Meditation & Self-Care for Grief, Podcast, Traumatic Loss


Trauma Sensitive Mindfulness

The Intersection of Trauma, Grief, & Mindfulness with David Treleaven, Ph.D.


David dives deep about our preference for the breath as an anchor, and how that can impact a person experiencing trauma. Additionally, I was curious about how a person with trauma can know when they are in "the window of tolerance," a term David references that stems from the work of Babette Rothschild.  

The root causes of trauma can range from sexual assault to racism to witnessing violent acts. It impacts the body in a way that can leave you feeling dissociated, hypervigilant, afraid. Mindfulness and compassion can certainly help, but it requires a gentle approach. 

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

But the basic signs are, at the upper level of the window of tolerance, one becomes hyper-vigilant, super anxious and has physiological reactions like sweating, flashbacks. It's basically that feeling of it's too much energy in the system. On the lower end, it can be more dissociative like, "I'm super tired. I can't remember. My cognitive processing becomes a little bit disorganized." So that's ... Those are the thresholds, and at either end, you start to notice like, "Whoa. I'm either chucking out or this is too much," and that's what you can track.
And in light of that, because of the trauma and the overwhelming experiences we might have, the breath...the breath can sometimes, for some people, actually not be a neutral place to bring one's attention back to. And this gets into the interplay between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system, where sympathetic is the accelerator in many ways, allows us to really mobilize energy, and the parasympathetic is the brake. And usually, these are moving together. When we have trauma, these get a little bit out of whack, and the breath is a key place that we are actually modulating that.
So for people that have experienced trauma, traumatic stress, often ... I mean, and a perfect, a good example would be, if something that was really scary, we do this, right? Like, "Huh." Would catch in. Or if we're freezing or we're trying to just contain, the energy the breath is a great way to do that, and there are these imprints and markers, like you said earlier, that happened in the body when we have an overwhelming experience. All to say, when you ask someone to pay attention to the breath in a very consistent way over, say, 15, 20, 30 minutes, that can often elicit some of the older traumatic responses that were connected to an overwhelming event."

About David Treleaven, Ph.D.

David Treleaven, PhD, is a writer and educator working at the intersection of mindfulness and trauma. He is the author of the acclaimed new book Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness (W. W. Norton), and founder of the Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness (TSM) Community — a group committed to setting a standard of care within mindfulness-based practices, interventions, and programs.

Through workshops, keynotes, podcasts, and online education, David focuses on offering mindfulness providers with the knowledge and tools they require to meet the needs of those struggling with trauma. He is passionate about connecting his audience with on-the-ground experts, and is closely engaged with current empirical research to inform best practices.

Members of the TSM Community receive free access to David’s monthly podcast focused on mindfulness and trauma, and informative, downloadable resources to support making their mindfulness practice trauma-sensitive.

Get compassionate live online grief support with author Heather Stang

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