wise mind exercise

Wise Mind Exercise

We are shaped by our thoughts;
We become what we think.
When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.


I was thinking about Dialectical Behavior Therapy the other day and how it has changed my life! With roots in Zen philosophy and behavioral theory, my practice of DBT has changed my relationship with myself, others, and the way I view the world. I used to be an emotionally reactive person who functioned primarily in what we DBT’ers refer to as Emotion Mind. This is when you allow everything to ‘get to you’. People who love you tell you that you are too sensitive; too reactive! I came to realize that this way of being in the world does not make for a happy, balanced, and peaceful life. I used to function on hypervigilance, hypersensitivity, and reactivity.

In DBT the goal is to get to Wise Mind – a more solid, intuitive space within – a space we all have inside of us but fail to notice and value. So how does one get to Wise Mind? Through the development of a Mindfulness practice, we learn how to be mindful in the present moment, and to see and accept reality without delusion and judgment. If we are angry about a certain situation, we are encouraged to notice and acknowledge the thoughts associated with our anger; any physical sensations we may experience – to participate with awareness, without judgement and without reactivity. We learn how to become an observer of our thoughts. I like to use the metaphor of sitting by a river watching leaves float by. Each leaf is a thought or feeling. You are merely the observer, watching and labelling the thought and working to let it go.

I would like to offer you the challenge in the coming weeks to build awareness of your thoughts and what you do with them – how you allow them to shape and impact your life. Learning DBT is a complex and complicated practice. Learning the skills is Powerful and Life-Changing! Some ideas to get to Wise Mind are learning to:

  • Observe by watching your thoughts and feelings without pushing them away. Let them happen even when they are painful. Label what you observe with words. “I am having an urge to drink………”; “I feel angry!”
  • Describe without interpretations (judgments) by sticking to what you observe. Just the facts. For example, “She is speaking with a loud voice!” rather than “She has a bad attitude!”
  • Participate by throwing yourself into the present moment by not focusing on yesterday or tomorrow. Fully experience What Is in the Now! Experiencing negative emotions fully will help you get to Wise Mind.
  • Take a Non-Judgmental Stance by not evaluating anything as GOOD or BAD. Stick to the observable facts. When you find yourself Judging, don’t judge your judging!
  • Stay focused on THIS MOMENT so that past and future distractions don’t get in your way. Focus your attention on one thing in the moment.
  • Be Effective without allowing emotions to control your behavior.