Unlike typical visualization-based mindfulness exercise, this exercise invites the participant to narrow their focus to a specific tactile stimulation, and experience that narrow field of experience deeply. This mindfulness exercise may be helpful to many, but was specifically authored to be used with trauma survivors.
A typical mindfulness exercises often instructs the participant to close their eyes, clear their mind, and pay attention to their body. For a trauma survivor, these simple instructions may trigger panic in response to being told to close their eyes, a heightened awareness of traumatic inner dialogue when they are asked to clear their mind, and a flood of body memories when they are asked to turn fully towards the full range of their bodily experience. Mindfulness is often an important part of processing trauma and recovering from PTSD, but for these reasons can be triggering to a person early in recovery.
The following mindfulness exercise is tailored to this population- and proceeds through the exercise with open eyes, directing the participant to focus in one a very specific sensory experience and to experience that small sense fully. This mindfulness exercise was dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) informed and may be particularly helpful for participants who dissociate during standard mindfulness exercises.
[this mindfulness exercise may be republished with author credits.]
SUPPLIES NEEDED: This script references colored pencils and black and white coloring pages. Substitute as needed.
(I begin by informing participants what they can expect from the time we spend doing the mindfulness exercise, this can help lower anxiety as we begin)
Today we’ll be doing a mindfulness exercise, but this exercise is more of a mindful attention exercise than a meditation or relaxation exercise. You’ll stay in your seat and keep your eyes open. In this time we’re going to be coloring and paying attention to the sensory experience. There will be invitations to breathe but no counted breathing. Take deep breaths at your own pace.
Consider the colored pencil in front of you and pick it up and hold it. Take your time, and give attention to its weight and the balance as it sits in your hand.
What does it feel like to be curious about this object?
How did you grip your pencil? What does it feel like in your hand?
Take a deep breath at your own pace. Did you notice a smell?
Breathe again, this time turning your attention to the air filling your lungs and take notice of any scents.
Without judgement, turn your attention to the color of your pencil- notice the vibrant color encased by wood. You might be disappointed in the color of your pencil, but just like all the feelings in your body have a role, all the colors have an important place in the color spectrum. Now let your fingers explore the smooth texture of your pencil and the rough exposed wood near the point.
Turn your attention inward and notice what you are feeling.
Do you notice impatience? Do you feel a sense of anticipation to color? What do your hands feel like as they wait to color? What emotions are coming up? You don’t have to change them, just notice.
Now, Hold your pencil in one hand and direct your attention to your paper. What do you notice in your body as you face a blank page with defined lines? When you color, will you choose to befriend those boundaries or will you choose to treat the paper as though there are no boundaries?
You have a choice.
Notice which option you are inclined towards and allow yourself to wonder what it would be like to choose the other.
Take another deep breath at your own pace, and give yourself a moment to anticipate coloring. What will it feel like to transfer this living color in your hand to the page in front of you?
Know that you will NOT finish coloring this page today and that is okay. Bless this quiet moment you are taking to enjoy coloring, with all your senses, in this small part of your day.
Now that you are familiar with your pencil and the space before you, choose a spot on your paper and gently place your pencil against it, just barely making contact with the paper. Now begin to color the page.
Keep coloring, noticing the sound of your pencil on the page, the texture of your paper, and any other sensations rising to your attention. Alternate coloring with pressure and gently tracing your pencil across the page. What changes about the color when you change pressure? What changes in your grip or in your breathing? Just notice.
Take the next few minutes to color, paying attention to your body, all it senses in this space, and miracle of the transfer of color as it moves from your pencil to the page.
We are going to end our time coloring soon. When you are ready, telescope your attention back from the world created between your pencil and the page and notice the room around you. When you are ready, lay your pencil down and take a deep breath as we prepare to move forward into the day.
© 2016 Lindsay A. Braman