How to Sit with a Trigger

7 mindful steps to sit with a trigger

Sandy Dias Andrade
Sandy Dias Andrade
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There it was! Something that I came across about what someone else was doing triggered!. It seemed like a personal affront, directed at me!

There was simultaneously a restlessness in the body and restlessness in the mind. The restlessness in the mind immediately jumped to `how could…’ and `what if…’ scenarios repeatedly similar refrains, a righteous indignation, the mind-body furiously piecing things together as a conspiracy theory.

With regular mindfulness practice (like my on-going practice over twenty years…and shorter as research shows will work equally well), an accompanying awareness is also present like a good friend, a little nudge from one’s own mind to stop and perhaps look at this.

Unpleasant as it might be, tempting as it might be to run away with the trigger, some clear strand within the mind gently nudges to sit with it. There is even a slight murmur of excitement to see it more directly, turn towards this restlessness.

This is the first step - Recognize you have got triggered.

The second step - Turn towards it, dropping the storyline.

As I sat with all the `churn’ of thoughts, feelings, sensations - a slow separation began of this blob of activity in the body-mind. And then I sat with just the feeling-sensation in the body. This body becomes the location of viewing rather than the thinking mind.

Third step - Bring attention to the feeling-sensation in the body

Then some `understanding’ occurred that this was a projection of my own mind. Whatever we are seeing outside offers a clear view of one’s own mind. Almost like some kind of `imprint’ gets pulled out and gets projected on the other. If we take the projection as true (however true it might seem), it can be a long trip down the rabbit hole.

What I am realizing is that it was necessary to begin with the acknowledgment of exactly how it was first and have a way of being with it. The realization or seeing it directly as a projection happened quite organically a little later.

Fourth step - taking ownership for one’s experience (this is my mind right now)

Now with owning it, there was the possibility of healing what arose. Otherwise it feels like our healing is dependent on the action of the other. This in itself is quite liberating.

As I recognized this and took responsibility for what got triggered, I saw more shades of what got triggered. The question I stayed with as I sensed into the body is what is this? Just an open inquiry filled with curiosity. Deeper layers beneath the trigger that connected to a childhood need of wanting to belong surfaced. It’s like when the water is clearer and less turbulent, what’s underneath comes into clearer view. As this layer came forth so many other connections with this same theme emerged. There was this background energetic push that had been running across many diverse life situations. Something implicitly held.

Fifth step - Inquire `what is this?’

There was a natural thankfulness to the other - an action or gesture that had evoked this feeling within that became a fertile ground to see more clearly. A natural sense of compassion also arose for this imprint of a young one just wanting to belong, just wanting to be included - to be part of the group, seen and invited and welcomed and treated honorably. All this was accompanied by an awareness that also included the sensations in the body. Keeping close to the body-sensations is quite critical as the body becomes the guide and referent point.

Sixth step - Having a sense of compassion (an opening of the heart)

Then after sitting with this sensation and the whole mind-body till it felt done for now, there was a shift in the attention to just this seeing. And just sitting in silence.

I also know that not everything is `resolved’ and it doesn’t have to be. However, when the trigger comes next (as I’m guessing it very well might), there is more recognition and wisdom as it shows up next. A more deeply held intimacy at perhaps the starting point of the trigger.

Seventh step - Sitting (turning towards the awareness itself) and silence.

Funny how it is the mind-body itself that takes the mind-body home.

After sitting, just thought I’d put it down if it is helpful to you in your own practice.

So putting the important elements of how to sit with a trigger:

  1. Recognize you have got triggered.
  2. Turn towards it.
  3. Bring attention to the feeling-sensation in the body
  4. Take ownership for one’s experience (this is my mind right now and however it is, it is ok)
  5. Inquire `what is this?’
  6. Having a sense of compassion (an opening of the heart)
  7. Sitting (turning towards the awareness itself) and silence

At any step we might want to stay with longer where own knowing mind can be an inner guide.

Sandy Dias Andrade
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