One-Mindfully: Overview

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This skill comes up over and over. You will find it in every aspect of DBT as you move through the skills. It is not an easy skill or concept to learn, especially for us with borderline personality disorder, but we can do it as we practice over time.

Mindfulness has to do with the quality of awareness that we bring to what we are doing and experiencing, to being in the here and now.  It has to do with learning to focus on being in the present, to focusing our attention on what we are doing and what is happening in the present. We have to learn to control our attention. Many of us are distracted by images, thoughts and feelings of the past, perhaps dissociating, worrying about the future, negative moods and anxieties about the present.   It's hard to put these thing away and concentrate on the task at hand.

So the One-mindfulness skill is an effort to help us focus our attention on the here and now, to be able to absorb the DBT information and take part in the present. Please do not judge yourselves about this. This can be a difficult skill for people to learn. It requires lots of practice and willingness. Be patient with yourself.

In most DBT groups, all of the Core Skills (Observe, Describe, Participate, Nonjudgmental, One-Mindfulness and Effectiveness) are reviewed before moving on to each new module, which gives you  a chance for some extra practice).  These skills are listed on the back of your diary card, and you should now be keeping track of them.  Marsha Linehan has drawn these skills from Eastern and Western meditation practices, and related them to psychological and behavioral techniques.


The idea of one-mindfully is to do one thing at a time.

  • If you are going to eat, eat.  Don't read or watch TV at the same time.
  • When you are working, work.  Don't try to work and worry about something at home at the same time.
  • When you are talking with a friend, talk with your friend. Don't try to be on the computer at the same time.

  • The reasons for this are so that you can give your full attention to what you are doing and do your best job, but ALSO so that you will feel completely present and not fragmented when you are doing these important things.


    For this exercise, you need an orange or a tangerine or a grapefruit.  (If you don't like any of these, use some fruit with a peel.)

    Put the orange on a dish in front of you.  Look at the orange. Think about where it came from. The orange tree where it grew. The other oranges in the orange grove.  The sun shining down. The warm rain. Think about this orange  being picked from the tree.

    Observe its color. Its shape. Are there marks on its skin? Is it exactly round? Is it all orange in color? What else do you see about it?

    Now pull off the top of the orange.  Smell the orange smell. Notice the mist that rises from the orange.  Pick the orange up and smell it. Pull a strip of peel off the orange. Pull the white off the peel. Rub the peel. Feel its oiliness. Smell it.  Does it have a bitter smell?

    Now peel a section of the orange big enough to eat. Is it easy or hard to peel?  Pick up a segment of orange. Look at it.  Smell it. Feel it. Does it have seeds? How many?  What does it smell like?  Is your mouth watering? Now bite into it.  Taste the juice.  Does it drip on your fingers or your chin?  Feel the drips? Taste the sweetness of the juice. After you swallow the orange, how do you feel?

    Now peel and eat the rest of the orange. Don't hurry. Enjoy and savor the orange.  Eat slowly.  Is there juice on the plate or the table? Let it linger, and smell the aroma of the juice. When you are done, wipe up the juice, and put your napkin on your plate. Is your napkin orange?

    You have just one-mindfully eaten an orange. For those few minutes, your whole attention was on eating that orange, and on fully experiencing everything there was to experience about eating that orange.

    Was it more enjoyable than gulping down an orange or some other piece of food without thinking about it, gone before you knew it? Does it feel good to feel totally present for a few minutes?



    Come up with at least one, preferably two or three situations in your life this week where you are able to be one-mindful about something you are doing.  It can be anything - taking a shower, walking the dog, running the copy machine at work, making a business call, visiting your therapist, anything at all, where you were able to focus on staying in the present. And if you were able to do it for only a short period of time, that is very important.  Please share those times with us,  We need the encouragement, and we need to congratulate you.

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