5 step de-stress process

Thank you for reviewing this exercise. What’s unique about the five step de-stress process is that it uses a combination of mindfulness techniques and elements of somatic therapy – so you get both a deepening of awareness and an experience of your capacity to focus that awareness in the body.

So to start, find a comfortable seat where you can be relatively undisturbed for about five minutes.

Here are the steps:

1,  bring your awareness to your body – to the inside of the body – what you’ll notice as soon as you turn your attention inside is that sensory information, sensation, will start to present itself – and the more attention you give, the more you get – so note, you have an expandable self-sensing ability that’s very powerful and will increase just by paying attention.  Notice this for a moment


Then, step 2, is to harness that awareness and intentionally move it to a particular location or system in the body. In this case we’re going to the legs – bring some extra awareness to your lower legs – beneath the knees – and as you hold that awareness include the ankles, feet – and then the soles of the feet which contain massive quantities of sensors. Let those open up.


If your attention drifts off – similar to meditation, bring your awareness back to the legs – and what you’ll notice is that the strength of the sensation, the presence in the legs, is still strong.


So for step 3 – Take that same intention and begin to bring awareness up, in a systematic way, through the musculature of the rest of the body (for now we’re ignoring the viscera – that’s a possibility for another audio – how to settle the viscera or internal organs) – but right now bring this extra awareness into the upper legs, through the pelvis, to the lower back and abdomen, and up through your chest and out from your shoulders to your arms, and hands. Then include you neck, face, and whole head. Notice that you can now, with this extra intention, have a really full, robust sense of the muscular system of the whole body. Hold this awareness for a moment.


The next step is to simply let go of that intention – sort of like exhaling but the lungs aren’t involved – you might sense a release of energy, you might sense a relaxation in the body – whatever it is, just take some time to let it play out.

…………………………when you practice this on your own later you’ll  have more time to spend in the body and less listening to me, Doug Smith

That’s pretty much how the process works. Step five is simply noticing when physical stress returns to the body – or that your sense of presence, awareness of the body, has diminished – then you might want to find another five minutes to go through the body again – use of the process is cumulative and the next time, you’ll get even more awareness, and more benefit – thank you.


Dual Awareness

Dual awareness is a process. You start with a very basic awareness of the seated body then become aware of the inside of the body. Follow the settling of the musculature, respiration, heart rate, whatever is helping the process of parasympathetic down-regulation. And at the same time — encourage awareness of the whole body so that no areas escape the influence of the movement toward the parasympathetic base.

It is awareness of this parasympathetic base and sustained presence in it that allows more active states to come into focus without taking too much of the body energy and resources that the base has quelled. One simple example is with a worry that arises during a state of presence in the parasympathetic base; The worry will active a stress response, but here it has less ability to reach into the base to mobilize energy for its own use.

In addition, there is feedback to the brain from the calm body of a positive state existing along side the fear or worry. This tends to balance the tension between the body and the brain. The worrying brain is free of the heaviness of bodily anxiety and can be clearer. And the body is not under alert that it will be called upon to mobilize defensive energy as often.

Dual awareness is the gateway to further differentiation of experience in the body. It is possible to differentiate body layers and structures and begin to do more nuanced work in the interrelationship of body structures and systems.

somatic meditation

I have recently been blending techniques of meditation and those of body awareness into a single meditation that I call a somatic meditation. What I am going to share with you is a way to use the concentrated awareness of meditation to more deeply sense the physical body. Observation of the physical and emotional states of the body becomes easier, and patterns of behavior and impulses can be felt using this process. Some of these may be noticed immediately but it’s more likely that gradually, over time, as with physical training,  you will begin to become more familiar, day-to-day, with these previously unconscious patterns. There is more to this of course: certain illnesses and dys-regulations and stress and trauma symptoms respond well to a process such as this that allows them slowly to be reintegrated into the everyday experience of the body. For now here is a basic meditation that begins to form a more conscious mind and body communication. Some of this sounds like your normal guided meditation, but be patient, because it ends differently than you might expect.

The meditation

  • Start by sitting comfortably and just let yourself begin to settle into your seat
  • Feel the energy and activation of the past few moments as it dissipates and flows out of you.
  • Scan your body starting with your head — let the remaining pockets of tension soften — Jaw – neck and shoulders – spine relaxes – arms – hands – chest – abdomen – pelvis – thighs – knees – ankles – ball mounds of the toes – toes
  • Wait. let the body continue to slow down,  staying conscious of the settling process in the body.
  • When that seems to level off – gradually become aware of your breath
  • Stay present with each in-breath and each out-breath
  • As your awareness deepens and drifts beyond the breath, concentrate this expanded awareness back on the breath. Stay here at least five minutes.
  • Next, while still attending to the breath, slowly begin to become aware of your body. You are now starting to practice a duel awareness (of breath and body) – think of your breath awareness as if it were the awareness itself and from there begin to notice what else gets your attention. You may start by noticing the effect of your breath in the body – how it creates expansion in the in-breath and relaxation on the out-breath. And then gradually bring in awareness of more of the body, letting the sensations of your inside physiology enter your awareness as you also stay with the breath.
  • Then become aware of the whole body, from the inside, still anchored in the breath
  • As you sit with the sense of the whole body, continue to let the information from your body flow, uninhibited, into consciousness. You are now in a curious, non-judgemental state of observation.
  • After a few moments allow yourself to feel the relationship of the body to the outside,  sensing with your skin your contact with your seat and the room.
  • complete the transition back to “normal” by allowing your sense of hearing, and last, sight to help you re-engage with the room
  • All this time you are still anchored in the awareness of the breath – which remains even when you are fully returned from the practice.
  • Just before you move away from breath awareness make a bridge back into what you recall as the deepest part of the meditation.  Notice what it is like to make this transition. Stay here for just a moment before crossing back over the bridge.

Somatic touch

Please check the Workshops page for a description of my new workshop on somatic touch. But first, the inspiration: I was recently in California for a training/reunion with graduates of Kathy Kain's certification program in Somatic Experiencing Touch. We practiced going deeply into the body by using a combination of visualization and focused sensing with our hands. (Sensing also uses the conscious whole body as part of the sensing instrument – the hands are just the contact point and happen to have lots of sensors). The reason we brought in visualization was that we were sensing and trying to effect change in some of the internal systems such as visceral, endocrine and fluid systems. These are not easily palpable. There is a period of sitting, waiting while your sensitivity develops, and while the subtle movements in the client's body begin to come into focus. Visualization helps you move your awareness. It keeps it from remaining on easily recognized structures. So we assisted ourselves by guiding awareness with a combination of technical knowledge (where is the hypothalamus?) and narrative about letting yourself imagine the flow of hormones from the brain to the glands along the midline of the body. And we also visualized the general sense of the endocrine system, for one, gathering information from throughout the body and then sending its regulatory response back into the body, creating a loop. There was something about the visualization that let you begin to feel into the actual experience after a period of time. The client, also, in this kind of work, is participating in the sensing. So whatever benefit there may be in helping regulate and balance these systems, the client has been consciously involved in the process,  so can continue to move on to further embodiment work. 

I thought it would be interesting to introduce this kind of work to a few other people here in Maine. My expectations for this first group will be to 1. practice sensing through layers of the body, and 2. to begin to get a sense of what I call a dual awareness – the ability to ground awareness in one place and then let it also move elsewhere so that you can facilitate communication between systems. 


I have been practicing Qigong (art of working with chi energy).

A few minutes ago as I was practicing forming a chi ball between my hands, I realized that whatever else it is chi is part of the atmosphere. Open your car window and press your hand into the air at 25 miles per hour and you will feel the pressure of the substance of the atmosphere.  At a stand-still, that substance is still there and will move with any motion you make. It seems silly after stating that, but  I feel compelled to make a point of the fact that you can feel the air. And, that you can manipulate it; stretch it, compress it. When you (borrowed from Qigong) gather the chi and move it toward the body, which can also sense, you will have an internal sensation that corresponds to the movement of the chi, toward and into the body. What I know from somatic touch practice is that each body, and the same body in different circumstances, will have a unique response to a given event, and the movement of this substance as I am now beginning to experience, is reacted to as well.  Some areas of the body that are constricted, or otherwise unavailable, may take longer to "open" to its  influence.  When it transfers from the external, general force, to the body's internal reaction, The outside force becomes part of the organic structure of the body. The body resonates with its influence.

How this can be applied therapeutically is suggested above regarding the uniqueness of individuals. The symptom in the body tend to be highlighted when conscious attention is brought into the body. Both the internal attention and the influencing effect of the "chi" energy help bring the dynamics of a symptom forward and create an opportunity for a balancing or reintegration with the whole body. 


In my work I have the opportunity to teach people techniques I have learned in my own practice. There are a number of experiments I've put together as hybrids of various practices. One of these brings progressive awareness, along with progressive energy, to one, and then another area of the body. Starting with the hands and wrists for example; and then continues to add areas of awareness and energy until you have incrementally raised the levels of both of these and have created a noticeable sensation throughout the body.

Why would you want to do this? It is, admittedly the basic, avenue to self-healing. And the beginning of the ability to sense and manipulate the space around you relative to the movement of your body. In my understanding,  this is the sense of the Chi. It is also a way to sense your own body at a deep and nuanced level. 

The energy that you build on top of awareness is a second level of consciousness. It adds vibrancy because it is more physical, and because it is more physical, it is more noticeable to the brain and mind. It gets the attention of the mind in the same way digestive and other sensations signal and alert the brain. When this new layer of energy is added to awareness awareness can be more intentional. Power develops, in the sense of control, over the distribution of the awareness and energy.

The next level is the relationship of the sensation in the body to the movement of the body in the forms. When I am in Qigong mode, it can become intense to the point that the chi will resist even the slightest movement.  I may feel the whole body activate to support a slight movement of an arm. The internal sense, especially when the body is relaxed and receptive, is one that is the exact parallel of the resistance and movement of the chi. More on this later.