’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.

Shame—Dissolving This Driving Force Behind Addiction Through Mindfulness

By Scott Kiloby, author of Natural Rest for Addiction

One glance at Auguste Rodin’s famous statue Eve After the Fall tells the whole story of how we outwardly manifest our internal feelings of shame. Eve is covering her body and lowering her head as if to say, “Don’t look at me from the outside, for inside I am deeply ashamed of who I am.” Shame is one of those emotions that strikes at the very heart of our identity. Unlike guilt, which is often about feeling bad about something we have done, shame carries negative mental beliefs and corresponding emotions about who we are.

I remember from an early age that shame felt like part of the fabric of my very being. From those first moments of becoming interested in sex to stealing a bit of my dad’s Wild Turkey whiskey to trying tobacco for the first time, I learned that some things have to be kept hidden away from the judgmental eyes of the world. I learned to be addicted by repeatedly returning to the pleasures of substances and activities that helped me cope with feelings that felt overwhelming. Similarly, I learned to be ashamed of those addictions as a way to feel bad about myself. And feeling bad about myself gave me the perfect opportunity to go right back to medicating those shameful feelings. What a vicious cycle! Addiction and shame were inseparable bedfellows for more than thirty years of my life—feeding and fueling each other every step of the way.

I am neither alone nor unique here. The vast majority of clients who participate in treatment at the Kiloby Center for Recovery experience shame as one of the major driving forces behind their insatiable desire to scarf down a box of cookies in one sitting or repeatedly return to the heroin dealer for another hit of oblivion. A new study in Clinical Psychological Science reveals what many of us in the addiction treatment field have known for decades: unresolved shame is a contributing factor to chronic relapsing in addiction.

For those of us experiencing addiction in one form or another, understanding that shame is a major contributing factor to addiction is only half the battle. The more significant question is, How can we resolve shame and therefore begin to truly let go of the addictive substances and activities that are linked to it? Mindfulness is one of the best answers.

With mindfulness, especially if it is somatic based, we have the opportunity to dive deeply into the psychological and emotional imprints of shame in our minds and bodies, and gently and humanely untangle shame’s persistent knots. The great news is that we can do this without any psychoanalysis, because mindfulness uses a different approach altogether. Mindfulness involves recognizing present-moment awareness as the foundation of our experience and gently bringing nonjudgmental and accepting attention to the shame-based thoughts, emotions, and sensations that are buried within our unconscious.

Just learning this skill of mindful, direct attention can resolve quite a lot. But mindfulness affords the opportunity to go even deeper. Because shame is identity based, mindfulness—if done skillfully through self-inquiry—allows us to dismantle the shame-based ego itself, providing an even more profound freedom. Addictions fall away on their own accord, without the need for willpower, when we investigate and dismantle the shame-based ego.

For many, baring their soul in talk therapy or sharing their shameful secrets with a room full of other recovering addicts just isn’t enough to resolve the most deeply rooted shame. That was certainly my experience. I had to find a method of going deeper within myself, to root out all the memories and feelings that kept me leading two lives—the secret, private, addicted “me” that was hiding, lying, and isolating myself from others; and the public façade that presented to everyone else that “all is well.” With mindfulness and self-inquiry, I didn’t have to share anything with anyone. When we are truly ashamed of who we are, it is not so easy to simply share every little dirty secret and shameful memory. Sometimes we have to do some inner processing to relieve ourselves of the heavy burden of shame before we can even open our mouths and share the deepest secrets that have kept us addicted for years.

If you are beginning a mindfulness practice directed at resolving shame, I encourage you to work with someone very skilled at guiding you through the process. This is not for the faint of heart. You may encounter some painful memories and emotions. But diving into these issues with someone who is trained and skilled and can hold the space for you is a path to a depth of freedom that you have never known (and can never know as long as shame runs your life). Watch addictive substances and activities fall away as you watch the thoughts, emotions, and sensations of shame fall away through gentle, direct, skilled mindfulness.

Natural Rest for AddictionScott Kiloby is author of Natural Rest for Addiction: A Radical Approach to Recovery Through Mindfulness and Awareness—available now through Non-Duality Press. His other books include The Unfindable Inquiry, Reflections on the One Life, and Living Realization. (To learn more about Scott’s books and his work, check out his Q&A with Non-Duality Press here.)




Scott 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 http://kilobycenter.com.

Q&A: Scott Kiloby, Author of The Unfindable Inquiry

New this month, Non-Duality Press presents The Unfindable Inquiry, the latest book from Scott Kiloby—a noted author, teacher, and international speaker on non-dual wisdom and mindfulness as it applies to addiction, depression, anxiety, and trauma. Kiloby is COO of MyLife Recovery Centers, an addiction treatment program that provides the innovative Naltrexone Implant. He is also founder of a worldwide community of Living Inquiries facilitators, and cofounder and CEO of the Kiloby Center for Recovery in Rancho Mirage, CA, the first addiction, anxiety, and depression treatment center to focus primarily on mindfulness. His other books include Reflections of the One Life, Living Realization, and the forthcoming Natural Rest for Addiction.

What does non-duality mean to you?

Historically, non-duality refers to “not two,” or seeing through the illusory separation (duality) in life. Although I like that definition, there is a more accessible way of talking about non-duality. When we are thinking, our thoughts are dividing up reality into “this” and “that.” Thoughts make it appear that reality is a fragmented collection of separate things. As we begin to investigate thought (through witnessing or inquiry) and recognize the awareness to which all those thoughts are appearing, we begin to see that they are just thoughts. They don’t really point to separate things. They just arise and fall to awareness. Eventually, in a non-dual recognition, the mind begins to quiet and we experience non-conceptual presence as the foundation of our experience. In that presence, when no thoughts are arising, increasingly reality is seen as undivided. Embodiment is an important component of non-dual recognition, in my view. It happens as we begin to include (in our witnessing or inquiry) the emotions and sensations that are stuck to thoughts. When an emotion or sensation is stuck to a thought, the thought seems more true or real. It seems to really point to a separate self and separate things. As these emotions or sensations are allowed to be, they are seen to come and go. They unglue themselves from thoughts, making thoughts seem less true or real.

How did you find non-duality, and when did you begin integrating it into your work?

Once I stopped abusing painkillers (which lasted for over fifteen years), I went on a mad search to find whatever was out there in the world that would help me deal with the thoughts and emotions I had been running from and trying to manage with the painkillers. I looked at every religion and as many therapies and positive-thinking strategies as I could find. Instantly, I saw the wisdom of non-duality when I first began to read about it. There was no “work” of mine at first. The work came from the realizations and insights I was having in my own life. I just wanted to share them. That sharing became my “work” over time.

Your message on Kiloby.com is “Rest. Inquire. Enjoy Life.”—can you explain what that means?

Yes, it sums up my teaching completely, and it’s about going as deep as you can go as well as maintaining balance in your life. “Rest” refers to resting as awareness and allowing all thoughts, emotions, and sensations to be noticed and allowed, which also reveals that they are temporary arisings to awareness. Although this practice is foundational to my work and many other non-dual teachings, it often doesn’t go far enough to truly help people see through the illusion of separation. That’s where “Inquire” comes in. Here, I’m specifically referring to the Living Inquiries, which were developed by me and my team of facilitators. They can be found at LivingInquiries.com. My new book, The Unfindable Inquiry: One Simple Tool to Overcome Feelings of Unworthiness and Find Inner Peace, is an instruction book on the Unfindable Inquiry, which is the basis for all the Living Inquiries. Inquiry is so important to help us see through the stickiest and most dense aspects of our belief in being a separate self, and in separation generally. They help undo what I call the “Velcro Effect,” which—as I explained above—is the experience of emotions and sensations being stuck to thoughts. “Enjoy Life” is about the balance. These kinds of teachings are not about obsessing on rest, awareness, inquiry, or spirituality. What’s the purpose of a teaching or method if it does not free you up to experience a greater enjoyment, ease, creativity, and enthusiasm for life? As we rest and inquire, our capacity to take ourselves less seriously allows us to enjoy life more, in whatever way that shows up for each of us.

What are the Living Inquiries, and how were they developed?

I developed the Unfindable Inquiry (UI) in 2008 during a period in which I was experiencing a core deficiency story that had remained after my awakening experience in 2007. The core deficiency story was “I am unlovable.” Recognizing awareness was not enough. I needed a more potent tool. Through my extensive conversations with Greg Goode—who I consider both a friend and one of my greatest teachers—I developed the Unfindable Inquiry as a way to see through this very deeply rooted aspect of my ego, which was created in part through trauma as a result of being bullied for being gay when I was in elementary school. The UI was the only thing that really helped. I stopped reading non-duality books at that point. I needed something more penetrative and direct.

After developing the UI, I began to train others to be facilitators of it. Eventually, I and that team of facilitators—including Fiona Robertson, Colette Kelso, and Julianne Eanniello—developed the Compulsion Inquiry (for addiction) and the Anxiety Inquiry (for trauma and anxiety). Each of these together assist in investigating the three forms of suffering discussed in Buddhism (fear, desire, and ignorance of the nature of reality).

There is now a worldwide Living Inquiries facilitator training program including around 100 facilitators who use this work in 12 different countries. The work is also used at the Kiloby Center for Recovery and is being brought into various other treatment centers across the United States.

Are the Living Inquiries for everyone?

They are not for people who believe that non-dual teachings are about learning a lot of knowledge about the teachings and being an expert on them. They are for people who know that knowledge does not bring freedom. The Inquiries are experiential. They are perfect for people who are no longer interested in just reading about non-duality and who want to actually investigate the nature of reality and their own limiting beliefs. The Inquiries, alone, are not sufficient to deal with some mental illnesses, like schizophrenia. Medication is often needed in that case. But inquiry can help once someone is stabilized.

You cofounded the Kiloby Center for Recover (KilobyCenter.com)—how did that come about?

I was traveling the world giving talks, workshops, and seminars, and I was approached by a gracious investor who wanted to bring my work, Natural Rest for Addiction, into a treatment center. I already had the idea years ago, but this investment made it happen. The Kiloby Center is truly a labor of love. It’s exactly where I eventually wanted to take my work—into the trenches where people are suffering with addiction, trauma, anxiety, and depression. That dream came true.

What is Natural Rest?

Natural Rest is just a phrase referring to restful non-dual awareness and seeing that everything comes and goes (all thoughts, emotions, and sensations), and that none of them are me. The rest is natural because it’s already in the here and now. We don’t have to take medication or do anything other than notice it.

The Kiloby Center offers an alternative to the 12-step approach to recovery—what makes your program different, and how might it complement the 12-step approach?

Many of our clients do participate in 12-step programs in addition to our work. Both the 12 steps and my work are about spiritual awakening. However, non-duality, in my view, is a much more effective way of experiencing a true spiritual awakening. After being in the 12 steps for several years in my own recovery, I had to leave, noticing that the spiritual awakening really wasn’t happening.

The Kiloby Center is the first mindfulness-based treatment center in the United States. That’s what makes it unique.

Some people see non-duality as an invitation to avoid taking action, such as seeking help—what would you say to people who suggest that because there is no separate person or doer, there is no need for a program like yours?

It’s not that simple. With the exception of a very rare few, most people don’t actually just see there is no separate self and then never need to investigate or seek help again. Life is fluid, and the body and mind store all kinds of unconscious material that keep the ego in place and keep addiction, trauma, and anxiety in place on some level, even after a spiritual awakening. My work is about investigating as deeply as one can into this unconscious material. Usually, after people do this work for a while, they never say again, “There is no self and therefore nothing to investigate.” They have investigated. They see that there is no end to the depth of freedom. Also, those who say, “There is no self,” are often only getting that on an intellectual level. They haven’t truly experienced that in the deepest and most profound ways. The few people whom I have met that have truly gone that deep do not say those things. “There is no self” can also be a way to bypass real issues that people avoid looking at. In the end, there is no self. That’s true. But it isn’t the final realization. Even that falls away… We then find ourselves back in life (having never left), but more engaged and freer to be, move, and act in the world in compassionate, selfless, and loving ways. At that point, we have seen that even self versus no-self is a duality. That is also seen through with the Inquiries.

What support can the Living Inquiries and Natural Rest offer for the family, friends, and significant others of people recovering from addiction?

The Kiloby Center has a family program run by senior facilitators Kay Vogt (who is also a psychologist) and Lynn Fraser. Family members of clients at the Kiloby Center participate in that program. But it is open to any families struggling with family members who are addicted. I cannot emphasize enough how important and vital it is for family members to heal—not just the addicted person.

Your first book with Non-Duality Press was Reflections of the One Life—what inspired that book?

There was very little thought put into it. As with all of my books, the inspiration just arose. Every morning I felt drawn to writing a daily reflection. I did that for a year, and that book is the result. I was in the midst of many insights coming up. I wanted to write them down. That’s all.

In Living Realization, your second book with Non-Duality Press, you describe Living Realization as “nothing short of a love affair with life”—can you tell me more about that?

People don’t love themselves generally. They carry core deficiency stories such as “I’m not good enough,” “I’m unsafe,” or “I’m unimportant.” When you don’t love yourself, you cannot truly love others or love life. Using the Unfindable Inquiry, which was first introduced in my book Living Realization, you can investigate these core deficiency stories—which lie at the heart of the feeling of separation—and come to see through them. But Living Realization is mostly focused on presenting a very accessible way of recognizing non-dual awareness as the foundation of experience, then allowing all thoughts, emotions, and sensations to be as they are, and no longer identifying with them. As you begin to accept, allow, and love whatever is arising (even pain), you essentially fall deeper into that realization, like falling in love. But this is not the romantic love that we all know. It’s an unconditional openness toward experience itself. For example, as a painful emotion arises, you allow it to be just as it is (by undoing the Velcroed thoughts associated with it). You allow it, without trying to change or get rid of it. That is the openness. Because life is really the experience of whatever is arising, that’s how you fall in love with life. You fall in love with experience itself as it arises in the moment.

What was the motivation for your new book, The Unfindable Inquiry?

I just wanted to let others know how the Unfindable Inquiry works. The best way to do that was to put it in book form, complete with examples from sessions with people where I used the UI to guide them to see through the darkest and most painful aspects of their experience.

The Unfindable Inquiry presents both the Boomerang Inquiry and the Panorama Inquiry as relationship inquiries—how can these help people struggling in relationship?

The Unfindable Inquiry is the basic inquiry we use in the Living Inquiries. The Boomerang Inquiry is a way of seeing how another person reflects back a certain ego-based story, usually a story of deficiency. The Panorama Inquiry is a way of seeing how multiple people mirror back the same story to you. Once you really begin to see how all relationship is mirroring back your identity, you can use the UI to see through that identity. This results in less triggers, more harmony, and peace in relationship. It’s like cleaning a lens through which you’ve been seeing yourself, others, and the world. As the lens is cleaned, relationships are no longer as painful as they were before and can even be quite easeful, loving, and compassionate.

What’s next for you?

I have recently been hired as the COO of MyLife Recovery Centers. MyLife has the patent for the Naltrexone Implant, an amazing new medicine that greatly reduces or eliminates cravings for alcohol and opiates for many months. The implant really helps people focus on our work at the Center, rather than on the drug. MyLife has asked the Kiloby Center to develop its behavioral health program across the United States. It’s very exciting.

Check out The Unfindable Inquiry—available now!—and look for Natural Rest for Addiction, coming this May from Non-Duality Press.