Scattergood Foundation

Advancing Innovative Strategies for Change in Behavioral Health

Retreat Box - Meditations and Affirmations

Intervention Description
Pamela Ayo Yetunde
Overall Description: 
Retreat Box – Meditations for Calming the Nerves and Building Self-Esteem, is a shoe box recycled into a container holding 200 daily affirmation cards, a stand for the cards, 10 guided meditations on two CDs, and a book of affirmations and meditations. The guided meditations include: Mindfulness of the Breath, Mindfulness of the Body, Lovingkindness Meditation, and an original meditation coined Wholeness Meditation. The CDs also contain a few encouraging talks, one about how trauma impacts the body's nervous systems and another about what it means to love one's body after trauma.
Trauma negatively impacts the central nervous system (CNS) and autonomic nervous system (ANS). Impaired central and autonomic nervous systems can lead to anxiety, hypervigilance, depression, identity issues, a loss of self-esteem, suicidal ideation, self-inflicted injuries, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder. An impaired CNS contributes to the formation of cognitive distortions in conditions like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). An impaired ANS negatively impacts internal organs because the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, parts of the ANS, cannot work in tandem to achieve balance between impulsiveness and restful states. Mindfulness meditations on the breath and body help regulate the ANS and CNS and when done regularly, help modulate the brain’s amygdala. The ability to modulate the amygdala, through meditation, helps heal the consequences of impaired nervous systems. Affirmations are tools from positive psychology and help diminish negative cognitive distortions which are caused by and exacerbate depression.
Retreat Box is inspired by experience teaching mindfulness to women in a shelter. Retreat Box is an original creation inspired by ancient contemplation practices in Eastern spiritual practices, and found in contemporary spiritual communities like the Community of Mindful Living and Insight Meditation communities. Pamela Ayo Yetunde wrote all the affirmations and recorded all the meditations, unscripted, from her meditation practice.
A study conducted by Bruno A. Cayoun, PsyD. using Mindfulness-integrated Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (MiCBT), (mindfulness of the body and thoughts), found participants experienced “…desensitization to internal cues or a deprogramming of established reactive habits in the central nervous system.” (1) In the Institute of Neuroinformatics and Laboratory for Body and Mind’s study, research participants meditated 20 minutes, twice daily, for five consecutive days. The scientists found that there was an increase in parasympathetic activity following meditation. (2) Meditation dampens reactivity and helps balance the sympathetic nervous system, making it possible for people with trauma to gain self- acceptance and self-esteem. (1) Cayoun, Bruno. Mindfulness Meditation in the Treatment of Trauma, Anxiety and Depression. (Undated paper.) (2) Tang, Ma, Fan, Feng, Wang, Feng, Lu, Hu, Lin, Li, Zhang, Wang, Zhou, and Fan. Central and autonomic nervous system interaction is altered by short-term meditation. PNAS, June, 2009, vol. 106, no. 22.
Retreat Box is easy to use and does not require much assistance to be used. The CDs and book are self-explanatory and easy to use. On the other hand, should a shelter introduce a Retreat Box project that residents can work on together, they can create a Retreat Box simply by downloading a box cover, affixing that cover onto the top of a shoe box, photocopying affirmations and making cards out of them, and downloading the recordings onto CDs. The Retreat Box Book can be purchased and added to the box.
Estimated Cost of Production: 
Do the production costs decrease as the number of units produced increases?: 
Space and Staffing Required: 
All that is needed is one room designated for meditation space at least 20 minutes a day with no additional staffing requirements. One person (staff or resident) may introduce the Retreat Box to residents and staff (if staff is interested), act as the host for the meditation time, use the shelter's CD player, play the CD, read an affirmation, and return the Retreat Box to staff. Retreat Box is so cost effective, a box can be created for each resident.
Does your product require training of shelter staff to use appropriately?: 
Training Details: 
Retreat Box contains only a few simple items – affirmation cards, a card stand, CDs, and a book. The box itself is a recycled shoe box. This is a meditation kit that does not require much work to assemble, nor much money to invest in to create.
Yes. Retreat Box was created to be used in every shelter where trauma-experienced people seek safety.
The Retreat Box impact on shelter residents can be gathered through oral narratives and/or an online survey ( or paper survey. Given the transitory nature of shelters as well as the possibility that women with children will stay in shelters longer, it is recommended that an evaluation be given to a resident just before their departure, that the survey be returned to the shelter, and the shelter return it to the Retreat Box creator for analysis.

Supporting Materials