This feature by Randy Wolbert is the second part in his two-part series about the practice of mindfulness. Part 1 discussed the value of incorporating mindful practicing into your life, and in this part Randy addresses how to get started.
In the first part of this feature on mindfulness, we learned that sitting in meditation every day is the “what.” Let’s talk about the “how.”
The core mindfulness skills of DBT are the operational instructions for how to do mindful meditation and were developed by Marsha from her own Zen practice with advice and guidance from her Zen teacher, Willigis Jaeger.
In Zen we sit with our eyes open – actually, about half closed. Take a couple of nice deep breaths and then on the exhalation count one to yourself. Inhale next breath – count two, then three, then four, then five. Count each exhalation until ten and then start over. When you count one you only count one, letting go of everything besides one. Only one, only two – the word “only” is the only constant in all of our practice. If you find yourself getting lost, no problem – just go back to one. If you find yourself someplace other than the present, no problem – just go back to only one.
Of course, by your very nature since you are not dead or deeply drugged, you will find thoughts and feelings rising and then dancing around in your mind. Let them come and let them go. Do not invite them in for a long chat, do not fight the demand of critical importance, do not judge yourself for having them, and, of course, don’t judge yourself for having judgments about yourself. This can be the constant background chatter from your internal narrator – telling you things like, “I am not doing this right,” “I should be better at this.” So, work to gently tell your internal narrator to shut up. Stop talking and thinking and there is nothing you will not be able to know.
Herodotus said in 500 BC, “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” The practice of mindfulness has to be like that for us – it has to be an all-weather practice in which we practice when we are experiencing internal fair skies and pleasant temperature or blistering heat, or numbing cold – or the whirling vortexes of our thoughts and emotions. It doesn’t matter how you feel – that doesn’t change anything. It is just our emotional weather. It doesn’t matter if you prefer to feel peaceful and serene – most of us would of course prefer emotional sunshine – recognize it and let it go.
Practice every day just to practice. According to Marsha, “There’s never a good time for mindfulness, and there’s never a bad time. Mindfulness is one of those things you simply do, because if you practice being aware – completely open to the universe, just exactly as it is – you will transform your life in time.”
Randy Wolbert, LMSW, CAADC, CCS is a DBT trainer with Behavioral Tech. Randy has been practicing DBT since 1995 and was a contractual trainer with BTECH since 1998 and transitioned to a full time trainer/consultant in 2015. Read his full biography here.