Elizabeth Wagner, Ph.D.
Record 56 Members Attend Mindfulness Workshop December 8
Elizabeth Wagner used lecture and experiential techniques to teach mindfulness at ACT’s December 8 workshop at Café Repetti in Kenilworth.
Dr. Wagner described mindfulness as meditation without the Eastern religious and philosophical components, and therefore more attuned to Western sensibilities. The technique involves focusing on an experience such as one’s breath, or taking a walk, or eating a single raisin. Mindfulness is an emotional-regulation skill that enables patients to obtain distance from their emotions instead of being controlled by them. The technique is particularly useful with patients who experience intense negative affect such as self-injuring borderlines, eating disordered bingers, substance abusers, the suicidal, the traumatized, and the terminally-ill.
Throughout her presentation, Dr. Wagner emphasized that clinicians will be most effective teaching mindfulness if they practice mindfulness themselves. She described the three “what” skills that encourage self-awareness and decrease impulsivity:
1) Observe: Pay attention to experience through your senses without using words and without reacting to the experience.
2) Describe: Use language to describe experience, accepting the experience without reacting to it.
3) Participate: Enter fully into the experience, be ivolved in the moment, let go of rumination, and do only what is necessary in each situation. This is like an athlete dribbling a basketball down the court, paying full attention to the task at hand.
Dr. Wagner also described five attitudes or “how” skills to integrate mindfulness into daily life:
1) Beginner’s Mind: Be free of expectations from past experience. Approach every person and every experience as though it were your first.
2) Non-judgment: Be aware of your automatic tendency to evaluate and judge experience. When you find yourself evaluating your mindfulness practice, acknowledge the judgment and return to your focus.
3) Non-striving: Be in the present while you practice mindfulness. Stop striving to excel or accomplish.
4) Wise Mind: Balance emotion with logic. By accepting experience without judgment or action, you can eventually combine the knowledge gained from emotion with the practicality of logic.
5) Acceptance: For the moment, stop demanding that you or your thoughts or emotions be anything other than what they are. Pain is part of living. Not accepting pain creates suffering and prevents pain’s reduction. In a mindful life, one can accept an experience without approving of or liking it.
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