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Gillian Florence

Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness

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Has anyone read the book 'Trauma-Sensitive MIndfulness' by David A. Treleaven? I have not yet read it but have heard a lot about it and I think this topic is really important.

Alternatively, if you haven't read the book but have insights or questions about how to share mindfulness with others while being aware of and sensitive to trauma, I would love to hear what is on your mind.

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Hi Gillian! Yes I have read this book. The main takeaways I discovered are that we must acknowledge what our window of tolerance is in our day to day life in addition to tracking this during meditation as well  as the following: 

Here are some helpful tips when someone is in a state of disregulated arousal: 

Muscle tone extremely slack (collapsed, noticeably flat affect) • Muscle tone extremely rigid • Hyperventilation • Exaggerated startle response • Excessive sweating • Noticeable dissociation (person appears highly disconnected from their body) • Noticeably pale skin tone • Emotional volatility (enraged, excessive crying, terror)

Also, it’s suggested to “apply the brakes” when any hypoarousal (anxiety, panic, traumatic memories) occurs. For example: 

Open one’s eyes during meditation practice. • Take structured breaks from mindfulness practice (e.g., walking, stretching, unstructured time). • Take a few slow, deep breaths. • Engage in a soothing form of self-touch (e.g., hand on heart). • Focus on a resourceful, external object in one’s environment. • Engage in shorter practice periods.

Unfortunately I have one client that reaches her window of tolerance unexpectedly and these tips only slightly help. For example, she will meditate and feel profoundly quiet inside and relaxed but then seemingly out of nowhere she will experience extreme nausea and experiences a panic attack. I am a mental health therapist so I am also helping this client reprocess old trauma with EMDR and TRE in a safe way but she really enjoys mindfulness meditation too. 

If anyone has any resources on this it would be so appreciative! So far we have “put on the brakes” when needed and shortened practice sessions. I would love to learn about new tools in situations like this if you have any to offer. Thank you! 

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Thank you for sharing these! I love the 'apply the brakes' analogy. For myself, and when guiding others, I often use the hand on heart suggestion. I find it really helps me (and others) to connect back, to find compassion, and to ground. Opening the eyes and taking structured breaks are also great reminders.

One thing I often do or invite those I'm guiding to do is to not worry about moving. This seems similar to structured breaks (i.e. stretching), but I am also very open to movement when it is a reflex or habit (i.e. scratching or moving the legs). I find this adds an element of openness and unconditional acceptance. When guiding others, I tend to encourage stillness as much as possible, but I really remind them not to worry about moving if it happens. Just as we invite people to feel compassionate towards the wandering mind, I think it's important to offer the same for physical movements. I think this might take some of the pressure off the practice as well.

How does your client feel about guided breathing practices? I find simple techniques like boxed breathing incredibly settling.

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