has an gained international following. In recent years, mindfulness is being used increasingly to treat common mental health problems such as depression, stress and stress-related insomnia.”

Having spent many years of spiritual practice, I’ve found that for me, the most powerful path is that of mindfulness, and that being mindful leads naturally to becoming a more compassionate person.

This book is a really good example of how the different psychologies of the East and West can come together as a healing tool.

Paul Gilbert explains that while the brain is an amazing and complex thing, it is also very ‘tricky’ because of how the brain evolved, and how that has caused problems, because our emotions are controlled by the first part of the brain to evolve, the reptilian brain, the ‘fight or flight’ response. Although very necessary for survival in earlier times, this response is not appropriate today, in our modern society.

Choden is a former monk, who now teaches mindfulness and compassion programmes internationally, and is a perfect complement to Paul Gilbert in authoring this book.


Book Overview

The book is divided into two parts; Part 1 dealing with ‘The Issues’, how the emotional problems in our lives have evolved along with the brain, and Part 2, which deals with ‘The Practices’, how mindfulness and compassion can help to heal the trauma and damage that our thinking can cause.

It explains that by engaging in the practices, we can reverse the negative effects of our modern brain’s ability to regret the past and fear the future, which leads to emotional problems such as depression, shame, guilt, self-hatred etc.

Like most people, my natural motivation is to move towards what makes me feel good, and away from what makes me feel bad. This is the survival drive in action, but it’s the exact opposite of compassion.

Compassion is moving towards suffering, in ourselves and others, embracing it. This leads to sympathy and empathy, but that’s not enough. We also have to commit to doing what we can to alleviate and even prevent that suffering, whether it’s ours or someone else’s.

I found that the authors gave me valuable insights into this process. Paul explained that two different abilities are involved here. First, we need to wake up to the suffering; to avoid doing what comes naturally, which is to move away from it. We must train ourselves to be willing to open up to the reality of the situation. Then we must train ourselves in the abilities needed to help overcome the suffering.

I found Choden’s explanation of the Buddha’s understanding of the causes of suffering to be very helpful.

I also learned that true compassion is a two-way process, that we cannot be truly compassionate towards others unless we are able to fully accept their compassion towards us.

I found the book to be full of information and wisdom from both authors. However I feel that the target audience was not identified. The authors appear to have tried to write for both teachers and students, both therapists and patients, and both advanced scholars and beginners on the path. The result is a book which is not ideally suited to either group, and is certainly not suitable for the beginner.

Because of the attempt to cater for a wide audience, the book has come across as a rambling account of a very important subject, which I find sad, considering the wealth of information that it contains.

I feel that a good edit, made keeping a focussed target audience in mind, could have turned this into an outstanding book.

I found the book to be interesting, but would not recommend it to a beginner on this path.


Who Would Benefit from Reading This Book? 

Those who have some experience of meditation and mindfulness, and who want to take their practice to a higher level.

Those who want to further their understanding of why we suffer and what to do about it.


Those who are interested in how the philosophies of the East and West can meet and contribute to each other.


An interesting book, which brings together the best of Western and Eastern understandings of how and why we behave the way we do. It offers some powerful methods for gaining more control over how we live our lives. A book for therapists and coaches.

Too much emphasis on the physical aspects of our humanity, without consideration for the spiritual.Needs a more focussed target audience. It is too long. It would have been improved if it had been edited down to about 100 pages.

Kelly Martin
Kelly Martin

Kelly Martin, author of ‘When Everyone Shines But You’ is a dedicated writer and blogger who fearlessly explores life’s deepest questions. Faced with a decade of profound anxiety and grief following the loss of her father and her best friend Michael, Kelly embarked on a transformative journey guided by mindfulness, and she hasn’t looked back since. Through her insightful writing, engaging podcasts, and inspiring You Tube channel Kelly empowers others to unearth the hidden treasures within their pain, embracing the profound truth that they are ‘enough’ exactly as they are.

Find me on: Web | Twitter/X | Instagram | Facebook


  1. December 10, 2013 / 4:01 pm

    I've spent plenty of time with the professionals but I could never get my head round mindfulness.
    I worked hard, even studying a hair brush, but couldn't get the hang of it.

  2. December 10, 2013 / 4:26 pm

    Hi Stevie,

    The thing about mindfulness is it is often made out to be more complicated than it really is. It is as simple as having a cup of tea, not watching tv, or talking to anyone, just sitting feeling the cup in your hands, the taste of the tea, and just being with the tea (or being with the dishes when washing, or being in your feet as you walk). I find the most important thing about mindfulness is letting yourself be who you are in the moment. And if this means being upset, irritated, sad, angry, happy etc.. you just sit with those feelings, not trying to change them into a new feeling. It is amazing how simply allowing myself to be has meant a natural shifting from one state of feeling to another. If you want a simple way of getting into mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh is also a great author, his emphasis is very much on the simple uncomplicated approach. And even being with yourself 'not getting the hang of this' if you feel frustrated you sit and let the frustration be quietly, for 5 minutes to begin with and then you can extend the mindful time with you as you get used to simply being and not doing.

  3. December 12, 2013 / 10:05 am

    I practiced and practiced. Maybe I concentrated too hard instead of letting go.
    I have a question if I may, Is when you find you have naturally defocused your eyes related to mindfulness?

  4. December 12, 2013 / 10:16 am

    Hi Stevie, ah I understand, if you concentrated that is more doing mode than being mode. If your eyes defocus when looking at something that is more zoning out and escaping than being mindful, depending on how you feel when it happens.

    I find sometimes if I do mindful walk that happens to me and while its relaxing and nice I have to remind myself I am here now and meant to be feeling my feet, my legs, my body moving. Often when we zone out we are trying to escape whatever gift the being present has to offer us, this can sometimes simply mean feeling some old stuff that needs our loving attention so we can then naturally let it go. A good mindfulness practice is the body scan, its a challenge in the sense that it takes allowing whatever to be to be. Here is a short piece on the body scan with a 10 minute video which may help you. It is not easy for us westerners to be mindful we are so use to busy and doing most of the time but its the best change I ever made in my life.

    The thing about mindfulness is it to help us come to a loving acceptance of who we are, regardless of circumstances, issues, what we think about ourselves etc… for me it has opened this space where self worth can grow.

  5. December 12, 2013 / 2:06 pm

    Thank you. I think I may start by reminding myself of times where I've been happy and relaxed.

  6. December 14, 2013 / 8:36 am

    You can do that, if that works for you. With mindfulness its about allowing yourself to feel unease, emotional crap, all the stuff we try and avoid and by breathing into it, and allowing it a safe place to be, it naturally flows in and out instead of us holding onto it. Good luck Stevie.

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