At my first stint at an outpatient treatment program in 2006, they discussed how meditation was a tool for dealing with PTSD. It was a part of our everyday program. I was a miserable failure at this. I had difficulty closing my eyes with other people in the room. I was at high alert so I could not close my eyes. If by chance I was able to shut them for a short period of time, I would find myself totally separating from my body. I already had dissociation down to an art form and did not want to improve in that area.
Furthermore, my racing mind got even more intense when I closed my eyes and I became more hypervigilant. Many times I needed to get up and just leave the room to get some physical movement in to help rein in my distress.
After a few weeks, I decided that my journal writing every day was a source of creative meditation. Writing out my racing thoughts (sometimes brilliant racing thoughts) was an active way for me to get to stillness. It took me about two hours to get there but it worked. I always had a candle burning with essential oils which kept me connected to my sense of smell so I would not separate from my body. These things were important to me to have in a meditative process.
My next step towards incorporating meditation into my life was my morning session of earth connection. I would sit outside and observe nature trying to build a relationship with nature. I would sit and use my senses to connect to the brilliance of the earth. I would feel the cool breeze on my face. I would listen to the birds as they sang. I listened to the rustle of the leaves in the trees. Sometimes I would need to just focus on one sense because using two senses could overstimulate me and I would then dissociate. There were many times when I would just close my eyes and feel the warmth of the sun caressing my face and whole body. It eventually slowed down my mind and I felt this sense of connection to “all that is” while outside in the peacefulness of nature. Even now in a New England winter, I still work on this earth connection.
Now I consider my whole day a day of meditation. First, four times a day – sunrise, noon, sunset, and bedtime – I do a series of deep breathing repetitions while reflecting on what I am grateful for at this moment in time. This only takes 10 minutes but it grounds me and opens my heart and bypasses my suffering. The last 10 years has given me what Joseph Campbell would say is the greatest privilege you can get in a lifetime and that is “the privilege of being who you are.” This is what I stand in gratitude for 4 times a day while also reflecting on the beauty of the earth and universe.
Lately, my movement has become another form of meditation. While walking on the treadmill I focus on sending my vibrational energy out through my feet and deep into the earth. This keeps me grounded and helps me from dissociating while moving and helps keep it meditative.
Finally, eating has become my latest form of meditation, I reflect on how what I am eating is contributing to my wellness (or not). I patiently wait to eat until I actually feel hunger instead of eating because it is noon. I am also learning to be able to delineate when I am satiated. Lessons I should have learned when I was young but my first experience with trauma happened in utero so I missed out on these very early life lessons. In addition, meals were a very stressful and loud time when I was young. So now when eating, I try to eat slowly and chew my food more and more. I have switched to a smaller plate and smaller utensils. Sometimes eating with chopsticks really helps me slow down and taste the fullness of every bite.
For me, it is about taking small steps and evaluating them. If they work for me, I incorporate them into my daily routines. If they don’t work, I try not to feel failure but I learn from the experience.