Theory of Mindfulness

In mindfulness for people with autism, the concepts ‘doing-mode’ and ‘being-mode’ are central. Both modes are described as conditions of the brain: When the brain is in a doing-mode, it is thinking and actively seeking solutions for problems. The brain is then focused on achievement and outcome. However, when thinking does not help to solve a problem or when you want a quiet mind, it is not useful and often even frustrating to keep thinking (ruminating). In these situations it would be better to stop searching for answers or solutions, and accept the situation as it is. This state of mind can be described as a being-mode: not wishing to change, not worrying about goals in the future, but accepting the current situation and having a quiet mind.
While the doing-mode can be very useful when trying to achieve something,  people with autism often remain in the doing-mode when this is not, or no longer, of benefit. When lying in bed and wanting to go to sleep, or when there is a problem that cannot be solved, people with autism often keep pondering. In these situations they often feel the urge to ‘stop thinking’, but are unable to do so. For many people with autism, it is very difficult to create a peaceful or still mind. During the mindfulness training, the participants learn to gain more control over the focus of the mind, for instance by actively directing attention to breathing or to certain parts of the body. When the attention is thus focused, the mind is more at peace because the attention is diverted away from thoughts and actions, and thus into the being-mode. This can help to stop the thought cycle and fall asleep.  When people with ASD learn to influence the mode of the brain, it helps them to actively create a more peaceful mind, by shifting from the doing-mode  to the being-mode.