Sometimes we come to a place in our journey to heal trauma - or the conditioned patterns which keep us immersed in emotional conflict - where we breathe a sigh of relief and say "Phew, I've finally done it! Now that I'm healed, I can get on with my life!'
This has happened to me on numerous occasions. Yet every time I believe I have finally reached a level of emotional maturity and resilience that I don't need to work on myself anymore, along comes the next upheaval or relationship challenge and I humbly realize I am back to square one. This, I have slowly realized, is the gift of trauma.
This New Year I encountered one such a challenge, which pushed me well and truly outside my comfort zone. We packed our bags for a last minute trip to Canberra to visit my parents-in-law after Christmas, and soon found that all accommodation options were booked out. Then we realized we knew a beautiful Gumbaynggirr man called Bumagin who had invited us to be part of a First Nations gathering at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, just outside Old Parliament House. So this is where we landed.
Little did I know, however, that part of the deal was to front up every morning for a couple of hours on the steps of Old Parliament to support the First Nations people in not just a protest, but a radical bid to reclaim their Sovereign Right to a voice in leading our nation. There was a sacred fire and ceremony each day to burn away hostile spirits. They were standing up against many years of corruption and enslavement at the hands of our government, who they saw as operating in a way completely at odds with the natural justice system they call 'Lore, not Law'. They were also protesting against our children being harmed.
I have always been a 'peacemaker', and have never really been drawn to any type of political activism. Yet each day we were flanked by the Federal Police, and even more ominous were the Special Forces Police dressed in black and parked all over the grounds in black four-wheel drives. Some said they even saw snipers.
And so I experienced fear as I have never known before in every cell of my body. I wished I had some form of marshal arts training under my belt or at least big warrior muscles, as every other man there seemed to have. My rational mind knew that I wasn't under threat as the police were after the ringleaders. However my body felt frozen and desperately wanted to flee.
I also heard first hand about some of the trauma endured by the First Nations people, as well as first hand accounts from others of things going on behind the scenes that were simply too horrifying to describe. This left me feeling raw, exposed and vulnerable. And then on returning home to Coffs Harbour there was a period when I felt shattered and utterly lacking in confidence. How was I supposed to help others heal their trauma when I was such a mess?
After a while, it became evident that it wasn't the police or anything else on the outside that had caused this fear to overtake me. Rather there was a massive trauma buried deep within my psyche which all these events in Canberra had stirred up - something completely unexpected which shocked me to the core. Did this reflect something that had actually happened to me, or was it something I took on from someone else or perhaps the collective? I realized it didn't really matter where it came from, the only thing I knew was that I was immersed in a struggle with feelings and sensations which were incredibly intense.
I realized from my meditation and trauma training how we are wired to instinctively do everything we can to avoid feeling this intensity - orienting away from what is overwhelming rather than stepping into it. This is how freeze and flee emerged as defense responses - which I had felt so strongly in Canberra. So I knew the only thing to do was to call upon all the resources I knew to become grounded, solid, stable and present enough to step into this fully. To feel that I was fully in refuge; that I was protected, supported and grounded while stepping into what was so intolerable and overwhelming. Tears streamed, my throat opened, energy released and moved as it's never moved before.
Phew, that was big! I did it again! It felt like a massive weight had been lifted from my shoulders, like a part of me had been released from a prison of fear.
I realized in that moment the growth in trauma. The knowing that everything we experience, no matter how intense, is a precious opportunity to heal, let go and transform. In Buddhist language, we can say we are constantly invited to purify or release the karma we may have inherited over many, many lifetimes and also expand our compassion to all others who endure similar struggles. These karmic imprints are like clouds which obscure the brilliant, sacred reality of our deepest true nature.
I chuckled to myself jokingly. 'Now that I'm finally healed, I can get on with my life!'
Have recent world events stirred up hidden layers of fear and anxiety for you in new ways? Are you ready to explore and befriend these frightening yet beautiful aspects of your humanity? I am available to support you with one on one Meditation Coaching Sessions on Monday afternoons, as can be seen in the link below.