Trauma courses through my veins. It’s as much a part of me as my lungs, my spleen, and my heart.
A thought or feeling of fear, inadequacy, or mistrust arises, and instantaneously, my sympathetic nervous system sparks my fight or flight response. My neural pathways are deep, from years of conditioning, and the self-will and resistance required for not shutting down are impossible to grasp. It feels unbreakable, hopeless.
This is my cycle. This is the cycle of many exposed to violent trauma.
The word rape sometimes feels like such an understatement. People throw it around in jokes and in conversation, never realizing that it is the cause of such unbearable suffering and pain. As with many things, that which is misunderstood is often misrepresented.
As a soft child in a steely world, my soul couldn’t comprehend what was happening. My physical body shut down just as soon as the first blow hit my head. This was the beginning of my training in shutting my body off from my spirit and from my mind.
The mind views all forms of stress as equal. For example, events that are physically threatening and emotions that are rooted in fear release the very same chemicals in the brain. And, given the plasticity of our brains, with practice we can make new neural pathways for just about anything.I spent ten years practicing the art of shutting down and running away. And, when things got tougher, my pathways grew deeper—ultimately, preventing any man from truly getting close to me.
There’s a common opinion with respect to trauma, that victims are ‘cursed forever’ with its effects. I am fortunate that this is not my experience.
Several years ago, I was introduced to, and fell in love with, a practice that forever changed me. It has inspired my recovery from what felt to be a state of hopelessness, to how I feel today. Now, when I have fear, pain or struggle—I am gifted with a love that is without condition or expectation. I’m reminded to take a step back and find serenity and love in my ocean of darkness and agony.
Meditation and I went on our ‘first date’ just about eight years ago. The energetic chemistry was stronger and more intense than anything I had ever experienced before. I wanted to spend all of my moments with this new lover, and at the same time, run away as fast as I could.
My patterns of shutting down surfaced immediately and for years we clashed, fought and struggled to find love without condition. I’d show up to my cushion with hurt feelings and I’d clam up. I couldn’t find the words to explain how I felt and I would utterly shut down.
But, meditation waited patiently, never forcing me to find these words.
Slowly, I started to trust my new lover—revealing who I truly was, and bringing my beloved through that impenetrable shell I had surrounding my heart.
It is powerlessness unlike anything I’ve ever known. It is openness and honesty without the raw and excruciating wound.
Meditation has taught me loving kindness toward myself. Reminding me to stay, to trust and to love. It’s created a space that is safe for me to feel like a crazy person and to ask for all of my needs to be met. It’s inspired me to seek the outside help I’ve needed to face and recover from the brutality of abuse.
And through all of the work I’ve had to do, this practice stays by my side and teaches me to love myself.
I’m not perfect today. I still have trouble staying on my cushion. And, there are some days I have to treat myself like a puppy. Even though, I want to run, I remind myself with kindness, over and over and over again to stay…stay…stay.
My fight or flight still kicks in, but today I don’t have to respond to it so quickly. I have an option to breathe, take space and invite that universal love in.
As I open myself a little more and more, I give roots to the opportunity for love to grow.
The expression of emotion gets easier, but even still, it’s challenging to express fear and insecurity.
I still don’t completely understand my initial impulses and I have ambivalence around vulnerability and staying open. However, I find that the fear of vulnerability is much better than the lack of love created by living out of that fear.
The trauma still exists in my veins. When feeling arises, my blood is literally aware. I become flushed and my heart feels like it is going to explode in my chest. My throat constricts and there is tightness everywhere. My want to shut down still feelsl overpowering, even when I don’t fall into it.
And though this practice of sitting, I have learned to stay…to trust…and, to love.
Kyra is a snow-shredding, bacon-loving yogi who has an uncontrollable wanderlust. For the last five years, meditation has been the foundation of her spiritual and emotional expansion. When she is not pretending that she has a gluten intolerance (or not, depending on what she wants to eat that day) she is watching cat videos, pumping iron, or drinking coffee. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, or check out her website.
Like elephant spirituality on Facebook.
Ed., T. Lemieux