Many years ago I was walking across a parking lot, several feet behind my grandson, who was meandering slightly behind his father.
In slow motion I watched as a car, driving fast for a parking lot, approached on the right, headed in the direction of my two-year-old grandson.
I froze – literally froze in place, unable to move, much less run if needed.
My son had moved my grandson out of the way of the car, all without any sense of urgency, and the two of them casually went into the restaurant.
I followed moments later – shocked beyond words as I tried to reconcile what had just happened. I would not, could not, have moved from the spot, no matter whose life was on the line, which means I would and could not have run to grab my grandson and pull him away from the oncoming car if that had been necessary.
Trauma and awakening
Distancing from the immediacy of life, from everything and anything that is happening right now, right here, is even more exaggerated for those of us who have been traumatized by abuse, violence and/or neglect. Everything related to trauma is frozen inside or exiled from the human psyche, which more often than not, robs us of being present in the moment. Robs us, in many ways, of being present to our lives. At times, robs us from moving at all, can even rob us from doing what must be done, like swooping a child out of harm’s way.
To one degree or another every human lives in some measure of a trance – removed from the here and now.
Instead of being present to the immediacy of the here and now, we humans historically live in our heads, keeping us bound to the relative and limited – and keeping ourselves at a distance from the visceral truth of our lives. Like it or not we are more accustomed to metaphorically talking about eating a peach than actually full-on-experiencing the full juiciness of eating one.
I read a poem by Marie Howe and she, with music in every word, describes her father’s step coming up the stairs – and has, in melodic detail, given us lucky readers the sound and smell and touch of her family’s rebellion and anguish when her drunken father demands middle of the night cleaning.
And not for the first time am I aware, in a rather poignant and life-long saddened way aware of what it means to have very little, if any, real specifics of my early life, closed off from so much around me. Trauma – or should I say the protective phenomena of dissociation . . . being in a trance, can rob us of most sensations. Even more stunning is how trauma can remove us from what is real, what is true, having us, often, confused and lost. I wonder about the millions of seconds that went on between me and my world, what it was like walking to and from school every day, what did the sheets on my bed feel like, what smells came out of my grandmother’s kitchen and what did it feel like to be alive in this world, alive and sentient.
This is a grief I now have words for. I can be amazed at what I had no idea I was missing . . . and yet, some part of me sobs at what couldn’t be known.
So much is clearer from an awakened state.
Awakening to our true nature kindly dissolves the gaps and erases the distancing – inviting everything that has been frozen, cast aside, buried or forgotten back into conscious awareness. Not as a thought or a concept but fully felt and embraced.
But here’s the thing. The pain or the strong feeling or the fear or the fury or the grief that shows up in the defrosting and re-integration does not mean the same thing you might think it means. It is not seen or experienced through any interpretive lens, it is not experienced as resistance, it is not suffering. It is pure in its sensation, albeit possibly uncomfortable, but sure as day it, when welcomed and felt, moves along.
As the sensations are embodied, as the feeling is embraced, (as a frightened or saddened child might be), as the forgotten is viscerally remembered it is all given the freedom to move and to alter and suddenly we likely will be awash in clarity, and wide open roominess, like a cool breeze washing over a vast grassy meadow. The pain or the agony or the constriction, fully experienced, is a game changer.
Bringing us smack into this very moment, as a life lived. Really, really lived. Alive and fresh in every breath. Alive and electric with felt senses. Alive and present to everything and everyone, breath by breath by breath. Wondrously alive.
We can be awake to our state of being at any second. We can be deliciously real with ourselves right now. We can be gently honest each and every moment.
We can, right now, know wholeness – be awake to our true nature.
This was a revelation to me. For most of my life I looked to the heavens for feeling okay; I looked to the transcendent for the longed for rest and, when the real thing poured through my system I came to a profound and embodied realization – I am here! I am okay in the mud, I am at home, viscerally at home, in the mess and the sublime.
Give yourself this gift of letting go of the defenses you have built up over a lifetime – you do not need them. What was once needed for protection is now keeping you small and blind.
Invite back the discarded, the cut-off memories and feelings.
Be brave and take an honest look at how and where you are closed off. Spirituality is the process of stripping away every layer of yourself that is false. It is the process of seeing through the falseness of the small self, the ego and really understanding its constraints and, even more importantly, experiencing its limitations.
Strip away, dissolve and discover another ground on which to stand and take in reality.
See from a new vantage point. Open to the vast field that holds and surrounds all there is; to your deepest nature. Open to Life, life itself: soft, intelligent, wise, neutral, alive (technicolor alive) and infinite Life.
This is what is beckoning you and is the peace that passeth all understanding.