A profoundly simple and ultimately provocative question posed by a student of yoga who is healing from trauma inspired this writing of my personal reflections. This informal writing is informed by decades of healing work, study, and conversations with fellow healers. I hope that it is supportive to you &/or someone you love.
HEALING IS the connection to and unfolding of our true self, our vital center - who and what we are beyond the limitations of story, personality and worldly identity. It is integrating the wisdom of all of our experiences to this center. It is the embracing, the bringing together of all aspects of our being. It is remembering our innate wholeness.
What is sickness then, what is trauma, what is injury?... it is the fragmentation of our being, the splits in personality (or skin, bones, etc.. but we are focusing on energetic/ emotional healing here), it is the stuffing away of experience because it is too painful to deal with in the moment.
Healing is the reveal and digestion of these things. This might not feel like healing at first, but more like a falling apart, a mess of emotions, thoughts, memories, fears, pains, stories, and even a crumbling of identity / “identity crisis”. We can feel like we are losing ourselves on the way to healing. Our protective and carefully constructed identities can prove to not be our self, our truth, and the falling away can feel devastating or potentially so.
Why some people choose not to heal is just that.. “What if i don't come back, what if i go crazy, what if i break irreparably, what if someone sees me all in pieces, a mess … and i am rejected” - these fears touch on our primal fear of death, abandonment, betrayal, being shamed and outcast.
Healing is finding yourself
Healing is connecting all parts of self to Self
Healing is embracing all of yourself and your experience as your strength, beauty and wisdom
Healing is growth
Healing is finding and re-membering our center.
Because we so often we cannot SEE healing or growth happening, does not mean it's not happening.. Healing happens sitting in meditation, introspection and contemplation.
All that happens in the seed, in the dark, is part of the growth. All that happens to crack that seed open and messily spoil its contents into the rich dark netherrealms is an integral part of the growth. The cracking, the mess, the destruction of an old shell (identity) is crucial to the growth of what is to come.
Healing is the feeling & integration of our experiences.
Notice the embodied experience - notice how feelings show up in the body in the way of tension, held breath, etc.. that may then be triggering further coloring of our ongoing experiences as we are ‘on alert’, looking out for the ‘dangers lurking in the underbrush’.
Healing is... seeking & transmuting the trapped stories, the holds, releasing these biomechanical patterns of reactivity and protection to experience our ‘now’ with open awareness unfettered by past trauma.
Giving time and space for things to arise from the subconscious in a way that can be witnessed, felt and not experienced as a reactive (triggered) state, (stemming from present moment perceived danger, based in past experience cues alerted in our subconscious) in order to be with them. When we can sit in the fire of discomfort and witness what wants to be seen, it will move and change, it will eventually dissolve or transmute into something new.
Allowing the light of awareness to seek out and rest / shine on all aspects of self. Leave nothing untended, ignored, pushed aside, denied - these things will fester, grow and change until we do not recognize them anymore & it is harder to discover their source or prohibit them from coming out sideways in unexpected situations.
Source doesn't always matter, know that. It doesn’t always matter why you are the way you are or who did what to you. Although, in some cases it can be helpful to address the source so that we can forgive. Forgiveness of self and others is healing.
Just don't get stuck.
Feel and move and allow the feelings to move.
Sometimes they will move just by being seen/ felt.
Sometimes we hold, as they say, “our issues in our tissues” & we must move the body to release the holding patterns. We must make new shapes and movements to begin to create a new ‘norm’, or a new homeostasis. If the body has been held in a protective pattern for a long time it can take a while to unwind. The physical and energetic are inextricably linked.
Do the thing that scares you.
Do the thing that hurts (emotionally), let those tears flow, let the poison out.
Do the thing that makes you shake. Shake on purpose. Shake out the stuck stuff. Shake in the anger or fear that maybe you did not let yourself feel once, so that it stops showing up exaggerated or out of place in the now.
Re-perspect fear, sadness and emotional pain.
Our nervous systems are wired to flight/ flight/ freeze when we are afraid. We have been conditioned to be afraid of sadness and emotional pain because it is not comfortable and has been demonstrated to us that it is not socially acceptable to be upset, because we might upset others &/ or be shunned for being a downer. So we resist our feelings, we hide in shame, we lash out and blame… We perpetuate these feelings this way. We must honor our pain.
What if we embraced all human emotions and held each other with honoring as we support each other moving through, (instead of stuffing down or getting caught up in) our pain with presence and acceptance that this is what humans do. We feel, we move, we change.
Re-perspect physical sensation (which might be perceived as pain)
Notice that when you are ‘triggered’ you might hold your breath, feel a gripping, pain, nausea or tension in the body. We often grip against feeling the held fears or memories in the bodymind, this can show up as pain. This may just be sensation that is calling our attention to a deeper need. It will turn into actual pain if we try to force our way through it. We need to train ourselves to listen, breathe and lean in gently in order for the gripping to unwind.
Triggers are messages from the bodymind about things that are ready to be moved, changed, healed. They are not intended to be ‘scary’, socially unacceptable things that we avoid. Triggers may be warning us of people or situations to avoid, (thank you subconscious mind - & in the NOW we must discern whether or not that warning is valid).
It is beautiful that our current social awareness is awakening to the need to give ‘trigger warnings’, knowing that it is not always the time or place to feel, heal, or bring up undigested or uncomfortable experiences. Nonetheless, these things arise in our consciousness so that we may hear, see, feel and heal them / those parts of ourselves that are ready to heal.** We can do these things so much more powerfully together when we see that others have similar experiences and that there is nothing “wrong” with us.
** “Long-term avoidance of triggers increases the likelihood that the affected person will develop a disabling level of PTSD. Identifying and addressing trauma triggers is an important part of treating PTSD. “
…”While research on the effects of trigger warnings is limited, several scientists with knowledge in this area have suggested that trigger warnings may be counterproductive and actually increase anxiety and PTSD symptoms.”
(quoted from Wikipedia page on “trauma triggers”. I looked this up to find “evidence” that i could quote to support my assertion and personal experience. I am aware that confidence in Wikipedia as a source of reputable information is variable. And, the first thing i saw was directly in alignment with what i was saying and had lots of links to references, so i'm sharing it.)
There is so much harmful stigma about being ‘wrong’. So often, being wrong is how we find right. Falling down is part of learning to use our bodies in new ways. Can we re-frame the learning process in a way that supports the power of vulnerability, can we welcome being seen dancing with the wobble that helps us find center?
To heal and support others’ healing with integrity we must embrace the truth of ourselves and all beings as susceptible to illness, frailty and death.
Healing is the expansion of our center. Yoga is the expansion of our center. We practice expanding the center so that we can steady here, so that we can hold the ‘dark and the light’ at the same time without seeing them as contrary forces.
The more that we visit our center, the more it expands and becomes easier to access. The feeling at center is clear, quiet and beyond the questioning of words. The knowing beyond words will not respond with words when we question it. It is “pratibha” (in yoga/ sanskrit), the silent knowing of instinct, intuition and inspiration.
We may never ‘heal’ from some things entirely. The scars and residue of trauma may always be present, but as we strengthen and expand our connection to center, these things fade, affect us less, get further away and have less impact, & / or shorter duration when the influence of them does arise. We gain more tools and grow to know ourselves beyond our old stories. We can see and feel the pain without getting caught up in or identifying with it. (Phew! Thank goodness!)
This is healing...
As i write this, i realize that there is a book of words and views possible here.. I do not claim to have them all or that any of the things i say are absolute truth for all. They are what i have learned from self study, study of ancient texts, modern scientific reports and personal experience with myself and others.
I am interested in what healing is to you. Please share. I would love community dialogue around this. No one is wrong. No one has all of the answers. No words can really speak the whole truth, but only point to our limited perspective of it. Let us dance with the vibrations that move us. Let us be kind to each other and curious about one another's experiences.
Thank you to all of the darlings that i threw this question out to during the writing process.. Your perspectives and experiences fed my reflections. Thank you especially to Jess Chubb & Ola’i Wildeboar - my constant inspirations and sounding angels. Thank you to my teachers, including my students, on the path of healing whose teachings and lineages echo through me. Thank you to the time of peace in the Kashmiri Valley, India, over a millenia ago, where much of the wisdom and practices that i have utilized for my own healing was cultivated and catalogued. Thank you to all the witches and the synthesizers of healing practices old and new, too many to name, who ripple the healing wisdom out into the world. Blessed be.