You’ve got dharma in your bones.
You’ve got dharma in every cell of your body.
Dharma, the very nature of our existence, offers what is needed to heal trauma. While our hearts can break, our psyches can fracture, and our souls can flee in horror — the underlying wholeness we live within — it cannot be destroyed. It cannot be torn apart. And so our work lies in reclaiming our true nature, in redirecting our energy so as to see, engage, and reclaim that which cannot be destroyed.
At its root, trauma is an extreme loss of power and control — an overwhelming glimpse at our human vulnerability which becomes locked in the body, mind, and soul. Trauma creates a gap between the safety of our true nature and the impermanence of human form. We can become caught in a perception of separation that haunts, dominates, and destroys any sense of interconnection.
Entering into a healing process is about coming into conscious contact with the grief and despair of living in separation. It’s within this tender space that we begin to reframe our relationship to whatever has brought us to this point. Spiritual, healing, and creative practices open a process for experiencing our anger, fear, and confusion within an atmosphere of safety, loving-kindness, and compassion. Developing practices of nonviolence, forgiveness, gratitude, and generosity allows us to let go of the fear and holding that feeds and perpetuates trauma. Through the process of spiritual development we gain the strength and presence to befriend difficult emotions and mind states rather than being consumed and overpowered by them.
This practice of deep listening becomes the ground of our existence. We learn that tuning into our true nature is possible despite even the most difficult experiences. No matter who or what tells us we are separate and alone, no matter where that voice originates from or where it attempts to lead, it is a fallacy. Our deepest truth lies in our inseparable nature. Learning to relax into and skillfully engage whatever arises, allows us to experience the transitory nature of any sense of separation and brings forth the clear light of wisdom and compassion.
It’s important to note that Dharma, or spiritual truth, is about living truth. This means that rather than reading books and taking on new beliefs, rather than simply attempting to align our minds to a new way of thinking, we are encouraged to enter into a relationship with what is true via our own direct experience. It’s for this reason that Buddhist teachings are often taught alongside the practice of meditation, and deeper teachings are explored as one’s own practice deepens. This allows the dharma to naturally arise within our own experience and lessens the tendency of the ego to exert control over the process.
And so I encourage you to explore the information below within the context of a true meditation practice. You must give yourself time to be with yourself. You must give yourself time to relax into and truly engage your experience. If you are new to practice and are working through trauma, please find a meditation teacher that has an understanding of the relationship between trauma and spiritual practice — do not be afraid to ask.
Essential Dharma for processing trauma:
Remaining with the truth of the moment — Gently expanding our capacity to be in the experience of “what is happening right now” through our body, breath, physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions is the most essential skill for cultivating both genuine happiness and a safe ground for processing trauma.
Connecting with and remaining in the body — The body is our container for this lifetime and it is perfectly suited for the job, but we must come into our full bodies. We must enter into our own dark bodies, into the places we’ve shut down or covered over our vulnerability. Gently and with great care, we learn to breathe into our discomfort, to relax into both the subtle and overwhelming sensations, and to embrace our full capacity for living. Forms of movement such as qigong, tai chi, and gentle yoga, bodywork modalities such as massage and acupuncture, and trauma processing work such as Somatic Experiencing and the Realization Process can be vital components in releasing trapped energy and relaxing more deeply into our bodies.
Embracing our true nature — loving-kindness, wisdom, compassion — these are the things that cannot be destroyed. And meditation, generosity, humility, gratitude, creative expression — these are the paths that support the process of embracing our true nature.
Comfort with the unknown — We do not know what will happen next, either in the outside world or within ourselves. We can play into this in a way that makes us feel afraid and out of control or we can relax into it. We can develop our capacity to meet each moment as it arises. It is at this meeting point where true wisdom and understanding arise.
Impermanence — Life is not fixed and solid in the way that the mind, and often our culture, wants us to think it is. Life is an ever-flowing process that shifts and changes within each moment. This is vital to recognize when processing difficult mind states and emotions. Fear is impermanent. Self-doubt is impermanent. Even the sense of worthlessness is impermanent. These experiences can become incredibly loud and fully dominate our sense of self, but they are still impermanent experiences covering up our true nature.
Selflessness — The mind’s voices will attach to our life experience and come up with a million and one ways to validate themselves. “Remember when this happened? That makes you worthless.” “Remember this? That means you have to protect yourself — you can’t trust anyone.” “Remember when that happened? It could happen again and it means you’re always in danger — you can never relax.” This is what makes the voices so dangerous. They can be very subtle, and yet they contain clear messages that attach to real life experiences and use our own humanness and vulnerability against us. The dharma of selflessness is one way to help see through these voices — it is imperative that we remind ourselves, “This is not who I am. This is not the full story of who I am.” The mind wants to make our stories “all about us” but chances are the problem began before we arrived. Many of us were born into environments that fed us with fear and confusion — while we must take responsibility for our destructive patterns, they are not actually who we are.
Seeing into delusion and reclaiming interconnection — Home is always waiting for us because we cannot actually be separated from home. We are part of a vast and indestructible whole. Any voice that tells us that we are unfixable — that we are permanently broken or separate from the rest of life — is a delusion. But delusion will also pump us up and attempt to create false constructs of safety and happiness, it will attempt to wall us off from our natural vulnerability and hence the true nature of life. Reclaiming interconnection also requires that we be willing to investigate and let go of any protective armoring which tells us we are immune from the true reality of being alive.
Life seeks homeostasis — Life seeks to come into balance. It is the natural way of things. Life inherently works in cycles, in rhythms, in processes that seek balance and wholeness. But balance comes through acknowledging our full range of experiences. We must learn to be honest about everything that lies within — and in that honesty become willing to be with and work with it all. We must learn to see that all life experiences can be entered into and used as fuel for the creation of life moving forward. It is the surrendering to “what is in this moment” that allows the natural process of life to become the ground of our practice.