One of the ways to approach the idea of mindfulness and one-mindfully is through learning to breathe mindfully, or conscious breathing. Our breathing goes on all the time, but mostly it’s not conscious. We are not thinking about it.

Following is a meditation by the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh from his book, “Peace is Every Step.” Marsha Linehan greatly respects Thich Nhat Hanh’s work and quotes him in the DBT manual.

There are a number of breathing techniques you can use to make life more enjoyable. Breathing in and out is very important and it is enjoyable, as breathing is the link between our body and our mind. Sometimes our mind is thinking of one thing and our body is doing another, and mind and body are not unified. By concentrating on our breathing, In and Out, we bring body and mind back together, and become whole again. Conscious breathing is an important bridge.

Just breathing and smiling can make us very happy, because when we breathe consciously we recover ourselves completely and encounter life in the present moment.

The first exercise is very simple. As you breathe in, say to yourself: “Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in.”

And as you breath out, say: “Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out.”

Just that.

You recognize your in-breath as an in-breath and your out-breath as an out-breath.

This technique can help you keep your mind on your breath. As you practice, your breath will become peaceful and gentle and your mind and body will also become peaceful and gentle. This is not a difficult exercise. In just a few minutes you can realize the fruit of meditation.

You don’t even need to recite the whole sentence; you can use just two words, In and Out.

Thich Nhat Hahn

This version of Thich Nhat Hanh’s In and Out meditation is a little bit different than the one I lead in group. The text for that meditation is written below.


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 focus at your job 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.

You want to give your full attention to what you are doing and in order to do your best. And so that you will feel completely present and not fragmented when you are going through your day.


Rivet yourself to now. Be completely present to this one moment. Do one thing at a time. Notice the desire to be half-present, to be somewhere else, to go somewhere else in your mind, to do something else–and then come back to one thing at a time.

Let go of distractions. If other actions and or thoughts, or strong feelings distract you, go back to what you are doing–again and again and again.

Concentrate your mind. If you find you are doing two things at once, stop–go back to one thing at a time.

Marsha Linehan, page 60, DBT handouts and worksheets

One-Mindfully means, for “just this moment” being present to our lives and what we are doing. Like non-judgmentalness, living one-mindfully is central to all mindfulness teaching and contemplative practices. It is central to both psychological and spiritual traditions of mindfulness.

The Past is Over

The Past is over; it does not exist in the present. We may have thoughts and images of the past. Intense emotions may arise within us when we think about the past, or when images of the past go through our minds. We may worry about things we did in the past or things others did. We may wish that our pasts were different, or wish that we were still in the past. But it is crucial to recognize that these thoughts, images, feelings, and wishes are occurring in the present.

Trouble starts when, instead of being aware of thinking about the past, we become lost in the past or in past thinking and imagining. We stop paying attention to the what is happening right here and now, and instead focus our minds inadvertently on thoughts and images about the past. Our emotions now may be identical to the emotions we felt in the past, making us think that we are actually living in the past or that the past is living in us.

The Future has not come into Existence

The same points can be made with Respect to the Future. It does not Exist. We may have many thoughts about and plans for the future. Intense emotions may arise within us when we think about the future. We may have many worries about the future. Indeed , we may spend many hours and endless nights worrying about the future. But, as with worries about the past, it is very important to remember that our worries about the future are occurring in the present. Just as we can get lost in our thoughts and images of the past, we can get lost in ruminating about the future.

Living in the present can include planning for the future. It simply means that when we plan, we plan with awareness that we are doing it (i.e., we plan as a present moment activity.

One Mindfully means doing one thing at a time

One-Mindfully also means doing one thing at a time, with awareness. it is focusing attention on only one activity or thing at a time, bringing the whole person to bear on this thing or activity.

Marsha linehan, p 208, DBT Skills training manual


This delightful video presentation of the children’s book Mindful Monkey, Happy Panda perfectly explains the practice of One-Mindfully. Sometimes children’s books can give a very clear, concise explanation in an engaging manner.


In the teacher’s manual, Marsha Linehan makes an interesting point about worrying. “When you are worrying, Worry.”

Rather than taking your worrying along with you through out the day, the idea is that you set aside specific time each day to do your worrying. And completely relegate worrying to that time. You go to the same place each day, and try to spend the whole time worrying for not more than 30 minutes. During the rest of the day you banish worries from your mind, reminding yourself that you will attend to that particular worry during your worry time.

There is a similiar technique for fighting insomnia: write down all the things you need to remember for the next day before you go to sleep, so you won’t have to wake up to think about them. These ideas come from the research by Thomas Borkovec for his therapy for chronic worriers.

For further reading, I have embedded this New York Times article about the “Worry when you are Worrying” therapy technique for worriers (say that five times fast!)


One-Mindfully: Why Do it?

  • The pain of the present moment is enough pain for anyone.
  • Multitasking is inefficient.
  • Life, Relationships and beauty pass you by

One -Mindfully: How to do it

  • Be present to your own experience
  • Rivet yourself to the now
  • Do only one thing at a time

The following animated video elaborates on all of these points:


Utilize the Ideas for Practice on Page 62 of the DBT Skills training handouts and worksheets. Apply One-Mindfully to your tasks. And try the strategy for worrying when you are worrying.

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Diana is a licensed professional counselor based in Nashville. She has been teaching DBT skills for the last ten years after writing her master's thesis about making DBT skills training interesting and engaging. She loves using story telling to help illustrate how skills can be used.

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