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The subtle source is clear and bright, the tributary streams run through the darkness.
--Shitou Xiqian

Trauma & The Healing Power of Fundamental Consciousness

--by Judith Blackstone, Oct 16, 2020

Select excerpts by Judith Blackstone from "Belonging Here: A Guide for the Spiritually Sensitive Person",  SoundsTrue, 2012  and "Trauma and the Unbound Body: The Healing Power of Fundamental Consciousness," SoundsTrue, 2018 

Belonging Here – Sounds TrueBefore I began my spiritual practice, I lived in a world of vibration and imagination. As a dancer and choreographer from my childhood through my early twenties, I regarded life almost entirely as a dance. It was a dynamic display of moving textures, energies, and symbolic meanings. This display was a constant source of inspiration for me; it was easily translated into choreography.

I was enthralled by the meanings and drama that I saw or superimposed on the world around me. I was also disoriented. Although I had some connection to my body through my years of rigorous dance training, I did not inhabit my body. Especially as I became more technically proficient, my body seemed more like an object to me, something separate from myself, that I had crafted and honed to perform athletic feats. I mostly resided in a narrow band of myself above my eyes; not in my intellect, but in my imagination. When I injured my back and had to leave the cloistered dancer's world that had become my home, I too felt like an alien creature that had just landed on Earth.

After I underwent back surgery, I lived in a full-torso brace for six months and my body relaxed. I began to meditate and to slowly settle within my body. I remember very well the tremendous sense of sobriety that fell on me at the beginning of this transition. Everything I looked at seemed to be starkly itself, stripped of symbolic value. The Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa called this 'the rawness of life.' A tree was exactly a tree. It no longer became a metaphor for something else, like celebration, or reaching upward, as it would have when I was a dancer. It was just a tree. It was that very particular unique tree, but just a tree. I also felt strangely substantial, as if I suddenly had weight and volume. More than that, I felt ordinary, a person. It was as if the energies that I had sent out into the great beyond had now returned and settled inward, within my skin. I was just me. [...]

To become real, to be embodied, meant a kind of surrender to materiality. We cannot know ahead of the surrender, this letting go of our fantasized life, that real life is materiality suffused with energy and consciousness; it is both solidity and radiant transparency. It is both the most ordinary, sober experience of ourselves and our environment, and the most extraordinary, at the same time. we also cannot know before this letting go that our imagination is not extinguished with spiritual awakening; it matures.

The Reality of the Body

The reality of actual contact with oneself is, at the same time, actual contact with our environment. It is a very interesting aspect of our nature that to heal the split between body and mind is, at the same time, to heal the split between oneself and one's surroundings, or in between oneself and other people. Life is, to some extent, imaginary or illusory-- for everyone. We all regard life through the filter of our past experience and our templates, our early learning of the world. We all color our circumstances with our hopes and fears. We also imagine a barrier between ourselves and our environment. We imagine a separation between a world out there and the consciousness (in here) that perceives the world.

As we come into greater contact with ourselves and the world, these filters and projections begin to dissolve. We find that there is no separation between ourselves as subject and what we perceive as object. All of our experience, both internal and external, registers at once in the same single, unified expanse of consciousness. This direct, immediate contact with life feels like it is happening, right now, it feels real; it feels complete; there is no part of ourselves that is left out of the experience of the present moment.

The reality that the Hindu prayer [ 'lead me from illusion to reality'] pleads for is not the world most people perceive of separate, solid material objects. The sobriety of spiritual practice is a stripping down, not to matter, but to something much more mysterious, to the unified luminous transparency pervading everything. We cannot get to this dimension by avoiding the material world. We need to accept and penetrate through the world of separate solid objects, and to inhabit fully our own separate physical body in order to experience ourselves and our environment as the single expanse of fundamental consciousness.

Healing from Relational Trauma

The body is both the arena of psychological defense and the arena of spiritual awakening. So in the Realization Process, we regard psychological maturity and spiritual awakening as one and the same process. They both involve freeing the body of the defensive holding patterns and attuning to the most subtle, primary level of being. The more we attune to this primary level of ourselves, the easier it becomes to recognize and release the holding patterns in our body. As fundamental consciousness, we gradually let go of our defensive grip on ourselves. Then we can receive the full vividness of each moment in our lives, without obstruction. We can allow the free, unguarded flow of our perceptions, cognitions, emotions, and sensations. We can experience each moment as a unified whole, inside and outside of our body at the same time.

Sometimes it is taught that spiritual awakening transcends the individual self, with its suffering and confusion. These teachings advise us to ignore the anguish of our everyday lives and to simply recognize ourselves as the vast consciousness at the foundation of our being. But no matter how clearly we may understand that our true nature is transcendent, we will not realize our true nature if we attempt to ignore our individual being. The ground of our being can only be uncovered through deep and precise contact with ourselves. The wide open space of spiritual awareness is our own mind, unbound. The wide open space of the spiritual heart is our own heart, free of constrictions.

In some contemporary spiritual teachings, the self-arising nature of fundamental consciousness is confused with the Western religious idea of grace, in which an entirely foreign but wonderful state lands on us because we have somehow pleased God. Several people have told me, sorrowfully, that they have waited and waited for this to happen, but so far have had no luck. This is not how it works. Fundamental consciousness arises when we have become open enough for it to appear. It is not something alien to us; it is our own basic nature that is revealed when our body, heart, and mind are open.

Most of the constrictions in our being are based on relational trauma. By relational trauma, I mean intolerably painful or confusing situations in our relationships with key figures in our childhood. These events can be as small as a familiar, loving face suddenly transformed by anger or tears, or as having to hold back our own tears, or voice, or vitality. [...]

Our patterns of constriction are almost always unconscious. If they are repeated over time, they will harden in the tissues of our body and become chronic, unconscious holding patterns. These patterns become our ongoing organization of ourselves, our design of openness and defense. They become the shape of who we are, for the rest of our lives, unless we make an effort to release them. Some patterns of constriction do not become frozen in our body; they become well-traveled grooves, patterns that we go into, unconsciously, whenever present events remind us of the childhood situations that initially produced them. [...]

Complete freedom from these trauma-based constrictions in the body is an ideal, but we do not have to be completely free to be able to inhabit the internal space of our body. As the major holding patterns in our body release, we are able to make inward contact with ourselves. Long before we have released all our holding patterns, if we ever do, we become open enough throughout our body to uncover our basic identity: subtle fundamental consciousness, pervading inside and outside of ourselves as a whole. As this basic transparency, it becomes increasingly easy to recognize and release the holding patterns from our body, which in turn allows us to become even more open throughout our body. So even after we have stabilized in our realization of inner and outer unity, we can continue to open to the vast spaciousness of fundamental consciousness.

Fundamental Consciousness

Trauma and the Unbound BodyFundamental consciousness is vitally important for healing from trauma because it cannot be injured. It has never been injured, no matter how severe our traumatic experiences have been. When we realize ourselves as FC, we know that we have not been irreparably damaged. We can feel that who we really are, who we have always, deep down, known that we are, has always been there, intact. This fundamental ground of ourselves, "the near side of our subjectivity" has been there to witness our shattered, traumatized state, without being shattered itself. We are basically whole, and that underlying wholeness cannot be fragmented or diminished. Only our access to our wholeness has been obstructed.

Also, because life flows through this pervasive space without changing it (without changing us at this fundamental level of our identity), we gain greater resilience to both sensory stimuli and our internal responses. We can receive the full intensity of life without feeling shattered or overwhelmed.

While trauma fragments us, the realization of ourselves as fundamental consciousness unifies our body, heart, and mind. We created all of our holding patterns in reaction to our environment. These holding patterns do not only produce fragmentations within our body, but also between ourselves and our environment. Fundamental consciousness is an experience of oneness with our environment and with other people. As this subtle pervasive dimension of consciousness, it becomes much easier for us to let go of these fragmentations. We find that as fundamental consciousness, we can be open to and connected with other people without our old fears and aversions triggering our patterns of protection. We can remain connected to our internal experience, our own needs and desires, without feeling overwhelmed or annihilated by the presence of other people.


Learn more about Judith Blackstone's life and work on this Saturday's Awakin Call. More details and RSVP info here. 

Select excerpts by Judith Blackstone from "Belonging Here: A Guide for the Spiritually Sensitive Person",  SoundsTrue, 2012  and "Trauma and the Unbound Body: The Healing Power of Fundamental Consciousness," SoundsTrue, 2018. Judith Blackstone is an innovative, experienced teacher in the contemporary fields of nondual realization and spiritual, relational and somatic psychotherapy. She developed the Realization Process, a direct path for realizing fundamental (nondual) consciousness, as well as the application of nondual realization for psychological, relational and physical healing. She currently has six books in publication and has taught the Realization Process for over thirty-five years throughout the United States and Europe.  


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