Safe Mode: A Three Part Meditation
This meditation is a companion to Love Your Rebellion, Issue 14: Technical Difficulties. To complete the final steps of the activity, purchase Issue 14 here.
Created by Rebecca Martinez-Thomas, LMFT
Safe Mode Audio Transcription
Welcome to Safe Mode, a three part meditation.
When things feel off in our world we often enter “The Danger Zone”. Since our bodies are hard wired for survival, many times we perceive situations at a higher threat level than they actually are. At these times it can be helpful to consider that while the feeling is real, it may not be the truth.
Mindfulness is a great way to bring back our perception of safety to match our present moment experience. The first two activities will focus on managing the internal Danger Zones.
Of course, it is important to notice and respond to real threats to our safety,
from ourselves, others, or situations out in the world. In the final activity we will explore safety planning for the external Danger Zones.
When your system is failing, how do you enter safe mode? What does your safe mode look and feel like? What comes to mind when you think of safety?
For the best outcomes with this and other meditations, find a private space where you can be uninterrupted for the duration of the meditation.
Position your body comfortably and in a way you can remain awake.
If it feels good to you, lower your gaze or close your eyes; either have been found to increase focus.
Our first activity will be breath awareness which can help you to stay in the present moment. Not worrying about the future or being caught up in memories, reliving the past. Just breathe and be aware of your breathing. When you focus in on your breath, you cannot be any place but the present.
Take a deep breath in using your diaphragm, the area between the bottom of your ribs and just above your belly button. When doing so you may notice your belly expand outwards. On your exhale you may notice this area deflate like a balloon.
On your next breath, you can try sending your breath down to fill your diaphragm. You might notice this shift from relying solely on your lungs since your chest may not rise as much and your shoulders may remain steady, away from your ears.
If you want, you can reinforce this by placing a hand on your abdomen and feel it rise with your inhalation and fall with your exhalation.
When your mind wanders, which it most likely will, notice that you are no longer focused on your breath. Try to consider this an invitation to return to your breath. Some find it helpful to think “inhale” when they breathe in and “exhale” when they breathe out or count “1” for inhale and “2” for an exhale.
Our minds are powerful and sometimes our thoughts and memories can pull us away from the present moment. Some people like to imagine their thoughts like passing clouds in the sky. Not fighting to ignore they are there or becoming absorbed in them, but noticing they are just thoughts, thoughts that can change and shift and keep floating on by. This can help us not attach to these thoughts or buy into the idea that they are real. Try noticing the clouds as clouds and return to your breath.
Create an internal safe space
Next I invite you to create your very own, completely personalized, internal safe space. This is somewhere you can come back to in the future or can be reimagined as you wish.
First, create an image in your mind of a place where you feel safe, like the beach, mountains, your room, a place of worship or some other place you enjoy. It could be somewhere you have been before, somewhere you have heard of and want to visit, or somewhere you create using your imagination.
Next, we will bring our senses into focus. I will guide you through exploring what you see, hear, smell, touch, and feel. I will make suggestions, but you alone get to decide what fits with your safe space.
See in your mind what your safe place looks like. Are you indoors or out in nature? Are there trees, grass, sand, rocks or solid floors, walls, and ceiling? What colors are present? Are they vibrant or muted? Are you in solitude or do you notice other people around?
What do you hear? Are there any sounds or music? Waves crashing, birds chirping, a lullaby, a rhythmic beat? Or do you find comfort in the stillness of silence?
Are there any smells you notice? Food cooking, fire burning, plants or flowers, the scent of rain or cut grass?
What textures or materials are around you? Imagine what you are wearing and what fabrics it is made out of. Does it feel like comfort or protection?
What sensations are you feeling? Is it hot, cold or somewhere in between? Is it wet, dry, soft or firm? Do you feel a breeze on your skin?
Now, place yourself into the scene. What are you doing? Are you sitting in a chair, lying down, walking around or doing an activity like running or yoga?
Once you have a full scene set and your safe space feels complete, take a few moments to just “be” in your safe space.
Then, take a mental picture of your safe place and title it using a word or phrase. Say the word (out loud or to yourself) as you imagine the picture you have created. You can repeat this 5 times pairing it with five deep breaths, which can enhance the effectiveness of your internal safe place. When you want or need it, you can use this word or phrase to bring back the image of your safe place.
When you feel ready, bring your awareness back into your body.
Maybe by wiggling your toes, flexing and pointing your feet, stretching out your hands, and pulling your shoulders up then down and back.
We will now transition to our final section of this meditation.
Our last activity is developing a safety plan.
When we face unsafe situations in the real world, a safety plan can be a great tool to use. During those times our sympathetic nervous system has likely taken over and logical thoughts and practical steps are much harder, if not impossible, to access.
Some people find it helpful to have a journal handy during or after this activity to put their safety plan down on paper. Then they can reference their safety plan whenever they want or need a reminder. Please note, it is ok and even recommended for your safety plan to shift and change through time, as you do.
Let’s start by considering what are signs you notice when something is off? Like the thoughts you have, your mood, behavior, or situations you find yourself in.
When things are really breaking down, what do you typically do? What is happening around you? How would others know there is something wrong?
What about your needs? What do you need in your physical environment to feel safe? What do you need in relationships to feel safe?
Who are safe people in your life? Who can you reach out to when things are hard?
Is it possible to avoid areas or locations that make you feel unsafe?
Consider the ways you can express your feelings safely. Talking to a trusted person, making art, moving your body.
Distraction can be a valuable tool to manage your fears and shift your focus away from your worries temporarily, until you can address them in a safer and more helpful way. What are things you can do to pull your attention away from your worries and fears?
What are some things you can say to yourself to help you feel more calm? Are there songs, sounds, or mantras you can listen to that can help you feel at peace?
As a reminder, you can always come back to your breath. The simplicity of pausing to mindfully inhale and exhale can offer some a sense of calm during otherwise chaotic times.
Consider how amazing it is that you have survived 100% of the hardest days and scariest experiences you have ever faced. Try pushing through shame to find gratitude for the things you have done to survive. With all your current knowledge and skills that developed from your lived experiences, what are some things you can do differently when you notice you are entering the “danger zone”?
While these activities can be helpful when dealing with real and perceived dangers, there are clear limits to what they can do for someone. If you are struggling with serious emotional difficulties or trauma, you may need the help of a professional. Mindfulness and the creative arts can be a great support for meaning making, transforming struggles, and reducing the impact of traumas, but sometimes deeper understanding and support can be gained by working directly with a therapist or counselor.
You can find resources to talk to a professional in this issue of the Love Your Rebellion zine and at loveyourrebellion.org.
Now that the meditation is complete, head back to the Love Your Rebellion zine, issue 14 to complete the activity for “Format your drive” and thank yourself for exploring the danger zone in safe mode.