We honored to share this guest blog post by the lovely Sky Wampler on mindfulness and trauma. I feel that her writing will resonate for many of you and offer you the support and encouragement to seek mindful, nourishing practices. Please comment below and let us know your thoughts!
"People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle."
– Thich Nhat Hanh
“...to walk on earth,” what a miracle it is to be present in our reality on this beautiful planet. One of the most fulfilling experiences on earth is to sit on the ground, surrounded by nature. To simply breathe in the beauty and not think about anything else so as to be fully present in the moment. Oftentimes, it is easier to remain mindful when taking a walk in the woods or playing with a child. These experiences help to keep your mind rooted in the moment through providing you with a variety of interesting stimulus. It is harder, however (I would argue) more beneficial to remain mindful in moments of silence, where there is little stimulus to force you to focus on your reality.
So what is true mindfulness and how does it help you?
Mindfulness is the art of intentionally keeping your consciousness focused on the present moment, not letting it wander, simply allowing yourself to rest in the Now. Mindfulness helps in most aspects of your life, but a few of the major benefits include:
Allowing yourself to remain in the present moment and not stuck in the past
Ensuring that you don’t overthink
Creating a space in which your emotions flow freely
Allowing yourself to be more in tune with what you need
A more peaceful mindset as a result of focusing on the problems around you and not on the ones located in the past or future
Lowering blood pressure (source)
Preventing health issues such as migraines (source)
Non judgemental acceptance of the present moment
There are many other benefits to a steady mindfulness practice, but one of the most life-changing discoveries that I’ve made about mindfulness is that it can help change your perception of trauma (source). As someone that experienced trauma at a young age, this epiphany completely changed my entire life. It took until I found myself crying on the floor during savasana at my local yoga studio to discover the ways in which mindfulness truly is a healing practice.
Everyone experiences trauma in their lives--it’s a result of the human condition. This world isn’t a perfect place and, sometimes, if we let that trauma fester within us it will come to affect other aspects of our lives. In my own experience I went through a time of severe depression right before heading off to college and I did not emerge until discovering mindfulness through yoga practice. It is not a sin or an innately bad thing to experience trauma--it makes us stronger and allows us to become more empathetic. When we continue to carry that trauma with us, and do not process it in a healthy way, however, that is when it becomes burdensome.
It can be very difficult to know what you need all the time, however, and truly through healing can be a long process. Many modern day therapists, healers, psychiatrists, and doctors have begun prescribing mindfulness as a helpful healing tool.
(As I’m writing this, this song by Trevor Hall has come on. I would encourage you to listen to it.)
So how does one begin a steady mindfulness practice?
It can be somewhat difficult to develop a steady mindfulness practice, especially in the midst of healing from trauma (which is when it is most important). Some beginning tools include:
Watching the flame on a candle flicker
Eating a meal sitting down, only focusing on the taste and texture of the food and not allowing your mind to wander away
Dancing and getting completely lost in the movements of your body
Yoga, yoga, yoga
Focusing on your breath
Focusing on the feeling of your feet on the ground at any given moment
Playing an instrument
*It is important to remember that your mind may wander at the beginning of your practice. The goal is not to force yourself into having no outside thoughts--no, they will continue to come as your surroundings change--simply acknowledge them and let them pass.*
I would encourage you to take an hour at the start of every day to mindfully make breakfast and a good drink and sit with yourself and perhaps a book or a pen and paper. This is my routine and it has changed my daily life.
How does yoga play into mindfulness?
In my experience, yoga has played a crucial role in my healing process. Yoga has allowed me to love my body and to touch my spirit in ways that prayer and meditation cannot. It has also given me a community and a place to go where I allow myself to fully feel my emotions and begin to understand them better. Yoga is an amazing intentional practice. On my worst days I still roll out my mat and simply sit and on my best days I feel so connected to the earth from it. Yoga combines the physical body, mind, and spirit all together to ground you and keep you rooted in the present moment. Yoga is my go to when I’m sad or stressed or happy. Mindfulness is present in yoga in a way that it is not in much else.
Healing is a process. Allow yourself the time and space you need to feel what you need to feel. Mindfulness is helpful in processing painful emotions by helping you to acknowledge that they need to be felt, but not getting lost in them. Loving yourself is a crucial step in overcoming trauma and mindfulness helps with that ability to love yourself. Give yourself this small act of self care: remain in the present moment.
Wishing you wild love and freedom,
About the Author~
My name is Sky. I'm an adventurer, traveler, freedom seeker, yogi, musician, and nature lover. Some of my hobbies include playing piano, singing, writing and most days you
can find me curled up with a good book in a cozy nook somewhere. I'm currently an undergrad at UVA studying Creative Writing and Environmental Sustainability. More than anything I hope to leave this earth a more beautiful place than it was when I arrived.
You can follow Sky online at https://asimplenarrative.com/ and on Instagram @asimplenarrative (https://www.instagram.com/asimplenarrative/)