Article: Book Review: A Fearless Heart: How the Courage to Be Compassionate Can Transform Our Lives
By Barry Lipscomb
Editors’ Note: Many people often ask us about books that can provide insight and wisdom. We would like to offer you a review of one of the books that is required reading for Depth Hypnosis Practitioners and Applied Shamanic Counselors. The following is Barry Lipscomb’s review of A Fearless Heart: How the Courage to Be Compassionate Can Transform Our Lives, by Thupten Jinpa. Barry is studying at the Sacred Stream and he lives in San Francisco, where he employs meditation practices and wisdom traditions in leadership coaching.
Reading A Fearless Heart was a very powerful, transformative, and healing experience for me personally. This was heightened by reading the book the same week I began the Sacred Stream’s Applied Buddhist Psychology 1: Entering the Stream class, and started practicing Shamata meditation. It seems my heart is breaking open and expanding in new directions, as if compassion and loving-kindness is the last frontier.
I find myself already genuinely wanting other beings to be free of suffering, spontaneously doing small acts of kindness with the recognition that, just like me, all beings want to be happy. By the middle of the week in which I was reading the book, I began a new practice of engaging someone from work each morning by text or Slack, to just say hello and ask how they are doing. It was only later in the week that I connected this new practice to my reading of Jinpa, and my morning Shamata meditation.
Jinpa directly references both a professional and personal relationship in A Fearless Heart. It was special to see that. He writes of Dr. Jenny Crocker’s research on ecosystem vs. egosystem awareness. Jenny uses the work of my company, Learning as Leadership, in her research, and spoke last year at our company retreat about her most recent studies. Then, Jinpa references Barbara Fredrickson’s research on loving-kindness meditation interventions, in which my dear friend, Sandy Finkel was the loving-kindness expert who led the study subjects in meditation. It was a special treat to be reminded of them here.
I was especially inspired by Jinpa’s description of meeting his grandmother, and her wish that he “be kind, and be happy.” I am struck how this can at first be read as two wishes, to “be kind” and to “be happy.” On deeper reading and contemplation, I realize what he is really talking about here is the relationship between being kind and being happy, with one the suggestion, and the other a consequence. We are happy when we are kind. Said another way: “be kind and you will be happy.”
While I have read about Tonglen and heard it described by other teachers, Jinpa’s description here indicates the shamanic lineage of Tibetan Buddhist practice. It left me wondering if it is one of the shamanic practices adapted into Tibetan Buddhism. In any event, I am drawn to Tonglen as he describes it, and am taking this as a daily practice for myself.
Overall, as it relates to my study and practice of Depth Hypnosis, I am walking away with an understanding of compassion and loving-kindness as self-care, as well as a prescription for practice. As Jinpa says, our “ability to be there for others depends on compassion for ourselves.” I am deeply connected with, and have an embodied understanding of this after reading A Fearless Heart. I have a determined intention to practice compassion each day. I will make it the ground principle from which I live my daily life, as I serve others who endeavor to be happy, and who wish to be free of suffering.