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As a therapist and mindfulness instructor, I continue to face a dilemma as to whether I bring these two practices together in the therapy room with my clients*. With growing public interest in how mindfulness can help mental and emotional well-being, I am receiving a growing number of enquiries for 1-2-1 mindfulness work to help with life problems. Similarly, there is always a great turnout when I run workshops for therapists on using mindfulness. Both sides of the therapist-client alliance are becoming inspired to bring mindfulness to problems and distress.

It is my opinion that there is great value in an individual having a mindfulness-meditation practice alongside the therapeutic process. I believe they are healthy bedfellows: with therapy bringing insight to the reasons for the struggle, and meditation allowing a compassionate place to process that insight, to learn to ‘be with’ the pain. I would encourage therapists working with clients who have an existing mindfulness practice to use any material the client gathers from their time ‘on the cushion’. However, is it the place of the therapist to introduce the practice, or indeed to be the one teaching meditation to their clients?

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I don’t need to spend much time setting up the present day picture concerning mindfulness and the enhancing of mental, emotional and physical well-being. Not a day goes by it would seem without an announcement of research findings advocating the use of this ancient practice. As a mindfulness instructor with a background in empirical science I have concerns about just how far we can take the promising findings and making them ‘true’. But is there a deeper cause for concern?

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coffee as refuge

I recently took the Refuge Vow. Whilst I have long considered myself a Buddhist (I have been meditating for some 6 years now), the taking of theRefuge Vow marks the formal step: a publicly witnessed commitment towards 3 aspects of the path that offer shelter from the vulnerability of being human: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

What does this mean exactly? Traditionally, someone declaring themselves as Buddhist commits to working with their day-to-day experience in a way that differs to how we might normally deal with the challenges life can throw at us. I’ll come back to some ways we may turn to ‘false’ refuge later in this post – but very simply we can consider habits that we turn to for comfort, or to numb our pain.