Dec 20

A main goal of healing trauma and how to begin

Everyone with trauma can benefit from learning to reprogram their nervous system from the states of anxiety and exhaustion to exuberance and ease. A good place to begin is with an understanding of the territory and the goal. After that the critical piece is beginning a regular practice of somatic (body-based) inquiry. This article is  about the territory and names the goal; others on this website go into the practices that are experiential – where change really happens.

These two models show both un-discharged traumatic stress (red areas) and a well-regulated nervous system – what could be called FLOW or coherence (green areas).

These models are useful in many ways. To name a few:

  • The goal is identified: FLOW or an optimal state of nervous system regulation.
  • The states of dysregulation or FLOW can be seen in both low-energy and high-energy states. Without this understanding, people with anxiety can assume that the goal is to become calm and dull which is shut-down rather than relaxed.
  • The models show what each state feels like. This is critical, because trauma is held in the body, so it needs to be released on a somatic level. New ways of being and feeling also need to be learned somatically.

Beyond the conceptual understanding these models show, there are many somatic protocols that facilitate healing.

What did you think of this article? Was it helpful to your understanding of anxiety and trauma? Let me know if you have questions or if you’d like further information.

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Dec 15

5 keys to healing trauma

Trauma impacts us on all levels body, mind, emotions, and energy. It affects every aspect of our lives. Regardless of the cause, trauma is always accompanied by a dysregulated nervous system. People with trauma spend more time than is normal or healthy in high-energy states of anxiety and overwhelm, or low-energy states of shut-down and depression. Each of these states can have many associated symptoms.

In most cases people with trauma respond well to treatment and can recover significantly. That’s not to say it’s easy or quick. It’s almost always challenging and takes time, but it’s well worth it to not only reduce and eliminate symptoms but to have a life of greater wellbeing and wholeness. There are dozens of tools and techniques that can assist with decreasing symptoms and resolving trauma.

The following exercise will help your nervous system to both calm down and wake up, countering the effects of trauma. This is a good way to begin learning to consciously regulate your nervous system.

These keys can be used effectively as a five or ten-minute guided meditation. Each one can also be used as a stand-alone practice throughout the day. There’s no limit to how deep you can go with each one.

As you read each key try and feel what it’s describing. Place your attention on the felt-sense. If at first you don’t feel much, stick with it and your ability to feel these sensations will improve over time. As you become more adept at sensing, the effectiveness of this practice improves.

  1. Become more embodied: Learn to inhabit your body more completely. Begin with the feet. Imagine breathing into and out of your feet as though you can inhale and exhale through the pores of your skin. Let your awareness follow your breath into your feet.  Sense into your feet and you inhale and exhale. See what you notice. At first it may be numbness; pay attention to that. Beneath that you’ll notice density or tension. See if you can breathe into the tension on the inhale and release it on the exhale. There are many areas in the feet where you can find tension or holding on. Find another area, breathe into it while sensing and release the tension.

This first step is a template that can be used for each section of the body. Repeat the procedure with each area – after the feet, the lower legs, upper legs, pelvis, lower abdomen, torso, arms and shoulders, neck, and head.

By now you should be more embodied and can move on to the second key.

  1. Become more grounded: Keeping some awareness in your body begin drop your awareness into the earth beneath you. See if you can sense into the earth just as you’re sensing into your body. You’re not leaving your body, but extending the range of your awareness. See if you can sense the solidity and density of the earth. Experience this feeling of groundedness. Know that this is an aspect of your right to be here – Something most traumatized people have lost.
  1. Experience feeling safe. Sense feeling safe enough right now, being grounded and supported by the earth – Sense this safeness…and ease. Breathe with the ease of sensing this safeness.
  1. Breathe into any remaining tense areas in your body. As you encounter tension, ask; what’s the message? See if there’s an answer and note it. When ready release the tension down into the earth. Then breathe into the heart area. Ask your heart if it has a message for you.  Breathe – Relax – Open any blocked areas… open to the flow of life-energy.
  1. Sense the flow of life-energy throughout your body. Sense this flow from the base of the spine and up the spine to the top of your head… Sense this free-flowing energy as the power and aliveness to create greater abundance for yourself and others. Begin to sense how this can move from an inner- sensed flow into outer manifestation.

Try using this exercise once a day for ten minutes for a week, then check and see how you’re progressing. And, remember any of the keys can be use throughout the day for additional support.

The more embodied, grounded, and safe you feel the more resilient your nervous system will become. Breathing into tense areas, releasing tension and sensing the flow of energy will also help.

What is your experience of trying this exercise? Let me know in the comments area.

Dec 12

Do you have trauma and not know it?

It’s possible to have trauma and not know it. Younger people may not show very obvious symptoms. Some less severe symptoms that can show, but aren’t always obvious indicators of trauma include; passivity towards life, depression, difficulty concentrating, shallow breathing, and tension to name a few. Until the symptoms become acute, they’re often dismissed as unimportant, and there’s no investigation to find an underlying cause.

As we age some stronger symptoms may begin showing up; these may include anxiety, insomnia, addictions, unexplained aches and pains, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and others. In many cases, even with acute symptoms the cause may be misdiagnosed or unrecognized. Note that several of the symptoms listed here are considered and treated as the core issue. In some cases this may be true, but often they are symptoms of trauma. This doesn’t mean they aren’t serious and shouldn’t be treated. At the same time, a root cause of trauma should be considered and when present also treated. If this isn’t done, a full recovery and a life of wellness are unlikely.

Sometimes the root cause of trauma isn’t obvious. This is especially true in the case of developmental trauma, but can also happen with other types. An estimated 70 percent of adults in the United States have experienced a traumatic event at least once in their lives and up to 20 percent of these people go on to develop posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. This isn’t counting people with developmental trauma stemming from relational situations of neglect or abuse. In these cases diagnosis can be elusive.

Regardless of the cause, trauma will always be accompanied by a dysregulated nervous system. This means people with trauma spend more time than is normal or healthy in high-energy states of anxiety and overwhelm, or low-energy states of shut-down and depression. If you spend an inordinate amount of time in either or both of these modes, then it’s possible that you have unresolved trauma.  You may want to do some further research and also consider speaking with a professional who is trauma-informed.

In most cases people with trauma respond well to treatment and can recover. That’s not to say it’s easy or quick. It’s almost always challenging and takes time, but it’s well worth it to not only reduce and eliminate symptoms but to move into a life of wellbeing and greater wholeness.

Dec 11

Healing Trauma with Body-based Practices

What trauma is and what it does to the body and mind

Trauma is the body’s response to a stimulus in the environment. This may be a one-time event such as a car accident, or it can be a series of events like those encountered in war situations. Trauma can also be a response to relational situations of abuse or neglect.

The core nervous system-response to these types of situations is one of fight, flight, or freeze / please. This means the body goes into a mode of self-preservation by preparing to do one or more of these things. This is a natural and good thing. The challenge of trauma occurs when the danger has passed and we stay stuck in one or more of these patterns. With the fight and flight responses the nervous system is stuck in high-arousal. Being stuck here causes undue stress and anxiety along with a host of associated problems.  The freeze / please response is one of shutting down (freezing) to ourselves, others and life. In this response we often become extra nice (pleasing) to get by in the world.  Whether our response is one of anxiety (high-arousal) or shut-down (low energy), or a combination of these responses, our body and mind have symptoms and life becomes limited. In either case we’re not living up to our potential.

The body remembers

Whether or not we remember the trauma, our body holds the memory of it. While top-down talk therapies have their usefulness, by themselves the approach is limited. In order to fully heal the memory and energy of it being held in the body as tension or numbness needs to be released. There are specific body-based (somatic) protocols that are effective in doing this. While talk therapy is top-down, this is a bottom up approach.  Talk therapy alone can be viewed as the map, while the somatic approach is the territory. Maps are useful, but to fully know a place you need to go there. This is not to say that the trauma needs to be re-experienced. It doesn’t; it merely needs to be released.

How somatic practices work

Somatic protocols guide you to sense into the layers covering the bodily held energy of the trauma and to release it. Generally these layers will include numbness, solidity, tightness, pain, emotions, and subtle tension. As your awareness is guided to these successively deeper layers you gain agency or choice in how you relate to them. You come to a point where you can continue holding on, or let go. In letting go you’re freed of these restrictions and your body, mind, and life can open up.

Let me know if you want to receive information on specific body-based practices you can begin doing on your own.


Oct 11

iRest Yoga Nidra for healing

iRest is modern version of the ancient meditation practice of yoga nidra. It’s a powerful tool for healing trauma that I recently discovered. It produces results from the very first session for many people, including me. For more in depth information visit the website  and dig into the book. There are guided meditations that come with the book. The main thing is to begin practicing. Although a ways into my healing journey, I noticed deeper calm, connection to myself and others – and other benefits that go along with a better regulated nervous system.

The website: iRest website

The Book: iRest

Feb 22

Healing Model

This is the NARM model from the book Healing Developmental Trauma (Amazon Link), with added complimentary modalities. This is an overview of the latest effective ways of healing trauma.

Feb 19

Healing Trauma with Body-based Mindfulness Practices

The Breath: #1 in a series of body-based mindfulness lessons.

Trauma causes many symptoms, both in the body and in the mind. These can include disconnection from self and others, anxiety, a felt-sense of uneasiness, heightened reactivity to stressors, and a loud inner critic.

Body-focused mindfulness practices can help to reduce or eliminate these symptoms and to heal from trauma. It’s well known that body-focused mindfulness can reduce symptoms of stress. It’s less widely known that by utilizing the awareness practices of mindfulness you can learn to regulate your nervous system, release the imprints of trauma, gain greater connection to your felt-sense of self, and realize other benefits of healing.

Mindfulness of the body for healing trauma means learning to pay attention to various aspects of our body and mind in a relaxed yet alert fashion. Trauma is imprinted and held in the body, not just the mind. This focus on the body and the felt-sense of experiences can open us up in ways that talk therapy alone can’t.

Learning to pay focused attention to our breathing is a good place to start with body-based mindfulness, and it’s the place we’ll focus on for this lesson. People who’ve suffered trauma have a nervous system that’s dysregulated much of the time. This means they’re overly anxious in a high-energy state, or shut down in the low-energy state. A non-traumatized nervous system, on the other hand, is alert and alive in the high state and relaxed and recuperating in the low state. The dysregulation shows up in the breathing pattern which will typically be more shallow and rapid than in a non-traumatized person.

By practicing paying attention to the breath mindfully, you’re using awareness in a relaxed yet alert fashion. At first you’re not trying to modify the breath, but to merely watch it. You can practice this either by sitting in meditation and watching the breath, or by checking in on your breathing several times throughout the day. Either way or both can be beneficial.

Sitting meditation is easy and pretty much anyone can do it, contrary to what some may think. If you’d like to experience this rather than merely think about it, here’s your chance. I encourage you to go along with these steps.

An exercise in mindfulness of the breath:

  1. Pick a time limit of five or ten minutes and set an alarm.
  2. Sit comfortably and breathe naturally. Don’t try to modify the breath.
  3. Place your attention on your breath. Watch it with relaxed curiosity as you breathe in. Then watch it with relaxed curiosity as you breathe out.
  4. What do you notice? Is it shallow or deep? Is it slow or rapid? How about smooth or choppy?
  5. After a few breaths see if it’s steady like a metronome, or does it fluctuate?
  6. Ask yourself; what can I learn from my breath? What does it tell me?
  7. Continue watching the breath for five or ten minutes.
  8. When your mind wanders (it will), bring the attention gently back to the breath.
  9. When you’re done, ask yourself; what does my breath tell me about my state of anxiety or calm?
  10. And ask; what does it tell me about the regulation of my nervous system?

Sitting meditation can be beneficial with as little practice as five to ten minutes per day.

Most people think they can’t meditate because they assume that they’re trying for some special state like an empty or peaceful mind. The goal is to merely sit and watch the breath, and when the attention wanders, to bring it back to watching the breath. That’s it.

Usually after a few practices you’ll begin learning:

  • Your attention likes to wander
  • This is training in attentiveness
  • Your body likes this and becomes more calm
  • This is good training for paying attention in a way that you may not normally; that is in a relaxed yet alert way.
  • This relaxed curiosity (alertness) is the opposite of dysregulation of the nervous system.
  • You’re learning to consciously regulate your nervous system to a state of greater calm.

After doing this in seated meditation for a few times, you may want to practice it on-the-fly throughout the day. Doing it when you’re in lines, driving, or taking a break are optimal times in the beginning. With a little practice doing this you’ll soon be able to do it while working, conversing or doing other activities. Over the ensuing weeks, set the intention to incorporate it more and more. You’ll see yourself doing it more often without even thinking about it. That means you’ve begun to train your nervous system to self-regulate to a state of calmness.

Feb 11

The Key Mindfulness Habit to End Drama in Your Life

All of us have some drama in our life, even if it is only internal. In this article you will learn a mindfulness habit that can radically reduce internal and external drama and suffering. You will see results quicker if you practice this powerful habit often. The opposite of drama is peace. So, as your experience of drama decreases you will have proportionately more peace in your life.

Here is the key principal: There are things that happen, and then there is our reaction to them. Although most of the time our reactions are automatic, they really don’t have to be. Everyone has had some experience with non-reactivity. It may even occur by accident. For example, imagine you fell in love with someone a week ago and you are feeling on top of the world. Your mood is such, that things that would normally bother you have little or no effect. Your boss could reprimand you, or someone might cut you off in traffic; events that normally would elicit an internal reaction of feeling tense and exasperated don’t bother you.

Maybe you are familiar with the old technique of counting to ten before responding in a situation that makes you angry. This technique is similar to that but it is a little more sophisticated and much more effective.

To keep reading please visit Your Positive Oasis

Feb 05

The Mindful Body: 5 Ways to Thriving In Your Daily Life

Here are five techniques to help you develop greater mindfulness and thrive more in all areas of your life.

Mindfulness is intentional awareness of your experience as it’s happening. Sounds simple, right? It is pretty simple, but not always easy. The biggest reason it’s sometimes challenging is that most of us have a habit of getting carried away with thinking or feeling, rather than remaining aware of what’s happening in the present moment. We spend an inordinate amount of time in our head. We’re often caught up in planning the future or thinking about the past.

While we can learn to be mindful of anything, including our thoughts and emotions, it’s better to start practicing mindfulness with the body. Our body is easier to pay attention to and gain greater awareness of than thoughts, feelings or other intangible things. Besides, it’s always with us in the present moment!  It’s easier to learn with the body and then later move on to the more challenging areas. And, when we’re caught up in our head, we’re unaware of our body.

It’s very rewarding to gain greater mindfulness of the body.  You may be thinking; but I’m already aware of my body. This is true, but without mindfulness or a similar body–mind practice it’s unlikely that you’ve explored the depths of this. As you develop greater mindfulness you’ll be amazed by what you’ll discover. Your body will literally feel happier and more alive. You’ll gain a greater natural felt-sense of wellbeing. You’ll likely take even better care of your body as you become more attuned to it.

There are many more ways of experiencing than the five senses, but heightened awareness of the basic senses is a great place to start practicing. You use all of these multiple times daily, but after you go through them in a moment, you’ll likely realize how seldom you’re fully there for the experience.  Here are the five ways utilizing the senses to begin practicing greater mindfulness of your body.

  1. Seeing – Mindfulness of seeing begins with simply being aware of what your eyes are taking in in the moment without adding a story to what you’re seeing. Take a moment to look around right now and just notice what you see. What colors, shapes, or objects are you seeing? Are there areas of brightness and darkness? Are there things close up and things far away? Just notice them.

I told you it was simple; right? How often do you do this; just taking in what’s visually available?

  1. Hearing – Take a few seconds to listen to the sounds in your environment. What are they? And, what are they like.


  1. Smelling – Notice any smells with the same simple curiosity as the first two senses: What’s there? What’s it like? Remember it’s more effective to do this without adding a story.


  1. Tasting – Unless you’re eating, you might simply notice sensations on the tongue. Is it wet or dry? Warm or cold?


  1. Touching – This can take many forms, but for now just notice the feel of the floor against your feet, the chair against your back, and your clothing against your skin.

This was probably easy and fairly simple for you. And, also ask yourself what might have been different about this short experience vs. how you are most of the time. Were you more or less present with your experience than is normal? The simplicity of this type of mindfulness can cause us to underestimate its power to create change in us.

With practice we notice deeper and deeper subtleties with each of the senses. Our nervous system calms down and is better regulated for two reasons: We’re spending less time in our head where anxiety is created by thinking of the future. And, our body loves being fully engaged.

If you want to really get the benefits that this can afford, make it a habit by setting the intention to take a few moments several times a day and run through the five senses. Do this as an experiential exercise like we just did. Before long you’ll have a greater felt-sense of happiness and aliveness – You’ll thrive more!

Jan 24

The Key to Breathing Greater Vitality Into Your Life

Here’s a technique that you can apply right away to improve your vitality, wellness, and success.


The word inspire has two related yet distinct meanings. Inspire means to motivate or energize, and it also means to breathe. It’s no accident that it means both. Our breathing and state of motivation have a synergistic relationship.  When we’re breathing well and oxygen is flowing freely throughout our entire body and brain, we’re more energized and motivated.


In spite of some awareness that breathing well feels good, is healthy and helps us to be more productive, modern people are chronically poor breathers. Most of us have a habit of breathing more shallowly and rapidly than is beneficial.  It’s a habituated pattern that we don’t often question, or consider changing.

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