A Question from a viewer, Nik, how do I begin, where do I start????



This post is three years old but just as relevant today.

Nik, has recently experienced a full blown trigger with a big cortisol shock and panic feelings. Also he inquires how to deplete cortisol and begin healing.
let me set the stage by describing our attitude towards healing, our practice; No right or wrong, good or bad, judgments or dialogue is involved. Cognitive thought and dissociation are the culprits of strengthening PTSD.
Print out this simple model, a continuum of inhales, exhales and pauses without any counting, abstract thought or places to get lost. We will address this as a focus skill for the moment, no more no less. Mindfulness brings many connotations and judgments, so we practice this focus skill for now.
Place your finger on the bottom right corner, starting the inhale, followed by the arched pause, where we hold our breath, before exhaling slowly. Then we pause again before starting a brand new cycle.
The goal is to train the mind to slow down and let go of thought. The mind wants to go fast, activate the sympathetic nervous system, fill with adrenaline and cortisol, as usual.
At first keep your eyes open, focusing on the rhythm of the breath as you slow it down. The inhales and exhales are equal, as are the two pauses, a sort of music symphony of the breath.
Feel the cool inhales, feel the warmer exhales, and balance the body and breath with equal pauses. The inhale sets the pace, speed and duration of the balancing exhale. The first pause after the inhale, is matched by second pause after the exhale, giving the breath a sort of slow melodic feel.
If a thought emerges, come back to the model, that is it. practice ten minutes twice a day for a week without judgment or goals, except to practice everyday.
Let us round off the start with “Affirmations” said out loud and recorded everyday. In the shower, driving, working or before bed.
I strive to accept all of me, the human strengths and frailties, the flawed and exceptional me, as well.
I strive to accept my current position in life with gratitude, staying present to live fully today.
I strive to take action in the face of distraction and thought, today!
good luck, act, give up thinking for a while.

14 responses to this post.

  1. Have printed the breathing model and will start the exercise.

  2. Posted by Nik P on July 30, 2013 at 7:32 am

    Thanks very much for the article Marty, I will print out the breathing track and let you know how I get on, its like a visual meditation, I see how it works. Its such a simple, great idea.

    I think there is a direct correlation between the strength of the “suit of false protection” which we wear throughout our lives as a result of our feelings being shut down in childhood, and the strength of the shocks, when they start, in cptsd.

    As an example, this is only the fourth “shock” I have had since my first one, which was in May this year. So it is not something that happens a lot, but it is something I feel may need to happen more, so that I can feel what I never felt the first time around; in my childhood.

    If anyone else would like to comment on their “shock history”, that would be great, the more information we have, the better.


  3. Dear Marty – I love this post and your website! I found you in the comments on an NICABM webinar. Your Breathing Track and the video of Alex playing the piano so lovingly made me weep for joy. Not to mention your link to Good Willing Hunting “It’s Not Your Fault,” I wept about that for weeks.
    I had horrible C-PTSD from an abusive Mom; turns out it’s as the movie said, a form of Attachment Disorder. Now I’ve found a way to maybe shake up the system and I want to work with you on this.
    As you know the whole national mental health care system is a disaster, it’s totally busted. My new book on Attachment Disorder which describes the mountains of emotional pain, and how we get over it with meditative breathing, presence, all the tools you know, just went live on the internet at URL:

    HOW can people know even WHAT we have, how can we even get a diagnosis, when the whole system including the DSM-5 which is providing everyone’s diagnoses, is totally busted? Yeah, most therapists and authorities stink.
    My blog’s hosted by a maverick therapist group who are as tired of this as we are and they want to really rock the boat. This Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care ( FEMHC) was set up to make a top-down reform of our failed mental health system. They’re working to hold town meetings nation wide on it (see their homepage FEMHC.org) .
    Let’s talk, let’s put our forces together on this – you have fantastic stuff and I think you’re gonna love my book and FEMHC. Please email me.
    –Kathy in California

    PS Pastor Rick Warren, head of Saddleback Church, one of the largest, isued a statement July 26 that “America’s mental health system is irreparably broken” [and a lot more], upon returning to work after 16 weeks mourning the suicide of his son Matthew due to mental illness — which I think was probably Attachment Disorder. The time is ripe for change!

  4. Excellent Marie, this is how you do mindfulness without all the abstract ideas, cognitive counting and all the connotations. Please share how it goes and the questions you will have. All will learn as you go.

    Nik, way to go. Relax and practice, let judgment go and build your focus everyday a little more. We will adapt and use this focus to heal, to calm the mind and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, our brakes.

    mindfulness depletes cortisol as aerobic exercise does also.

    Kathy, great blog and idea. Yes on Nicabm I experienced therapists who did not understand meditation/mindfulness or how to apply it. lets work together and I procrastinate for some reason about a book but have pages in my mind already.

    Thanks for the responses and am looking forward to your healing and sharing.

  5. HI Marty
    Great to hear from you, when you get a chance let me know if you find the opening of my book useful? It doesn’t talk about the Presence cure yet; I’m still trying to grab the attention of the 50% of the population who’s sick and doesn’t even know it by discussing plain and simple what the heck Attachment Disorder feels like and WHY they all feel so darn bad! It’s at
    If you scroll down to very bottom, under “next” is Part 2 – I’m posting every Friday, this Friday “next” will add Part 3, etc.

    And we can talk by phone anytime if that’s faster for you to just give me your feedback and not have to write long emails.
    I’m a novice on Facebook so not sure if you have my personal email or not.
    If you don’t, let’s “Friend” on Facebook and then I can message you with my personal email so we can exchange phone #s.

  6. This could also be called Complex PTSD. What happens in toddlersville carries on this abandonment.

    Anything done over a period of time before the mind has developed is infinitely more difficult to heal. It is like tree roots entai gled with our natural development, we have stuck parts, parts defending and attacking other parts. Sometimes the mind splits and we can become multiples to exist.

    Many therapies make this disorder worse, so a good therapist is vital for most.

  7. Hi Marty- Thanks for your two comments on my book blog on FEMHC.org !
    Last night for the third night in a row, I spent hours trying to absorb an astonishing meditation talk by Buddhist therapist Dr. Tara Brach, “Releasing Barriers to Unconditional Loving.” (She’s Rick Hanson’s pal.) It’s such a great breakthrough on Mindful Presence that I wanted to let you know of it, it’s about 40 minutes, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHiEAykuvvY&feature=player_embedded .
    “Enlightenment,” she begins, quoting Zen master Do-gen, “is just Intimacy With All Things.” “Just!” she laughs (yikes; I’m supposed to let All That inside me and be intimate?) I know you could make great use of it for your readers. I’ll write a blog on my site on it one of these days but wanted to get to you right away.

  8. How has tracing the model gone so far Nik and Marie?

    What do you notice, what surprises you so far.

    Tara Back came through , Soto Zen branch I went to for five years. I have numerous posts by her. She is excellent and has ventured out on her own.

    Dogen founded Soto Zen way back and is looked upon as the best monk since.

    I always asked with as many monks dedicating their entire life to meditating, why we have not seen another Dogen? Seems odd.

  9. It’s interesting… when doing the tracing model breathing and relaxing my thoughts, I noticed the sounds around me with a little more clarity; this is good as I have trouble hearing.

  10. Excellent, hearing is a present moment without thought experience also. Awareness is what you are noticing. Now after a few cycles of breathing close your eyes and trace as you slow the breath.

    The goal is to slow the mi d like it is a marble traveling on the model as you breathe.

    The breath and mind can merge to one without thought with practice.

    Do not judge, just keep practicing and then during the day, try three or four breaths at times. See if you can do it with noise around.

    Have fun with this and be as light hearted as possible.

    Be proud of you, you are taking this time to devote to healing, it is special.

  11. Will do as suggested, and merge breath and mind… and be light about this. I received the Buddha’s Brain today. Can’t wait to start reading it. 🙂

  12. Great, it is a game changer.

    I can not stress how basic, how it is as simple as your breath slowing, slowing and slowing with thoughts fading, and the mind clearing. Nothing else exists when you sit and focus.

    You will understand as you get more comfortable with this skill and develop.

    You have taken action on a few items already, buying the book, printing the model and now try, you will heal if you apply this discipline everyday, nothing more. True.

    Accept any thought, emotion, or anything else that arrives in your consciousness, focus on the model and let go. No resistance, surrender to the fear and worry, let go, trust, heal.

  13. Posted by Nik P on August 12, 2013 at 10:25 am

    Hi, apologies for not replying recently but I have been quite ill. I don’t know how others flashbacks occur, and how frequent they are, but mine seem to be a bit odd. They are very infrequent, at best one a month, and take a week or more to formulate and “break”. My last one took almost a week to come out, and when it did, I was in a complete paralysis of fear for 5 minutes as it came over me. This was “brought on” by talking about good things I wanted to do with my partner, which resulted in a deep uprising of shame/disgust, which then triggered a full blown flashback.

    So, I just thought I would share this, because there isn’t enough information about how all this happens, and what we are all feeling. For me, I don’t think I should be avoiding these flashbacks, as they are a direct conduit back into my very early childhood, which reveals the pain I had shut down when I was that age, and can feel now.

    I believe it is necessary to feel this pain, as it is the only way to heal.


  14. Nil, you have to start building a focus practice, mindfulness to be prepared when these flashbacks ect. Happen.

    They will progress and get worse unless you have some skills to heal.

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