It’s true that many people experience their own spiritual awakenings in the aftermath of trauma. From a single life-changing incident, to the sudden implosion of a lifetime’s worth, trauma is a recognised gateway into the search for higher meaning. It’s the propelling force for some, to seek the purpose of existence and all manner of obligations that come with it. The irony of using traumatic experiences as catalysts however, is that as much as they crack you open, there’s a certain point on every journey where you have to let them go. It’s akin to bidding farewell to childhood and all the injustices of youth, which in fact made you the resilient adult you are. Or, if you prefer, forgiving and leaving the lover who betrayed you but whom also taught you the meaning of unconditional love. When it comes to being awakened in times of darkness, there’s a point when moving forwards requires a clear level of detachment from what came first.
Oftentimes, those witnessing a spiritual journey from the bleachers don’t see the trauma that was first, or the work done to release it. The path appears easy or silly, an extravagant luxury of tofu-eating wasted time. It’s difficult to really know or see, unless you step down from your role as mildly interested spectator, the real depths of what occurs.
In order to actually pass through the trauma gateway, where the vast majority of people simply become residents, what’s needed is a complete excavation of self. What’s necessary is the breakdown of everything that makes you who you are, rules your emotions, thoughts, actions and reactions in life. For most, before they can ever truly even attempt the full journey, their entire connection to the world around them must be unravelled, studied and understood. In the case of dealing with trauma, and depending on the priorities a person has, it can be both harrowing and inspired work. The truth is that spiritual growth, when taken to its highest possible levels, is not for the faint-hearted. Like any form of learning there are milestones and some students will do the bare minimum to appear admirable and enlightened. Others, the ones you really want to pay close attention to, understand that full surrender is a pre-requisite.
Back on the outside, spirituality as a practice is assumed to consist of delusions, drum banging and having non-sensical conversations about energy, or the nature of reality. True, from an onlooker’s perspective, many of the conversations will be difficult to grasp. What makes is doubly tricky is that logical explanations won’t do, simply because the explanation is in the experience of it. To use a well-known example, how does one explain colour to someone who has been blind from birth? Does the fact our blind person is unable to witness colour in any logical way mean that we, who are having the experience, are fabricating colour even as a concept?
This path of releasing trauma is not something I recommend you enter into alone. Unless you’re the type of individual to go base jumping with no experience and no instructor, I discourage you from opening yourself up without the adequate harnesses of support. Part of the work is to become a conscious observer of your daily relationships, mostly with yourself. Self-awareness is key and it can be brutal. At some point on everyone’s path they realise that everything outside of themselves, positive or negative, is a mirror to what’s occurring internally. Things don’t happen to you, they happen for you, and depending on your history it’s a hard pill to swallow.
Once you have the right level of support, the fun and frolics of spirituality can really begin. Spiritual work involves communing with parts of yourself that have been napping for decades. Parts of you that have created vulnerabilities, fears and self-doubt programmes, before popping off to sleep with a job well done. Doing the work involves waking up those parts and assessing how appropriate they now are. You take those stumbling blocks in your life and you stop waiting for them to trip you up, instead you bend down and consciously move them. There is little better than this feeling of taking charge of your life and nothing prepares you quite so readily for the next stage – surrender – as this journey. I know, it can seem like an outrageous thought from where you are now, but one day you may even thank your trauma. Imagine that.