…pretty much everybody at some level has experienced some kind of trauma or another in their lives, and some of us many more traumas. Where does the practice of mindfulness fit in? And I think that it’s important to recognize various phases of working with trauma—and they are identified differently by different people, but I think in terms of three basic phases: The acute phase of trauma, the trauma has either just happened or, in terms of post-traumatic stress, you’re coming to grips with it, you’re starting to deal with it. And the most important thing there is safety and stabilizing.
So, for example, in working with, say, a veteran who’s come to a mindfulness course recognizing recognizing, either themselves or because they’ve been diagnosed by a professional, that they have anxiety and extreme difficulty with emotional regulation. They’re hypervigilant. they have loss of sleep, et cetera, et cetera. If you just say: okay, let’s sit down and meditate for two hours paying attention to our breath, that’s going to be pretty hard to do.
Think: If you just came out of a car accident and somebody said: okay, here’s how we’re going to deal with this, we’re going to meditate for a couple of hours. That’s not going to work that well because trauma, whether it’s psychological or physical, it all ends up in the body. So, a lot of the practices for the acute phase have to do with working with body and breath and movement. Getting us to breathe deeply and begin to be able to re-enter our body. That can help slow down some of the speediness of mind that comes with all of the anxiety, and all the raciness of our thoughts. If you’re just sitting there, it’s easy for your thoughts to race. We can calm ourselves down with a lot of the body techniques, so certain kinds of yoga and breathing and movement are very helpful.