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Befriending Your Pain

Transforming our Relationship to Depression, Anxiety, Physical and Emotional Pain, Through Mindfulness and Compassion

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Over the course of 5 classes participants can learn to cultivate practices for managing and preventing chronic feelings of unhappiness.

  • Meditation and mindfulness practices help quiet the mind so you can slow down enough to see what is actually happening internally. The natural state of a quieted mind interrupts reactivity and offers you freedom to discover a still place. It is from this settled, silent and spacious place that we can choose to have a compassionate and responsive relationship to every element of our experience.
  • Finding the key to quieting the mind and relaxing into the present is simple -- and using it takes practice

Mindfulness points towards being more fully present/aware each moment. Life can become more interesting, fulfilling. On the other hand, being present also means facing what’s present even when difficult and unpleasant. Contemplative practices incline us towards a different mode of being with difficulty and this different mode re-sculpts the brain. Whatever you decide to practice in this class will naturally influence you and all those with whom you come in contact. Just as most of us have heard, ‘You are what you eat’ this course can show you that ‘You are what you practice’.”

Although these classes, videos, audios, written materials, were originally offered in the context of a Buddhist center, participants do not have to ascribe to any religion or have experience with meditation or contemplative practices to realize its benefits.

In the Befriending Your Pain Course you can
Discover how to “re-sculpt” your brain to be free of reactive mind-body patterns and experience a deeper authentic connection, presence and vitality.

You may have experienced painful states for such a long time that your mind and emotions often feel out of control. You may feel overwhelmed and alone, debilitated by powerful waves of anxiety, fear, sadness, anger and hopelessness. Perhaps you feel better for a while, and then the states of mind that can lead to chronic unhappiness appear once more and keep relentlessly repeating themselves.

Feeling caught in certain restrictive mind-body habit patterns, you may believe you can never escape them. Your perspective may have become limited, and you may feel held captive by the reactive and sometimes wildly unfocused mind.

What you should know is that this is not your fault. How is that? Let’s explore!

“Perhaps you feel you can’t talk about your unhappiness because there is a cultural stigma around experiencing painfully uncomfortable emotional mood states, including those labeled depression and anxiety. By transforming this perspective, we can transform our lives. It is possible to have a new relationship to our experience of pain and difficult mood states. Rather than trying to avoid our pain, we can choose to befriend it with care-filled kindness, mindfulness and compassion.” —Dr. Lee Lipp

Mindfulness points towards being more fully present/aware each moment. Life can become more interesting, fulfilling. On the other hand, being present also means facing what’s present even when difficult and unpleasant. Contemplative practices incline us towards a different mode of being with difficulty and this different mode re-sculpts the brain. Whatever you decide to practice in this class will naturally influence you and all those with whom you come in contact. Just as most of us have heard, ‘You are what you eat’ this course can show you that ‘You are what you practice’.”

Please note that although these classes, videos, audios, written materials, were originally offered in the context of a Buddhist center, participants do not have to ascribe to Buddhism or have experience with meditation or contemplative practices to realize its benefits.

“You open a door to a dark room and you think you know what’s there, where everything is arranged, but you really don’t know until you step inside.” Bob Dylan, Chronicles, Vol. 1[1] [2]

From the time you were born, causes and conditions developed into internal story lines about your life that have obscured the natural, spacious nature of mind. This course will show you how to relate to any dark rooms that open.

Over time, those repeated story lines (the "ism’s" are an example-oppressive habit patterned conscious and unconscious biases our cultures have made up) have been engraved in most of our brains (almost literally, as neural pathways), and you have related to them as if they were the truth about the way things are. You didn’t create these story lines alone. Some of these aren’t even your own story lines—they belong to past generations and to cultural contexts handed down to you, whether you wanted them or not. It’s important to recognize that most of these story lines are not the TRUTH. Please consider that it’s quite possible that you’re not stupid, lazy, ugly or whatever was told to you by others that you picked up one way or other. They are simply mind-body habit patterns repeated over time which appear to be true. You believe that you can’t escape them or the inner pain they bring. Aversion to your internal pain is often accompanied by reactivity and actions that worsen how you feel and deepen your suffering.

You can be free of your internal story lines and much of the suffering that accompanies them. Instead of running from pain, it is possible to discover kindhearted, mindful awareness and non-reactive attention to painful states. As we do so, we begin to see illuminated pathways in what at first appeared to be a densely wooded, dark forest with no way out.


What are the requirements?

No previous knowledge or expertise required. Simply bring your curiosity and we’ll step inside together.

Fee: $25 - $100, sliding scale with full scholarships available.

If you are unable to pay the suggested fee please apply for scholarship here. This will not be a complicated process. Please pay at the highest level you can afford. If you wish to make a contribution to sustaining the scholarship fund you will find a link to do so at the time you register for the class. Offering the course in this way meets Dr. Lipp’s intention for everyone to be included and welcomed. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Who is the target audience?

This online course is offered for everyone, whether you have difficulty with depression and/or anxiety or simply want to understand and befriend the nature of the mind and emotions. Everyone feels depressed or highly anxious from time to time. It’s natural to want to find relief.

You will discover how it is possible for you to:

  • Be released from the limiting story lines that you and others have told you about yourself
  • Learn new skills that lead to untangling painful thoughts and self-criticism
  • Build the capacity to be with emotional pain and distress with strength and courage
  • Cultivate self-confidence and self-esteem as you practice using re-sculpting tools
  • Learn to offer compassion and acceptance to yourself and others
  • Cultivate a natural experience of peace, ease and well-being
  • Experience deeper authentic connection, presence and vitality
  • Feel better and have a deeply satisfying relationship to life


What others are saying about Dr. Lee Lipp's course


I have taken Lee's class live before and found it wonderful but I still wasn't able to use the tools and implement the practice regularly.

The online course has been the most useful for me as the teachings, guided meditation, and all the resources were available to me daily by clicking on the link.

After the summer online course I started sitting almost daily for many months. I have never had such good follow through from any other class I have attended before.

-- S.G.


Dear Lee, I too have benefited from your work with depression and am honored to support your online course project. Deep bows for this act of generosity.

-- J.R.


Lee, thank you for your work! I have attended and benefited from your class. I enjoy supporting and collaborating with you in any way I can.

-- L.C.

Class Curriculum


  Class 3: Freedom from Suffering is Possible - Moving from Reactivity to Self Confident Responsiveness
Available in days
days after you enroll

Note: If you are using a scholarship coupon, please apply it to the $25 level. It will not work on the other levels. If you would like to apply for a scholarship, click here.

Get started now!



You may use the following resources by going at your own pace. Curriculum is available for 3 months from the time of registration. If you wish to extend the time, please let us know what you can offer to help us sustain the course for everyone.

Your Instructors

Lee Lipp, Ph.D. has a therapy practice in San Francisco and supervises at Haight Ashbury Psych Services. Having taught in psychology graduate programs for 16 years, some of her most recent work has included being Diversity Coordinator at San Francisco Zen Center. Lee has been teaching mindfulness based classes and workshops for 20 years in a variety of settings. Her focus in the last few years has included teaching Transforming Depression and Anxiety classes in venues that include Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Insight Meditation Center, Zen Hospice Project, Tassajara Mountain Center, San Francisco Zen Center, East Bay Meditation Center, San Francisco Insight, Gay Men’s Buddhist Sangha, UCSF-Trauma Recovery Unit, National Alliance for Mental Illness, SF Mental Health Association and San Francisco Dept. of Mental Health. She served as head student at SFZC’s City Center in 2013 and is a practice leader there, is certified by Spirit Rock to teach in the community, and has been a member of Thich Nhat Hahn’s Order of Interbeing, practicing Zen and Vipassana since 1990.


Rev. Kanzan David Zimmerman has been practicing Soto Zen for 25 years, 15 of which have been in residence at San Francisco Zen Center. He was ordained as a priest in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi by Rev. Teah Strozer in 2006, and spent eight years at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, where he held a number of positions, including monastery director and head monk (shuso). Prior to his current role as the head of practice (tanto) at City Center, David also served as SFZC program director and corporate secretary. David has a Certificate of Zen Ministry through the Shogaku Zen Institute/Zen Priest Training Seminary, serves on the SFZC Cultural Inclusivity & Awareness Committee, and is a co-facilitator of Queer Dharma. He regularly leads retreats, workshops and classes at SFZC and other dharma centers, particularly on transforming depression and anxiety, with Dr. Lee Lipp.


Paul Irving has practiced in Eastern and Western contemplative traditions for over 40 years. Having completed Spirit Rock’s Community Dharma Leader Program in 2012 he holds Spirit Rock Meditation Center’s certification to teach in the community. Much of his teaching has been at San Francisco Insight where he has also served as SFI’s Board President. Additionally, Paul is one the facilitators for the Transforming Depression and Anxiety Practice Class that meets weekly at San Francisco Zen Center. He currently is the Practice Manager of four allied medical clinics at UCSF and is engaged in moment-to-moment family practice with a husband, a teenager, and a rambunctious dog.

Frequently Asked Questions


When does the course start and finish?
The course starts whenever you would like to start. It is a completely self-paced online course that is accessible to you for 3 months.
How long do I have access to the course?
After enrolling, you have unlimited access to this course for 3 months - across any and all devices you own. If you wish to extend the time, please let us know what contribution you can offer to help us sustain the course.
What if I am unhappy with the course?
We would never want you to be unhappy! If you are unsatisfied with your purchase, contact us in the first 30 days and we will give you a full refund.