Guided Imagery & Meditation for PTSD or Why I Take Rick Hanson and Belleruth Naperstek to Bed

Mindful PTSD. Part 2

I joke that my life is a whole lot better since I’ve been going to bed with Rick Hanson.lotus

It’s true.

He’s in my bedroom every night as my invited guest. I take him into the deepest parts of me almost as soon as I get under my covers.

But what I love has nothing to do with sex. It’s his voice and his brain and his adorably quirky personality.

He’s like a Buddhist Mr. Rogers running the Science Fair at graduate school.

He’s my latest love but not my first. That was Belleruth Naparstek. She’s been playing in my house and head for decades.

If you haven’t tried guided meditation or imagery I can tell you what it does for me. 

Long before I could routinely get myself to a yoga mat in the privacy of my own home, guided imagery or meditation has been a go-to practice. Writing is the only one I do more often.

I can’t always center myself enough to practice at home. I still can’t do yoga for more than 20 minutes even when I really need to be doing yoga. When I need it most I’m least likely to be able to access the part of me willing to get still.

When it comes to meditation – I need props, instruction and guidance. It might be because I’m a survivor or it might be because I have a Type A personality. I can’t do it solo. 

When I try, I often end up sniffing my peppermint oil or using coconut oil to massage my scalp and face. It’s good self-care but focused more on beauty than breath. Or I end up mad at myself because I can’t even do something as simple as focus on inhalations and exhalations.

So now, I have a daughter who can recite the lines from her favorite books and movies. I can recite lines from guided imagery CD’s.

Naparstek: “I accept what I feel as my inner truth of the moment.”

Hanson: “Neurons that fire together wire together.”

scituate 19I can hear the rhythm and tone of their voices as I write. I swear it the listening and being spoken to that is as nurturing as the words they choose.

It’s primal and sensory.

They speak s l o w l y and d e l i b e r a t e l y.

They breathe and pause and are silent too.

I don’t completely understand why I love it so much but I know it fills my empty reserves completely and in ways little else can.

All I know is when I listen, before bed, I feel tucked in by love, as though I’m a little kid (in the best way) getting a before bed story by some older and trusted relative who adores me.

It’s as though tenderness itself is comforting me as I get sleepy and I marinate in that feeling. 

They are like swim instructors at the beach holding the hand of the scared and cold kid who isn’t sure he wants to go into the water. They say, “You too can learn. This ocean is yours too. You can get past the fear. Take my hand or some time. You can do it.”

They are also lifeguards, watching from shore as well to make sure you don’t take your first swim in a rip tide. They give guidance but without whistles or bull horns.

Unlike the ocean where the water is cold and I’d have to reveal pale skin and a bathing suit, in my bedroom, I’m get to be alone and warm. Instead of water, there’s only moonlight streaming towards me through my window.

maine 62I let my head go back on my pillow, allow my hands to settle on my face or belly and listen.

It’s that easy.

It’s like the most intimate conversation where I don’t have to say a thing.

No one gets hurt feelings if I fall asleep mid-sentence. They repeat it all again tomorrow without complaint.

It’s like a blueberry smoothie for my soul without a messy blender to clean. I get mess-free nourishment.

It’s all the comfort of falling asleep in front of the TV without waking up in a puddle of drool with a cramped neck on the couch.

It’s paid for parenting I can plug in at night without any real-life Mommy or Daddy issues.

It’s therapy without the cost, co-pays or need for appointments.

It’s medicine absent all the side effects. I get mood elevation without weight gain or a lackluster libido.

I always feel more uplifted, dreamy and tethered to the planet after listening. I get that cosmically connected feeling even though no one has preached, asked me to tithe or said anyone will suffer an eternal damnation.

For me, who can have a default setting like Eyore hopped up on caffeine I will take any reminder to get grateful and where my anemic nervous system gets helped by iron. Plus, it brings me to a reverie state.

Instead of doing before bed ruminating and obsessing, I’m remembering the parts of my day most special or sacred.

For example, yesterday afternoon I went kayaking which was lovely and enjoyable. Before bed, when prompted to think of soothing images, I pictured the clouds which I had seen overhead, in the ocean, as fluffy and within reach, as though I could pull them down from the sky.

I remembered feeling bounced in the water, gently rocked and how the wind felt tangible and visceral and helped me cut into the water with speed.Zen stones

I re-inhabited the best parts of my day enjoying them all over again. This too, being grateful, appreciative and cued into my senses is wonderful work that takes practice and a practice.

It doesn’t matter that I don’t know Naperstek or Hanson in “real” life. I know of their work. They are both brainy and accessible, passionate and humble and keep their prices reasonable.

They tell the truth about how much trauma impacts the body. They don’t minimize the significance of trauma. However, they also remain hopeful about the potential for authentic healing and recovery for anyone.

It’s just my perfect blend of honest and optimistic. Because they seem genuine, I let them into my before bed brain.

So listen, I’m not jealous or possessive and we’re all adults here. These people want their tools to be used and their voices to be heard.


For links to their work, click their names and go to their websites.

Belleruth Naparstek

Rick Hanson



You Matter Mantras

  • Trauma sucks. You don't.
  • Write to express not to impress.
  • It's not trauma informed if it's not informed by trauma survivors.
  • Breathing isn't optional.

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