Orienting: External Environment

Grounding Technique

  1. Take a moment to get comfortable. Start by feeling  your sits bones beneath you, or feeling your feet if they’re touching the ground. Just notice anywhere that your body is making contact with something, and where you can feel yourself being supported by the earth. 
  2. Take a second to intentionally pause. You might be coming into this practice with uncomfortable sensations, emotions, or thoughts, and I'm here to remind you that this is okay. This is a nervous system response - and we can maybe thank our nervous system for trying to protect us, and just spend the next few minutes being curious about trying something new. In this practice we're just gonna see what we can notice around us, so that we can check in with our nervous system and be there with it in this process of noticing. 
  3. With your head staying where it is, slowly start to scan your eyes around the environment wherever you are, and just notice what's around you. Let your eyes go wherever they want to go, just scanning what you can see. Looking to your left,  looking to your right. Look at things that are nearby, and things that are maybe more in the distance. Notice if there is anything dangerous in the present moment that needs your attention, or, if what you can see around you right now is mostly neutral or okay. 
  4. Notice if there’s a spot that feels interesting or comforting for you to gaze on, something that maybe the eyes feel curious about or drawn to. It could be a plant, a picture, a piece of furniture. And then just spend a moment taking in everything about that object as if it’s the first time you’re seeing it – the shape, the texture, the colour, the size, how far away it is from you in the distance. 
  5. Scan around again, but this time let your head and neck slowly move with your eyes as you look at your surroundings. Slowly check out all directions, looking all the way to the left, and all the way to the right, as you just notice everything around you, and see what your eyes pick up on that’s interesting, until you find some other thing to focus your gaze on. Again paying attention to the colours, textures, shapes and sizes of this thing you’re gazing at.
  6. Check out if you can hear any sounds. Noticing if you can hear the sound of traffic outside, or wind blowing, or any other sounds that might be around you. Notice if there are any sounds that feel interesting or comforting to listen to.  
  7. Pay attention to any smells or scents in the environment. Is there anything familiar, fresh, neutral or pleasant that you can smell in the air around you? Just spend some time paying attention to this.
  8. And now just notice where your body is in the room again. Noticing the pressure of your sits bones or feet against the ground, noticing the textures of any fabric or surfaces around you, the temperature of the air, and just gazing around at your surroundings one more time, taking in where you are in this moment. 
  9. Once you’ve finished, notice if anything is different from just a few moments ago. Are there any shifts, however tiny or subtle, in how your body feels? See if you can put words to what you notice, always remembering that whatever comes up is okay. 

( i )      Orienting is taking in your environment and everything that’s in it – colours, smells, sounds, what you’re touching – while also taking in your internal sensations – physical, emotional, thoughts.

The nervous system is always doing this automatically outside of our awareness, but is often faulty, especially post-trauma. So orienting is doing this detection with awareness in order to recalibrate our faulty neuroception and create a more accurate perception of safety and danger.

When we're in the yellow zone sometimes we can be overloaded with only using our internal sensations to guide our perceptions of safety and danger, but as we know sometimes our perceptions of danger can be inaccurate. This version of the orienting practice shifts most of our detection process to focusing on the external environment, so that we can help cultivate more accurate neuroception in the present and learn to turn off that alarm response when it's not needed.