Bridget Steed; Art by Julie Norton
Children ages 10+
Movement and Moving "Here and Now" is an exercise that can be effectively used during times of high or low energy, of anxiety and stress, or when one feels “stuck” and when one may desire connecting with the present moment.
During times of trauma, when one’s body is stuck in fight or flight, it is common to obsess over thoughts about the past or worries about the future. Bringing one’s thoughts back to the here and now using sound, breath, body awareness, and movement can be very useful in calming the nervous system, regulating the body, and breaking up the cycle of rumination or catastrophizing.
Take a moment to find some music that you enjoy (perhaps there is a song or soundtrack that you particularly connect with) and find a safe, quiet place—indoors or outdoors—where you can play it and have enough room to move around freely.
Begin by taking a few minutes to close your eyes and connect to your breath (either standing or seated). Focus on the sensations in your body as your belly and lungs fill up with air and as you release the air slowly. Perhaps you find that it feels good to make a low “hum” sound as you release your breath. Feel your body (or feet, depending on whether you are seated or standing) firmly planted on the ground and notice everything that is true about you and your surroundings in the present moment.
Examples of things you might notice:
“I feel the warm breeze on my face.”
“I hear the sound of birds chirping.”
“I feel my stomach move in and out as I take long, slow breaths.”
“I feel my heart beating as I put my hand to my chest.”
“I notice that I feel calm and safe in this moment.”
Once you feel a sense of connection to your physical body and surroundings, begin to play your music and allow yourself to sit or stand in stillness for a bit, focusing solely on the sounds you are hearing. Pay attention to the rythym, the instruments, the beat, the lyrics, and the difference between how you were feeling in your body in the silence before the music began and how you are feeling now that the music is playing. Has your heart rate increased? Has your breath quickened? Slowed? Do you feel the urge to move?
After allowing yourself to connect with the sound of the music, begin to move your body to the beat in whatever way feels good to you. Try not to focus on how what you’re doing might look, rather, keep your attention on how it feels. Let yourself get lost in the experience of moving your body in a totally free way and engage in this exercise for as long as you wish. If intrusive or worrying thoughts about the past or future attempt to come in, bring your attention back to the feelings in your body as you respond to the movement and music. The idea is to get accustomed to recognizing what is happening in the present moment, as opposed to allowing your mind to wander to the distant past or an unknown future.
*Optional additional Step:
Take out a piece of paper (the larger the better) and colored pencils/markers/finger paints and transfer the energy you are feeling in your body from the movement and music exercise onto the page. Again, don’t think about how what you are creating looks (perhaps even keep your eyes closed), rather, focus on how the process of creation feels. Allow your body to keep moving as you add color, lines, and marks to your paper. Keep creating until you feel regulated in your mind and body and attuned to the present moment.