General Questions

Is it okay to take longer than 1 week to complete a module?

It’s fine to take longer than one week on any given module to do the practices, lessons, readings, and videos. There is no time limit. I personally have been perfecting my mindfulness practice for 20 years. Someone might take 8 weeks to finish one module and it could be life-changing for them, and this might not have happened if they forced themselves to finish each module in 1 week. Being able to pace the course in a way that works for you is one of the advantages of doing this kind of online course. I sometimes think that the longer people take, the more they will get out of the course, because there’s more time for things to sink in. Also, sensing when more time is needed and/or when a break is needed is mindfulness in action.

If you miss some practice days, take the time you need to be sure you have at least six days of practice before beginning the next module. The only guidance I ever give about time to do the course is to not try to complete a module in one day.

If I have experience, can I go faster on each module and finish in less than one week?

If you want a certificate of completion and you want to have the full experience of this masterclass, I recommend that you practice each new skill for at least six days between modules and do all the reading/viewing suggested for each module. Having a sufficient number of practice sessions before going on to the next module may be the most important part of the course.

Even if you are already an experienced meditator, the mindfulness course is more subtle than it seems. Other professional mindfulness teachers have often heard from students who already had an established meditation practice, some of whom are themselves meditation teachers and have been teaching for many years, who have shared that at first they didn’t expect to learn anything new, but they were glad that they took time with their courses because their practice was enriched in important ways that weren’t obvious in the beginning.

Can I do the Mindfulness course with a group of friends/colleagues?

This is a wonderful idea. Doing the course with others will increase the likelihood that you complete the course, thanks to the commitment you each make in doing it together. Many others have done this, with other mindfulness courses, some just meeting once to do an introduction to the course. Others have an intro meeting, a mid-course, and end-of-course meeting, and still others meet weekly. If you are interested in having weekly meetings, a group can be led by someone without formal teacher-training, but it does require some comfort and skill in working with groups, and organizational ability. This is based on the experiences of others who have put together their own groups to do other Mindfulness courses.
Even if you don’t have local people to take the course with, consider joining the Strengthening Your Conscious Self Community, which will link you with people world-wide who are taking the course. Through a group, participants can share experiences and/or ask questions about the practices that are part of the course, or simply stay on the sidelines and learn from others who are taking the course the same time as they are.

I have no internet (or it’s too slow for videos). Is there a hard copy version?

There is a stand-alone version of the Mindfulness course which can be loaded directly onto your computer from a USB thumb drive. This version does not need to access the internet at all and includes the lesson handouts, articles, worksheets, and logs. It is locked in time and will not receive the periodic updates that the web-based course gets. The videos are not included, because of copyright laws. I will mail this version to you if you send a request to me through the Contact page. Include your physical mailing address and why you need this version (no internet, slow internet, etc.). A $50 fee will be collected to cover the cost of the thumb drive and shipping.

Why is it called “Srengthening Your Conscious Self” Mindfulness Masterclass?

The name “Strengthening Your Conscious Self Mindfulness Masterclass” is a deliberate choice intended to encapsulate the multidimensional approach to mental, emotional, and physical well-being that this masterclass aims to offer. The name serves as a road map for the participant, highlighting the core components: strengthening the ‘self,’ and mastering ‘mindfulness.’ Each of these elements holds significant meaning and relevance in the broader context of mental health and therapeutic practices.

‘Strengthening Your Conscious Self’ is a phrase designed to evoke a deeper understanding of one’s own identity, needs, and desires, essentially operating in the realm of conscious awareness. This phrase draws significantly from the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model of psychotherapy.

The Internal Family Systems model, founded by Richard C. Schwartz, posits that the mind is made up of multiple subpersonalities or ‘parts.’ These parts often serve protective or managerial roles and can conflict with each other, leading to the challenges and symptoms that may bring someone into therapy (Schwartz, 1995). According to the IFS model, at the core of every individual is the ‘Self,’ a natural, compassionate, curious essence of one’s being. The ‘Self’ is considered the seat of consciousness, holding the capacity to lead the individual toward healing by serving as an internal resource (Schwartz & Sweezy, 2019).

In the context of “Strengthening Your Conscious Self,” the term ‘conscious self’ can be seen as synonymous with the IFS model’s ‘Self.’ The program aims to fortify this ‘Self,’ allowing it to take a more prominent role in governing one’s thoughts, emotions, and actions, which effectively brings about mental harmony. Mindfulness and meditation are not isolated to a single therapeutic approach but serve as foundational elements in several contemporary psychological treatments. Let’s explore how these practices fit into some well-known approaches:

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, employs mindfulness meditation to assist people in dealing with stress and medical conditions (Kabat-Zinn, 1990). The approach focuses on increasing awareness and acceptance of present-moment experiences, thereby reducing stress and enhancing psychological well-being. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) combines cognitive-behavioral approaches with mindfulness strategies to help individuals understand and manage their thoughts and emotions to achieve relief from distress (Segal et al., 2002). It has been particularly effective in preventing the recurrence of depression. Mindfulness has been integrated into Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) approaches to help individuals become aware of their thought patterns, thereby challenging cognitive distortions and improving mental well-being (Hofmann et al., 2010).

Developed by Marsha Linehan, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) incorporates mindfulness as one of its core skills to help individuals with radical acceptance, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, dialectics, and interpersonal effectiveness (Linehan, 1993). Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), often used for couples, incorporates mindfulness techniques to enhance emotional awareness and facilitate a secure emotional bond between partners (Johnson, 2004). Yoga, beyond its physical postures, includes practices aimed at enhancing awareness and self-control. These mindfulness elements contribute to mental well-being and are often integrated into therapeutic settings (Khanna & Greeson, 2013). Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory suggests that mindfulness and meditation can impact the vagal pathways, influencing emotional regulation and social connection (Porges, 2011). These practices may help activate the ‘ventral vagal complex,’ which is associated with a calm emotional state.

The name “Strengthening Your Conscious Self Mindfulness Masterclass” serves as a comprehensive encapsulation of the transformative experience the program aims to offer. The course not only incorporates but also synthesizes valuable concepts and practices from various therapeutic models, all of which share an underlying commitment to fostering mental, emotional, and physical well-being through self-awareness and self-management. Thus, this program stands as an integrated, holistic, and deeply enriching journey towards achieving inner harmony and life satisfaction.

Can I get CEU’s (Continuing Education Units) for completing the course or modules?

I’m not set up to provide board-approved CEU’s, but if you complete the course, you will receive a certificate that indicates that the course takes a minimum of 1,248 hours to complete (including lessons, reading, videos, practices, and logs). That assumes the following formula (2 hours per day) x (6 days per week) x (104 weeks). If you complete the course and receive a certificate of completion, the certificate will say that you have “successfully completed the two year Strengthening Your Conscious Self Mindfulness Masterclass including approximately 1,284 hrs of instruction, reading, and practice. A transcript will also be included with a breakdown of the modules listing the time and study material. It will be up to you to determine if any of the work can be counted toward your CEU requirements, depending on your licensing and regulating boards.

Common Concerns about Formal Practice

Are mindfulness and meditation practices more difficult for those with Autism and/or ADHD?

The program is intentionally designed to be as inclusive as possible. The approaches that have been integrated into the program have been modified in order to be more inclusive. Several principles, elements, and techniques are present in all of the approaches so I have condensed and combined them into one course for ease of access and implementation.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disorder that affects functioning in multiple areas. Recent studies show that autism is often accompanied by other psychiatric problems, including depression, anxiety, hyperactivity, inattention and distress. Evidence points to depression being the most common psychiatric disorder seen in autism. Especially adults with a relatively high cognitive ability tend to develop symptoms of depression, possibly because they are more aware of expectations of the outside world and their inability to meet those expectations.

Symptoms of depression in adults with autism differ to those in other individuals, and range from an increase in difficulty with change to an increased sensitivity for sensory stimuli. An important aspect related to depression and distress in people with autism is the tendency to ruminate. This can be described as having repetitive thoughts, a process which is very difficult to stop. Adults with autism, for instance, often lay awake at night, pondering about the events of the day, analyzing them in detail. The tendency of people with autism to ruminate appears related to the detailed information processing style that characterizes autism.

Various interventions have been devised to alleviate distress and co morbid symptoms in autism, although evidence of their efficacy is still limited. Most of these interventions are aimed at adapting the environment to meet the needs of the person with autism. Notwithstanding the importance of such interventions, it has become increasingly clear that there is a need for therapies that offer tools that people with autism can use themselves to actively tackle problem situations and reduce distress. Especially the adults with high functioning autism may be able to acquire and use self-help techniques they can utilize in daily life.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) can be modified for the benefit of individuals with certain subtypes of autism and different locations on the spectrum. These therapies aim to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in autism and alleviate distress in general. Dysfunctional thoughts and emotions can be analyzed and modified into more functional thoughts and emotions. Recent preliminary studies in autism show promising results, especially for symptoms of anxiety and depression.

In MBSR, a person learns to focus their attention on the present moment, which impedes ruminative thoughts and emotions. MBSR has recently been modified for people with autism, taking into account their information processing characteristics. A clear merit of this intervention is that it requires few theory of mind and communication skills, since thoughts and emotions are not analyzed. During the MBSR training, meditation skills are taught, which the individual can utilize in their everyday life, in order to reduce rumination and symptoms of distress. The skills can be applied in any situation a person encounters in their life. A drawback of mindfulness based interventions is the time involved; participants need to practice at home for half an hour to an hour a day during the training. For the individuals with ASD who do the training, MBSR seems an effective treatment to reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression and rumination (Spek et al., submitted).

An individual diagnosed with ADHD may face some unique challenges when practicing mindfulness or meditation compared to other people. Certain symptoms may make it more challenging, such as difficulty sitting still, time blindness, trouble focusing, anxiety and worry, or ADHD hyperfixation. However, this does not mean that those with ADHD cannot practice meditation. Rather, consistency, determination, and a desire to learn may foster resilience in overcoming these potential issues.

There are a variety of meditation techniques that an individual with ADHD can try. Different styles may work better for one person, but not another. It is worth trying out different approaches to find which one(s) work best for you. Here are some approaches that have shown to effective for people with ADHD and may even improve the symptoms of ADHD.

  • Mindfulness (wise mind paired with what and how skills from DBT)
  • Breathwork (breathing techniques)
  • Positive Affirmation Matras
  • Body Scan
  • Grounding

For more information about Mindfulness, Meditation, and ADHD, visit this page [ADHD and Meditation]

I have strong emotional (or physical) reactions. Is this normal?

It’s a common misunderstanding that if you are doing mindfulness meditation “right”, then the experience will necessarily be calm and peaceful. In the beginning, it can seem like the opposite is happening, and things may feel more chaotic than normal. This is actually a sign that you are beginning to pay closer attention to inner experience, which is central to mindfulness meditation. If you encounter difficult emotions, intrusive thoughts, mental distractions, or physical sensations, you might see if it’s possible to just allow them to be there, without trying to push them away, and gently come back to breath or the audio guidance.

In time and with practice, as Tara Brach says, “you will come to see that strong reactions are like a weather system that swoops in, stays for a while, and eventually dissipates. Embodied presence cultivates a wise and compassionate relationship with the reactions rather than judging, rejections, or drowning in the experience”. We will consider more direct ways to deal with difficult emotions or physical sensations in the modules, but for now, see if you can just let them be.

If the reactions are frightening and you feel so fearful that you can’t continue the practice and/or you don’t feel grounded enough to be with them, you may need to make a change in how you are practicing. You can open your eyes, take several full deep breaths, name a sensory experience for each of your 5 senses, look around the room to orient yourself, and sense what is needed now to settle and calm the mind and body before returning to the practice. If necessary, you can stop the practice altogether, have a cup of tea, take a walk, pet your cat or dog, or reach out to a friend.

If this continues to happen every time you attempt the practice, and there isn’t a point where you feel a “release” or letting up of the emotional or physical reaction, but that it just accelerates or is frightening, you may need to discontinue doing this practice, or possibly even the course. It sometimes happens that these practices can provide an opening to significant and unresolved issues or past trauma. In that case, it may be helpful to get the assistance of a good therapist or counselor before continuing with the course.

I keep nodding off or falling asleep

This is a very common response to being still and quiet, and happens periodically with all meditators. The short answer is, “don’t worry about it”, but that’s probably not a very satisfying answer, so…

There can be many things involved here, the most likely of which is that you simply need the sleep. Many of us live in a very fast-paced environment, both at work and at home, and are in a pretty much continual state of sleep-deprivation. Another possibility is that when we move from the normal go-go-go mode and we lay or sit quietly, our body “thinks” it must be time to sleep, because we don’t have much experience with being both still and alert at the same time. Being externally still, while maintaining vivid inner awareness is a special skill we are developing through the practices of this course.

Whatever the cause, see if you can get curious about what sleepiness feels like in the body and mind. Precisely how does this feel – where does the sleepiness start, how do you first notice it? Also notice, too, if you have a judgment about falling asleep (“I must not be doing this right”). Mindfulness is not actually about changing your experience, it’s about bringing full awareness to it, even if what it is you are being aware of is your sleepiness and/or judgment about it.

To help keep from nodding off so easily, you can try the meditation with eyes open or partly open, in a soft gaze, while maintaining focus on inner experience. If you are doing a sitting meditation, you might try sitting up straighter so that you aren’t leaning against a backrest. That way, if you start to fall asleep, your upper body falling or slumping will wake you up so that you can continue the meditation.

If you are doing a body scan and opening the eyes doesn’t help, you can do it sitting in a chair or recliner. Another option is to create what I call a “forearm sleep alarm”. To do this, while laying down on your back, raise your right or left forearm, bending your arm 90 degrees at the elbow, so that the forearm is vertical and in the air, while the elbow and upper arm remain on the mat. With a little experimenting, you can find the balance point where you can maintain this position with gentle attention, keeping your forearm/hand balanced over the elbow. Doing it this way, your arm falling to one side or another will let you know that you’ve nodded off.

If nothing mentioned here works, then it’s possible you need the sleep more than you need the meditation. If that’s the case, see if you can allow yourself to enjoy the rest that your body so clearly needs.

I don’t fall asleep, but I keep drifting off, missing whole parts of the meditation…

It can seem that there is more “drifting off” into thoughts, feelings, and images than there is “meditation”, especially in the beginning. But, in MBSR, we consider everything that comes into awareness to be part of the meditation, even when we are “straying” from the object of meditation, whether it be breath in a sitting meditation, or body sensation in a body scan or yoga.

When you notice you’ve strayed, you simply bring yourself gently, but firmly, back to the guidance or the object of awareness. Every time you do this, you are, in fact, “waking up” to your present-moment experience, and is cause for celebration. Dan Harris, the ABC News anchor who had an on-air panic attack in 2004 and the author of 10% Happier says that every time you become aware of your mind wandering, you are breaking a life-long habit of being lost in the past or future, missing what’s right in front of you.

I cannot stop my mind from wandering!

Not only is it impossible to stop wandering from happening, meditation includes the times when our attention has strayed from the object of awareness. Every one of us, without exception have minds that wander, at least to some degree, so a key part of the practice here is learning, through practice, that this is normal. In time, there will be less wandering, and when it does happen, you will not be so disturbed by it.

The more practice you get in dealing with this, paradoxically, the stronger your concentration and sense of peace will be. Sometimes it’s said that the “wandering thoughts are the weights that train the muscles of the mind”. A key part of this course is learning to have a kinder attitude toward our own thinking process, and in turn, a gentler, easier, attitude toward and for ourselves.

It might help to realize that the only way you can know that your mind is wandering (thinking, fantasies, worries) is when you have come back into awareness of the present moment. So, see if you can shift your point of view so that every time you notice you are distracted, it is at that precise moment you are aware of the present moment, and it is actually cause for celebration, not frustration. If your mind wanders 100 times, that means it came back at least 99 times, and each of those is an awakening – 99 awakenings in a single meditation! How can that be bad?!? This is not a trick to make you feel better about a “watered-down meditation”, but is really at the core of what meditation is about.

If you were training a puppy to fetch, and if he wanders all over the yard before finally bringing the stick back, you don’t hit him when he returns with the stick, you reward him for bringing it back. Each time you are aware of your mind wandering, you are bringing the stick back.

I can’t physically hold the required position comfortably.

The exact position is not actually critical. It’s important you find a position in which you can be both alert and comfortable, and that may mean modifying things somewhat. It’s not expected that you be absolutely still during the practices. If you need to shift position, that’s no problem, but it’s a good practice in mindfulness to first notice the urge to move before actually shifting position, hesitating for just a moment, and then move, if necessary. This makes it a mindful movement and not an unconscious one.
For “sitting” meditation: If you are sitting on the floor, it can help to elevate your hips substantially with cushions or a meditation bench so that they are higher than your knees. If you are in a chair, we normally recommend that you don’t lean back on the back rest. Sitting upright in this way is more conducive to staying awake and aware, and has the added benefit that if you were to nod off, you would begin to fall or slump to one side or another, which would wake you. If this is not possible to do comfortably, it’s fine to lean back. If no sitting position at all works for you, you can do the “sitting” meditation in a recliner or on your back, on the floor or a bed, or even while standing.

For the body scan: If lying on your back is causing back pain, you can try elevating your knees with a cushion under the knees, or on the bed instead of the floor, or you can try doing it in a sitting position in a chair or a recliner.

How do you pay attention to breath without trying to control it?

This is a common experience, especially for those of us who have learned techniques of breath control (“deep” breathing, pranayama, breathing from the diaphram and not the chest, etc.). In this type of meditation, we are not trying to change our breathing, but simply to have a non-judgmental and gentle awareness of it. It may naturally happen that our breath slows or becomes deeper or more abdominal, but it’s not because we are forcing it to be that way. It can be said that in this type of meditation we observe the breath the way you might observe the waves at the beach, just letting the waves be how they are, noticing them coming in, spreading out on the sand, going back out – you’re not trying to change them, just appreciating them just as they are.

This can be challenging and takes practice. The breath is a bodily function that can be fully automatic (as it usually is), or controlled. We are learning to pay very, very close attention to something that can be controlled, but doesn’t have to be. This learning can transfer to other areas of our life where we might normally try to control something, but it’s best to let it be, but in a way that brings full attention to what’s happening.

That being said, if you find yourself controlling your breath, see if you can just let that be, that is, don’t fight the controlling. Make the practice be about noticing how the control is happening. Are you trying to make breath even? Are you trying to make it full? Are you trying to give it a certain rhythm? Don’t try to stop it, however it’s manifesting, just notice the controlling, and notice at what point the controlling exerts itself. That is your present moment experience, and is just as valid a form of meditation as paying careful attention when you aren’t controlling.

If you stay with this, and don’t beat yourself up for controlling things, you might find, just by accident, you have a breath or two that happen on their own, or even part of one, without a significant element of control. If you don’t try to control the controlling, the controlling will eventually fade away.

I have trouble using breath as a focus in meditation. Is there an alternative?

We use breath as an anchor for meditation because there is always something happening and it tends to bring us into present-moment awareness. Also, it is a process that can happen automatically, or it can be controlled, so by paying non-intrusive attention to the breath you build the capacity to be with something that you could try to control, but you stay in close contact with it without controlling it, just letting it be. This is a skill that is helpful in so many areas of our life, especially those times when controlling isn’t actually possible or desirable (e.g., some situations with parenting, work, relationships).
That being said, there are times when using breath is problematic, either because it seems impossible to be with it without trying to control it (see the FAQ, above), or because breath is not a restful place to be, which can be the case if you have chronic breathing problems (e.g., asthma, COPD). There are a number of alternatives to breath, including sensations in your hands or another part of your body, or sounds, using a simple mantra such as “peace”, or an internal image of something or someone inspiring, or a favorite piece of art, or a pet.

If the problem is that you can’t “find” breath, you can use your hand on your belly as a way of coming into contact with breath, or bring your hand to your nostrils where you can feel the air as it moves in and out, or any of the ways above that don’t involve breath. In the end, the important thing is to have someplace to come back to when your attention wavers, ideally someplace neutral or pleasant. If you haven’t read it or reviewed it recently, the article on Sitting Meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn is excellent and might be helpful.

In the body scan, I have a hard time finding sensation in parts of my body…

Most of us are not used to paying such close attention to body sensation, and as you follow the guidance, you may feel nothing in particular in some, or even many, parts of the body. It is enough to simply to be attentive to breath or body so that if/when something does present itself, you are more likely to notice it. This, too, is mindfulness, even if you are not feeling any distinct sensation.

Over time, with practice, you will notice sensations where you didn’t notice any previously. It might help, too, to become familiar with the types of things you may be aware of by looking at the list at the end of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s description of the Body Scan. Notice that the list includes emotions and thoughts in addition to body sensation. For instance, you might notice you are impatient with yourself or having thoughts about wanting to sense something but not feeling anything. This, too, is mindful awareness.
As with all mindfulness practices, see if it’s possible to be curious and friendly to whatever your experience is, even if it is having thoughts about things not being as you expect or want them to be.

One approach I have used with clients is a guided meditation intervention and technique called “cued progressive muscle relaxation” whereby you pair breathing rhythms with activating tension in muscles and body areas on the in breath, and relax the muscle or area on the out breath. You would also be mindfully reflecting on the sensation of tension, and the sensation of relaxation, and the difference. This technique allows you to access awareness of your physical body.

Can I do the 30-minute practices in several shorter sessions during the day?

For the purposes of the course, I’d say to try do the 30-minute practices without breaking them into smaller sessions. The spoken guidance will be more effectfive if it’s listened to without a long break in the middle. Also, and maybe more importantly, not breaking the practice up will increase your capacity to “stay” with your own experience, a central part of MBSR. Learning to stay with something even through boredom and impatience is a key part of the course.

If you “stay”, you may discover that there are periods where the boredom and impatience just unexpectedly dissolve, at least momentarily, and this can begin to unravel the idea that every uncomfortable experience has to be “fixed” before you can feel better. After the course is over, you will be able to choose which practices to do and for how long, but by then you will know from experience which works best for you.

As with all mindfulness practices, see if it’s possible to be curious and friendly to whatever your experience is, even if it is having thoughts about things not being as you expect or want them to be.

I already have a yoga practice/class. Can that substitute for the yoga in this course?

It could well be that the yoga you are already doing would be a perfect substitute for the yoga in this course. Like the yoga in this program, it may be slow, mindful, and explicitly bring in breath awareness and body sensation, but there are literally dozens of very different kinds of yoga, and it’s hard to know whether what you already practice would be a good substitute. Many experienced yoga practitioners, and even some who were themselves yoga instructors when they began the course, discover that having done a few weeks of MBSR yoga, their experience of doing or teaching yoga has shifted in subtle, but important ways. For these reasons, we suggest doing the yoga that is included in the course, either instead of, or in addition to, your regular yoga class. After the course ends, of course, you may choose to do any other kind of yoga that feels right to you.

What if I don’t have anything to write in the informal log at the end of the day?

If you can’t recall anything that happened related to the assignment, you just indicate that on the log, but in most cases, if you think about it, there probably was something during the day that related to the informal practice, even if you weren’t fully aware of it at the time.

For instance, in one of the modules, the informal practice is to recall an unpleasant experience. If, at the end of the day, you can’t recall an unpleasant experience, or even a mildly annoying one, see if you can recall any experience during the day for which you can answer the questions in the log (even if it’s not particularly unpleasant). If you can’t recall what you were noticing then (body sensations, moods, feelings, thoughts), you can write about what you are noticing now (annoyance about not recalling anything, tired from the day, etc.), without worrying too much about what goes in which box. The main thing is that you are bringing awareness to your experience, whether that experience was during the day or now.

General Concerns

I can’t get to sleep and/or I wake up at 3am with racing thoughts.

The answer that follows was originally written by Dave Potter, but it has also been my experience, so the syntax remains the same as the original source. (James Fitzgerald)

This happens me when I’ve got some financial or accounting problem or difficult situation, and I wake up at 3am or 4am, worrying about what’s going to happen or re-playing what’s already happened in my head. I used to try to keep the 3am mind-racing from happening, but I discovered that all this did was add another layer of mind-racing, in the form of thoughts like “I can’t afford to be awake right now – I need my sleep! Why can’t I just sleep now?!? I have to get up in x hours!”.

Over time, I’ve learned to just let it be, knowing that I will be thinking about things through the night because of the importance of what just happened or is about to happen, letting it play like a “B” movie while I just “watch” (a little bit of this is actually useful, playing out the possibilities, like trying to place jigsaw puzzle pieces together, but you don’t want to do that all night).

After it plays for a little while, rather than trying to make it stop with another set of thoughts (e.g., “I can’t be doing this! I need to sleep!”), I gently bring attention to breath or do a mini-body-scan. This usually works for an instant or two and my mind starts racing again, but then, just as we do in mindfulness meditation, I gently but firmly bring attention back to breath or body, not fighting the inevitable return to racing thoughts. After many rounds like this, without knowing when it happened, I will wake up 15-20-30 minutes later and realize I dozed off for that time. Then, the process begins again, alternating between mind-racing and attention to body or breath, and I wake up again some time later. It sometimes happens that I go in and out of sleep every 15-20-30 minutes for many hours, right up until I have to get up, but what I’ve discovered is that if I don’t fight the process, I usually wake up surprisingly refreshed.

You can experiment to see what works best for you, but think of the whole process as an opportunity for meditation. The most important part of this process is to maintain an attitude of gentleness, being kind to yourself. This is possible, even in the midst of the racing throughts. There is a short video in the course modules by Michelle DuVal about this very topic.

Won’t “accepting things as they are” make me passive or ineffective?

Many of the people I work with in therapy who have been participants in DBT groups have reported their discomfort with this particular concept in DBT. “Acceptance”, as it is used in this course, doesn’t mean that you should be passive, not protect yourself, or give in to abuse. It does not excuse someone who should be held accountable for their actions, responsible for their decisions, and live with and not have to have the consequences. It simply means that you fully acknowledge the current moment (feelings, thoughts, sensations, and perceptions). If you can do this, you will be more effective at taking action in the next moment (if action is called for) than if you deny your inner experience or outer situation.

Even if it’s a situation that requires high energy or acting decisively, you will be more effective if there is full acknowledgment and awareness of your actual situation. Also, because you are not fighting with your own inner or outer experience, your actions will be more appropriate to the situation at hand, and will be smoother and more effective. A more detailed explanation is explored and provided in the content of the course.

I have a question that wasn’t addressed by this FAQ page

Please feel free to reach out to me through the contact page. Any communication deemed spam or scams will be deleted and ignored, and authentic questions will be answered as quickly as I am able to answer them. Please allow up to 48 hours for me to respond.


The questions and answers were formulated and modeled after the FAQs from a free mindfulness based stress reduction course (MBSR) offered by Dave Potter at (palousemindfulness.com). He provides the material for free and allows free use by other professionals, and only asks that they credit his work on the pages that use his content.