When I’m working with clients who have experienced significant trauma or pain, we inevitably get to the “Why Phase”: they begin to question deeply why such pain needed to happen in their lives. This questioning often comes with anger, almost dereliction. And frequently, the pain and trauma will lead to two other, deeper questions:
What is the meaning of my life? Why am I even here?
Early on, I would try to answer these questions from a spiritual perspective. I really believed that trying to answer the “whys” could help my clients process their pain. But something felt “off” to me in this approach. Since my work is very intuitive in nature, I listened to this “off” gut feeling and contemplated how I could better serve those who sought out my help.
I began to ask clients to bypass the “why” phase for just a little while.
I knew that trauma was energetic in nature: the memories could remain in the mind but the biggest trauma occurs in the ethereal components of our Being. The pain of trauma is housed in our cells and in the unseen layers that make up who we are.
Knowing this, I began guiding clients through this powerful energy healing exercise.
Talk or think about a painful experience/memory but “hold” it lightly. This means that as you recall the trauma, breathe deeply and assume a “witness” perspective: giving space between the memory and awareness of it.
The ability to hold “space” between the trauma and your observation of it is a tremendously powerful position to be in. You begin to realize and feel that the trauma isn’t you: it’s simply something that happened to you. And how liberating this is.
As soon as you can hold that space, shift your awareness from the mental noise, from the memories or thoughts about the trauma, to your physical body.
Where do you feel this pain?
Now, hold your awareness in this specific spot. After a couple of minutes of pure awareness, then move to the most healing act of all:
Just allow yourself to feel the pain.
The results of this exercise are nothing short of miraculous. It turns out, when you allow yourself to deeply feel the pain of trauma– without resistance or rejection– the energy “imprint” of it dissolves and you are left with a sense of freedom, lightness.
Inevitably, the “whys” will come up again, even after the energy of the trauma has started to heal. I know this because it has happened to many clients and recently, to me.
During a plant medicine ceremony (you can read about it here), the plant helped unlock a repressed memory of sexual trauma in my childhood. It was a memory that I did not consciously remember, my mind had dissociated from it completely.
As I sat there, feeling the pain and allowing it to flow, I experienced guilt, sadness, powerlessness, and shame. I sobbed in convulsions most of the night. But as the morning sun peeked on the horizon, I felt joy, peace, and a sense of lightness.
The pain had been released from my energy system. I could feel it.
But days after my miraculous plant ceremony, I noticed my mind was asking “why” questions.
Why did I experience sexual trauma as a child?
What was the meaning of that experience?
What is the damn meaning of this all???
Why, why, why.
I observed these “why” questions but did not answer them. I knew very well that the rationalization of pain is often a mental protection mechanism: while we’re busy rationalizing, we’re not feeling and processing. So as soon as my mind began the existential inquiry, I sat on my meditation mat and got back to the basics of feeling whatever needed to be felt and processed.
It took 4 weeks of ceaseless awareness and feeling for my mind to quiet down. As I kept allowing myself to feel anything that was coming up from my childhood trauma, my mind stopped asking “why” questions. There was stillness, silence, peace.
And then came deep awe and wonder of life.
So what has my experience with healing pain and trauma (both in myself and in guiding others) taught me about the overall meaning of life?
We don’t exist for a specific purpose; we just Are.
The flower doesn’t exist for a reason.
The sky doesn’t exist for a reason.
The tree doesn’t exist for a reason.
YOU don’t exist for a reason.
We simply exist. Joyfully, miraculously, ecstatically.
Your body is an arrangement of about 7*1027 atoms. That’s 7 billion, billion, billion atoms. And all of these atoms, cells, and organs come together to form what you see as “Me” or “I”.
What if the constant search for meaning removes us from enjoying life to its fullest?
Think of the most amazing and fun theme park you can. Roller Coasters, bungee cords, cotton candy! As you enter the gates of this exciting theme park, do you ever ask “why am I here?” or “how did I get here?” Hopefully not.
Being at a theme park is freakin exciting and who’s got time to rationalize the experience! Ha! Instead, we take advantage of every second we have there. From one ecstatic ride to the next.
Life is much like a theme park. The fact that my “7 billion, billion, billion” atoms got themselves together in a “body” and that body is riding on a f*cking rollercoaster…WOW. Just wow.
What I’ve come to realize is that we tend to ask existential questions like “what’s the meaning?” when we’re dissatisfied or uncomfortable with where we are in the present moment. We also ask them when we have unprocessed pain within us.
If I’m unhappy or in pain, my mind will reach for “salvation”: trying desperately to escape my current predicament.
You’ll inevitably notice that when trauma or pain is processed, the existential questions either cease to exist or they float through the mind as a whisper. You no longer search desperately for meaning, knowing that just being here on this planet, in a physical body, is an impossible miracle that can never be rationalized.
Published originally on Medium, on 05/16/17.