Restoring Goodness in the Cycle of Trauma
"An anxious mind cannot exist in a relaxed body" - Dr. Edmund Jacobson
We have all experienced trauma in our lives.
From the time we leave the comfort of our mother's womb, the journey begins. For some, the birth experience in itself is traumatic. Taken from the safety and warmth of our mother's arms, right into a cold incubator by the gloved hands of of a gowned professional. Or having the top of our tiny head clamped by a cold, steel device and pulling with force into a bright room with a funny smell, leaving scratches and marks on the top of our soft head. Obviously, one's mind would not remember this experience, but one's body certainly would.
And, of course, that is only the beginning.
Some of us are more sensitive than others. Empaths, in particular. We go through life picking up the energy and emotions of everything in our auric field and, for many of us, far beyond. We witness loved ones in despair and take on their sorrow. We embody the entirety of our falls and those of others. Often times, especially when unaware of the empathic nature, these incidences leave us confused, saddened, fearful and anxious, burdening us with harmful patterns and manifestations.
When we experience physical trauma, we are often so quickly pumped with valium or morphine while our bodies are still in a state of immobility (freeze response) or while they are still in vast survival mode (fight or flight), thus inhibited the body from closing its full trauma cycle. This is how trauma gets trapped in our bodies and reappears through triggers and patterns. It is imperative that the body is able to experience the full circle of the body realizing safety and returning to normal patterns, thus offering the experience to release itself through restoring balance. Certainly, there are many times when circumstances are critical and this completion is not possible.
I know, right? It sounds like we are doomed in this human experience filled with trauma and its resulting anxieties. The good news is....we are not doomed at all! There is a way to release what is blocked in our bodies and come back to balance. There is a way to reprogram our minds to respond rather than react to stimuli or "triggers". A way to truly let it all go. Once we create these new patterns and practices, we are set free. We come home to our true nature of joy, connection and bliss. We connect deeply with our body wisdom and listen to it guide us through future experiences, allowing the full cycle to complete itself as we are guided back to the safety of our body and its innate knowing.
"Every part of the body has a connection to the brain. By regularly practicing bodysensing, you create changes in the structure of your brain that soothe your nervous system. You can grow your capacity to respond rather than react to stimuli and therefore heal your PTSD." -Richard C. Miller PhD
What I have learned on my journey of healing from, learning about and working with individuals with PTSD, or let's call it LIFE!, is that, while it can be healing to have space held for talking about our experiences, there is something incredibly profound about having space held for us to make the, at times, long and painful journey back to our bodies!
For many of us, in this modern day society, we are living our lives from one place. Our mind. We live in our heads 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So many of us have completely dissociated from our bodies. The first step to restoring goodness is restoring this mind-body connection. This can be done through appropriate practices of yoga, meditation, yoga nidra (under the guidance of a well trained trauma sensitive yoga teacher or therapist), and other contemplative practices such as martial arts, expressive arts or tai chi.
For me, the regular practice of yoga and meditation opened the gates for personal healing.
But, when I really noticed pure and total transformation was when I started to work with the Horse as Teacher.
Horses are Masters of holding space. As non-predatory herd animals, this sacred ritual is a regular practice. If you observe a bonafide herd of Horses, you will notice the little nuances and subtleties in their interactions that earns them this title of Master Teacher.
Horses exemplify body wisdom in its every form. They practice regular meditation and are deeply connected to them selves, each other, and all of Nature. They have also shown me that this deep connection extends to a higher realm through their unobstructed connection to God (or All That Is).
In the face of danger, you can observe the full trauma cycle if you simply watch and listen. From the flicker of the ears to the full tilt gallop, a subsequent re-evaluation, followed by a loud snort, roll, shake it off, and "back to grazing". Now, there are times when the Horses natural cycle is interrupted as well such as during times of being restrained by humans or times of inhumane "breaking" of a horse. Horses that have endured such traumatic experiences without the opportunity to process, release, roll, shake and go back to grazing, will ultimately show the same signs as a human effected by trauma. When observing Horses in this state, you can see aggression, depression and dissociation...very similar to that seen in Humans with PTSD.
In their natural and instinctual state (when not being restrained by humans), there is no interrupting a herd of Horses in their survival mode in order to offer them a Valium or Ativan. It just is. And if it doesn't kill you, it will pass. That is how simple it is when it is broken down for you by a herd of Horses.
When working with Humans (who are naturally of "predatory" nature), the Horses must fine tune their detection of energy imbalances and deep rooted impressions (samskaras), in order to ensure their own safety. In doing this, and while being in the space of their huge Heart resonance, the Human is guided to their own body wisdom and Heart space (think pendulum effect). This unique energy connection that supports the uniting of mind and body can stimulate the reappearance of trauma related triggers, thus providing an opportunity for the Human to experience this horse-like full trauma cycle, ultimately bringing them back to goodness. When in their body,they stand supported by the Horse's unwaivering Heart connection. When in their mind, a disconnect will be clear and apparent, resulting in an experiential learning that will build new pathways for response as opposed to trauma related reactions, as the Horses help us navigate back to body connection. The work is done "at liberty", giving the Horses the opportunity to demonstrate the releases and re-established connection through licking and chewing, yawning, rolling, shaking and...of course, the classic, "back to grazing." Surpisingly, very few words are exchanged in this process, though the body may transmit a short sentence or phrase such as "just breathe" or "let it go" in order to guide the Human through the cycle of release and restoration.
In closing, I have realized that the wisdom of Nature that astounds me in every cell of my Being, is the wisdom that lives in my own body and in all of us. We are a part of this vast landscape. We are a part of this cyclical wind. We are a part of this very snowflake resting on the window's ledge. When I notice my awareness being largely in the space of my mind , I am able to draw the attention back to my body, back to my Heart. It is a practice that gets easier and easier, until it becomes almost an instant awareness to return to this place of our whole Being,
When we are here, we are one with the Horses, one with All That Is.
And, no matter what happens around us, we shake it off and return back to grazing where it so perfectly just IS...
Fotini Chandrika, as inspired by the Horse Teachers