Trauma. It’s a tricky topic … especially in spiritual circles. Some seekers want to awaken in order to heal from trauma. Others believe they cannot awaken until they have healed from trauma. Some spiritual teachers include trauma-work as an integral part of the awakening process. Others do not consider the emphasis on trauma to be relevant to the path of enlightenment. And yet others have no idea how to address it.
The question of trauma surfs on the edge of psychological inquiry and spiritual inquiry. By working sensitively and intelligently with deeply-held stress in the nervous system, can we support the unravelling of physical, emotional and mental contractions that are so often an obstacle to true awakening? Or is the focus on the one who cannot be fully present because of what happened in the past just a reification of the separate self that suffers?
In a post-millennial world rife with revelations of childhood abuse, domestic and racial violence, homelessness, war and general terror, does a spiritual teacher also need to be a psychologist in order to help heal post-traumatic stress disorder? Or does someone with post-traumatic stress disorder need to work with a psychologist trained in trauma-healing before they can even step onto a sincere path of spiritual inquiry?
The edges are blurred … a delicate dance between holding the story of trauma in the tenderness of open heart and stepping off the merry-go-round of “me and my story”. At some point, when the examination of what went wrong has exhausted itself, the free-fall into the abyss of being is more inviting than holding on to any identity as victim. But this time must come naturally, it cannot be forced. There must be a natural evolution in which the self becomes sick and tired of itself and the only way out of suffering is to irrevocably and irreversibly surrender to what is here.
It’s a conversation that does a balancing act between self as the center of life and life without a center when we awaken out of self-centeredness. Right here, dancing lightly on this edge, we are invited to recognize that nothing can prevent us from fully experiencing the fullness of this moment … other than the thought “I can’t”. We are invited to recognize that nothing is actually repeated, that every experience is a fresh one appearing in this present moment, that reality is only now.
In some ways we have all been subject to trauma … we all have trigger-points which cause us to defend, attack, numb out and so on in order to protect ourselves from being hurt, from experiencing the trauma of feeling unloved, rejected, abandoned, unseen. Many of us come from broken homes, dysfunctional families, traumatized ancestry. We live in traumatic times of an exponentially increased pace of life and the looming threat of global annihilation. The very fact of our human existence is a trauma to the soul as it incarnates into form in order to experience itself as separation and then spends a lifetime seeking a return - consciously or unconsciously - to its home as oneness … until we realize that form itself is a dream and we never actually left home.
Right here, in the realization of this unending presence, we can finally rest. Trauma needs to be held, to know that it can finally come home to its original nature as wholeness. It’s not seeking a resolution to its problem of reactivity, it’s not seeking to inhabit a person with improved self-esteem, it’s not seeking to mend that which is broken. It’s seeking to know the unbroken amidst the mess of being human.
Right here, in this forever unfolding moment, the unbroken presence can hold it all. And in this holding, everything comes home to love.
(Photo by Zach Lucero on Unsplash)