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The essence is mindfulness is being aware of what the present moment offers. It may seem like a straight-forward, even simple, concept but tuning in to the here-and-now can be challenging and fraught with barriers.
You may have observed in your clients’ increasingly busy lives that time is not taken to stop, relate, and enjoy the moment. Instead competing motives, desires and distractions become inescapable and consuming.
However, through professional mindfulness training, you can teach others how to disregard some of these distractions, and act on those that are most compatible with living mindfully.
The Mindfulness X coaching program is a science- and practice-based method of enhancing the lives of your patients and clients. By developing your personal authenticity and practical know-how, you can teach mindfulness practices safely while confidently dealing with potential challenges, thus enabling you to make a lasting impact on the lives of your clients, students or team-members while providing new growth opportunities for your practice or business.
Whether you have a professional interest in the program or are already a member of the Mindfulness X platform, the following article will provide insights into what the program is, practical advice on how you can best coach mindfulness using the abundant Mindfulness X resources, and examples of how to instruct selected mindfulness exercises in order to support good practice.
This article contains:
- What is the Mindfulness X Program?
- Who is Mindfulness X For?
- Train-the-Trainer with Mindfulness X
- The 8 Pillars of Mindfulness
- Training ‘Attention and the Now’ with Mindfulness X
- The Body Scan
- The Body Scan – Advice from the Mindfulness X Practitioner’s Manual
- Training ‘Judging’ with Mindfulness X
- Exercise – Seated Judgment Meditation
- Seated Judgment Meditation – Advice from the Mindfulness X Practitioner’s Manual
- The Role of Homework
- A Take-Home Message
What is the Mindfulness X Program?
The concept of mindfulness has been accepted and successfully incorporated into many therapeutic interventions in the fields of medicine and psychology. While people are oftentimes largely unaware of their moment-to-moment experience, developing the ability to sustain attention on the present moment is teachable, achievable and can be intensely beneficial.
Mindfulness is a gradual, progressive process and one that requires regular practice. However, once mastered, the persistent, non-judgmental observation of negative and positive experiences will gradually give rise to greater authenticity of perceptions (Grossman, Niemann, Schmidt, & Walach, 2004).
As more accurate perceptions of one’s own mental responses to external and internal stimuli are achieved, additional information is gathered that will enhance effective actions in the world, and lead to a greater sense of control for your clients.
With the seemingly endless supply of mindfulness advice currently available, you might ask ‘What sets the Mindfulness X program apart from rest?’ A quick online search will produce page upon page of mindfulness activities, however, little attention is devoted to the science and empirical evidence that forms the foundations of effective mindfulness training.
While others focus on practices alone, Mindfulness X addresses the underlying psychological mechanisms of mindfulness allowing you to side-step the pitfalls that may result from unguided mindfulness practices.
Newly improved and extended in 2019, Mindfulness X has been developed with the knowledge that the effects of mindfulness are strongly determined both by the quality of the instructions given and a joint understanding of what can be realistically achieved through mindfulness practices.
As such, this unique and complete program gives professionals like you the tools required to safely and successfully teach mindfulness to others in a way that can be incorporated into their daily activities.
A fully customizable training template, Mindfulness X strikes the balance between repetitive and varied practices so that skills can be developed and your clients’ attention is maintained – only ever doing one type of exercise can become boring and create problems with engagement. Although balancing variety and repetition can be an issue with mindfulness training, the variety of exercises provided by the program will consistently sustain interest and engagement.
In addition to the carefully formatted and designed materials developed for you, the practitioner, Mindfulness X contains PowerPoint slides, a printable workbook for participants, guided meditations and even a certificate that you can reward clients with upon successfully completing your training.
Mindfulness X includes:
- An instruction manual for you as a practitioner containing a complete guide of eight sequential mindfulness sessions so that you can effectively deliver each of the eight sessions (text, PDF).
- A workbook to print out and give to your participants. The workbook includes everything your clients will need to prepare for and participate in each session, plus homework logbooks to record their daily practices (text, PDF).
- 8 video lectures to walk you through each session, each of which will give you clear and precise insight into the topic of each session and provide you with all the information required to deliver the presentations yourself (MP4).
- Dedicated area for your participants with videos for each topic covered throughout the course.
- 8 PowerPoint presentations (slides, PPT).
- Guided meditations (audio, MP3).
- Lifetime updates and dedicated support.
- A complete ‘Train the Trainer’ course in which you will learn everything you need to know in order to successfully instruct the full 8-week course (+ lesson summaries).
- White-Label Rights: use all materials under your own brand.
Designed for people like you who are passionate about helping others improve their lives in meaningful ways, the program includes everything you need to deliver high-quality mindfulness training while ensuring the practices involved are based on sound, verifiable and empirically-backed theories.
You can be certain that Mindfulness X has the depth and integrity to provide a range of possible routes to mindfulness.
Who is Mindfulness X For?
Mindfulness X was designed by professionals, for professionals. If you are passionate about helping others improve their lives in meaningful ways, and value the practice and insight in psychological processes then this program is for you.
The complete Mindfulness X package is for those with a desire to deliver high-quality mindfulness training, including but not limited to:
- Clinical and health psychologists
- Clinical social workers
- Marriage and family therapists
- Mindfulness trainers
- Professional Counselors
- Occupational therapists
- Physical therapists
- Pastoral counselors and spiritual directors
- Life coaches
- Organizational development professionals
- Teachers and professionals in higher education
In short, Mindfulness X is designed for professionals with an interest in helping others find their way to the benefits of mindfulness by being present in the moment. Mindfulness offers tremendous potential in organizational and healthcare settings, both for individual well-being and for the transformation of workplace cultures.
If you are committed to the program and to making positive changes for you and your clients, you have the potential to transform not only your own personal and working life but also the lives of those you train.
Train-the-Trainer with Mindfulness X
While it is true that the self-focused attention encouraged through mindfulness practices has many positive correlates, including self-knowledge, insight, self-regulation, and emotion regulation (McFarland, Buehler, von Ruti, Nguyen, & Alvaro, 2007), a large body of literature suggests that high levels of self-focused attention can be maladaptive if carried out incorrectly.
In fact, Ingram (1990) suggested it would be difficult to ﬁnd a psychological disorder that is not characterized by a heightened degree of self-focused attention. According to Trapnell & Campbell (1999), different forms of self-focused attention have distinct functional properties.
For instance, ruminative self-focus, which involves thinking analytically about the causes, meanings, and consequences of internal experiences, is related to increased distress and pathology.
Individuals exhibiting active symptoms of certain psychiatric conditions – psychosis, suicidal thoughts, extreme anxiety and PTSD for example – may find that mindfulness practice aggravates or exacerbates existing symptoms.
In contrast, a reflective, open-minded, and experiential self-focus with more concrete awareness of present-moment details is associated with adaptive outcomes and decentering – by which, cognitions are observed and noted as mental events that come and go rather than as aspects of the self or as truths that dictate behavior (Watkins, 2008; Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson,1999).
For this very reason, it is imperative as a mindfulness trainer that you can effectively deliver the training and understand the possible negative effects. After all, your aim is to improve rather than reduce the well-being of your participants.
Mindfulness X gives you the materials required to guide clients through each mindfulness practice in a safe, professional manner. The “train-the-trainer” section is designed for you and contains essential advice on how to effectively deliver the training.
For the purpose of this article we will discuss just a few of the topics included in the train-the-trainer section, namely: getting to know your participants, why it’s important to practice what you preach, and advice on how to best guide meditation.
1. Know Your Participants
A key feature of the Mindfulness X program is the emphasis placed on getting to know your participants in order to safely guide them through each session and the accompanying exercises.
Getting to know your clients will not only help you to tailor your program to their needs, but it will also prevent you from including people in your training that you are not qualified to work with, ensuring their current situation matches your level of professional expertise.
For instance, if you have no professional training background in clinical psychology or psychiatry, you should not include those who are undergoing psychological treatment or have undergone psychological treatment.
Included in the program is a structured intake assessment form to effectively screen your participants before the start of the training. Among the questions posed are:
- Have you practiced other forms of meditation before?
- Are you currently using medication? If so, what kind of medication do you use?
- Do you have a past or current history of depression, anxiety, eating disorder, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD or any other mental health concerns?
This form should be completed by all potential participants in order to ensure you have sufficient knowledge of their background, any potential challenges that may arise, and that they are well motivated.
2. Practice What You Preach
Mindfulness X provides advice on how to practice what you preach – after all, you can only guide others as far as you yourself have ventured. According to Sousa (2006, pp. 95) “We learn 10% of what we read, 70% of what we discuss, 80% of what we experience, and 95% of what we teach others.”
It is important that your participants have confidence in your abilities – that you are prepared and capable. By putting yourself in the place of your client and fully absorbing both the content and the context of the material provided, you can experience the training process, become aware of the potential challenges, and better connect with their experiences, thus maximizing efficacy.
Research suggests that long-term mindfulness practice can positively impact your ability as a practitioner to distinguish your own experience from those of your clients, to increase patience, develop beneficial attentional processes, and help develop self-insight (Rothaupt & Morgan, 2007).
Furthermore, it is proposed that the skills and abilities developed by instructors through mindfulness practice actually strengthen the therapeutic relationship perceptions of the client or participant (Davis & Hayes, 2011).
Kabat-Zinn (2003) stated that mindfulness cannot be taught to others in an authentic way without the instructor practicing it in his or her own life. Clinicians with personal experience of mindfulness are more likely to give clear advice and feedback, and to correct ineffective efforts on the clients’ part.
Conversely, it is likely that attempting to use mindfulness techniques in the absence of personal experience will lead to incompetent interventions (Thompson & Gauntlett-Gilbert, 2008). To draw a parallel, it would be more than reasonable to doubt the competence of a pilot who had read plenty of books on flying but had never actually flown an airplane.
Rather than functioning as a leader, consider your role as one of stewardship. The idea of serving as a group steward or protector maintains the egalitarian integrity of the mindfulness training process. By creating a sense of completeness and equality in the group, no individual or subgroup (including you as the trainer) is set apart from the rest (McCown, Reibel, & Micozzi, 2010).
The overarching message from McCown, Reibel, & Micozzi (2010) is that mindfulness training is inherently non-hierarchical in nature. In your role as a teacher, you will carefully guide your clients’ experience in such a way that it naturally evolves into a place of understanding the practice.
In this way, your task is not to make yourself indispensable in the exploration and understanding of mindfulness, instead, participants should be encouraged to examine their own experiences, thus turning toward their own lives as a way of deepening mindfulness practice in the present moment.
3. Instructing Meditation
The Mindfulness X practitioner manual is your one-stop resource for advice and guidance on the many mindfulness exercises included in the program. An essential skill you will learn and develop is how to successfully guide meditation.
While multiple forms of meditation are included in the program, each with their own specific set of instructions and advice, the instructions that follow can be applied universally to each meditative practice.
You should always refer to the “Formal Meditations” chapter in your manual for a detailed description and transcript of each meditation.
Communication before you begin any meditation is vital. As such, Mindfulness X details how best to articulate to participants what they may expect to encounter and how to maintain a suitable mindset, thus priming them to be more receptive to the experience:
- Rather than thinking about the end goal, your participants should sit with whatever sensations occur in the moment. There is no right or wrong, it just is.
- Your participants’ mentality should be one of self-compassion. If the mind wanders, gently bring it back to the area of focus.
- Communicate that they have the opportunity to be curious as opposed to being judgmental with themselves.
- Encourage letting go of black and white thinking. One way to practice this is through the redirection of attention.
Participants should then adopt a wakeful, alert position (tall, straight back, relaxed shoulders, and eyes having a soft gaze or closed is a common posture for meditation). This posture is important as it serves as a reminder that while meditation can be relaxing, it is also serving another purpose.
Before you begin, refer to your participants’ intake form – have they ever practiced other forms of meditation before? You should know your group and their level of experience: if participants are new to meditation it can be helpful to hear your voice throughout, however, speaking frequently throughout meditation can be distracting for those who are more experienced.
It is likely that your participants will experience a whole range of emotions and sensations, not all of them will be positive or welcomed. For instance, pain in different areas of the body can occur in meditations. Rather than moving to alleviate this discomfort, invite participants to observe the impulse to move, to sit with the pain, and observe what the mind does in reaction to their pain.
During the meditation, you should be actively involved in the practice alongside your participants. This not only helps you to be in alignment with participants but also helps you to connect and be a part of the group.
Should any challenges arise, Mindfulness X also incorporates a complete chapter dedicated to troubleshooting which provides an overview of and solutions to common problems and challenges – such as boredom, discomfort, and restlessness – that can arise when clients start to meditate or wish to continue meditating.
Additionally, you will find a dedicated support section on the platform where the Mindfulness X developer, Hugo Alberts, answers frequently asked questions.
The 8 Pillars of Mindfulness
The goal of Mindfulness X is to provide you with a science-based mindfulness approach that can be applied to your own client base. By dividing mindfulness into eight different building blocks, the program gives you all the guidance needed to teach your clients to become aware of their thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations in a way that they can relate to them non-judgmentally.
To competently train mindfulness in your clients, you will teach them about the most important pillars of mindfulness and how they can apply these principles of mindfulness to their everyday lives.
The sessions are structured as follows:
Session 1: Attention & the Now – A core component of mindfulness practices, is focusing attention on the present moment. In this session, you will familiarize participants with the two most important building blocks of mindfulness: attention and the present moment.
Session 2: Automaticity – While automaticity is essential for higher‐order thinking such as skilled reading and writing, it is also a barrier to mindfulness. In session two your participants will experience the automatic nature of their thoughts and how these thoughts cause emotions to emerge.
Session 3: Judgment – This session is designed to teach participants about the judgmental nature of their mind, its problematic aspects and how to navigate the obstacles on the journey to ‘open awareness’. You will guide your clients through the process of becoming more aware of and relating differently to thoughts, feelings, and body sensations while assisting them with cultivating non-judgmental observations moment by moment.
Session 4: Acceptance – Empirical analysis of acceptance and mindfulness suggests that many people deal with negative experiences by means of suppression and other control-based strategies (Hayes, Follette, & Linehan, 2004). This session aims to clarify the essence of acceptance by teaching participants how they can apply acceptance to difficult emotions, how to accept negative experiences as inevitable, and by explaining the goal of acceptance.
Session 5: Goals – An excessive focus on the future is perhaps one of the most common obstacles of the cultivation of mindful awareness. In this session, mindfulness is introduced as the key to finding a balance between being in the present moment and planning for the future.
Session 6: Compassion – A key facet of mindfulness is the absence of self-criticism. Rather than a self-compassionate attitude, many people suffer from a non-accepting and critical relationship with the self. In this session, participants become acquainted with their inner critic and learn how to effectively cultivate a friendly and caring relationship with the self by practicing self-compassion through meditation and self-caring action.
Session 7: The Ego – At the deepest level, mindfulness practice cultivates an observing relationship with the self rather than a static and thought-based story of “me”. In this session, several exercises allow participants to experience the difference between the self as a story and the self as an observer.
Session 8: Integration – Understanding how the different processes involved in mindfulness work together can be regarded as an essential insight. In this final session, participants will discover the connection between all the mindfulness processes covered in the previous sessions and focus on ways to continue integrating mindfulness in your clients’ daily lives.
So, let’s take a closer look at two of the sessions, namely ‘Attention and the Now’ and ‘Judging’:
Training ‘Attention and the Now’ with Mindfulness X
Being unaware of moment-to-moment experiences is a major barrier to mindfulness and one that you and your participants will begin to tackle in the first session. You will undoubtedly find that some (or all) of your participants are preoccupied with thoughts of the past and future, failing to pay attention to the here-and-now.
Throughout Mindfulness X the focus of your clients’ attention will shift from the past and/or the future to a focus on the present moment, thus developing a process of decentering and disidentification from personal experience (Segal, Williams, Teasdale, 2002).
The cultivation of attention to the present moment is at the heart of mindfulness and as such the objective of this first session is to familiarize participants with the two most important building blocks of mindfulness, attention and the present moment.
While people are largely unaware of their moment-to-moment experiences – often operating in autopilot without even realizing – they are capable of developing the ability to sustain attention through training and practice (Grossman, Niemann, Schmidt, & Walach, 2004).
As the practitioner, you will have familiarized yourself with the Mindfulness X recommended guidance training. Once you have mastered the train-the-trainer lessons you can confidently guide participants through a series of sustained attention exercises in which the objective is to become connected with and remain connected to an object of focused attention, for example breathing or a particular part of the body.
While the Mindfulness X practitioner manual details multiple exercises to practice the awareness of thoughts and emotions in a simple and non-judgmental way, for the purpose of this article we will discuss the body scan and how you can effectively guide participants through it using the Mindfulness X program.
The Body Scan
The body scan is a key component of mindfulness meditation. As the trainer, you will guide participants through the process of focusing attention on the present moment through observing the breath and bodily sensations. Mindfulness X provides all the guidance and advice you could ever need in order to safely implement the exercise and deal with any challenges that may arise.
The key objective of the body scan is to become aware of any thoughts, feelings, and sensations which arise, and accept them without judgment (Kabat-Zinn, 1990).
Designed to increase participants’ ability to repeatedly engage, sustain, and then disengage attention, the body scan emphasizes awareness of current physical sensations by relocating attention systematically from one part of the body to another, rather than to deliberately promote relaxation as with other forms of meditation.
According to Williams, Duggan, Crane, & Fennell (2005), the body scan can teach mindfulness by:
- Paying attention to different parts of the body in turn.
- Using direct experiential knowledge.
- Practicing deliberately engaging and disengaging attention.
- Relating skillfully to mind wandering.
- Repeated practice of noticing, acknowledging, and returning to the body.
- Allowing conditions to be as they are.
- Using the breath as a vehicle.
- Noticing and relating differently to mental states such as aversion.
Research has found that both long-term and short-term mindfulness meditation practice promotes executive functioning and the ability to sustain attention, even brief meditation training was found to reduce fatigue and anxiety while increasing mindfulness (Zeidan, Johnson, Diamond, David, & Goolkasian, 2010).
Additionally, regular practice of the body scan has been linked to decreased rumination, and an increased tendency to describe experiences, increased self-compassion, and improved psychological well-being (Sauer-Zavala, Walsh, Eisenlohr-Moul, & Lykins, 2013).
It has been suggested that this exercise is associated with a perceptual shift in which one’s thoughts and feelings are recognized as events occurring in the broader field of awareness (Carmody, 2009).
The Body Scan – Advice from the Mindfulness X Practitioner’s Manual
While guiding this exercise you may notice participants struggle to stay focused and become frustrated by a perceived lack of progress. This is completely normal and effectively illustrates the limited amount of control that many people have over their attention.
This is a particularly useful practice to show your participants how their physical experiences are intertwined with their emotional experiences. By guiding clients through the process of opening and focusing attention, they can begin to understand how to better respond to physical and emotional cues and their interrelated cognition.
While guiding the body scan exercise you may observe that the powerful sensations experienced may make it difficult for participants to follow instructions – some may even want to stop altogether. However, with your direction and encouragement, these sensations can be understood and managed.
Mindfulness X teaches you what to say and how to say it so that your clients can best notice their bodily sensations and their tendency to avoid negative or unpleasant experiences. By guiding and encouraging participants through the process, they will have opportunities to notice how the experiences change from session to session and to practice different ways of responding to these sometimes unpleasant sensations.
So that your participants experience the full potential of the body scan and learn to embrace all the sensations they may feel, it is beneficial to advise them of the following:
- It is completely normal to find that your mind wanders, distractions happen. This is the primary challenge of the exercise. Simply realizing that you are not present is a success, and the non-presence makes success possible. The very realization that you are not present in the exercise means that you are in fact already present to make that observation.
- Remind your participants that a wandering mind is a passing occurrence. When they notice this happening (which it inevitably will), their attention should be gently brought back to the body scan.
- The body scan is not a competition; it is not a skill you have to fight for or a goal you have to achieve. Judgmental thoughts, such as “success” and “failure” are not the main objective of this exercise.
- Don’t suppress the unpleasant sensations. You may experience a range of emotions during your practice; this is okay and expected, simply notice and accept them. Approach your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations with acceptance, if you try to avoid those unpleasant thoughts it is likely they will return more often. The crucial part of the practice is to stay connected and aware of your experience without judgment.
The important thing to remember is that you should encourage your clients to approach whatever sensations arise with an attitude of kindness, open curiosity, and without judgment – which brings us to the next barrier to mindfulness we will discuss: Judging.
Training ‘Judging’ with Mindfulness X
By session three you will be ready to guide your participants through the practice of open awareness.
An important element of mindfulness, open awareness refers to a quality of consciousness that is not judgmental, evaluative or actively shaped by pre-existing ideas or intentions, but is fully receptive to allowing the experience to simply occur “as it is.”
When we are preoccupied with past memories or future possibilities, attention and awareness to present-moment experiences is limited. While open awareness involves non-judgment, most of our daily awareness is clouded by countless judgments and evaluations.
When said judgments are negative, the inability to see through their relative and subjective nature can have a negative impact on well-being. By becoming aware of these judgments, a barrier to open awareness is removed; we are no longer stuck in our categorizing and judging mind and are more likely to recognize the flow of thoughts and emotions.
Mindfulness represents one’s capacity to openly attend to current internal and external experiences. Rather than generating mental accounts about the self, it offers a bare display of what is taking place (Shear & Jevning, 1999).
Bringing open awareness to subjective experiences allows the possibility for unbiased information processing and an understanding that thoughts and feelings continually arise, change and dissipate.
The insubstantiality of the egocentric self can be seen, permitting a degree of disidentification from it and consequently allowing greater opportunities for adaptive self-regulation and well-being (Brown, Ryan & Creswell, 2007).
According to Fiumara (1990), the practice of mindfulness enables us to bear witness to our judgmental tendencies. The stance of a witness makes it possible to break away from the habitual mental activities of labeling and judging, as well as the dualistic ordering of good and bad, right and wrong.
In this session, you will introduce open awareness by addressing the evaluative and judgmental nature of the mind. Again, while the Mindfulness X practitioner manual details multiple exercises to practice open awareness, for the purposes of this article we will discuss the seated judgment meditation and how you can safely guide your participants through the process using Mindfulness X.
Exercise – Seated Judgment Meditation
Mindfulness meditation is rooted in the core notion that psychological suffering is a result of judgment whereby experiences are divided into good and bad – this inevitably leads to some level of frustration, distress, anxiety, and depression (Nyklíèek & Kuijpers, 2008).
A primary mechanism of mindfulness meditation involves the development of detached observation towards the contents of consciousness; this regulation of psychological and autonomic arousal is created by the perceptual distance from faulty thoughts and mental urges (Shonin, van Gordon, & Griffiths, 2014).
The practice of stopping and non-judging in mindfulness creates room for participants to observe their thoughts and feelings as they arise. In the process, they become aware of how the mind constantly categorizes and labels everything they experience, reacting to the experience in terms of what they like and dislike, or judging people and themselves as good or bad.
Rather than seeking conformity to ego-based demands, the practice of meditative activity provides space for awareness to be connected with the richness of the present (Chodron, 2002). In so doing, unconditional observation is grounded in open awareness.
Seated meditation is a common meditative practice in which one sits in an erect posture, either on the floor cross-legged or in a chair, and places attention on the in and outflow of the breath, focusing on either the out breath at the nostrils or on the rise and fall of the abdomen (Kabat-Zinn, 1990).
The goal of this exercise is to allow participants to experience how often and automatically our mind judges virtually everything. “I am not concentrating enough”; “I am not doing this right”; “I hate this exercise.”
When attention wanders or feelings arise, the meditator notes their emergence, allows them to come and go, and returns their attention to the posture and breathing. This is repeated throughout the meditation session.
After some stability has been attained, the meditator may let go of the focus on the breath and simply note whatever experience arises with an attitude of openness, acceptance and without making judgments or elaborations on their significance (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002).
A common observation of seated meditation is how frequently participants judge themselves and want conditions to be different from how they actually are. However, with continued practice, your clients can develop the ability to see thoughts as transient mental events that pass through the mind, rather than as facts or central parts of their identity.
Research suggests that states experienced during mindfulness meditation eventually can become effortless traits over time (Siegel, 2007), thus learning to respond to negative thoughts with kindness and acceptance allows participants to recognize and let go of maladaptive and ruminative thinking patterns.
Seated Judgment Meditation – Advice from the Mindfulness X Practitioner’s Manual
Lesson four of the train-the-trainer sessions offers detailed instructions on how to guide meditations safely and effectively. In addition to full audio guidance, Mindfulness X also provides a full-text transcript so that you can confidently guide the meditative practice.
Before participants begin the seated meditation, it is helpful to follow this Mindfulness X advice:
1. Your participants may feel pressure to perform ‘well’; however, this is not the goal of the judgment meditation. In fact, when goals are introduced, awareness tends to be focused on monitoring progress towards the goal. You will encourage your client to let go of the idea of right and wrong. The moment they realize that they are not present in the exercise they are in fact already present.
2. Ask participants to pay extra attention to any experiences that may result in inner conflict or a desire to fight them. For instance, after a while, participants may experience physical sensations like pain, itching or cramps. These sensations can be very useful for training acceptance.
Invite participants to refrain from immediately acting to get relief by changing position, for example, but to first pay attention to the sensations and what happens after this. What kind of thoughts emerge? When does the urge to do something about it emerge?
3. While mindfulness meditation can undoubtedly be a rewarding activity, participants can find it to be challenging particularly in early attempts (Lomas, Cartwright, Edginton, & Ridge, 2015).
When unpleasant physical experiences are present, make them part of the exercise. Rather than mentally fighting disruptions, such as negative emotions, participants can learn to observe them and become aware that suffering is often caused by the thoughts we create about experiences.
When we learn to observe difficult experiences and develop the ability to be present within them, our ability to tolerate them and accept them increases tremendously. Negative experiences are not necessarily a reflection of unsuccessful meditation; on the contrary, scholars recognize that meditation is fundamentally about engaging with those difficult thoughts and emotions (Engler, 2003).
Nevertheless, it remains the case that participants can find these experiences challenging to deal with, and may need to be debriefed and supported after meditation sessions in order to work through these.
4. Do not read the instructions aloud during the meditation. Participants often notice when the words are your own or someone else’s. Rather, practice and construct your own phrases.
Timing and tone of voice are usually improved when the instructor is also meditating as opposed to simply reading instructions; as such you are encouraged to meditate together with your client.
5. Many traditions of meditative practice consider the posture of the body to act as a mirror of the mind (Johnson, 1996). When thinking becomes agitated or judgmental, the muscles become stiff and taut. Recent findings demonstrate that bodily posture profoundly alters baseline brain activity.
Moreover, some of the brain regions that are most susceptible to posture-dependent changes are the same regions that are linked to meditation (Lifshitz, Thibault, Roth, Raz, 2017).
With this in mind, you should ask participants to do the seated meditation with a posture that signals dignity and alertness: sit with a straight back, the head straight and make sure that the shoulders are relaxed. Make sure that your knees are lower than your hips so that the spine is self-supporting and your lower back will have a gentle inward curve.
After guiding your client through the seated meditation, make sure to debrief the exercise with participants by reflecting on and discussing the following:
- Were there any automatic reactions or tendencies that you become aware of during the seated meditation? (For instance, thinking about the goal of the exercise or having negative thoughts about the self).
- Are these or similar tendencies also present in your daily life?
- To what extent are these automatic tendencies helpful?
- What could you do to reduce their potential negative impact on you?
The Role of Homework
Formal face-to-face practice in a controlled setting encourages mindfulness over set periods of prolonged mindfulness meditation, but what happens when the session ends? Mindfulness X includes a variety of informal mindfulness practices that will encourage the deliberate focusing of awareness on experiences during everyday activities for shorter periods of time.
The length of time spent on the practice of mindfulness exercises is signiﬁcantly correlated with the degree of change in mindfulness, psychological symptoms, perceived stress, and well-being (Carmody and Baer, 2008).
In relation to mindfulness meditation practices, participants often highlight their inability to concentrate on inner experience without getting distracted, but still described mindfulness as a valuable skill that needed to be constantly practiced (Lomas, Cartwright, Edginton, & Ridge, 2015).
Repetition is one of the most powerful variables affecting memory. As you may already know, repetition is a basic tenet of human learning and memory. Regular repetition of the body scan, for example, is more likely to improve retention and promote a greater positive affect than doing it sporadically.
Consistent, long-term mindfulness practice is also associated with an increased tendency to label one’s internal experiences with words in a non-judgmental and non-reactive way.
In essence, the repetition of mindfulness exercises cultivates the skills of observing and describing present moment experiences, in order to facilitate and promote psychological health and well-being (Baer, Smith, Lykins, Button, Krietemeyer, & Sauer, 2008).
The transformative changes created throughout the program take time and practice to digest. With this in mind, you will encourage the repetition of exercises at home during routine activities.
Most routine activities require little conscious attention – we tend to carry out tasks like eating, walking, and showering on autopilot. Participants are therefore required to pick routine activities and practice performing them in a mindful way with full attention.
Consider eating a meal, for instance, an undeniably routine activity and one that is often carried out mindlessly. Wansink (2011) suggested that we make more than 200 food-related decisions every day yet are unaware of 90 percent of them.
When mindfulness is introduced to eating, individuals adopt a single focus of attention; eating more slowly and directing attention to the experience in the present moment – including the taste, texture, and smell of the food, and physical movements.
Each week, participants will complete a logbook detailing the exercises they performed at home, when they performed them, and any observations they noticed while the exercises were being carried out.
At the beginning of each session you should carry out a homework debrief in which participants are encouraged to discuss the following points:
- Did they practice the homework?
- If so, what was their experience?
- If they did not practice the homework, what prevented them from practicing?
- What would help to increase commitment or the likelihood of practicing?
- Did participants pay attention to daily routines?
- If so, what was their experience?
- Are there any remaining questions or concerns?
A Take Home Message
Are you interested in providing mindfulness training in a gentle, informative, and inspiring way? Perhaps you have been considering introducing mindfulness training to your practice or business but are yet to find a program that ticks all the boxes.
Mindfulness X incorporates everything you need as a practitioner to confidently deliver high-quality mindfulness training based on sound, verifiable and empirically-backed theories. From practical know-how to troubleshooting, Mindfulness X offers an exceptional framework for teaching.
If you’re ready to make a lasting impact on the lives of your clients, students or team-members you can find more information on the Mindfulness X Program here.
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