Dr Paul Brocklehurst on Mindfulness and Stuttering (StutterTalk)

Dr Paul Brocklehurst speaks about mindfulness and stuttering on a recent episode of StutterTalk. I’ve written about Paul before as he’s written a helpful introduction to mindfulness and stuttering (here) and runs the Stammering Self Empowerment ProgrammeScreen shot 2015-07-20 at 18.46.29


Cascade Mind

This is taken from reflections by someone who attended a course in mindfulness meditation and stammering:

“When I’m focussing on raising my awareness of my speech after a period of not doing so, my stammer can sometimes get worse.”

Taken from ‘Stammering from the Inside

In Tibetan Buddhism there is a state of mind known as “cascade mind” or “waterfall mind”. It is the state of mind that anyone trying meditation for the first time (and plenty of us who’ve been practising for a long time) know very well – the mind trips and tumbles from one thought to the next, throwing up a seemingly-endless stream of thoughts like a cascade of water.


It can be infuriating and it can be shocking when we see just how the mind is working. Try as we might to return to the breath or whatever we are attempting to focus upon, we are pulled back to this discursive procession of thoughts. Many people reach this point and decide that meditation is not for them. “I can’t meditate… when I sit down to meditate my mind just won’t settle down, it’s just moving all the time” is a sentiment I’ve often heard. But I want to stress the value of seeing your cascade mind. Everyone’s mind can be like this – chances are you do not have a uniquely hyperactive mind, however much it might feel like that sometimes. The very fact that you have begun to notice how chaotic things are in there is a big deal and an important part of the process of developing mindfulness.

When we begin to notice the cascades of our mind it can feel like things are worsening. In truth, you have just become much more aware of something that is going on inside you all the time. Don’t be dispirited. Things feel like they’re getting worse but, in truth, you need to notice that waterfall of thoughts before you can start learning how your mind works, accept this and learn to work with it.

Going back to the quote above – when we begin to become more aware of our speech and those moments when we stammer it might well feel like things are going downhill. I suspect that things are not really going downhill. It’s the same frustration and shock we can experience when we are first faced with cascade mind. So, if you start to come up against an cascade mind while meditating or what we might call “cascade stuttering” when you speak, keep with it – you are getting somewhere!

Carolyn Cheasman – Mindfulness and Speech Therapy

I’m not sure how I haven’t come across this before – but here is a short talk by Carolyn Cheasman (who is herself a person who stutters) on mindfulness and its usefulness for Speech Therapists. Carolyn also runs excellent courses for people who stutter (as well as Speech Therapists) over at City Lit in London.

Barry Guitar on Mindfulness and Stuttering

barry guitar

I came across a brief presentation by well-known specialist Barry Guitar (who I believe is himself a person who stutters) on mindfulness and stuttering. It ends with some personal reflections, which I thought were helpful:

  • Mindfulness meditation is best as a daily practice.
  • Meditation provides an experience of feeling time slow down. [It] enhances a sense of calmness.
  • [A mindful approach to stuttering can mean that you welcome opportunities] to stutter so that you can observe it and work with feelings and behaviours associated with it.

Book Review: Mindfulness & Stuttering

Pam Mertz reviews ‘Mindfulness and Stuttering’ by Ellen-Marie SIlverman…

Make Room For The Stuttering

I recently read Ellen-Marie Silverman’s book Mindfulness & Stuttering: Using Eastern Strategies to Speak with Greater Ease. To put it simply, this is a book about change. A good book about change!

Silverman introduces how mindfulness can help us reduce the fear we associate with stuttering (or always have.) Reducing the fear of stuttering allows us to speak with less struggle, even if we stutter as we speak.

Silverman offers a clear and simple definition of mindfulness. She offers that mindfulness is a process of attending calmly, without judgement, to what we are thinking, feeling and doing in the moment.

“The more mindful we become by attending to what is rather than anticipating what might be or regretting what was, the more capable we are of creating the change we want.”  In the case of stuttering, that change is to speak with less struggle, less tension and, as…

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Addressing Fear Through Meditation: Zen and Stuttering

Just read a nice little article by Stefan Bogdanov entitled ‘Addressing Fear through Meditation: Zen and Stuttering‘ (2009). Bogdanov makes some interesting points, for example warning against starting ‘mindfulness mediation in order to achieve fluency’. Rather than acting directly upon our speech, Bogdanov argues, it can instead help us better understand and manage our ‘fears, ideas and expectations’ around stuttering. 


Mindfulness and Stuttering Therapy on StutterTalk

I came across an excellent episode of Stuttertalk where Michael P. Boyle (speech and language pathologist and person who stutters) talks mindfulness and stuttering:

People who stutter ‘have challenges keeping up with their fluency strategies or their speech modification techniques, it’s very difficult to be able to transfer that to everyday life and it requires a lot of vigilance and monitoring… to use the techniques taught in speech therapy. So I think mindfulness can help us train our attention and expand our capacity to pay attention… and that’s very relevant for using certain speech modification techniques.’



Forest Fires and Stuttering

I’ve written about the book ‘Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout’ on my other blog, Mindful Walking, here. In it Philip Connors discusses the changing ways that forest fires have been understood in America. A century ago it was widely thought that forest fires, whatever their cause, should always be extinguished. This kind of thinking is easy to understand – nobody wants their house up in flames, the local economy crippled or the landscape scarred.

forest fire

The problem is that when we relentlessly stamp out every fire, the wood that falls from trees each year accumulates on the forest floor. We might think we’re saving the forest, and ourselves, from the damaging effects of fire – but really we’re just delaying the inevitable. Eventually it will burn and, due to that dense carpet of  wood on the forest floor, it’ll burn with a far greater intensity and over a greater area. As many now appreciate, forest fires are a natural part of the lifecycle of this landscape. They clear the way, allowing for new growth (which often follows remarkably swiftly following the fire). In some areas controlled fires (also known as prescribed fire) are set in order to prevent the kind of large-scale fires. They are actually fighting fire with fire. Awesome.

In many ways this resembles how mindfulness can be used to ease stuttering. When we begin to objectively experience and accept our stuttering, and the behaviours that come along with it, we start to remove that kindling from the forest floor. Difficult experiences of stuttering can be seen for what they are, rather than ignored or masked in the hope of appearing fluent. We accept the inevitability of some level of stuttering (the small, controlled fires) and, in doing so, we alleviate the tension and anxiety that stuttering can cause in our lives more generally (the potential for more intense, all-consuming fires).

forest fire new growth

New growth after the fire


‘The concept of automatic pilot is very relevant to people who stammer, as stammering and speaking in general is something that we tend to do whilst in automatic pilot mode. Becoming more non-judgementally aware of our automatic patterns leads the way to us being able to make more conscious choices about changing them, e.g. applying techniques or not avoiding.’

The above quote is taken from an account written by an attendee at a mindfulness meditation course for stammering/stuttering run by Carolyn Cheasman at City Lit in London. You can read it in its entirety on The British Stammering Association website.

Katsushika Hokusai Art 101