Dissociation was my defense mechanism of choice when I was young. The sexual, physical and emotional abuse started when I was only three years old, and I could not escape it, so I learned to leave my body entirely. At the time, it kept me sane. In adulthood, it wasn’t serving me, but I didn’t know that.

When I found yoga sixteen years ago, I was living my life in my mind. I did not realize that there was another way to live. I was so dissociated that the only moments I spent in my body were in yoga class, and honestly, I was pretty good at doing yoga without grounding myself (except for the balancing postures).

I first heard about healing meditation during a trip to an ashram. Honestly, before the trip, I thought meditation involved sitting on a mountain top chanting mantras for days. I really had no interest. I tried meditation while at the ashram, but it was extremely challenging for me. My mind had always run my life. I didn’t know how to quiet my mind. When I was successful, I felt like I lost myself completely. When my mind was quiet, I ceased to exist. That produced more fear. I made a decision that meditation was not for me.

Fast forward ten years and I was still dissociated. The yoga helped some, but not enough. I knew something had to change. I started reading self-development books, and one resonated with me: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. From reading that book, I discovered something new about meditation. It wasn’t about sitting on a mountain top. It wasn’t about shutting down my mind. It was about living in the present. Most importantly, it was about being in my body. Of course, I had spent about five minutes in my body during my lifetime. I had no idea how to do that.

I am a willful person. I want everything to happen fast. Even after six years of recovery, that hasn’t really changed. It is just innate to who I am. However, for some reason, after reading The Power of Now, I choose to take a “baby step”. It might have been the first baby step I had ever taken, and honestly, there have not been many since then, but that baby step may have saved my life. I don’t know where I got the idea, but I decided to “be in the moment” while driving my car. I didn’t try to turn off my mind and this was key to my success. I let my mind think about anything as long as it had to do with the present moment: the buttons and dials on the dashboard of the car, the car in front of me, the signs on the road, the scenery as I drove, and especially the trees. The trees have always grounded me. At first, I was able to stay present for about thirty seconds, but it didn’t take long before I could do it for an entire fifteen minutes.

This baby step led me to other moments of awareness. I started to sense my body and the way it was feeling, and honestly, most of the time it didn’t feel very good. The turning point came when I was able to focus on my body pain without judgment. I noticed that the pain would dissipate when I would focus on it and feel whatever emotions were associated with it. This has led to physical healing that is just not possible with medicine. It has led to miraculous changes in my life that would not have been possible without that baby step.

Today, I use this form of meditation on a daily basis. Although I do meditate more deeply now, I rarely have to quiet my mind completely. I just use it for a better purpose. I focus my mind on the particular activities of that moment. I try not to get lost in the past or the future. There are still plenty of days with dissociation, but on good days, I feel like a completely different person. There is no anxiety, no impatience, no panic. It feels like the trauma was never a part of my life. It started with a realization and a small step. It started with an understanding that something needed to change and that I had the power to change it. With just one baby step, my entire world transformed.

*Originally posted at PTSDawayout.wordpress.com