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Wise Words
Our authors and book editors offer these choice written selections for your contemplative reading and inspiration.

Peter Levine: Healing Trauma

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According to several Buddhist and Taoist traditions, sex, meditation, death, and trauma share a common potential. These are the great portals—catalysts for profound surrender and awakening. Unfortunately, most of us are not prepared to take the opportunities offered by these powerful teachers.

Let’s take a look at sex first. Though many of us have experienced glimpses of sexual ecstasy, the focus on titillation, seduction, and performance in post-Viagra America often obscure the possibility for deep emotional and spiritual surrender that sex can offer.

Meditation is another avenue to awakening, but because of the years of dedication required to achieve what many of the great traditions refer to as “ego-death” through meditative practice, very few people have succeeded using this method.

The process of dying, a final chance to make peace with ourselves, has been given over largely to doctors, drugs, and machines. Even in supportive and conscious settings, what should be a spiritual act of surrender at the time of death is too often overshadowed by the sad remorse that the surrender did not occur earlier in life.

Trauma is the fourth pathway to awakening. In transforming and releasing ourselves from trauma, we must face, as does the newborn child, an uncertain world. It is a world stripped of the illusion of safety, and it obliges us to learn an entirely new way of being. When we enter it, we soon discover that our instinctive energies are not limited to acts of flight or uncontrolled violence. They are our heroic energies. And they can be harnessed! The energies that are released when we heal from trauma are the wellspring of our creative, artistic, and poetic sensibilities, and they can be summoned to propel us into the wholeness of our intelligence.

Trauma is about thwarted instincts. Instincts, by definition, are always in the present. When we allow them their rightful domain, we surrender to the “eternal now.” With the full presence of mind and body, we can gain access to the source of our own energy and enthusiasm. Consider for a moment the word enthusiasm. It comes from the Greek words en, meaning within, and Theos, meaning God. When we reclaim our enthusiasm for life, we are drawing closer to God, becoming more spiritual.

As we resolve our traumas, we discover missing parts of our beings, those that make us feel whole and complete. Our instincts house the simple but vital knowledge that “I am I” and “I am here.” Without this sense of belonging in the world, we are lost, disconnected from life. If we learn how to surrender to our inborn knowledge, it can lead us on a healing journey that will bring us face to face with our natural spirituality, our God-given connection to life.

The process of healing trauma can drop us into virtual birth canals of consciousness. From these vantage points, we can position ourselves to be propelled fully into the stream of life. Healing from trauma can be that final instinctive push, that inner shaking and trembling, “the kick” that can awaken us and lead us on a journey home.


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