Understanding Mindfulness

Present Moment Awareness,

Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present. This state is described as observing one’s thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad.

Practicing Mindfulness

A person’s experience of time tends to be subjective and heavily influenced by their emotional state. Fears and insecurities about the past and the future can make it difficult to fully appreciate the present. The key is learning how to pay attention.

Mindfulness can take place through meditation sessions or smaller moments throughout the day. To cultivate a state of mindfulness, you can begin by sitting down and taking deep breaths. Focus on each breath and the sensations of the moment, such as sounds, scents, the temperature, and the feeling of air passing in and out of the body.

Shift your attention, then, to the thoughts and emotions that you’re experiencing. Allow each thought to exist without judging it or ascribing negativity to it. Sit with those thoughts. The experience may evoke a strong emotional reaction. Exploring that response can be an opportunity to address or resolve underlying challenges.

  • Yoga, like meditation, can reduce stress, depression, and anxiety while also creating a connection between the mind and body.
  • While yoga cannot address the root causes of trauma, it can alleviate traumatic stress symptoms.
  • We know that trauma can live in the body and show up in physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual ways. Yoga can create reconnection and trust within your body.
  • It’s important to note that the origin of yoga did not focus on exercise or weight loss, instead of movement, flow and deep connection between your mind and body. While yoga poses may be challenging they shouldn’t hurt, and you do not need to be an expert to try yoga.
  • Trauma-informed yoga is a specific focus in which the guide or facilitator asks for consent before touching others, using scents or turning off the lights.

Meditation is an ancient cultural spiritual practice particularly from India, China, and Japan, but elements of meditation can be found in many cultures across the world. In recent times, western science has been able to explore the benefits for the mind and body. Meditation is known for reducing stress, depression, and anxiety. Research shows that with a consistent practice of meditation we have the ability to change neural networks in our brain particularly the area that regulates executive functions like the fear circuitry, this is called neuroplasticity. We all have an innate ability to heal ourselves and our ancestors have known this.

Meditation can offer new insights and can open opportunities for new perspectives however it is not something that happens right away. In fact, starting a meditation practice can be a challenging experience for a number of reasons. Meditation asks you to pay attention to your breath and body but for people that have experienced trauma in their bodies, this can activate a stress response and flashbacks can arise. If this happens to you, you’re not alone and it doesn’t mean you can’t meditate, it just means that you have to approach meditation to a trauma-informed lens.

Traditional Trauma-informed Breathing
  • Pay attention to your breath.
  • Observe your natural breathing.
  • Control your breath.
  • If you struggle with noticing your breath or it makes you uncomfortable, chew gum and pay attention to that.
  • Pay attention to your body. You have tuned out your body for a reason, tuning back in can be scary.
Body Scans
  • Progressive muscle relaxation.
  • This can activate a stress response in your body and might lead to feeling dysregulated. Ground yourself, and then ground yourself again. If you want to practice this, do it in tiny increments and check in with yourself before and after.
Traditional Trauma-informed Meditation
  • Close your eyes. You do not have to close your eyes if it feels scary or out of control.
  • Practice for 10 minutes / 30 minutes / 1-hour.
  • You don’t need to start with any set time, start as small as you need to. 1 minute or even 30 seconds.
    The most important thing is that it doesn’t overwhelm you.
  • Be still.
  • Use a fidget spinner, a palm crystal, playdoh, or putty.
  • Feel it’s texture, weight, and motion. It is also okay to move positions if you need to.
Focus on the Guided Meditation
  • If you can’t focus on a guided meditation, listen to a song you love and notice how your body responds to it.
    Sit cross-legged.  If for any reason, like chronic pain, this is difficult – don’t. Sitting cross legged doesn’t have any magical powers, be comfortable.
  • Practice everyday.  Pick up where you left off when you’re ready. If you miss a day it is no big deal.
    This will make you feel better.  This might make you feel worse, as you tune back into what is going on in your mind and body.
  • Be gentle with yourself, it is okay to not be okay.
Try a Healing Meditation Practice

The following mantra meditation, as taught by master teacher Sri Dharma Mittra, gives the mind an anchor to return to when traumatic sensations or memories surface.

1. Preparation

Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position (or on a chair with your feet flat on the floor) and your hands resting comfortably on your thighs, with palms facing up.

2. Coordination

Synchronize the breath with the following syllables and mudras (hand gestures).

Inhale to the count of four as you slowly and gently close your fingers in toward your palms, keeping thumbs soft, while silently saying the first syllable.

Exhale to the count of four as you slowly and gently open your palms while silently intoning the second syllable, and so on.
HUM (inhale)…SA (exhale)…SO (inhale)…HUM (exhale) SO
(inhale)…HUM (exhale)…HUM (inhale)…SA (exhale) SO
(inhale)…HUM (exhale)…HUM (inhale)…SA (exhale) HUM
(inhale)….SA (exhale)…SO (inhale)…HUM (exhale)

Repeat the pattern for several rounds.

Used with permission from:

Organization Name: UNLV Care Center
Title: Student's Guide to Radical Healing zine
First edition: April 2020
Second edition: May 2021 

Other Holistic and Alternative Practices to Consider

Traditional alternative medicine.

This field includes the more mainstream and accepted forms of therapy, such as acupuncture, homeopathy, and Oriental practices. These therapies have been practiced for centuries worldwide. Traditional alternative medicine may include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Ayurveda
  • Homeopathy
  • Naturopathy
  • Chinese or Oriental medicine 

Touch has been used in medicine since the early days of medical care. Healing by touch is based on the idea that illness or injury in one area of the body can affect all parts of the body. If, with manual manipulation, the other parts can be brought back to optimum health, the body can fully focus on healing at the site of injury or illness. Body techniques are often combined with those of the mind. Examples of body therapies include:

  • Chiropractic and osteopathic medicine
  • Massage
  • Body movement therapies
  • Tai chi
  • Yoga
Diet and herbs.

Over the centuries, man has gone from a simple diet consisting of meats, fruits, vegetables, and grains, to a diet that often consists of foods rich in fats, oils, and complex carbohydrates. Nutritional excess and deficiency have become problems in today's society, both leading to certain chronic diseases. Many dietary and herbal approaches attempt to balance the body's nutritional well-being. Dietary and herbal approaches may include:

  • Dietary supplements
  • Herbal medicine
  • Nutrition/diet
External energy.

Some people believe external energies from objects or other sources directly affect a person's health. An example of external energy therapy is:

  • Electromagnetic therapy
  • Reiki
  • Qigong

Even standard or conventional medicine recognizes the power of the connection between mind and body. Studies have found that people heal better if they have good emotional and mental health. Therapies using the mind may include:

  • Meditation
  • Biofeedback
  • Hypnosis

Some people believe the senses, touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste, can affect overall health. Examples of therapies incorporating the senses include:

  • Art, dance, and music
  • Visualization and guided imagery

For more information on holistic and alternative health options, check out  Complementary, Alternative, or Integrative Health: What’s In a Name? | NCCIH (