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.
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Sitting Meditation:  A Tool for Building Capacity to Notice Our Reactions to Others

July 27, 2021 / by John Engel, MA

Monthly RC Mindfulness: Come Fill Your Cup - August 2021

As a reminder, the August 4th Monthly RC Mindfulness session has been cancelled as I will be on vacation. In place of the August session, the following post offers practice guidelines for August 4th (or whenever you like). These guidelines can be used to support individual or group practice for RC treaters. We will return to in-person Monthly RC Mindfulness on September 1st.


Our Risking Connection curriculum makes clear that noticing our reactions to others is an essential practice, which we must foster and continuously develop to effectively supporting the healing of trauma survivors. The Monthly RC Mindfulness session in June introduced the idea that mindfulness practices can be used to develop The Practice of Noticing and in the July session sitting meditation was explored as a specific practice for building capacity to notice reactions as summarized in The Practice of Noticing - Using Support Anchors.

Sitting Meditation with Support Anchors

The July session ended with an invitation to experiment with sitting meditation and the use of support anchors. The invitation is repeated here, notice your reactions and have fun!

  •  Sit 2-3 times per week for 2-5 minutes per session
  •  Set a specific time to practice and explore which works best for you (e.g., upon rising, mid-morning break, lunch time, end of work day, or just before bed)
  •  Explore different body and eye positions
  •  Explore different internal and external anchors
  •  Take care of yourself, seek support as needed


Invitation to August Practice

Consider further exploration of sitting meditation during the month of August, building on the July experience. For example…

  • If you practiced 2-3 times per week for 2-5 minutes, then consider increasing to 2-3 (or more) times per week for 5-10 minutes – but only if that is appealing to you.
  • If you practiced at a particular time during the day, consider practicing at a different time…experiment with differences between early morning, mid-day and evening.
  • Continue to explore the use of internal and external anchors, trying new and different anchors in your practice. Again, more on anchors in the July post


Helpful Reminders

Tip #1: Resist the temptation to try to have a certain experience (to calm your mind, to experience bliss, to feel comfortable, to be a great meditator). Rather, explore the idea that regular practice, even a few minutes each day, develops our ability to be present in the moment and to notice our reactions to others. Simply notice your experience and reactions and be ready to share and discuss in our September 1st session.


Tip #2: Especially if you experiment with breath as an internal anchor, consider reading Anchoring Our Awareness: Alternatives to the breath by Kristy Arbon. In short, breath as a support anchor can be triggering for some–especially trauma survivors–since breathing is uniquely connected at the somatic level to trauma experiences. This linked article offers a deeper dive into this topic. Be ready to share and discuss in our September 1st session.


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. More on this topic (register at the following hyperlink) in the August RC Webinar: Widening the Window of Tolerance – Strategies for Individual and Collective Healing.

Tags: Mindfulness

John Engel, MA

Written by John Engel, MA

John Engel, Program Coordinator at the Traumatic Stress Institute of Klingberg Family Centers, where he serves as a trainer and consultant for 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. John also leads mindfulness in the workplace initiatives, including design and delivery of a webinar entitled, ‘Mindfulness in the Workplace: Practices for Sustaining Trauma-Informed Care,’ a day-long virtual training event, ‘Mindfulness: The Inner Work of Racial Healing and Trauma-Informed Care, ‘Monthly RC Mindfulness’ pilot and a ‘30-Day RC Mindfulness Challenge.’ John is a Certified Workplace Mindfulness Facilitator (CWMF), is certified in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), and has participated in virtual and in-person Mindfulness in the Workplace Summits by Mindful Leader.