Building Resilience

Mindfulness is a practice that puts us directly in touch with our bodies, feelings, minds, and perceptions, opening us up to a vivid awareness of sensations, emotions, and cognitions in the present moment. Though the long-term benefits of mindfulness practice can include stress reduction, a greater capacity for self-regulation, and increased self-awareness, it can also bring to the surface pain and stress that have been operating in the background. We should be prepared, then, for the possibility of some experiences of distress intensifying during our practice, especially if we are holding unresolved trauma.

Sugarplum Sangha understands that people can only practice mindfulness productively when they are within their resilient zone. The resilient zone is where we have the best capacity for flexibility and adaptability in body, mind, and spirit. In the resilient zone, we have access to our higher executive functioning; we can think rationally and employ strategies for regulating emotions and physical sensations. These functions are necessary for mindfulness practice to be healing and beneficial.

It is normal for everyone to get triggered out of their resilient zone once in a while, and mindfulness is one practice that can help center us again. Triggers may be sights, sounds, smells, sensations, or memories that remind us (consciously or unconsciously) of traumatic or stressful events. When triggered, the nervous system is sounding the alarm that danger is present even when the present moment is safe. For that reason, we may be confused about how the body is responding to the environment.

Signals that you’re triggered out of your resilient zone may include intolerable experience of:

  • Flashbacks

  • Ambient fear or anxiety

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Disturbing thoughts

  • Stomach pain

  • Racing heart

  • Numbness

  • Panic

  • Difficulty with attention

  • Dissociating from the body or physical senses

  • Anything else that feels dysregulating or destabilizing

If you notice any of these experiences during your retreat with Sugarplum Sangha, some things you can try doing to bounce back in your resilient zone are:

  • Talk to a retreat facilitator

  • Attend to your immediate visual experience by taking note of the colors or shapes in the environment. It is ok to open your eyes during meditation to do so.

  • Ground in your body by focusing on your weight on the floor or pushing against a wall. It is ok to get up from meditation to do so.

  • Attend to the sounds in the environment

  • Take a drink of water

  • Count the number of a particular item or shape in the room

  • Count in intervals of three up to one hundred.

  • Bring to mind a person, object, place, or event that has a sense of security and wellness. With that thing in mind, scan the body for and hold attention on pleasant sensations

  • Return to the mindfulness practice only once the body and mind are regulated again.

To support you in your practice, the facilitators of the retreat would like to know a little bit about your history with trauma. If you’re willing to disclose please fill out the questionnaire below. All responses are gathered only so that we can be prepared to offer appropriate accommodations and to set up an environment that is as safe and relaxing as possible. All responses are confidential. Click the button to take the resiliency survey.