Do you want to go deeper into your internal landscape? In this meditation, we explore five ways of understanding your experience, based on the Somatic Experiencing tool SIBAM: sensation, image, behavior, affect, and meaning.
It will get you out of your head, closer to yourself, and allow new insights to arise.
How was this practice for you? Let me know!
Hi. This is Emma Sartwell with Somatic Spiritual Counseling, and this is going to be a SIBAM meditation. So, SIBAM is a tool that comes from Peter Levine’s work with Somatic Experiencing. And it stands for sensation, image, behavior, affect, and meaning. And the tool is basically to help us figure out which channel we’re in when we’re processing experience. So, these five different channels are ways that human beings experience anything. So, some of us are more comfortable with sensation: How is our body feeling? How are we reacting to the situation in our body? Some of us are more comfortable with image: We might see an image in our minds, we might see red, we might hear music when something is happening. Some of us are more in the affect channel, which is emotions.
And what’s helpful about this tool is a few things. One is that it just brings a lot of freedom to be able to know what channel we’re in and have an option to change channels. Another benefit is working with other people, so whether that’s a client, a patient, a family member, your partner, and sort of understanding where they’re coming from because they might be in a different channel than you, and they might have a different default channel than you.
So, that was a super brief explanation of what SIBAM is and what it’s good for. But I think better than talking about it is leading you through an experience of each of the channels. So, as much as possible, just having an open mind and taking the stance of experimentation and curiosity as we go through each channel. Some of them will probably feel super comfortable. Some of them will probably feel super uncomfortable or like you can’t do it. And that’s okay. One thing about this meditation is that you can come back to it, and it will build your muscles in each of the channels.
So, let’s begin. I would encourage you to find a comfortable position, usually sitting or lying down, because we’re going to be here for a few minutes. But whatever feels aligned, upright, but also comfortable and not rigid. So, if you need a pillow or a blanket, feel free. If you need to pause this and go to the bathroom, get some water, make sure your body is in a good place. And then what I’ll have you do is look around the space that you’re in, just let your eyes, your head, and your neck slowly move, giving your system a moment to sink in to where you are. Look above you, below you, behind you.
And then bring to mind a situation in your life. This can be anything. I would encourage you to start with something that doesn’t have too much charge to it, but has a little bit of charge. So, maybe a slightly annoying situation, something that’s bothering you, something that’s going really well, but not something that’s the greatest thing that ever happened to you or the most traumatic thing that’s ever happened to you. So, once you have a situation, bring it to mind. Who is involved? What’s happening? Let yourself move into that situation. And then notice: how does thinking about this situation impact your physical experience? Is anything different about your body? Maybe in your belly, in your heart. It could be in your face.
So, this is the sensation channel. We’re just giving a little attention to the corresponding sensation to this life situation. So, you might feel many things. You might be feeling one thing. I would encourage you to pick one and try to let your attention be with that one sensation. And then we’ll start to bring some sensation language to it. So, feeling in: what’s the temperature? What’s the texture? Is it smooth? Is it sharp? What’s the density? Is it expansive, or is it contracted? So, we’re just getting to know one sensation a little bit deeper.
And then we’re going to move on to image. So, staying with this sensation, if you were to create a metaphor for this feeling, what would it be? Maybe this sensation feels like water or like fire. Maybe it feels like a little being inside your body. How would you draw this sensation? What colors and shapes would you use? What does it smell like? What does it taste like? And what does it sound like? So, as much as possible, we’re suspending the actual narrative of the life situation and we’re going into the sensation and the image. And it might seem unconnected to what’s happening in your life, and that’s fine.
So, being with that place in the body, noticing if that place could move, could express itself physically, how would it do that? And let your body actually take a shape that this place wants to take. So, maybe it wants to curl up. Maybe it wants to punch. This is behavior. And included in behavior is speech. So, is there something that this place wants to say? And I would encourage you, if it’s moving very fast, to try slowing it down, doing whatever movement it wants to do in slow motion. So, we’re getting as much information as possible out of each channel by slowing it down and looking at it from different angles.
Moving on to affect, noticing the impact of having this sensation, this image, this behavior, being with this part of yourself. How does it impact you? How does it make you feel emotionally? Is there fear, grief, joy? Giving a label to the emotion or the emotions. And noticing, if you’re acknowledging the emotions, does it start to change the sensation or the image or the behavior? Does anything shift, get more pleasant or less pleasant, or is it staying the same?
One way I learned about meaning is that it could also be called insight. And this one, in my experience, you can’t really force. It’s just through being with the other four that sometimes a new meaning about what’s happening in your life comes about. So, the stance for this would just be holding what you’ve already come to, holding the sensation, image, behavior, and affect with as much of a blank, open, not-knowing mind as possible. Just allowing it all to be here. Putting more space around it. And noticing if, in this empty space, a new connection comes about. It might or it might not. And if it does, or it doesn’t, being with the other four channels is still very powerful, very healing, and can help you understand your experience on different levels.
So, we’ve gone through all five of the channels. I would encourage you, if one of them really spoke to you, to go back to it and take some more time deepening into it, being with it, asking questions, seeing what you can find out about it. And then coming back to the not-knowing mind, which ironically is where new insights can come from. Or if you feel complete, then you’ve done a great job. And I encourage you to come back to this meditation with different life circumstances and see if your abilities in each of the channels get richer and deeper and stronger. This is kind of like lifting weights for your inner awareness.
If you have any questions or you’d like to go further with this practice, please reach out to me at emma @ somaticspiritualcounseling.com. And I’ll see you next time. Thank you.