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on June 3, 2009
If you want to understand how to apply Mindfulness and Loving-Kindness Practice in daily life to reduce suffering; it is described in this book in clear, cliche-free language. The author, a seasoned meditation practitioner, teacher, and psychotherapist, includes excerpts from contemporary brain research to bring this outstanding treatment of the topic, to a higher level. This book is highly readable, and the descriptions of how to put Self-Compassion into practice, make this book especially user-friendly. As a psychotherapist, Mindfulness Meditation practitioner, and reader of a lot of books on Mindfulness, Psychology, and the brain, I HIGHLY recommend this book. It is truly OUTSTANDING!
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on August 18, 2009
The "mindful path to self-compassion" is my new favorite book. This book has wisdom with universal appeal. Who among us, can truly say they practice self-compassion and self-kindness on a regular basis, in their daily lives? Dr. Germer has a clear and engaging writing style that outlines the importance of mindful living with self awareness and compassion. He suggests practice tools to engage in the process and substaniates them with research vignettes that support the benefits. Dr. Germer makes a good case for self-compassion as the ground for all emotional healing, and for developing compassion to others. As a psychologist, I have referred several of my patients to this book. This book may very well maintstream the practice of Self-Compassion, as Kabat-Zinn did with Mindfulness. And if more and more people engage in self-compassion practices, we may all live more peacefully among one another...
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on March 18, 2010
"Meditation practice isn't about trying to throw ourselves away or become something better. It's about befriending who we are already." - Pema Chodron

How do we subvert our deeply conditioned tendencies towards self-criticism? In this competitive, stressful society, we are easily thrown into competition with ourselves - fighting desperately to eradicate the more vulnerable parts of ourselves and cultivate the qualities, experiences and possessions that we think will help us get ahead. In this struggle, we often lose touch with the capacity to have compassion for our plight, a plight shared by everyone. In "The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion", psychologist Christopher K. Germer offers a way out of this often demoralizing battle. In the introduction, Germer calls this an "un-self-help book." In many ways, the methods of befriending difficult emotions and practicing compassion could directly neutralize what sends many of us to the self-help section of the bookstore. This book presents an engaging, friendly guide to navigating this often very subtle, tricky work.

The book is divided into three parts. Part I (Discovering Self-Compassion) is a guided introduction to mindfulness meditation and the concept of self-compassion. Customers may have noticed this book is similar in title to another from the same publisher: The Mindful Way through Depression. That book has actually has helped me prevent a relapse of depression for two years now and I recommend it highly. Both "The Mindful Way through Depression" and "The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion" present much of the same material in much the same manner. They cite some of the same studies, bring up some of the same issues, and even quote some of the same poems. Both feature mindfulness of the breath, body and sound as gateways to a new, less reactive and more accepting relationship with life. However, in Part II (Practicing Loving-Kindness), the two books depart. Whereas the authors of "The Mindful Way through Depression" incorporate modern cognitive behavioral therapy to transform self-defeating habits, Germer introduces the ancient technique of metta (loving-kindness) meditation as a means to opening one up to one's emotional life more fully and compassionately.

Germer's meditation instructions are often quite poetic (such as observing bodily sensations "like a mother staring at a newborn baby, wondering what it's feeling"). In Part III (Customizing Self-Compassion), he offers ways to balance compassion for oneself as well as others. What I appreciate about Germer's approach is that it is so eclectic. For instance, like other books on meditation, he has the reader label emotions. However, unlike other books on meditation, Germer provides an extensive list of emotion words compiled by computer linguist Stephen DeRose. He also includes things like a list of "schemas" (patterns of habitual thoughts/feelings) from psychologist Jeffrey Young and an interesting set of {personality types" that might help customize the practice to your own particular idiosyncracies. All of this is in addition to page after page of stories from his own life and practice, fascinating studies from the fields of neuroscience and psychology, as well as poetry and cartoons.

Germer surprised me with his understanding of Buddhism. His incorporation of the Buddha's words is sometimes so subtle and natural it's easily missed. For example, in his introduction, Germer writes: "No matter how hard we try to avoid emotional pain, it follows us everywhere. Difficult emotions--shame, anger, loneliness, fear, despair, confusion--arrive like clockwork at our door. They come when things don't go according to our expectations, when we're separated from loved ones, and as a part of ordinary sickness, old age, and death. It's just not possible to avoid feeling bad." Those familiar with Buddhism will recognize this as a modern reworking of the First Noble Truth (particularly its iteration in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta -- the Buddha's first sermon). His explanations of rather difficult Buddhist concepts such as not-self and interdependence demonstrate a nuanced understanding.

You don't have to be a Buddhist to benefit from this book. In fact, Germer includes a centering meditation found in a Trappist (Christian) monastery, a poem from the Sufi poet Rumi, as well as discussion of prayer. Germer's book would benefit anyone struggling with feelings of inadequacy, shame, anxiety or anger, and comes at a time when the synthesis of modern science and ancient wisdom are blossoming. Also recommended is British psychologist Paul Gilbert's excellent The Compassionate Mind, which discusses the practice of compassion in a larger evolutionary framework.
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on December 2, 2009
I recommend this book for EVERYONE. The author explains mindfulness with a step by step approach that is understandable and inviting. And the miracle is that as you try the simple exercises the author describes, you find yourself smiling and feeling calmer and just plain happier with yourself. I have been reading the book a few pages at a time, letting the ideas sink in, and trying them out during the day. It has been a wonderful, life changing experience. I'm less anxious in my work, and more accepting and pleasant with my family. What a gift the author has given us!
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on May 26, 2011
I won't go into a description of this book, because there are plenty of reviews that do that. What I will say is that as a psychology professor and psychotherapist, I have a few "go-to" books - books that I constantly have to replace because I end up giving them out to students or loaning them to clients. For couples, for example, it's Notarius & Markman's "We Can Work It Out." For people that need to work on mindfulness and learning to relate compassionately with themselves, this excellent book is it. I finally bought it on kindle as well just to have a copy that I could count on being able to get my hands on! Probably my favorite part about this book is the way that it uses mindfulness as a vehicle for the development of self-compassion, such that as readers move through the book, they develop both of these capacities. I can see it not appealing to some - it might be too psychological for those who prefer Thich Nhat Hahn, or not empirical enough for psychology professionals looking for empirically-validated treatment approaches supported by dozens of clinical trials...but for those who want a readable, sensitive path that is rooted in both spirituality and psychology, it is a tremendous resource. Highly recommended.
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on May 28, 2010
This book is filled with important insights. But it's as if the author wrote each idea on a card and then shuffled them randomly. Voila! The book doesn't unfold with any particular structure that I can see. It's more like a grab-bag of this and that--gray sidebars with nearly useless research teases interspersed with "TRY THIS..." exercises. I had to put it down just to calm my mind. The market is flooded with books on mindfulness. You can do so much better than this, starting with Tara Brach's "Radical Acceptance" or Mark Williams, et al "The Mindful Way Through Depression." These books take you on coherent and powerful journeys rather than bombarding you with stuff.
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on May 18, 2010
I perhaps picked this book up for the wrong reason. I don't (usually) have a problem with self-compassion. But I like to read books that discuss mindfulness because they invariably give me a sense of peace AS I READ. Germer's book had the opposite effect on me, creating in me a feeling of sheer drudgery and anxiousness to hurry up and get through it.

I'm sure he means well, but he has 80 pages of the most mindfulness-preventing description of how to attain mindfulness that I can imagine. I say mindfulness-preventing because it is hard to imagine a writing style less likely to get you in the mindfulness mood. He approaches mindfulness like a boss with a stopwatch: This many minutes breathing like this, this many minutes feeling your body like this, this many minutes labeling your emotions like this . . .

A much better discussion of mindfulness is in Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh (and it's probably covered in just a few pages if I remember correctly). You'll feel mindful and at peace right as you're reading the entire book, which covers so much more. Also, for that peace-as-you're reading feeling, try Wherever You Go, There You Are by Kabat-Zinn or It's Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way To Happiness, by Sylvia Boorstein.

The self-compassion aspect of Germer's book is also covered by books on Buddhism (which is perhaps why I didn't need this book to tell me about it). Loving-kindness, as Germer states in this book, includes having loving-kindness toward yourself as well as others, so again, you might as well read the Thich Nhat Hanh book because it covers so much more in so very many fewer words.

Germer's book obviously works for some readers (it got lots of five star reviews), but it didn't work for me.
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on December 24, 2010
My childhood was was filled with fear too often. That led me to find difficulty with relaxing or finding comfort in myself. I have read many books on trauma, depression, and anxiety. This is one of the very best. Self-compassion was an elusive action that I need some guidance. If you find yourself suffering, this book helps you discover how you can soothe your own heart. This also has excellent references. The first chapter is "being kind to yourself". I have tried to be kind to others but being kind to myself was elusive. This book helped me learn how to do that. Loved it.
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on January 7, 2015
To my mind, it's helpful to compare Mindful Path to Self Compassion (MPSC) book to Mindful Way Through Depression (MWTD), since they both cover the same topic.

- MPSC talked explicitly about self compassion and loving kindness. If I understand Professor Germer correctly, these concepts were meant to be the foundation of meditation practice (ie, everything action or movement you make in a meditative session is meant to establish and maintain a sense of compassion within yourself in times of need). Towards that end, the most important and helpful pages in the book are 102-116 because they list the various pathways people can follow towards this goal. On the other hand, MWTD never mentions self compassion or loving kindness directly, but seemed to imply that they are the natural result of meditating.

- MWTD goes into a lot of detail on how negative thoughts affect the body and vice versa. Especially helpful is the authors' discussion of how our world narrows the more we give into our anxious or depressed thoughts. The image of the "downward spiral" was especially helpful to me in understanding how my life was being affected by my own bouts of anxiety and depression in 2012/2013. Although MPSC mentions how aversion towards negative feelings results in resistance and more negativity, it doesn't spell it out in as much detail.

- MPSC wants us to aim our feelings of compassion towards others, in addition to ourselves, whereas MWTD focuses primarily on the self. There's nothing wrong with extending compassion towards others, and indeed, if the cause of your grief is external, exorcising those demons might be very helpful to restoring your mental sanity. At the same time, however, I believe that before you can focus on extending compassion to others, you need to resolve (or at least stabilize) your own issues. On a related note, MWTD focuses on breathing, steadying the mind (bring it back if it wanders off in thought), and various stretching exercises. MPSC does these, but also includes chants or prayers to extend compassion to others, which I found them to be rather "new age-y" and awkward.

- Although both books are approximately the same length, MPSC doesn't suffer from the same repetition that MWTD does. Then again, MPSC is not without structural difficulties. The book talks about how a sense of self is needed to make progress on the pathway to self compassion (page 97) and then right away goes into discussing those pathways, as mentioned earlier. Yet the different "senses of self" don't appear until well page page 200. That's not how I would've structured this book.

Personally, I found MWTD to be a more engaging read, but that's my opinion, and your mileage may vary. You wouldn't go wrong in purchasing either book.
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on September 22, 2010
(This review is based on a review I wrote and maintain on my home web site. The definitive version can be found at:

I had reached the point in my personal and professional development where I noticed I was giving a lot of energy to "beating myself up" about stuff -- goals unmet, decisions regretted, actions not taken. It had gotten to the point where I realized a lot of my energy going to waste doing so.

After having read, "Mindset" by Carol Dweck, (more on that book in another review) I was actively seeking new ways to set and meet higher expectations for myself in a constructive and supportive way.

Christopher Germer's mindfulness and loving kindness meditations turned out to be the right recipes for me. The meditations enabled me to replace my old habits of bringing myself down or catastrophizing failure with new habits of giving myself kindness while I worked, and when I suffered setbacks either from outside circumstance or from my own limitations.

Sometimes books about meditation are presented in a framework set by some particular religion. Germer's presentation is simple and factual. Germer uses Budhism, but he keeps religiosity out of it. He focuses on connecting one's self with our fellow human beings in a way that can be comfortably read by people of various faiths, those who are agnostic or those who consider themselves apart from a faith or religious tradition.

Anyone who has come from a high pressure professional, personal or family history will find this book a valuable help.
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