Monday, Mindfulness and Mr Mark Williams

This evening, Mark Williams – founder of MBCT (mindfulness based cognitive therapy) and big guy in the field of Mindfulness – came to my university’s Mindful Society.

As a real keeno for all things Mindfulness and DBT related, I was very excited to meet him again, this time in a more intimate setting (as last time it was at the MiSP conference with 700+ people). I had had a very difficult day, what with the dissociation followed by the near break-down and panic attack to my professor in uni, so was very much in need of this conveniently timed ‘intervention’ – specifically hosted by MW himself.

We started off with a ten minute mindfulness meditation. It was surreal yet again hearing Mark Williams’ voice, which I have heard so many times on his CD, this time in real life. His voice, manner and presence is incredibly soothing and I felt almost lulled into a mindful state after a few minutes in, during which I was finally able to calm down from the day’s events.

The rest of the time was spent as a Q&A session. Someone in the group asked Mark how Mindfulness can help people in their daily lives, to which the question was boomeranged back to the group for comments. I plucked up the courage to share some feedback, telling Mark and the group about how Mindfulness has helped me be more tolerant and less reactive – specifically with my family.

I gave an example from our recent holiday, and explained how practising mindfulness enables me to find a pause between my emotions (e.g. anger) and my actions (e.g. lashing out), during which I can question how effective acting on any urges may be. In this way, it also helps me focus on my long-term goals, instead of acting impulsively on a feeling within the moment.

It also reminded me of this quote by Viktor Frankl which I briefly referred to:
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”. 

I was taken aback by his response because he started talking about BPD, Marsha Linehan and DBT (i.e. my various areas of expertise)!

He then proceeded to tell the group about how Marsha was the one who influenced his original work many decades ago. He informed us about how she incorporated Mindfulness and acceptance into CBT to create DBT to treat her Borderline patients who were suicidal and self-destructive and seen as chronically ill. He told the group about how much pain these Borderline patients were in, and how invaluable Marsha’s work, and Mindfulness in general, have proven to be in targeting some of the struggles those with BPD face.

He then went on to talk about how the effectiveness skill was introduced as a concept by Marsha, and shared a little about this – similar to what I’ve learnt in the Mindfulness module of DBT when looking at the HOW skills.

Little did he know that DBT was where I was first formally introduced to Mindfulness, nor that the skills I have been taught within it are how I knew about the whole effectiveness thang.

He was staring right at me the entire time, responding to my earlier comment about long-term goals and effectiveness, with absolutely no idea he was talking to an expert in the field (given my own experiences) 😉

After the session I went up to him and told him personally about how I was introduced to Mindfulness through DBT and how I am “one of those Borderline patients” he had been referring to earlier. Despite the fact we had just met, he seemed almost proud of me in that moment. His response was one of warmth and joy when I told him about how I have benefited from the treatment I have had and the work I continue to do.

We then chatted away whilst eating melon (as we do in Mindful Society) until we had to vacate the room. I thanked him again for coming and for sharing what he had done with me, and gave him my best puppy dog “Please love me” smile. He took my hand and shook it with a warm compassionate and very English grip, before sending me off with his best wishes and a knowing look that said “Keep it up, you’ve got this!”


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