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Thinking Versus Sensing (Audio)

Thinking Versus Sensing is a short mindfulness exercise to demonstrate the difference between thinking about our experience and sensing it directly. Encouraging present-moment awareness of the thoughts and senses, it is commonly used as a short exercise to introduce mindful awareness. The difference between thinking about our experience and mindfully experiencing a moment through our senses. This audio exercise can be used during clinical sessions, or prescribed as self-practice to complement clinical work and to develop a client’s personal practice.

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Audio track (MP3)

A therapy audio track designed for skills development.

Audio script (PDF)

The script for a therapy audio track. Read along with an exercise, or record in your own voice.


Languages this resource is available in

  • English (GB)
  • English (US)

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Introduction & Theoretical Background

Mindfulness-based programs such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT: Segal, Williams & Teasdale, 2013) and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR: Kabat-Zinn, 1990) have demonstrated beneficial effects for a wide range of psychological disorders, as well as helping people to cope with pain and illness (Goink et al, 2015; Khoury et al, 2013). Mindful awareness exercises form part of treatment approaches such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT: Linehan, 1993) and compassion focused therapy (CFT: Gilbert, 2014). 

Thinking Versus Sensing forms part of the Psychology Tools For Mindfulness Audio Collection, a guided introduction to the practice of mindfulness meditation. The exercise is a short practice which encourages present-moment awareness of the thoughts and senses introduces the difference between thinking about our experience and sensing it directly. Mindfulness supports us to learn another way of experiencing the world, through sensing and feeling it, this is called the Being mode. Most of us are familiar with our more typical mode of being on autopilot or the Doing mode, when we act habitually and often experience the world indirectly through our thinking mind. There are of course many benefits of doing things on autopilot e.g. driving! However, this mode of mind can also take us down habitual ways of thinking and we can get lost in unhelpful thoughts. Mindful awareness of our body and senses supports us to unhook from thoughts when we get lost in the thinking mind, and we can learn to gently return to the present. Mindfulness supports us to cultivate the Being mode.   

This audio exercise is designed for anyone who would like to develop their own mindfulness meditation practice. No previous experience with mindfulness is necessary on the part of the client, although best practice is for clinicians to be familiar with mindfulness. In common with other psychological interventions, mindfulness exercises result in clients confronting difficult and potentially distressing thoughts, emotions, and sensations and so care should be taken when prescribing them (Baer et al, 2019).

Therapist Guidance

This audio exercise can be used in session, or prescribed as self-practice to complement clinical work and to develop a client’s mindfulness practice. The audio download is a simple .mp3 file which can be played in most media player apps. You can also download the verbatim script, allowing you to record the exercise for your clients in your own voice to reinforce work completed in therapy.

References And Further Reading

  • Baer, R., Crane, C., Miller, E., & Kuyken, W. (2019). Doing no harm in mindfulness-based programs: conceptual issues and empirical findings. Clinical Psychology Review, 71, 101-114.
  • Gilbert, P. (2014). The origins and nature of compassion focused therapy. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 53(1), 6-41.
  • Gotink, R. A., Chu, P., Busschbach, J. J., Benson, H., Fricchione, G. L., & Hunink, M. M. (2015). Standardised mindfulness-based interventions in healthcare: an overview of systematic reviews and meta-analyses of RCTs. PloS one, 10(4), e0124344.
  • Kabat-Zinn, J., & Hanh, T. N. (2009). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. Delta.
  • Khoury, B., Lecomte, T., Fortin, G., Masse, M., Therien, P., Bouchard, V., ... & Hofmann, S. G. (2013). Mindfulness-based therapy: a comprehensive meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 33(6), 763-771.
  • Linehan, M. (1993). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. New York: Guilford.
  • Segal, Z. V., & Teasdale, J. (2018). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression. Guilford Publications.