Each of these 7-day mindfulness courses pays attention to a different part of life and each develops different skills. They are constructed in a trauma-informed way to reduce the risk of triggering.
During the 7 days you can read a little and try out mindfulness in your own time. Do as much or as little as you find helpful.
The course “Experiments with steadying ourselves” doesn’t use words, but is totally audio-based for those of us less keen on reading.
If you are new to this site and live with trauma distress, you may want to explore “What is trauma-informed mindfulness?”
There are links to more formal guided meditations on the same theme using video or audio recordings, and some teaching notes in video or PowerPoint.
Mindfulness, if you live with anxiety or trauma, can be like swimming.
Having someone throw you in the deep end before you can swim is scary. Trauma-informed mindfulness says let’s go slowly. Just this step, one step at a time. First, seeing if swimming is a good idea, then dipping a toe in the water, then maybe putting on some arm bands and having a float around. At some point you might get the help of a teacher to learn different strokes, or try to go a bit deeper.
The 7-day courses offer first steps in mindfulness. They aim to build confidence in your own body, to find some sense of steadiness in the turbulence and swirl of trauma sensations and experiences. Discovering that the world is solid with “just this step” can be a helpful way to trust taking the next step.
We trauma-survivors have all learnt coping strategies. These strategies work – more or less, on and off – but there may be phases when they aren’t as effective at keeping us safe.
Maybe getting angry is your coping strategy, or isolating yourself, or having a really good ‘mask’ that shows one version of you to the world, and underneath there is a different version of you.
When mindfulness asks us to begin a process of stepping outside our coping strategies, it may feel like a threat. Gradually this site will teach you how to use mindfulness to steady yourself, but it takes some practice and some time. So we need to go slowly, knowing we are developing the skills to find stability and steadiness if we start to feel wobbly.
It is important to allow yourself to move to your own coping strategy at any time. Or take a break, go for a walk, make a cup of tea, watch TV, phone a friend. Whatever you would usually do to cope.
The thing is to take care of yourself. This is the most important aspect of trauma-informed mindfulness.
We need to use mindfulness practices with great kindness, carefully, going slowly and with great respect to the hurting and scared wounded part of us. Life has dealt us a blow and it is vital that the teacher, or our inner self-judging part, doesn’t deal a second blow by pushing us in places and at times when stepping back would be better.
Scanning for danger
Trauma arises after an experience of extreme danger and leaves us with a sort of internal ‘scanning device’ that performs the task of checking for safety. You may have heard this called ‘vigilance’ or ‘hypervigilance’. When we pay attention to something (even a supposedly lovely flower), our scanning system simultaneously comes online, checking for danger. If it notices something that resembles danger (according to our past), we can be triggered. If you feel your scanning device come alive, it can be helpful at first to slow down and check things out. Actively look to see if there is any danger. After a while you will learn mindfulness practices to steady you when this happens.
Giving it time
Anxiety tends to say “urgent!” and yet mindfulness needs time, repetition, and a little pinch of patience too.
If we can create, or contact, small but frequent experiences of steadiness and safeness in our world, gradually these small moments start to extend or merge together. We may feel ready to go a bit deeper, or try a new or different mindfulness practice that stretches our ability to be in a place that used to feel dangerous. Just this step. Step by step.