The Journey of the Body – From Healing Trauma to Awakening and Enlightenment

If you have ever been in the close presence of someone who feels truly safe, secure and grounded in his or her body, you’ll know it. Maybe not in ways that you’d be able to articulate, but at least in terms of the feeling. There is a radiance there; a flow, a steadiness and softness that is magnetic and giving all at once. Our bodies respond to it, knowing that this is how it should feel…remembering how it could feel.

The physical body – the soma – is the most fundamental layer of our experience. It supports our incarnation and all other layers of our presence – emotional, mental soulful, spiritual. True happiness – true liberation – for it to penetrate all the way through our being, must include not just the levels of the mind and emotions, but at level of the body too. Indeed, in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition there are stages of the awakening process that are described that correspond to when a practitioner has established liberation from suffering and disconnection at the levels of the mind, then the emotions, and finally the body.

And yet, we are human beings living in a world where there is so much trauma. And the thing about trauma is that by its very nature, it is a form of hurt so intense that has penetrated right down into the fibres of our muscles and nervous systems so as to become encoded in patterns of behaviour. This is the uncontrollable need to fight, flee or freeze in situations that trigger the remembrance of the original trauma, even though those impulses might not be appropriate to what is actually happening in the here and now.

Such trauma becomes imprinted in the body. This can extend from the outermost layers, such as the limbs, to the inner, deeper layers of muscle, then the organs, and then deepest layer, which is in the core of the central nervous system. Trauma at any level of depth in the body can be an incredibly painful, frightening, disempowering and depressing experience.

The good news is that our bodies are incredibly intelligent and that our whole body-mind system is wired to move towards equilibrium. Under the right conditions of working to access and release the massive amounts of energy that were mobilised in a traumatic experience and then frozen into the body through a lack of healthy completion of those experiences, our bodies can literally reset themselves.

To access and release trauma that is held in the body, one can take a number of different approaches – all of which are best to explore under the guidance of someone experienced in helping people heal from trauma. Three possible approaches are: conscious mindfulness of the felt sense of the body, conscious sexuality or conscious movement (such as is used in somatic experiencing, massage, physiotherapy, etc.)

Often times going through the path of conscious movement is most easily accessible is as it is only in advanced levels of sexual practice, where sexual energy and bliss is able to circulate through the body in a way that can reset the nervous system, or meditative practice in relation to somatic mindfulness that our feeling attention is stable enough, fine tuned enough and delicate enough to penetrate with softness and love all the way that deep into the body where the trauma is held. If one is working with a trusted conscious sexuality practitioner though, or one has developed some capacity for stable mindfulness, these can be powerful paths into accessing so as to release stored up trauma too.

These eventually can allow the nervous system, or other layers of the body carrying trauma to reset themselves. It is like the painful white noise buzzing from the traumatised over-activation of our nervous system as its apparent resting state dies down to a deep, rich silence and vital flow that emanates from our physicality so that it more and more radiates the sense of safety – rock solid safety. Then deeper and deeper incarnation can happen, of our humanity, our divine souls, and of the One Reality itself.

As this process continues to unfold, the innate safety and solidity of presence of these deeper layers of our being hold the space in which the body starts to release what it needs to by itself. When awakening to Ultimate Reality – Infinite Awake Light – is the basis of our connection with the body as an expression of that Reality, the realisation that God was always here, always the basis of everything that we have experienced, penetrates down into the cells and in being enfolded in the total safety of our ever-present true nature, the body releases all the pain, hurt, trauma and distorted vibration it has been holding. As a result of this process, increasingly the divinity of appearance aspect of reality – the form or Goddess aspect – starts to shine its brilliance, wisdoms and gifts ever-more more powerfully. Increasingly, the body becomes ever more saturated with the warm, soft, tender yet brilliant glow of the feminine aspect of the One Reality.

This allows a spiritual practitioner to open up the natural shamanic wisdom and intelligence of the body. Our bodies are exquisite fields of sentiency and sensitivity, deeply interwoven with the interconnected fields of which we are a part. When the field of the body becomes increasingly liberated of its knots and traumas there are profound wisdoms and capacities of the body that open up, allowing us to navigate life all the more cleanly, harmoniously, wisely and without leaving a trace of disintegration in our wake.

Another development that comes online when the body has opened to this extent is the awakening of kundalini. Kundalini is the life-force of Absolute Reality present in the base chakra and the deepest layers of the body. When this is awakened and rises it progressively cleans out all layers of our being leading into full liberation.

This is the pattern of development that clarifies the difference between awakening and enlightenment. Awakening is when there has been some recognition of the true nature of our being as indivisible from the totality of reality – the naked light of Infinite Presence. This awakening can be temporary or stable. As it becomes stabilised it cleans out and burns through the layers of the mind, emotions and eventually the body so as to completely transform and rewire their structures in harmony with the One Reality. When this has happened, then we can properly speak of enlightenment.

Something interesting to consider is that some of the most profound non-dual awakening traditions communicate fascinating teachings in relation to how the physical body opens in the most advanced stages of practice. As is described in the traditions of both Kashmir Shaivism and the Tibetan Buddhist traditions of Dzogchen and Anuyoga, in the advanced stages of practice the practitioner comes to realise that the entire body is composed of deities – an infinite array of divine lives that compose its essential energy, all of them vibrating and transmitting the life-force of Ultimate Reality.