Working the Present, Mindfully Based

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Book Cover

 Zindel V. Segal, Ph.D., author of

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression,

has endorsed this book:

In Working the Present, Mindfully Based, Donald Fleck succeeds in staying true to the intentions of MBCT while adapting it for use in individual therapy.  The book can be used with clients who have serious mindfulness meditation practices as well as those just getting started, as Fleck has taken many of the core elements of MBCT — the 3-Minute Breathing Space, Kindness and Self-Compassion, Working with Difficulty, Allowing/Letting Be, Thoughts are not Facts, Kindness in Action — and found ways to use them effectively within the basic dyadic encounter.

Packed with clinical vignettes and a user friendly narrative structure, Working the Present, Mindfully Based, provides a clear path towards offering this novel delivery format for MBCT’s key concepts and practices.
Zindel V. Segal, Ph.D., Author of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression 

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Pressed for time? Here’s the executive summary…

  1. Aware – We increase our awareness of the present. When we are present, we perceive more, we perceive differently. When our clients are aware, they have stepped out of automatic pilot.
  1. Allow – When we practice allowing our experience to continue, without chasing after it, or running away from it, we find we have more strength to work with it. Same thing for our clients.
  1. Accept – When we accept our experience as it is, just for now, or go a step further and accept ourselves, our energy can move from resistance to relief and finding solutions. Same for our clients.
  1. Act – When ready, we act. Our actions propel us forward in life. Getting the next action right is really important. This is how change starts. This is how change continues. With awareness, allowing, and acceptance we are grounded and better able to choose helpful actions. Clients, too.

© Donald Fleck 2015

Why this book?

Mindfulness-Based therapies are getting a lot of attention these days, to say the least, and they are very effective in a group format. But clients meeting one-on-one expect sessions geared to their unique needs. They expect therapy to be about their progress or difficulty in working towards their unique treatment goals. In the eight years I have been teaching Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy I have tried taking my individual clients through the content only to be reminded again and again that the weekly discussion of progress and difficulties takes priority over a curriculum.

So, over the years I have sought out new ways to use the powerful elements of Mindfulness-Based therapies within the individual session. With the approach in this book, therapists can continue with the methods they find effective, and add in mindfulness elements as needed.

For example, if a client comes in very upset about an interaction with her colleague, we might start with our normal therapy process, inquiring into what happened before and after, how intense it was, how she understands it, how she tried to work with it, how it relates to her childhood and parents, and how it relates to homework and treatment goals and her recent work in therapy. Then we might introduce a mindfulness practice. We might bring her experience into the present, asking about her experience right now, in thoughts, feelings and body sensations. We might ask her to bring to mind again the interaction with her colleague, let it sit in her awareness, noticing the feelings that arise as she does this. We might ask her to allow those feelings to be present, to de-couple them from thoughts and instead link the feelings to sensations in her body. In this way she may build tolerance for these feelings. As she is more able to tolerate them, she will be more able to think clearly and take actions that are helpful to her. We might ask if she could practice this Working with Difficulty process at home, so we can discuss it more next week. We might wrap up by returning to our usual way of working, perhaps relating this experience to her patterns and interactions with other important people in her life.

Read the beginning of this book, or order it, on Amazon.

Day for Mindfulness, Brooklyn Heights Library – Saturday June 13


Dear Reader,
Please come to a Day for Mindfulness Saturday, June 13 in the Brooklyn Heights Library. Feel free just to attend the first part, 10:15-13:30.
This day offers mindfulness in the tradition of Jon-Kabat Zinn and other secular teachers who broadened the practice of meditation for all. It also includes a secular implementation of many years of practice in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh.
This will be a day to relax, move our attention from thoughts of the past and the future and into the present, where there is more right with us than wrong with us. 
We will learn ways to really enrich our experience of the present, to wake up to the beautiful things going on around us and in us, much of the time. The day is open to all, so please bring family and friends. We will approach all material from the point of view of the beginner; new and experienced meditators are fully welcome.
We will meet at the beautiful Cadman Plaza branch of the Brooklyn Public Library in Brooklyn Heights, 280 Cadman Plaza West, from 10:15 – 3:45.
All events at the library are free. There will be not even be a request for donations. 
If you can only come for 2 hours, that’s wonderful. I’ve organized the day in 3 segments,
10:15 – 12:30    Welcome, meditations on body, breath, sounds and thoughts 
12:30 –   1:45    Mindful eating in the community
 1:45 –    3:45    Mindfulness meditation on thoughts and feelings
If you can only come to one segment, please come to the first, as that will put the others in context.
The library opens at 10:00 – come early if you can. The library provides comfortable chairs. If you wish, please bring your own cushion and blanket.
The library is at 280 Cadman Plaza West. Nearby subways are the A,C, 2, 3, 4, 5, R and F. We will be in the meeting room on the main floor. (It is to your right after you enter the library.)
Questions: contact me: 917 202-5148 or
Looking forward to a nurturing day,  Donald
    1. Map of Brooklyn Heights Library
  1. Address: 280 Cadman Plaza W, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Mindfulness Meditation Therapy Researched

Psychologists research Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and variations for alcohol relapse prevention, social anxiety, panic, PTDS, OCD, Bi-Polar and other conditions.

We’re far beyond the oooohs and ahhhhs of tv celebrity shows announcing that mindfulness offers miracles of personal growth.

There is now a vast amount of research on the importance of learning mindfulness, and a lot of clinical experience supporting that. Personally, I have been teaching mindfulness in a mental health context for 5 years. Continue reading

Mindfulness of life with Louis Schwartzberg

Eating a slice from a loaf of fresh baked french bread, this morning…. pure bliss. Reminding me of my youth, when as an 8-year old I pedaled my bike to the boulangerie for a fresh loaf, still warm from the oven, and biked it home to my parents. Half eaten by the time I got there!

But, with this loaf today, I listened to another person as I tasted, and the taste was lost. I took another bite and savored it. Thanks for second chances…. always, available, really, because moments of opportunity present themselves continuously. That’s the nature of mindfulness, there’s always a second chance.

Just saw a video talk from TED that illustrates this beautifully. Enjoy.

The mind focused, and the mind wandering… both are valuable.

Dis-Identification with Thoughts 

A lot of what we’re doing with mindfulness is changing how we relate to our thoughts.

We’re not actively trying to stop or change the thoughts. That’s often the content of  classical cognitive therapy. In Mindfulness-Based work we’re learning to observe the thoughts rather than change them. We’re leaning how to observe ourselves having the thoughts. Then they’re less ‘us’ and more something that is happening in us. It’s less “I’m a failure,”  and more “A failure thought is in me,” or “A failure thought is here.”  When we dis-identify with the thought we can look at it, and have some more freedom in how we respond to it.

In the third week of MBCT we enter a new phase of this dis-identification. We start practicing the three minute breathing space, the first step of which is to note what thoughts are currently present in our mind. In this, we are practicing noticing thoughts.  Also in the third week, we start daily formal practice of meditating on the breath, then body and breath.

In the meditating instructions, we follow a very different practice than some other meditators. We are not practicing concentration, as it is usually taught. Usually the idea in meditation would be that the times I am noticing the breath are good, and the times my mind has wandered are like something I want to change, a work in progress. For us, by contrast, both the focus on breath and the wandering mind are of equal value and interest. When I notice the breath, that’s fine, it’s my intention. When I notice the mind has wandered I take the attitude of friendly interest in the thought. I note it as “thinking” or I get a little deeper and categorize it as “planning” or “worrying” or “remembering” or “ regretting” or any of a bunch of labels which you can make up for yourself. When we are noting the thought we are not trying to remember it, but rather just to give it a name. Things named are often less fearsome, after all. Once named, things are beginning to be understood. We just note the thought and return to the breath.

This practice in noticing, and noting, is also very helpful in the process of learning to dis-identify from thoughts.  Every time we notice we have been thinking,  and note it, we are practicing dis-identification. So both the breath and the thoughts are useful! They are little trainings in dis-identification.