Look! I've turned into a big gray cat! Not really. This is Ramsey my new furry friend. If I've turned into anything it would be a lizard. And not because I like to bask in the sun. More because over the last few months I have lost the faculties of the incredibly complex and useful part of the human brain, the neo-cortex. I've come down with something and it isn't the flu. You might commonly call it PTSD, but I like to call it a trauma reaction, trauma upheaval, or the trauma vortex. Call it what you like...lizard-brain reality, human or not, strongly resembles darting around fearing for one's life. In fact the lizard-brain in each of our heads learned what it knows through about ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILLION YEARS of conditioning back in the day. 150,000,000 YEARS! That is a lot. A lot a lot.
And don't you know I sometimes feel that old. Trauma is exhausting. It is enough to deal with healing bones, chronic pain, physical therapy, transportation logistics, social services, social security, cooking, cleaning, laundry, learning to walk, learning to move my head but now I have to do it all with a brain that is telling my body that I'm often in a life-threatening situation. Forget about the left-prefrontal cortex folks, I'm talking hippocampus and amygdala are running the show here.
What does that look like? Overwhelm. Moodiness. Lots of tears. Fear. Panic. Helplessness. Hopelessness. Fatigue. Did I mention I'm tired? Heart beating fast. Chronic muscle tightness. Flashbacks. Negative outlook. Trauma is basically the anti-dharma. Either that or the best, well-thought out obstacle to point one in the direction of dharma practice. Ego loves trauma because it makes one feel so solid as if everything is very important that happens to the big M-E. And so it hangs on for dear life. And yet I want to let go. The Mere I in me wants to let go, be free, be light, flit about, live in service, giggle, and rest in the nature of mind. Ever see a lizard do that?
The thing is...trauma is not psychological. You can't think or conceptualize your way out of it. It's physiological. So I have begun the arduous task of rewiring my brain and body. Because what else can I do? There is only one way out and it's through. No detours. It becomes clear how people who have experienced trauma turn to drugs, alcohol, and suicide. It is really painful. It is isolating because the world seems sharp, abrasive, loud, over-stimulating, and dangerous. And it feels like most people don't really understand what it's like to live like this.
I write this to advocate not only for myself, but for everyone who is in the midst of the trauma vortex. Trust me...every day you come into contact with one of us. Or maybe you are one of us. With these words I open a dialogue so that we can begin to soften and give each other safe, compassionate safe-havens for recovery. Let us open our ears, our eyes, and our arms to those among us who need some extra TLC as a way to find their true nature which is always luminous and loving.
It is possible to heal. We live in a fortunate time when much research has been done on trauma resolution. I am lucky to know several leaders in the field and I rely on them every day in my practice and contemplations. If you are experiencing trauma upheaval, please seek out someone who can listen and guide you. I will be adding links at a future time. For now I hold you in my daily prayers, you are not alone.
Thank you to all of you who have inquired into my situation lately. With gratitude I bow to you who listen, offer compassion, make me laugh, and remind me of sugatagarhba. May your kindness benefit all beings.
As today marks the lunar new year, I wish you a blessed Year of the Water Snake. May it be free of suffering and filled with inner world peace.