Mindfulness Meditation allows you to notice your life without getting lost in it or overwhelmed by it
As a trauma survivor you can benefit from mindfulness meditation by cultivating your ability to witness life. With that you can notice what’s happening without getting carried away by it, or need to shut down around it.
Mindfulness helps us to notice our lives without all the embellishments we add on. In the Buddhist literature it’s often referred to as bare attention. We notice the basics, the bare essentials of what’s there.
The essence of mindfulness is, in the words of Nyanaponika Thera, “the clear and single minded awareness of what actually happens to us and in us, at the successive moments of perception.”
Another way to describe mindfulness is that we notice the “facts”
If you look around your desk, or chair, or where ever you are reading this. What do you see? If you’re on a computer, like I am as I write this, you see the screen, the table top, perhaps the lamp, the pen, paper, whatever else is nearby.
Take a look at what you see, and just see it. Gently notice and name what’s there in a word, letting go of the sentence, the paragraph, the associations that go with that item. In this
case, as I sit here in front of my computer typing I see a computer screen. I’m just going to note what’s there without adding anything to it. The bare noticing is what we call mindfulness.
Screen. Screen. Screen. Screen.
It doesn’t take long for my mind, and I’m imagining your mind, to elaborate on the simple things I am seeing and doing. If I softly gaze at the screen it begins to seem to bright, there’s a slight impulse to move, shift, words in my head like, “wow, that’s really bright! I wonder why I never noticed that before…..”
This is what our minds are doing all the time. Taking in information and creating a story or series of associations about them. Our minds move rapid fire from the bare, seemingly drab
bits of life moving more to these bright stories and dramas of our experience. Being so full or shut down that we are operating on the automatics scripts of our lives is the opposite of being mindful.
So, what does this have to do with ptsd?
Most trauma survivors have the opposite of a dull, boring internal world. They may have had to narrow down their external world to try to titrate the huge mass of internal chaos but their
internal world will be chock full.
Training yourself in mindfulness will make a huge difference in calming down your anxiety, relaxing your nervous system, unhooking you from your depression.
If you note what’s there you are using your mind to see, feel, experience what you are noticing instead of being pulled into the chaos. That focus is cultivated through concentration
Being mindful provides the skill of seeing what you are seeing without being caught up in it. Imagine what it would be like if you could notice what’s going on without getting lost in it, stuck in it.
For example, say you get triggered by something, you heart starts racing, your anxiety rises, feelings of dread fill you. You get the picture.
Mindfulness allows you to notice that, essentially taking a step back inside, away from the huge volume of churning going on. You notice it. You don’t go into it.
What a gift that is!
There are practice suggestions that might help you as you begin or invigorate your mindfulness meditation practice.
Click here for practice suggestions for mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness doesn’t just happen in “formal” practice
Learning to practice mindfulness doesn’t just happen when we sit in silence in a quiet place. It’s often about how we speak, how we relate to ourselves, how we move through the world. We can practice in almost every situation.
- When you brush your teeth try noticing every piece of the experience. If you find yourself narrating your experience while you do it return your mind to the simple movements and physical sensations of brushing your teeth.
- As you walk notice how your feet touch the ground. Bring all our attention to the simple movement.
- Wash your dishes with great attention. Slow down and move the dish cloth over every aspect of the dish, paying attention to every single moment.
- Interact with your friend or loved one as if this very moment is all there is. As you listen to what they say, bring your attention to every word, letting each sentence be said.
After they’ve spoken, pause and then respond from that moment of silence.
Being mindful is the simple act of paying attention without adding anything to what we are paying attention to.
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