Staying Present in Stressful Times: A Structured Approach to Begin Every Meditation ~ Arriving Practice

When we practice in times of stress, ungroundedness or dis-connection from ourselves, a structured practice such as the “Arriving” practice, can help us re-connect with ourselves in a kind and friendly way. We can also develop resources and support that can help us ground ourselves and stay present during stressful moments during our days, without leaving our present moment experiences. You are invited to practice many of these resources and supports as part of the “Arriving” meditation, and they are also referenced, below.

Traumatic stress is characterized by an overactive fight, flight or freeze stress reactivity following a traumatic, and often life-threatening event. The reactivity in the brain makes it difficult to sit in silence as during those times we often encounter our inner “Fight”–especially towards ourselves in the form of a self-judging or self-critical mind habit. During such times it can be useful to begin our meditation practice with a structured and guided practice such as the Arriving meditation, where we are invited to 1) approach each aspect of our present moment in a structure and guided way; 2) apply resources and supports to help us move in and out of the present moment at a rate we are controlling and that helps us stay grounded and present; and 3) preferencing those aspects of our present moment experience that are in relative ease.  

Practicing like this can help us to stay present, as well as aid us in developing a kind and friendly inner relationship to ourselves.  It can be wise to end our practice period with a structured and guided practice such as the Lovingkindness meditation, which can aid us  to bring ease to a stressed mind.

We can begin our meditation by a three part practice that is grounding, down-regulating to our nervous system and orients us to the here and now:

1) Noticing where we are and when it is and stating this to ourselves. This helps the brain know that we are here, now, instead of some other time or place the mind may be gravitating towards. It helps us to “note” our location and the date as well as looking around before we close our eyes or lower our gaze in meditation.  This orients us to this moment.

2) Taking time to notice the touch points and physical support of the body.  Noticing the support of the chair, cushion or floor can be helpful to us. Hold your attention steady as you stay with sensations of temperature and texture.  Notice the physical support that is being offered by the structures under your body.

3) Taking some deep belly breaths and letting them out with an extended sigh can help to down-regulate our nervous system.  If you have more time, walking, yoga, dance or “shaking out” can also be very helpful.

Practicing in times of traumatic stress or overwhelm requires us to use the “steering wheel” and “brakes” of our awareness as well as the “gas pedal”.  In general, our practice is to be with whatever is happening while it is happening, in a non-judgemental way–moving towards experience, ie. the gas pedal.  However, sometimes judgements come and we aren’t able to skillfully work with them, or our mind is racing towards distressing material.  Whatever meditation we are doing, if we are becoming so distressed that we are losing our ability to be mindful–to be present–it can be helpful to steer our attention to another part of the present moment.  There’s no need to push anything away or deny anything, we are simply drawing our attention to something else that is also happening–using the steering wheel.

It can also be helpful to use the brakes and stop and pause–by opening eyes, stretching, taking deep breaths, or sitting or standing if we are laying down.

As we do the arriving practice and move through the different domains of the present moment, after we have noted, named and experienced our experience including the unpleasant, we can bring our attention to rest on  what is most pleasant, comforting, alive or easeful in each domain.  

Often when we are stressed we attempt to fix ourselves by challenging ourselves with what is the most difficult–believing this might be the most helpful.  What is actually most helpful is to allow ourselves to notice where the ease is–in our breath, in our body, in the emotions, in the mind, in this moment in its entirety–and let our attention rest there. In this way we can find shelter in the present moment itself.

With Compassion,


Trish Magyari, MS, CGC, MS, LCPC is a Certified MBSR teacher, MBSR Mentor, Certified MSC teacher, retreat leader and licensed mental health counselor in private practice.  She has taught the MBSR course over 100 times since 1999, and completed the highest level of MBSR training in 2000. In addition to courses for the general public, Trish has also taught MBSR courses for health and mental health practitioners, for school teachers, for those with chronic pain conditions, for those with cancer, those who are grieving, and for those with a variety of mental health conditions, especially anxiety, depression and PTSD. She is a pioneer of the field of trauma-informed mindfulness. It is her calling to help others reclaim their wholeness and their joy through the practices of mindfulness and self-compassion.

4 Strategies to Navigate the Empty Nester Transition

Becoming an empty nester can bring up a mix of emotions. While it signifies a new phase in life that can feel exciting and free, it may also leave you feeling a sense of loneliness or purposelessness. Whatever you may be feeling, know that it is ok and welcome. This life transition presents an opportunity for you to reconnect with yourself. Consider implementing one of the strategies below to support you in stepping into this next journey in life.

1.Connect with Others: 

Humans are inherently social beings, and fostering connections with others can alleviate feelings of loneliness and provide a sense of belonging. Consider joining local clubs or groups that align with your interests, volunteering for a cause you are passionate about, or even organizing a regular game night with friends. Another avenue for reconnection is reaching out to old friends and family members whom you may have lost touch with. By surrounding yourself with a supportive network, you can build new relationships, strengthen current ones, and enrich your life with shared experiences. We are tribal beings – so explore your tribe! 

  • South Florida locals: Attend the next CocoFest, it is a beautiful event with many health-conscious, mindful, open-hearted vendors and people <3 
  • Join our book club starting June 4th! Email us to get the info!

2.Focus on Personal Growth: 

This shift from solely supporting your children’s dreams to rekindling your own can be a powerful and transformative experience. Take this opportunity to reconnect with your passions and aspirations. Consider journaling about your dreams and desires, allowing yourself to rediscover what truly brings you joy and fulfillment. Embrace this time to invest in self-care, pursue hobbies, or even embark on new adventures that excite you.

  • Adventure Tip: Go on a solo exploration of a new area in your city, leave a big time gap open for you to follow your own flow that day, and bring a journal to capture what the experience is like! 

3.Reconnect with Your Partner: 

If you are in a committed relationship, the empty nest phase can be an ideal time to nurture and strengthen your bond with your partner. Prioritize spending quality time together by planning regular date nights, reminisce about cherished moments instead of watching television, or start engaging in activities you both enjoy. Consider taking trips together to create new memories or exploring shared interests through a new hobby. Alternatively, if you are currently single, consider this as an opportunity to open yourself up to the possibility of finding a new partner!

  • Embrace Creativity: Set up a romantic dinner on the beach – find unique ways to keep the spark alive!

4.Ask for Support: 

It is crucial to remember that going through the empty nest transition is a significant life change, and it is okay to seek support. If you find yourself struggling with the emotions and adjustments, consider reaching out to a mental health professional who can help you navigate this phase. They can provide guidance, offer coping strategies, and help you process your feelings. Additionally, exploring mindfulness-based life coaching and programs at the Sacred Treehouse can provide you with valuable tools and techniques to cultivate peace, joy, and purpose in this new chapter of your life.

Becoming an empty nester marks a major life transition, but it also presents a unique opportunity for personal growth and self-discovery. By connecting with others, focusing on personal aspirations, nurturing your relationship, and seeking support when needed, you can navigate this transformative phase with resilience and embrace the new possibilities that lie ahead. Remember, this is your time to craft a life filled with purpose, happiness, and fulfillment.

We believe in you!

Week 37/Kiss the Earth With Your Feet

Walking can be both a formal and informal mindfulness practice.  During walking meditation, we bring present moment awareness to the movement and sensation of the body as the feet rhythmically alternate between lifting and making contact with the earth. As a fast walker, I found it difficult to practice walking meditation.  I am conditioned to rushing throughout the day.   My colleagues often admonish me for being too loud in the hall or tease me by saying, “We heard you coming.”  I feel bad about disturbing others and even a little bit of shame for being so loud.
It was difficult to train myself to slow down and I often found myself resisting with thoughts of “I hate walking”, or “When will the bells ring to end practice?”   As I started to settle and my practice took root, I found it less irritating when then the bells rang to initiate walking meditation.  Inevitably I would fall back into my hurried hustle down the hall, caught in the cycle of noticing and slowing down.  The cycle continued day after day, year after year.
Then last year I encountered a problem with my feet that was causing constant discomfort.  It gradually increased over time until it was painful to walk. Pain was a great reminder to my pace and pressure, encouraging me to slow down with each step. I was deeply immersed in the study and practice of self-compassion, which allowed me to tend to the pain in my feet with great kindness and care. I was able to embrace the discomfort with loving-attention, using this circumstance to slow down and become intimate with my feet.
This experience opened the door to a greater appreciation for my body and its unique needs.  Through mindfulness, I was able to attend to the problem that caused pain, bringing attention to my feet and my stride.  Today I feel gratitude for the absence of pain.  The discomfort I experienced is replaced by a feeling of joy as I have now discovered a deepening awareness of walking meditation and self-compassion.
Some simple steps (no pun intended) for walking meditation practice:

  • Choose a clear, open space to walk  (approximately 5-8 feet in distance).
  • Stand still in mountain pose and bring all your attention to the sensations in your feet.
  • Slowly begin to lift your right foot and silently whisper, “lifting”.
  • Then moving the right foot slowly through space, whisper, “moving”.
  • Then gently place the heel of the right foot down and whisper, “placing”.
  • Continuing with full intention and awareness, begin to lift the left foot, following the same steps as before.
  • Continue with this pattern until you reach the end of the path. Pause to re-center your body into mountain pose and slowly turn in a new direction to repeat the path.

Patty Thomas Shutt, founder of Sacred Treehouse, is a licensed psychologist and co-owner of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches Dr. Shutt is passionate about helping others discover the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.  She offers Beginner Meditation & Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse, in addition to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Self-Compassion and various book studies throughout the year.

Reflections on MBSR: Silent Retreat

MBSR alumni have discussed with great enthusiasm the silent retreat, which takes place during week six.   The retreat has taken on a mythical quality. Until one experiences the retreat, it remains an elusive and unknowable experience. There are many layers to this special time. It is such an amazing experience to just spend a day completely devoted to looking inward. No communication and minimal eye contact with others. The idea is to cultivate a space of self-awareness and non-judgment, not comparing or striving to emulate others.   By creating an external space of silence, we facilitate the ability to look inward.

With this sacred space created, we start the retreat with a short meditation. We set our intention for the day.   Our group transitions to yoga, which helps facilitate the mind-body connection. Thinking about participating in yoga has brought me the most anxiety, yet I am pleasantly surprised by how good each movement feels in connection with my breath. By savasana (corpse pose), I am completely relaxed. It would be fine if we just lay on our mats for the remainder of the day. That’s not on the agenda, though.

We gather into a circle and begin another short meditation, before participating in the walking meditation. The conference center where the retreat is being held has two labyrinths.   According to the Duncan Center’s website, the labyrinth “is a path and spiritual tool for growth, discernment, prayer and healing”.

We pace our starts and slowly start the winding way toward the center. Some walk somberly while others gently dance with the path. My own pace is slow. I find myself distracted by my other classmates. A large palmetto bug scurries across the path toward the middle. My instinct is to scream and run, but instead I continue walking toward the middle – symbolically walking toward my fear. I will later share this insight during our closing, attempting to turn the bug’s presence into something significant. (As an aside – most of us started from the wrong direction and did not end up making it to the center correctly. An excellent time to practice non-judgment!)

After the labyrinth, we have the option of either journaling or sitting quietly until lunch. I take that time to write down my reflections in my notebook. I don’t have any discomfort in not speaking with others. It is normal for me to keep to myself. What comes harder for me is giving up the niceties of daily living – offering someone a chair, blessing them when they sneeze, or using please and thank you in interactions.

It is those interactions that are most missed when we break for lunch. It is strange to splinter off from everyone else and eat lunch in silence. Even those sharing the dining room with our group sense our dedication to mindfulness. I choose a table that is tucked away in a corner. As instructed by Dr. Shutt, I really take a moment to observe the shape and color of the food before me. My inclination is to tear into the warm, buttered roll before me. Instead, I start with my salad. In between bites, I set my fork on my plate. I meditate on the softness of the chickpea, the fleshly qualities of my raisin, and the creaminess of blue cheese dressing. I honestly don’t think I could eat like this everyday; however, I vow to myself that I will try to eat at least three mindful meals per week.

After lunch, Dr. Shutt leads us through one of my very favorite meditation practices, metta (compassion) meditation. We start by extending compassionate thoughts to ourselves, expanding to those who we love, our friends, acquaintances, and eventually those we find challenging. I visualize my husband, my dog and cats, family members, the great people I call my coworkers, the kindness of random strangers, and that one cousin who really gets on my nerves. During the practice, I see the color purple surrounding everyone. Superficially, purple is my favorite color. It represents the women’s movement and I identify with it strongly. Purple also is the crown chakra color, and is symbolic of spirituality, reconciliation, and balance. Whatever the significance, my meditation is colored in various shades of violet.

Gathered in our circle, we finish the day by breaking silence and sharing our experiences. I really am sad for the day to end. I can easily see myself participating in a future ten-day retreat. I don’t want to misrepresent the experience as easy. Meditation and silence is extremely challenging and it forces you to sit with your inner turmoil. I have been on both sides, and I can tell you that I would rather sit in silence than react in fear. I am grateful to share this practice with such amazing people.

Reflections on MBSR: Week 5

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” – Exodus 20:8

Many balk at the idea of observing a biblical commandment. In fact, a recent Pew study showed that most Americans are becoming less religious, choosing not to affiliate themselves with any one particular faith.  While many have developed skepticism towards the Bible and monotheistic religions in general, I can’t help but view the Bible’s essence as spiritual – a spiritual expression of ancient peoples attempting to explain their world.

Viewing the Bible as a spiritual book rather than a doctrine allows us to incorporate its wisdom into our daily lives. One of the teachings that I often reflect upon is the separation between ordinary and holy, work and rest – doing versus being. Exodus 20:8-11 teaches us that we observe the Sabbath, “to keep it holy”, by refraining from work.   The definition of what constitutes work has resulted in volumes of biblical commentary. It isn’t so much the work aspect that is of any interest, nor a particular day of observance. Rather, in an increasingly hectic world, how do we define what is holy? How are we creating sacred spaces for ourselves?

Prior to discovering meditation, my own answer to the above question would have included occasionally going to synagogue, lighting Sabbath candles, or journaling. While all of these activities do create a sacred space, I never felt truly rested or separate from the activities of daily life. Going to synagogue or making a Sabbath dinner was always a mad dash from work to the next activity. My journaling always seemed to focus on what wasn’t working, lacking perspective for all of wondrous blessings of my life.

It is only through regular meditation and MBSR that I discovered my own interpretation of Exodus 20:8. If I interpret the text through my Jewish experience, I use the Sabbath to refrain from social media, news, comparisons, and other activities that do not promote mindfulness. Instead, I may begin the day with breathing and meditation. I can choose to read a spiritual satisfying text, create a piece of art, or savor the delicious flavors of a Shabbat meal. I may listen mindfully to my husband, friends, or family.

MBSR has also taught me that this holiness can be carried with me throughout my week. I can intentionally carve out a sacred space for each day. Through meditation and mindfulness practice, I am able to strengthen my own religious practice. I meditate, often reflecting on Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, Adonai, my strength and my Redeemer.” MBSR allows me the space to reflect on what is holy in my own life, and to live with gratitude.




Reflections on MBSR: Week 4

Our MBSR group is varied. Represented are retirees, professionals, a graduate student, and yours truly. Dr. Shutt encourages us to practice non-judgment with ourselves. Unlike other social situations, MBSR doesn’t focus on titles or achievements. In a world that is driven by seeking external approval, we are taught to go inward, truly feeling whatever comes up for ourselves.

At times, MBSR feels like a voyage to Shambhala. I can hear Three Dog Night playing in my mind and I think to myself, “Yes, this is it. I have found the answer.” Meditation sometimes makes me feel as light as a feather. I feel empowered to surrender, relax and go with life. Other moments come with greater difficulty. I go inward and see my character defects, my incessant striving, and disappointment with myself. I get trapped in the narrative of past failures, missed opportunities, and constant comparisons.

Four weeks into the class, I find myself comparing and striving during meditation and discussion. I feel inadequate. My shared thoughts feel so cumbersome in comparison to my classmates’ insights. I’m not in graduate school. I have neither produced children nor achieved any kind of success valued by our society. I have often felt like I am going nowhere in life.

As I began my descent into the darkest corners of my mind, one of my classmates brought me back to the present with a clever anagram. He shared that meditation refocuses you from nowhere to now here. Everyone stares ahead or looks behind; each generation strives for perfection. The thinking and wishing and regretting leads us nowhere. The solution is to settle the mind, connecting to the here and now.

How is success measured? Many have written books and dissertations on the subject. Although I may never measure up to what society has deemed as successful, on most days, I feel fairly confident that my greatest happiness will be obtained by learning how to live with great compassion and connection to the present moment. Antoine de Saint-Exupery writes in The Little Prince:

“Grown-ups love figures. When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, ‘What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?’ Instead, they demand: ‘How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?’”

Mindfulness is teaching me how to look beyond the figures. The “essential matters” are the entirety of mindfulness – sounds, colors, feelings, sensations, etc. By anchoring ourselves to the present, we can learn how not to live as grown-ups, but truly grow up.

Reflections on MBSR: Week 3

Zombie Apocalypse

I am biting back laughter as I walk conscientiously down the stairs. If I were witnessing this spectacle, I would be taking pictures and texting my husband.

OMG. I just saw six people walking around outside. Just like ZOMBIES. Only in Florida.

Dr. Shutt has introduced us to walking meditation. Our practice consists of being mindful with each step. Each step is taken with care, noting the ground beneath our feet. While walking, we softened our gaze and focused on the ground. We start inside, taking slow steps back and forth on our yoga mats. It’s unusual, but who cares? We all signed up for MBSR. That’s all that matters. The yoga mat feels squishy. The pace is painfully slow and I soon realize slow walking is as frustrating as being caught behind a slow driver. A few more paces and we can get to the good stuff – sitting meditation.

Not quite, though. With mindfulness bells in hand, Dr. Shutt tells us that we will walk outside. We shouldn’t stray too far from the building. When we hear the bells, we are instructed to slowly make our way back. She magnanimously offers us the option to stay indoors. None of us take it. With orchestrated movements, we put on our shoes and file down the steps. My giggles begin.

There is something inherently ridiculous about walking at a snail’s pace with five other people. Really, what is this accomplishing? I feel my cheeks turn flush as I turn the sidewalk corner and see neighbors on the other side. I am trying to focus on my steps.   I admire one of the many delights of our tropical oasis, a pink hibiscus. Birds are chirping and I use their melodies as my meditation anchor. As I walk further away from my classmates, I begin to enjoy the experience. Just as I am prepared to walk further, I hear the bells in the distance. All of us meander upstairs. I notice my classmate’s muscles flex with each step. The wooden steps creak and bend as we make our ascent.

With levity, we agree that we did resemble zombies. Dr. Shutt is quick to draw the distinction between our zombie apocalypse and the mindfulness activity we have just completed. We are not undead and mindless, searching for delicious, human flesh. Walking meditation allows us to be fully present, focusing on our external surroundings. By pacing ourselves, we can actually begin to notice. It is another way to cultivate mindfulness and break free from whatever has the ability to make us zombie-like. Put down the phone. Turn off the music. Slow your roll. Breathe. Feel. See. Hear. Live.

New MBSR Dates

Free MBSR Introduction and Orientation

  • Wednesday, September 9th at 5:30 pm
  • Friday, September 11th at 1:00 pm
  • Tuesday, September 15th at 5:30 pm
  • Saturday, September 19th at 11:30 am
  • Wednesday, September 23rd at 5:30 pm

This FREE  Introduction and Orientation is required to participate in the 8-week workshop. Additional times may become available, please contact us for more details at (561) 278-6033 or [email protected].

Click here to  Sign up online