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Intro and Disclaimer found here:



Previous thread here:



This section is a mixture of the manual I was given and notes I took when watching a video of Marsha Linehan talking about the “What” skills. When I take notes, I always try to write things down word for word because it’s the way I am. So sorry about that. Also, I have included some of my own experiences and wrapped up the basics (as it seems to me) at the end.


There are three “What” skills:

1.    Observe

2.    Describe

3.    Participate

These skills are useful when in a situation that is unpleasant, or one that can lead to or cause harmful behaviours.

I had written something in quotes and wrote a comment – both of these are things I would never have written myself, so I’m assuming that they are from the video. The first is a question: “What do I need to do?” The second: in Mindfulness, live life with your eyes open.


·        Just notice the experience

·        Step back

·        “Live life with your eyes open”

·        One thing at a time! Keep your mind on one thing. Focus on that one thing.

·        Notice the experience without describing it.

·        If you are distracted, just notice the distraction. Gently come back to the one thing you are trying to focus on. (see the similarity to the meditation steps in the previous post – Wise Mind ~ Mindfulness?)


·        Put words on what you are observing.

·        Stick with facts only, don’t interpret what you observe

·        Know the difference between thoughts/interpretation and facts. For an example, if you see a face, your interpretation of the face being possibly being angry is not necessarily a fact. What you are actually seeing and need to describe is the facial expression itself, as in certain parts of the face being scrunched, eyebrows turned down, mouth is scowling etc.


·        Allow yourself to be involved in the activity/in the moment

·        Let go of rumination

·        Use your Wise Mind and remain calm and neutral (Past conditioning may make this very difficult at first)

·        Accept the situation.

These skills will seem strange and simple at first. But when you start to think about using them when a situation in your life occurs, you may ask yourself afterwards, “How the heck am I going to use these skills when I’m in the heat of the moment?”

This is where Mindful Meditation can come in, as you can train yourself to be calm more often. Also, using the ”What” skills in regular everyday life to “practice” will help you to create a habit, so that when the need arises, you will have the skills more readily available to you with the particular situation.

What we need to do in order to use this information is to actively use these skills with something very simple. When I was taking this course, I used to look at things while preparing for my backcountry hikes. I noticed flowers and described them in my head with things like their colour, their size, etc. First I noticed them; then I described them in my head.

Participation was difficult for me in this case. I felt that participating would mean to experience the flowers by touching them, smelling them and maybe tasting them if they were edible (and I could pick them to do so). But of course these particular flowers were in neighbourhood gardens.

What I did figure out, is while I taught my piano lessons (I’m a piano teacher), I used to stare out the window at the mountain that I like to climb. I used to also daydream about something I wanted very badly. I was not 100% present in those cases.

What I figured out one day, was actually participating in the lessons, giving the child my full attention and fully helping them is what gave me much more satisfaction, feelings of success and made the time go by so much faster. All this and more: the child enjoyed the lesson more, they benefited more, and it seemed to me that they noticed the difference. I too enjoyed the lessons more, even when I wasn’t in the mood to teach. I sometimes still drift, looking at the mountain, but I gently accept that it happened and bring my mind back to my student.


It’s Your Turn!

So just get out there, try it for one thing. Maybe even bring a notepad with you and write the things down under headings of the three elements. Or do it with something in your kitchen! Maybe there is a food item on the counter. Observe its location and existence, describe what it looks like, then participate by tasting it, touching it, feel the sensation in your mouth as you chew, or as it melts, smell it etc.

Share your findings/experiences in this thread. I think it will be very interesting to get people’s insights and feelings about how they used the “What” skills. Talk about the differences, talk about the things you had trouble with, and even the things you found easy. Talk about how you can improve or progress for next time. Come back and post about any improvements/progress if there was any later.

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