Thoughts are not facts

Intentions and notes

This has the same title as an MBCT group, but different content, being more based on an MBAR exercise. I like leaving the title up on the flipchart during the session as someone once said to me the only thing they could remember about their MBCT course was ‘thoughts aren’t facts’ – make the most of any chance to get the point across! That’s the main intention for this group – to enable people to see that thoughts are events in the mind that we often completely believe, and to introduce the idea that maybe they’re not always facts, thus opening up the possibility of different ways of seeing things.

The suggested practice focuses on thoughts – always giving the opportunity of coming back to the breath whenever attention has wandered. I’ve found that people don’t find it too confusing having a few different ways of imagining thoughts mentioned during a meditation, and like to give the opportunity to try them all out. See what happens in inquiry if you do this and give a bit of time for them to try each one (always making it clear that guided meditations are just suggestions, or invitations). Some just won’t get it, and that’s fine – they can focus on the breath.

It’s important in the exercise to ensure you explain that the volunteer will be sitting in the middle, and that they won’t have to do very much – so those with any potential trauma issues can avoid volunteering. Also make sure you remember to tell them they can move as soon as that bit is done, thank them and check they’re ok before they go and sit down again. The intention for this first part of the exercise is to point out how much assuming we do – it’s rare that I’ve had even one single fact written on the board by the end of the exercise! And the second part builds on this and brings into question their assumptions about themselves and their substance use. Leaving the “future” barometer unfilled in for the first thought raises the possibility that what they think right now may not be a fixed fact, though it will feel like it (it’s easy to think past thoughts were wrong – but we’ve got it right now!). And the second thought reinforces this point – we start with what we think now and set an intention to revisit it in the coming days/weeks. It’s worth mentioning you don’t mean them to visit it regularly each day – just at some points in the future.

A nice extra I’ve heard mentioned by John Teasdale, is suggesting that when a regular thought they recognise as unhelpful comes along they can welcome it – he says “oh here we go, it’s radio poor me (or whatever it is) again”.


  • Download printable outline, worksheet and handout here.

You will also need

  • Pens and clipboards or something to lean on


  • Title and running order of group
  • Blank one for feeding back to

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