How Mindfulness Can and Should be Trauma-Informed

Niroga's response to a recent article posted on KQED’s Mind/Shift.

While there is much to agree with in the recent article written by Katrina Schwartz, "Why Mindfulness And Trauma-Informed Teaching Don't Always Go Together”, we disagree with the assertion that mindfulness and trauma-informed teaching may not blend. There are ways that it can blend.  Here’s how.

There are two key impacts of primary and secondary trauma:

  1. The Body Feels Unsafe.  Because the body holds stress and trauma, it can feel painful or intolerable to be aware of sensations in specific parts of the body. Efforts to avoid these sensations can result in unhealthy coping mechanisms.
  2. One’s Sense of Time Becomes Warped.  Suddenly the past can feel like the present, or the present can feel so unpleasant and uncomfortable that it seems it will last forever.

Not all mindfulness practices are trauma-informed, but there are three key elements that comprise trauma-informed mindfulness when they are integrated together.  We call them the ABC’s.

  • Act - engage in movement to help release the stored stress and trauma in the body => add kinesthetic movement
  • Breathe - more than simple breath awareness; changing the way we breathe can change the way we feel => add breath regulation
  • Center - fill the mind with the present instead of past or future => use any sense organ (i.e. sight/sound/smell) as a tether
  • Note: A and B together build greater safety in our bodies;  C prevents our minds from confusing past or future with the present
The ABC’s of trauma-informed Dynamic Mindfulness have been widely field-tested by Niroga Institute, developing hundreds of trauma-informed schools with thousands of educators and hundreds of thousands of students. Independent researchers have shown efficacy, proving that by incorporating the ABC’s, mindfulness can and should always go together with trauma-informed teaching. Learn how to practice Dynamic Mindfulness.