“The most precious gift we can offer ourselves is our presence.
When mindfulness touches us, our hearts open like blooming flowers”
Mindfulness-Based, Somatic and
If you are new to Mindfulness, or Therapy based on it, you may have many questions? Or, even if you’re a seasoned Mindfulness practitioner, you may wonder how it can be used in therapy?
What is Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapy? And how does it work? What happens in a session? Why Mindfulness-Based Therapy?
Practicing the skill of mindfulness through mindfulness-based therapy, will help you become increasingly aware of old, limiting patterns of thought, belief, behavior and emotion, that we've been conditioned and brainwashed into acting out and believing, because of our past wounding and hurtful abuse by others. You will experience more and more clearly, that these patterns of unconscious behavior, are actually rooted in your inner world - and in your present adult reality are not being caused by external circumstances and people.
In this psychotherapy, we engage difficult feelings rather than avoid or try to extinguish them. We believe that sitting in awareness of your adverse feelings, ”staying present”, will reveal the true source of your suffering. You will learn how to be fully present with the energetic charge or contraction connected to the distressing thoughts, memories and body sensations, which will then digest, dissolve or “metabolize” the contractions into wholeness. (For more on how the digestion or “metabolization” occurs, please see my Mindfulness-based and Somatic therapies page).
This is how the deepest healing happens. The more present you are with the actual physical energy connected to your suffering, the more the difficult pattern, core belief, or reaction is lessened. Eventually, the reaction will no longer happen, or you will be able to feel it coming on, before it has a chance to unconsciously hook you into acting it out.
This is called 'mindfulness', and is what mindfulness practice and mindfulness-based therapy helps you do. It helps you to become ever more self-aware of what is arising within you, from moment to moment. In mindfulness-based therapy, I help you practice and develop mindfulness, or present moment awareness.
Mindfulness-based therapy, along with mindful self-compassion and loving kindness, is the core of the Holistic Soul-Centered and Buddhist Psychotherapy I practice. It will assist you in coming out of the trance of ego-based unconsciousness, to become conscious, and be able to actually perceive things as they are, in the here and now. You will be able to experience the world, more and more, as it actually is, rather than experiencing it from a trance of unconsciousness.
Mindfulness-Based Therapy Case Examples
Here is an example that might present itself in our therapy: You may be experiencing a deep loss accompanied by grief that is causing depression, anxiety, sleep loss, lack of motivation, profound sorrow, physical illness or other natural but painful symptoms. This loss may be due to the death of a pet or other loved one, your personal loss related to your aging or chronic illness, or perhaps a difficult life transition such as a job change, relationship break-up, retirement or an unwanted move.
Due to the deep grief you are experiencing, you recently had a debilitating and very disturbing fight with a sibling. You had been speaking with your sister about how horrible you felt emotionally and that you weren’t suicidal, but told her it’s been very hard to get out of bed on most mornings, because Your sister then told you: you just need to “get busy and get over it” as it has been many months since your loss and it’s time to “move on”. You felt shocked and shamed, and very angry, all at the same time, and told her defensively, that you never should’ve told her anything personal, that’s shes never really cared about you, and you hung up on her.
This defensive and angry outburst of yours, surprised you, and you felt tremendous shame, self-blame and guilt, that over the next week, caused your symptoms to worsen. It prompted you to realize it was time to seek the loving, therapeutic support and wisdom of a grief therapist.
How We Might Work Together - Mindfulness of the Body and Thoughts
Upon seeing you, we might begin by working with what is happening in your body. Or we may focus on you becoming aware of the thoughts or memories that are connected to the negative reactions, shame or self-blame you are experiencing.
We would also work deeply with helping you to cultivate self-compassion and loving kindness for all that you are having to go through due to your painful loss. Please see my page on Mindful Self-Compassion for more about how this will unfold in our therapy session.
If we were using body-focused mindfulness, focusing on your body sensations when tuning into the anger or shame, you might describe a tightness in your chest that feels dark and ‘achy’. You then might note that it is heavy and hot, and suddenly feel a wave of emotion connected to a memory from your childhood, when your beloved pet died, and you were very sad and depressed.
In the memory, you had received a bad grade on a test, and your father, upon finding out, was extremely disappointed in you. You confided in him that you couldn’t focus since your dog had died, and you woke up many nights with nightmares about your dog dying.
After telling him, he shamed you, told you “your dog has been gone now for six months and it’s time to forget about it”. He also said that “she was finally out of her suffering and you need to be happy about that, instead of selfishly missing her”. You remember feeling upset with yourself for being so selfish, that your Dad was right, and you began to see yourself as a selfish person. You had to repress the anger you might have righteously felt towards your Dad for shaming you in such a way, and that anger became internalized toward yourself. You also took on a belief about being selfish, for having feelings of loss that might disturb others.
After realizing all of this in our session, you would be able to see the reason why you reacted so angrily to your sister, and why the aftermath was filled with shame and self-blame. You would be able to see how you were reacting more to something that happened in your past, than to what was happening in the here-and-now.
With this new awareness, you would be able to identify this wound from your childhood as completely separate from your current relationship with your sister. You would begin to understand that your sister has likely taken on your Dad’s shaming behavior pattern, and is also unable to acknowledge her own grief, thus unable to validate yours as well.
The mindful self-compassion work would also help you to see clearly that you couldn’t help but be triggered into anger and shame in that situation, and you would learn how to nurture yourself through this experience - with kindness, empathy and compassionate understanding.
In a later conversation with your sister, it’s likely you’d able to apologize to her for the name-calling, and be present for her with empathy and understanding for how she’d been hurt in the same way, causing her belittling, abusive behavior toward you. It would be clear that her behavior was truly not personal, just a re-enactment of her own childhood wounding.
You would likely feel very grateful for facing and clearing this unfinished business from your own past. Additionally, you would have begun the process of observing the contents of your mind and body sensations. In addition to being called “mindful” - this inner awareness is also called “being present for yourself”, “present moment awareness”, or “witnessing”.