’Tis the Season for Trauma: How Mindfulness Can Bring Joy and Peace Back to the Fall and Winter Holidays by Scott Kiloby

Abstract and mysterious background of blurred forest with autumn lighting

Tis’ the Season for Trauma: How Mindfulness Can Bring Joy and Peace Back to the Fall and Winter Holidays
By Scott Kiloby, author of The Unfindable Inquiry and Natural Rest for Addiction

The fall and winter holidays are meant to be a time of peace, joy, and loving connection with family members and loved ones—or so we are told… Yet many of us don’t experience that peace, joy, and connection. Instead, we find ourselves reliving past memories and emotional disturbances related to trauma that we experienced in our early days growing up in our families of origin.

Those who experience a traumatic event during developmental years sometimes develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) later in life. Trauma is an event that was so emotionally overwhelming or hurtful that our systems shut down at the time, not allowing us to process emotions in a healthy way. The event leaves an imprint in our bodies and minds that continues to bring forth triggers when we see the people, places, and things that are connected to traumatic memories. PTSD is a set of symptoms that tend to arise over and over again as a result of this unresolved emotional imprint.

Trauma and PTSD are not reserved only for those of us who were physically or sexually abused as children. Trauma is much broader than that. Feeling unloved, judged, rejected, or abandoned by a parent or loved one during child development can bring about PTSD-like symptoms that continue to resurface every year around the holidays.

One glance at a loved one’s face or even the sound of a voice can act as a catalyst that brings up feelings of anger, sadness, shame, or anxiety that have remained buried inside us for years. This can lead to a feeling of dread toward holiday events and family gatherings. Instead of longing to be in the presence of those who truly love us, we find ourselves ruminating on and rehashing these past thoughts and feelings. For some, the resurfacing of trauma can be quite debilitating, leading to isolation, depression, or an increase in addictive behaviors and other not-so-healthy coping mechanisms.

With mindfulness, we begin to truly face, feel, and resolve these past traumas as they resurface. We learn to allow and dissolve the thoughts, feelings, and sensations tied to our traumatic childhood. We start to live in the present moment, where life is always new and fresh.

When working with people on past trauma at the Kiloby Center for Recovery, our aim is to first help them see the full extent of the emotional disconnection from their loved ones. We invite them to compare within their consciousness how they experience a beloved pet to how they experience a father or a sister. When they visualize their dog “Jake,” for example, they may experience love, warmth, openness, and connection. Thoughts of their pets are not traumatic or painful (unless, of course, they are grieving the loss of a pet). This is because, unlike our relationships with other humans, we do not relate to our pets on the level of ego. We connect with our pets from our natural state of presence and unconditional love. When clients are then asked to visualize their family of origin, something else happens entirely! They may experience fear, sadness, shame, or anger. The corresponding mental images of their loved ones may appear sticky and solid, creating a sense of separation between them. This is the ego, through and through.

How do we learn to experience our loved ones with the same warmth, peace, love, and joy that we experience with our pets? The key is to unhook ourselves from the filter of the past as it relates to our loved ones. Essentially, we dismantle the ego and its negative storytelling. With mindfulness, we begin to truly face, feel, and resolve these past traumas as they resurface. We learn to allow and dissolve the thoughts, feelings, and sensations tied to our traumatic childhood. We start to live in the present moment, where life is always new and fresh. Then, when we see a loved one’s face or hear his or her voice, we connect to the joy, peace, and love we feel for them, instead of re-experiencing the emotional imprint that leaves us feeling disconnected.

Mindfulness takes skill. We can become easily overwhelmed by the resurfacing of traumatic memories and feelings while working with trauma using mindfulness. Many of us need the guiding presence of a mindfulness facilitator or teacher to help us through the process skillfully and thoroughly. But once we learn valuable skills, those skills are with us forever. We can use them whenever the painful filter of the past begins to resurface during holiday events and family gatherings. We become the masters of our own experience, able to experience the joy and peace that the holidays are truly about.

Natural Rest for AddictionIn addition to authoring books on mindfulness and awareness, Scott Kiloby is co-owner of the Kiloby Center for Recovery in Rancho Mirage, CA—the first addiction treatment center to focus primarily on mindfulness—and co-owner of the Natural Rest House, a detox and residential center in Palm Springs. He is also founder of a worldwide mindfulness training program called the Living Inquiries. For more info, visit KilobyCenter.com.

Scott recently appeared at the Science and Nonduality Conference in San Jose, CA (SAND17 US). To learn more about him and his work, check out his Q&A with Non-Duality Press here.

What Is the Purpose of Silent Retreat? by Amoda Maa

Image of solo meditation practitioner on the beach, sun shining through hand

What Is the Purpose of Silent Retreat?
By Amoda Maa Jeevan, author of Embodied Enlightenment

Many spiritual traditions offer silent retreat as the basis of their teachings. Most often, some kind of meditative practice is central to this—a way to still the mind and be more present. In the privileged Western world, silent retreat is mostly a luxury—something “spiritual” that we do when we have the time to get away from the busyness of our everyday lives in order to de-stress or find a higher state of consciousness. But for me, as a “spiritual teacher,” silent retreat is much more than this—it is a necessity, for each of us as individuals and for humanity as a whole, if we are to play a part in the transformation of the world.

Most people are lost in the matrix of their thoughts, beliefs, opinions, preferences, and grievances; it’s a prison characterized by stress, struggle, anxiety, confusion, and argument—in other words, it’s a state of inner division in which there’s an identification with the many “voices in the head” (which are often in opposition to each other). Seven billion people in a divided state creates a divided world; we see this in our social, economic, political, environmental, and religious arenas—this is the matrix of the world, and the outcome is war. We cannot end the war within or the war in the world without first freeing ourselves of the prison of identification with “psychological form” (thoughts, beliefs, opinions, preferences, and grievances). Discovering a dimension deeper than psychological form is vital for our own survival and for the survival of humanity.

The good news is, this deeper dimension is actually our natural state. Our natural state is the unending openness of being—in other words, consciousness itself. This consciousness exists prior to thinking and feeling, and even prior to self-awareness. It’s what is always here when you stop giving your attention to the movement of mind. It’s what happens when you are immersed in beauty, when you’re still in nature, when you’re running or dancing or making love. And very often, it’s what happens in the intensity of pain, trauma or shock, or a near-death experience. It can, of course, also be revealed in the midst of meditation. For some, the practice of meditation is a very useful tool. But many meditation practices do not use silence as the fundamental teaching—and even if they do, for many people meditation is far from silent!

Silent retreat has the capacity to go deeper than meditation practice. For me, it is not meditation itself that is the vital part, but the very nature of silence itself. It’s not about getting rid of thoughts or even about quieting the mind; it’s about falling into an inner dimension of beingness, like falling into the depth of the ocean—thoughts are the waves on the surface, beingness is the stillness and silence at the bottom. The more we rest in this silence, the more we come to know it as our essential nature. It is this silent core of being that remains unmoving and unbroken throughout the glories and tragedies of “my life.” When we keep coming back to this silence, we become more rooted in it, even in the midst of the vicissitudes of life, and eventually it is recognized as the backdrop to the movie of “me,” and gives rise to the true fulfillment of our innate wholeness. It doesn’t necessarily make our lives “perfectly happy” or “perfectly successful,” but it does free us from the prison of erroneous identification with psychological form (thoughts, beliefs, opinions, preferences, and grievances), thus ending the war within and revealing a peace and joy that is not dependent on circumstances.

Silent retreat is the opportunity to notice what keeps your attention at the surface, to be honest with yourself about what prevents you from falling into your innermost depth, and to practice surrender of the mind’s safety-seeking strategies while being held in the loving spaciousness of the “container” of the retreat itself.

The invitation to fall into the silence at the core of your being is a coming home to your natural state. And when we move from this silence into the world, the reverberations are revolutionary!


Join Amoda for her upcoming silent retreat this December:

Coming Home to the Core of Your Being
Resting in Silence
December 3–7, 2017 (Sunday–Thursday: 4 nights)

Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health
57 Interlaken Road
Stockbridge, MA 01262

Embodied Enlightenment

 

Amoda Maa Jeevan is a contemporary spiritual teacher, author, and speaker who recently appeared at the Science and Nonduality Conference in San Jose, CA (SAND17 US).
Embodied Enlightenment: Living Your Awakening in Every Moment is based on both her vision for humanity and the conversations on the cutting edge of spiritual inquiry in her meetings with people from all around the world.

What to Do When Fear Strikes by Amoda Maa Jeevan

The word FEAR in red on grungy grey wall with blue sky and fluffy white cloud visible through big hole

What to Do When Fear Strikes
By Amoda Maa Jeevan

Fear does not belong to you.

Do not take ownership of it.

There is a lot of fear in the world now.

There are many earthquakes in the Earth, and many unstable and threatening political situations. Many people are very scared.

When this collective vibration reaches a certain intensity, we feel it as individuals—but it is not personal.

Allow it to pass through you like a storm. You survived last time this fear was here; you will survive again.

Do nothing—nothing stupid, nothing clever.

Be open like the sky. Do not make it personal.

Just bear it as it passes through. The Earth bears the earthquake. The universe bears the galactic winds. You, too, can bear the emotional maelstrom.

Be open like the sky. Everything passes.

And you…are still here.

Embodied Enlightenment cover

Amoda Maa Jeevan is the author of Embodied Enlightenment: Living Your Awakening in Every Moment, published by New Harbinger Publications. Copyright 2017.