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& Trauma

We have the ability to regulate our own physiology, including some of the so-called involuntary functions of the body and the brain, through such simple things as breath, movement, and somatic awareness.

Life is hard.  It is spittingly hard.  We go through it, from the earliest impressions of infancy and first caretakers, to the strangeness of adolescence and autonomy, to a walking adulthood in which we become increasingly aware of a pending return to infancy.  We go through all of this with our body. 

As we go through, experience leaves its marks.  The first caretakers.  The first experiences with gender and sexuality, power and vulnerability.  The things we were praised for, and the times we were shunned. Times we were abandoned.  Times we abandoned ourselves.  Our bodies carry it all. 

Our minds slide into grooves, like mountain ranges carved by centuries of erosion, eons of weather.

People used to understand who they were by their place in community, but the world has grown smaller.  We struggle to stay afloat in global economies, to understand cultural diversity, to keep up with scientific, global, and information waves that we can never, actually, keep up with.  Modernity is stressful.  It is conflicted.  It is alienating.

Instead of religion and culture, we now speak in terms of mental health.  Instead of of going to church every Sunday, we go to a therapist every week.  In order to not go insane with what we know (injustice, oppression, human suffering) we compartmentalize.  We abstract.  We detach.

When detachment reaches a certain stage, or has enough negative consequences in our lives, it's diagnosed.  As trauma.  Depression.  Anxiety.  

But you see what I mean: these are not isolated, personal experiences.  They are human.  They are cultured.  They are social.  They are shared.  And they aren't black and white.

I think the urge to diagnose is often another form of detachment.  It is helpful, in some ways.  It helps us understand, manage, and cope.  But it fails to speak to all the ways in which human suffering is felt.

It doesn't necessarily speak to what is happening in the body.  Nor does it talk about what it does inside families, or communities.  It doesn't allow for the complexity of the way emotion and relating is genetic, generational, or cultured.  

Mental health is a spectrum on which we all fall, and move, and spin.  No one gets out of here without a broken heart. 

And, there is nothing that says a broken heart is the end of the story. 

From the beginning of my own practice, I've been fascinated by the way yoga works.  It's so deeply therapeutic, yet simple and common sense.  The mind, it teaches, is not just a brain; the mind is the heart.  By returning to our embodied reality, we rediscover our humanity.  In our humanity, we find our salvation.  The language of yoga is a description of the human experience: its pales, its deepest darks; the wide ranging states of mind; the conditions of the individual bound to both autonomy and powerlessness; the shuddering tension between insides and outsides.

Just as we all have the capacity to experience suffering, it teaches, we each and every one have an inborn capacity to laughter and curiosity, intimacy, creativity, a sense of purpose and beauty.  Indeed, it says, our sense of purpose and beauty are related to our inborn understanding of hurt.

Yoga psychology seems to predict research on trauma and neuroscience. It's a deep resonance.

They both say:

The human capacity to both feel and cause suffering is matched by our capacity to heal one another.  Relationships and community are central to restoring well being.  

We have the ability to regulate our own physiology, including some of the so-called involuntary functions of the body and the brain, through such simple things as breath, movement, and somatic awareness.

We can change social conditions to create environments in which children and adults can thrive, regardless of their difference or their past. The most important work of the individual is to overcome his own conditions to the betterment of humanity.  Our healing is the greatest gift we can ever, give.