I want to discuss how to understand and work with our inadequacies. Dogen says, “A greatly enlightened person is nevertheless deluded. To understand that is the quintessence of practice.”
This reminds me of an experience I had with my acting teacher in college. I told him that I was frustrated playing the despicable character parts he was giving me. He said, “Tim, I thought you were a spiritual seeker. Don’t you realize that you can never really achieve liberation until you have explored the deepest and darkest recesses of your being?”
The paradigm of the wounded healer has made good sense to me for years. This is a time in our history when many, many people are uncovering and becoming aware of hidden trauma. And we all have karma knots from our past that we can release.
Through our meditation practice we can gradually experience an unwinding that allows whatever difficult experience we have to complete itself. We don’t know exactly how this post-traumatic growth happens. And we don’t need to know. All we have to do is trust the process of non-judgmental awareness within our meditation.
None of us had perfect parents. They may have been absent or overbearing or inappropriate in some other kind of way. My mother doted on me, but I realize that I experienced secondary trauma, as I watched helplessly as she punished my sisters. (What was called “corporal punishment” many years ago would often be called abuse in our modern vernacular).
Childhood trauma leaves a scar or weakness in our body or emotions. If you don’t acknowledge and make peace with it we may stay caught forever. But during our meditation it’s possible to open up to any and all thoughts and feelings about an injury from our past. We can develop a new relationship with it and find inspiration from the unwinding of the knot that holds it in place.
In both daily and extended meditation, you may learn to notice those times you find yourself caught in clinging to certain constellations of thoughts and/or pushing others away. If we can be with this urge to push or pull with openness and compassion, our heart softens, we are able to open to deeper levels of awareness and the healing process happens quite naturally. And little by little we become less reactive and more flexible.
When a trauma first presents itself, your feelings may not be at all clear. But luckily all emotions are felt in the body, so if you stay with your sensations, not your old stories or your interpretation of how your childhood was supposed to be, the knots from the past begin to untangle.
Opening up to the pain of our wounds hurts, but its completely necessary if we want to make more than superficial progress in our meditation practice.
The dharma teacher Phillip Moffitt suggests that there a three factors which impact our effectiveness in dealing with trauma: first, its severity; second, the context of the wound; third, whether the trauma leads to strength and wholeness is entirely dependent on how it is handled.
You might even ask yourself whether the wounds of your friends make them any less attractive? I am inspired any time a student or friend handles theirs courageously. Its such a simple process making them the object of our bare awareness process, throwing in a little of loving kindness when we begin to come down on ourselves for the toxic thoughts and feelings which come up and stick around. But it’s never too late to untangle ourselves from ancient, twisted, karmic knots which exist in our body/mind.
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Tim Burkett, Guiding Teacher