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Spiritual Transformation, Trauma and Psychotherapy

The process of spiritual transformation is happening in all of us. Some have a stronger focus than others depending on their interest and past efforts. Some processes rage and some slumber. From the perspective of my teacher, Joan Harrigan, Kundalini Shakti is “the universal sacred power of the One that makes manifestation possible.” It “permeates everything and is, in fact, everything in the phenomenal world no matter how subtle.” Kundalini in this definition is not prana or the life force energy that can be felt or manipulated at will. This distinction is important as many people refer to it as energy rather than as the sacred power of the One which is too subtle to be felt directly.

In this perspective, the goal of life is to find this Divine source and to merge with it. The Divine Feminine or Power Consciousness (Shakti), which animates all life, is located at the base of the spine and seeks reunion with the Divine Masculine or Pure Consciousness, which is the source of all life at the top of the head or in the sacred heart. This apparent separation causes human evolution and spiritual transformation.

Kundalini Shakti has been called many names throughout history: Holy Spirit, Divine Light, Tree of Life, Quan Yin, Holy Grail, Philosopher’s Stone and many others. Shiva or Pure Consciousness has many names: Absolute Reality, the One, the Unchanging, unlimited unswayable Observer, and Emptiness.

In the world of Monism, Kundalini Shakti emerges from the One into the phenomenal world and in the process of spiritual development merges back into the One having never actually separated from it. And in the world of Deism, Kundalini Shakti is the first sacred vibration (the “Word”) which causes all existence and the goal is to merge fully with this vibration. One does not seek to go beyond this and merge with the One, simply to find an intimate relationship between our soul and God or the Divine. One is relational; the other merges into absorption.[1]

So there is only one but it appears to be two and the whole world is evolving towards the One. We are whole and separate at the same time. Within us is both the reality of separateness and wholeness/emptiness. In my own process and in speaking with others, this is a fact that we all experience. We’re both perfect and broken. Nothing needs to be done and something is always evolving. Healing trauma is no different. There is a burning need to cure the manifest problem and deep within there is already wholeness. Holding both is both a mystery and a process towards reunification.

In the process of evolution and reunion, we travel through different states of mind, what we might call aspects of reality. In essence, we move from the gross to the subtle. When reading through the book Kundalini Vidya, Joan’s graphic called The Lake of Mind[2] became a map for me and the various experiences I was having all began to make sense, including the main realization that trauma was intimately connected with my deepest longings and my experiences of spiritual life.

Here is a brief description of the graphic, though you can see the graphic below.

At the top or surface of the Lake of Mind reside our senses and reactive impulses (“My Sensory Experiences” and “My Daily Life). These are our everyday experiences in the phenomenal world. As we dive into the less conscious parts of our mind, we reach our ego and our personal preferences, including all of our self talk and our story (“My Persona” and “My Story”). These are often the things we talk about in our head and with friends, on walks and in intimate conversations. Diving deeper still, we access our unconscious, including our unconscious drives, temperaments and then our secrets and traumas (“My Mythology” and “My Secrets”). These are the things we hold closest and only share in the most intimate and safest moments. Right next to and below this lies our Inner Voice, which holds our soul’s purpose, our wisdom and our will (“My Inner Voice” and “My Glimpse”). We often experience this in the quietest of moments when things are deeply still, unusually quiet and profoundly safe. Finally, lying in utter stillness at the bottom of the lake is “My True Self”, where we experience the deepest reality of our selves, the One. We are lucky when we experience this.

The point of all this is to say that as the Holy Spirit moves through one’s body, going deeper and deeper within the psyche and this Lake of Mind, she begins to heal, transform and burn the places within that are causing blockages and limiting the free flow of the Divine within, the Tree of Life. The more damage we have in our subtle bodies, the more pain we will experience as the Divine Power seeks to do her work. This is the difficult consequence of trauma in our bodies. Yet, trauma is, I believe, a spiritual path because of its ability to thrust one quickly and deeply within closest to God, like the proverbial whack on the head by a Zen master, which says “Wake up!”.

As you explore your own trauma and plumb the depths, you might see that it has been there to serve you in ways you never realized at first. Despite the fact that all you want to do is to stop the pain, it is possible to see that there is a deeper intelligence at work, leading you to the place that you have wanted to go all along. In fact, you may even see it as something you chose deep within and long ago as a path because of where it would lead you. What you can see in clear detail in the Lake of Mind graphic is that trauma is so very close to one’s Inner Voice. One just needs to dive a little deeper to find it.

The Lake of Mind, Joan Harrigan

Often times in the depths of therapy, you can have such deep feelings of God. For when you touch into the deepest part of your pain and trauma, just beneath the surface of this unbelievable pain and suffering lay some of the most treasured experiences of being human. From the conscious mind, down through the unconscious mind, one begins to discover what many call the super-conscious mind, a birthright of all humans. As Joseph Campbell says, “the cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

But in going through the deep realms of the unconscious, one may go through hell, unbearable separation, dismemberment, chaos, unfathomable suffering and terror, what some call the dark night of the soul. Lest you think this is an exaggeration, all you need to do is read the stories of many of our great saints, shamans, and spiritual teachers and they will tell you the dangers involved in going within and facing the demons that exist there, demons that are there to test and protect—both protecting what lies within as well as to protect the seeker from forces beyond her or his own abilities which might destroy, disable or dement her or him.

Getting through it is the journey we take when we decide we will do whatever it takes to heal the pain from our own trauma; when we decide we will commit fully to our very own self and never give up. In this way, trauma can be our path and our teacher towards an awakened, spiritual life.

“The condition of the subtle body determines the kind and quality of the Kundalini rising…If the subtle body is too weak, damage or clogged, Kundalini cannot function correctly within it. This leads to discomfort as she attempts to improve her situation. Correct living and spiritual methods can improve the subtle body so that it can properly support a Kundalini process.”

-Joan Harrigan, Kundalini Vidya

[1] Kundalini Vidya, Joan Harrigan, p. 26
[2] Kundalini Vidya, Joan Harrigan, p. 70