You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf

Intentions and notes

The intention of this group is to help people to explore their physical experience during a craving in a safe space, and thus to help them see that they can manage these feelings differently in future. (If you are doing the groups in suggested order and have some people coming to both groups this can help you go into more depth from last time’s exercise).

The title is the headline title of this course, as it sums up a mindful approach to addiction: waves of craving, feelings, suffering etc. will come, and we cannot stop them – but we can learn to ride them out.

Due to the potentially difficult feelings brought up in the urge surfing exercise, the order of this group is reversed, with the craving exercise coming first, and the mountain meditation in the second half, to give people a chance to really calm down and ground in the meditation afterwards, so they’re not leaving with difficult feelings still around. This is taken from session 2 of MBRP, where the two elements are done in the same order.

The exercise gives a chance to explore cravings, eliciting how people experience them, and helping them to see the pattern they have been stuck in, how it perpetuates itself, and that there is hope that they can change these patterns in the future by using a mindful approach. It is so important to tell people not to choose a strong craving that they’ll struggle with – hammer this message home, especially if your group is not in a safe residential setting, because just saying it once (or even twice!) will not be enough to stop some people going for their 10/10 craving and making themselves feel really awful (hammering it home will not be enough for some – but there is the mountain meditation after to help the inevitable ‘recovery warrior’ who has decided to tackle their biggest issue in group).

Following this with the mountain gives an opportunity to ground and start to cultivate a sense of settled equanimity. Double check before the group finishes that people are ok, and be around afterwards for if anyone wants to talk (as with all the groups – but it deserves a special mention after this group!).


  • Download the group outline and handout here.


  • Title and running order of group
  • Blank for exploring craving and waves diagram

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