The Traumatic Stress Institute fosters the transformation of organizations and service systems to trauma-informed care (TIC) through the delivery of whole-system consultation, professional training, coaching, and research.

Body Scan Practice:  A Tool for Building Capacity to Notice Our Reactions to Others

October 7, 2021 / by John Engel, MA

Monthly RC Mindfulness: Come Fill Your Cup - October 2021

More than 30 RC Trainers, Champions and staff attended this month's Monthly RC Mindfulness session. This blog offers a brief summary of the session, initial feedback from participants, and resources to advance learning and practice.

Enjoy the read and remember that all staff, Champions, and Trainers at RC agencies are welcome to attend this free, monthly drop-in offering – share this registration link with your coworkers today.

Join us November 3th when we will share our body scan experiences and engage in a 15-minute practice of choice (sitting, walking, or body scan), then share our practice experience in breakout spaces and large group. Also, a survey link will be shared to gather input on this Monthly RC Mindfulness pilot program, including its possible continuation and other potential offerings. 

Session Summary

In our October session we introduced body scan as another practice for building our capacity to notice our reactions to others. In addition to sitting and walking meditation practices that were introduced in recent months, body scan practice offers a third option for building our capacity to be with our experience. In particular, body scan practice supports awareness of bodily sensations – or what we call feeling awareness in the Risking Connection curriculum. This helps us better track our states of distress and calm and the ways that these states affect our reactions to others (coworkers and clients). 

RC Application

As RC treaters we might notice that we tend to feel tension in our head or neck, uneasiness in our stomach, or restlessness in our body during an interaction – or when anticipating an interaction – with a particular co-worker or client. Awareness of our bodily sensations and their connection to our experiences with others can help us gain greater clarity about our present-moment experiences. Simply noticing and naming the experiences helps us gain access to our thinking brain, where we can make decisions about how to respond (or not respond) to the other person rather than reflexively responding in a way that might be harmful. As you engage in mindfulness practices and build your capacity to notice your reactions to others, consider sharing about your experiences in supervision for additional support and exploration. 

Invitation to October Practice

Explore body scan practice during the month of October, building on previous experience with sitting and walking meditation during the past few months of this program.

  • 2-3 times per week for 5-10 minutes per session
  • Set a specific time (if helpful), such as upon rising, mid-morning break, lunch time, pre-bed, etc.
  • Mix and compare with walking and sitting meditation to see what works best for you
  • Take care of yourself, seek support as needed
  • Notice your reactions to others and have fun with the practice! 

Participant Feedback  

  • "I found it extremely useful. I feel calm and ‘alive’ at the same time."
  • "The more distracted and busy I am, the more I recognize how much I need to practice mindfulness."
  • "I appreciate the different styles of meditation practice, for self-care and the care of others."
  • "I’m glad I participated and wish I had logged on sooner to this series."

 Resources and Tips for Body Scan Practice

Tip #1: Scan your environment for safety. Practicing in a safe space (alone or with others) will help your survival brain perceive safety, so that you can access calm and focus.

Tip #2:  During Body Scan practice, experiment with different postures. Consider seated practice in a comfortable chair or lying down on you back on a yoga mat or other comfortable surface. Consider eyes open or closed as you are comfortable. When your mind wanders gently bring your attention back to your body and bodily sensations, and continue the scan. If you become overwhelmed allow yourself to pause and stop the practice. If you choose to continue, consider shifting your body position, opening your eyes, and reassessing your sense of safety within your physical environment. If possible, notice where in your body scan or what bodily sensations bring about feelings of calm or distress. 

Tip #3: Meditation is not recommended as a way to move from a highly dysregulated state to a place of calm, especially for trauma survivors. Rather, movement-based activities, including gentle rhythmic motion, walking, yoga, and other forms of exercise better support nervous system regulation.

Tip #4: If you are new to our Monthly RC Mindfulness (or simply wish to review prior sessions), feel free to explore the mindfulness blog on the TSI website. The posts with the image of a yellow cup are part of the Monthly RC Mindfulness series and there is a three-part series, too, from Summer/Fall 2020.

Register for Monthly RC Mindfulness

Tags: Mindfulness

John Engel, MA

Written by John Engel, MA

John Engel is a Program Coordinator for the Traumatic Stress Institute of the Klingberg Family Centers, where he serves as a trainer and consultant for client agencies adopting whole system change to trauma-informed care. John also facilitates strategic change initiatives and product development for TSI, including development and launch of the Online ARTIC Scale. Additionally, John has been piloting mindfulness in the workplace, including design and delivery of a national training webinar entitled Mindfulness in the Workplace: Practices for Sustaining Trauma-Informed Care, design and facilitation of a day-long virtual training event, Mindfulness: The Inner Work of Racial Healing and Trauma-Informed Care, and a Monthly RC Mindfulness pilot in 2021. Since 2011, John has written a monthly column, The Fatherhood Journey, for the Daily Hampshire Gazette, with a mission of promoting public and private conversations about fatherhood.