Session 20: Mindfulness
Note: Although the material in the participant’s manual looks similar there are some changes in the use
of pronouns to make it more personally relevant and in content so please review the manual.
A good definition of mindfulness is “moment to moment non-judgmental awareness.” Mindfulness
brings attention to one’s inner world of thoughts, feelings and intentions. Mindfulness practices such as
breathing exercises help clients become less stuck in old ways of being. They become able to observe
these patterns without investing in them – in becoming more aware of themselves they also become
aware that they can change their inner being.
Here is one saying that is very helpful: “Your thoughts and feelings are like clouds in the sky – they will
soon pass.” For instance, imagine a man who has been overly concerned about the possibility that his
wife is cheating on him. He will inevitably have thoughts and images of her cheating. In the past he might
have then physically attacked her because the mere fact that he had these thoughts made them seem
true to him. Now, if he can say to himself that these thoughts and images will soon pass he will be able
to relax and not act on them. Indeed, one of the most important aspects of mindfulness is its ability to
separate awareness from action; the mindful person observes his/her thoughts and impulses from
enough distance that they do not compel action.
Mindfulness may seem foreign to many clients, especially those who are most angry, since anger is an
externalizing emotion while mindfulness is an internalizing process. But that is exactly why it is so
valuable a tool. Clients who use it regularly significantly improve their ability to choose how to act rather
than let their habits of mind and action make those choices unconsciously.
Terry Fralich suggests that mindful meditation follows this pattern:
Focus →Distractions →Awareness →Release →Refocus
By this he means that first the meditator focuses upon something (his/her breathe, an object, etc.).
Inevitably distractions arise in our busy brains (worries, random thoughts, itches, etc.). The meditator
becomes fully aware of these distractions. But then the individual releases the thought or distraction
without judging it and so can refocus on breathing.
We emphasize the non-judgmental aspect of mindfulness. The idea is to become aware of all that crosses one’s mind without judging any of it as bad – but also without judging any of it as bad. Non- judgment of self may be the first step in not judging others as well. For instance, that could mean the woman who had judged herself as bad for hating her cheating husband will both quit attacking herself and also quit despising her husband.
The basic breathing exercise that was introduced in session 6 should be practiced again here. After doing
it we suggest you ask clients it what situations could this kind of exercise be useful. You should also bring
up the subject of non-judgment by asking them in what situations they judge themselves harshly and
what it would mean to them be less self-attacking. From there you can go to them being less judgmental
We provide two more exercises on the following page, meant to be used in sequence with the breathing
exercise. They are particularly helpful with people who are quick to judge others as bad and with people