CD for Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)

Guided Meditations for Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, by Donald Fleck

You can buy and download a complete set of guided meditations for Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, tracks by Donald Fleck, from CD Baby.

Note: clicking on the graphic below takes you to CD Baby, my distributor. At their site you can see the listing of tracks and album description, and decide if you want to buy certain tracks, or the whole CD.

Donald Fleck: Mindfulness- Based Cognitive Therapy tracks by Donald

Great source for mindfulness news

The University of Vermont has a Mindfulness Center for students, run by Miv London, one of the people who trained me in MBCT. Miv does a great job of finding interesting thinking about mindfulness, such as a recent one documenting that sex and mindfulness are the same to your brain. If you want to stay in the loop of mindfulness news, especially news that would be of interest to younger folks, join the UVM Mindfulness Practice Center, and click to receive updates. And thanks, Miv.

‘Not to Miss’ Articles on Mindfulness

Articles on Mindfulness

Read these for yourself, then pass them along to your friends. You’ll be amazed at the clarity of these explanations.

They are the best of journalism, crisp, clear, without a lot of assumptions about what the reader already knows.

FOUNDATION ARTICLES

Accepting Fears, Wall Street Journal, 1/2/11 – Melinda Beck writes about the use of mindfulness and acceptance in mental health and personal growth.

Mastering Your Own Mind, Psychology Today, 9/06 – A nice primer on why meditation and mindfulness matter. Opens with, “Distracted? Angry? Envious? There’s growing evidence that attention, emotion regulation –even love– are skills that can be trained through the practice of meditation. Perhps it’s time for you to become a high-performance user of your own brain.”

Lotus TherapyNew York Times, 5/27/08 – beautiful article on a variety of paths to mindfulness.

The Art of Now, Psychology Today, Nov-Dec, 2008 – starts with this bit of knowledge that often comes with mindfulness: you are not your thoughts.  Offers concrete guidelines on how to use this awareness to better your life.

A Simple Turning in Place, by Joseph Goldstein, Insight Journal, Winter 09 – Goldstein describes his initial (discouraging) attempts at meditating, and his eventual growth in this practice. Even masters have to start somewhere!

Yes I Suck: Self-Help Through Negative Thinking, Time Magazine, 7/9/09 – Many of us have at one time or another believed that it’s better to avoid negative thoughts. Martin Seligman has proposed that people should just think optimistically. But this bit of research refutes that, supporting a major premise of mindfulness, namely that running away from thoughts doesn’t work, that learning to be with them does work.   Comments on this research are also available here, and here.

Sit Every Day, Shambhala Sun, magazine website – graciously examines why it is so hard to sit (meditate) regularly, why it matters that we do, and how do be more effective at having a daily (almost) practice.

Brief Meditative Exercise Helps Cognition, Science Daily, 4/19/10 – “Some of us need regular amounts of coffee or other chemical enhancers to make us cognitively sharper. A newly published study suggests perhaps a brief bit of meditation would prepare us just as well.”

Mind the Grid, New York Times, 8/31/10 – One person’s experience with a meditation retreat.

Regimens: Meditation, for the Mind and the Heart, New York Times, 11/24/09 – cites research that meditation can be heart healthy.

We Don’t Surrender Until We Have To, New York Times, 10/2/09 – the story of a journalist and a quadriplegic. “I went home with nothing particularly resolved, but happier than I’d been in years.”

On Becoming a Person: The Good Life and the Fully Functioning Person, Carl Rogers (1953) – a prescient description of the value of being fully open to experience in order to be a well developed person.

Finding Daylight: Mindful Recovery from Depression, Zindel Segal in Psychotherapy Networker, Jan-Feb 08 – An explanation of mindfulness teaching for therapists. The first paragraph is a gem; read it several times.

How Mindfulness Can Make for Better Doctors, New York Times, 10/15/09 – Doctors, like many of us, have to multi-task. When attention is all over, mistakes can happen.

In the Classroom, A New Focus on Quieting the Mind, New York Times, 6/16/07 – Children learn more when they are calm.

Can You Become a Creature of  New Habits? New York  Times, 5/4/08 – learning mindfulness meditation means learning a new habit. This explores some of  the factors that make change  difficult, and some that make it easier.

CURRENT ARTICLES

At End-Of-The-Line Prison, An Unlikely Escape, NPR, 2/8/11, by Debbie  Elliott – In a prison for the most hardened criminals,  mindfulness  meditation is taught, and – amazingly – prisoners are responding.

Hazy Recall as a Signal Foretelling Depression, New York Times, 5/9/11 by Alastair Gee – Describes research by MBCT co-creator Mark Williams. Over-general memory, a clinical name for hazy recall, looks like this. If you ask a person for a specific memory (something less than a day, say) about going out for dinner, and the person responds, “Dinners always bore me,” that may be an over-general memory.  The article is a bit heady, but makes an interesting connection between this and how mindfulness can help.

Go Easy on Yourself, a New Wave of Research Urges, New York Times, 2/28/11 by Tara Parker-Pope – discussion of the importance of compassion for the self. Compassion is increasingly part of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy and other mindfulness-based trainings.

And a few books…

There are also several key books I recommend.

The Mindful Way Through Depression, Mark Williams et al – The definitive text on the content of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. While it was developed for prevention of recurring depression, I have found the book very helpful for those with anxiety and negative thinking, as well.

Peace is Every Step, Thich Nhat Hanh – a short, easy read. Really lucid. Basic mindfulness in life presented by a great teacher.

And sources for dharma talks (teachings)

Dharma Seed and Audio Dharma Talks You can choose from many talks here, and listen to them on your computer, free of charge.

Radical acceptance of the good, and the not so good

Tara Brach lays out a way to deal with painful feelings, and to live life more fully. Her book Radical Acceptance, Embracing Your Life with the Heart of A Buddha, lays out her thinking.

Tara Brach is a clinical psycholotist, meaning she practices psychotherapy. She’s also a student of Buddhism, including mindfulness meditation. She has a lot to contribute to mindful psychotherapy.

The idea here is to embrace all of life, the good, the bad, and the boring. Want to eliminate suffering in your life? Forget it. Want to only experience joy? Forget it.   The way of mindfulness is to be with all experience, not to chase it away, even if it is unpleasant.  It just takes too much energy to chase away experience.   Avoiding knowing experience is a little like living in delusion.

The book’s title, Radical Acceptance, comes from the idea that it’s radical to accept negative experience, radical because in this society we’re brought up to minimize the bad and maximize the good. It really is radical to say that when we’re experiencing something unpleasant, we should allow ourselves to ‘be’ fully in that experience.  This doesn’t mean going out looking for unpleasant experience; just being with it when it comes.  Why practice this radical acceptance?  Because it works.

The Buddha was raised in luxury, his father a King, yet he wasn’t happy. He wanted to find enlightenment, and like many Hindus of his day began by depriving himself of all comfort: nearly starving himself, living the life of a homeless person. That didn’t work either, he nearly died, not at all the better of having lived in suffering.  Living in luxury hadn’t worked; living in suffering hadn’t worked, either.   He struggled to make sense of life, finally resolving to sit under the Boddhi tree until he understood things more deeply.  He realized the idea of embracing whatever experience came to him, the pleasant, the unpleasant, and the neutral (boring).  Life always included elements of happiness and elements of sadness. Enlightment meant accepting all of experience,  even as a child does, without preference.

This is a rather large teaching moment in Buddhism, and also for Tara Brach. She sees how we lead so much of our lives trying to avoid pain and suffereing, seeking after comfort, to no avail. The difficulties just keep on coming.

The change she teaches involves accepting all of experience, as the Buddha did.

It plays out like this:  The prime dissatisfaction for many of us is the sense that we are unworthy. We aren’t enough, we don’t do enough, we don’t have enough.  We live in a trance of unworthiness. It’s a trance because the pain of KNOWING the unworthy feelings is rather deep. So we keep really busy, so there’s no time to sit and feel. We embark on self-improvement projects to try to be good enough. We avoid risks to avoid more pain. We withdraw from knowing our current experience.  We become self-critics. And like most self critics, we also become critical of others.  Doing all this activity just to live in the delusion that everything should be pleasant. And to avoid knowing what’s life is really like.

Being caught in the trance  means losing sight of the self who’s connected, whole, in the ‘fullness of being.’ Breaking the trance of unworthiness involves being in close touch with the self that’s fearful, wanting, feeling alone and separate.

Brach’s way out?  “When we learn to face and feel the fear and shame we habitually avoid, we begin to awaken from the trance.” (p. 57)

A principal way for the beginner to do this is with the sacred pause. It’s a way to stop running from experience. Brach lays out in clear detail how to learn the sacred pause, although for many it is better learned with the aid of a professional helper, as the feelings that come out can be strong.  The sacred pause is sort of like saying, “Here I am, (name your experience)…. let me feel it fully, let me be with it, regardless of how I feel about it.”

Having learned the pause, readers are encouraged to practice it often. The book introduces vipassana or mindfulness meditation to come into contact with experience, and metta or loving-kindness meditation to develop compassion for the deeper self that comes clearly into view.

People of all walks of life can gain from this book. Each chapter ends with the text of a guided meditation to practice and directly experience her teachings.

For professionals: In the process of describing Radical Acceptance Brach lays out an approach to mindful therapy that reveals itself only through the accumulation of examples she uses. But revealing it is, and worthy of study by the psychotherapist.  For the professional psychotherapist who wants to learn more, Dr. Brach has also taught workshops on Radical Acceptance for professionals. I studied this with her, and found it most helpful.  With some of my psychotherapy clients it becomes the focus of our work.

A helpful interview with Tara Brach occured in Elisha Goldstein’s blog at PsychCenral, 9/4/09.

Latest research on Mindfulness for Depression

Mindfulness for depression continues to do well in research.

The latest study found that Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy for depression was about as effective as anti-depressants.  This is the third major study showing MBCT’s usefulness.  A word of caution: my  experience as an MBCT teacher is that is just as effective if a person is taking anti-depressants or not.  Any medication decisions need to be taken with your doctor or psychiatrist.  Medications don’t have much to do with thinking patterns.

The real benefit of MBCT is that it helps a person learn a new way to deal with negative thinking, a new way to be with low self-esteem.  I’ve pasted below parts of an article on the latest study. Major points are highlighted in blue.

Depression Treatment: Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy…

ScienceDaily (Dec. 2, 2008) — Research shows for the first time that a group-based psychological treatment, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), could be a viable alternative to prescription drugs for people suffering from long-term depression.


In a study, published December 1, 2008 in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, MBCT proved as effective as maintenance anti-depressants in preventing a relapse and more effective in enhancing peoples’ quality of life. The study also showed MBCT to be as cost-effective as prescription drugs in helping people with a history of depression stay well in the longer-term.
The randomised control trial involved 123 people from urban and rural locations who had suffered repeat depressions and were referred to the trial by their GPs. The participants were split randomly into two groups. Half continued their on-going anti-depressant drug treatment and the rest participated in an MBCT course and were given the option of coming off anti-depressants.
Over the 15 months after the trial, 47% of the group following the MBCT course experienced a relapse compared with 60% of those continuing their normal treatment, including anti-depressant drugs. In addition, the group on the MBCT program reported a higher quality of life, in terms of their overall enjoyment of daily living and physical well-being.
 ….
During the eight-week trial, groups of between eight and fifteen people met with one therapist. They learned a range of meditation exercises that they could continue to practice on their own once the course ended. Many of the exercises were based on Buddhist meditation techniques and helped the individual take time to focus on the present, rather than dwelling on past events, or planning for future tasks. The exercises worked in a different way for each person, but many reported greater acceptance of, and more control over, negative thoughts and feelings.
…MBCT takes a different approach – it teaches people skills for life. What we have shown is that when people work at it, these skills for life help keep people well.”