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Trauma and Spiritual Practice

Trauma and Spiritual Practice

 

“O,‌ ‌send‌ ‌out‌ ‌your‌ ‌light‌ ‌and‌ ‌your‌ ‌truth;‌ ‌
Let‌ ‌them‌ ‌guide‌ ‌me,‌ ‌
Let‌ ‌them‌ ‌lead‌ ‌me‌ ‌to‌ ‌your‌ ‌holy‌ ‌altar.”

Psalm 43: 3, Nan Merrill paraphrase

Trauma

When our 7 month old puppy, Hazel, jumped off of our back porch and went flying down the driveway to chase after a bicycling commuter riding the Selby Avenue corridor, I ran after her.  Earbudded and intent, the cyclist was oblivious to our yapping and barking 5 pound shorkie at his heels.  Neither stopped. Hazel was 100 yards away by the time I reached the end of our drive — and further still by the time I got to the end of the block. Winded, but willed, my body went into the center of the street — arms outstretched and palms upward. I was shouting our puppy’s name;  I was asking for everything to come to a stop. “Please, Stop.” One moment shouting, then yelling, then screaming, and then sobbing. Overwhelmed, overcome by the sheer vulnerability of our puppy, the paralyzing fear that this beloved tiny pet was going to be run over and killed,  I felt I could do nothing to stop her death. My body’s response to this circumstance was surreal. Doubled over, the anxiety and terror so large, I was out of breath, the tears streamed down my face. My husband and neighbors came; one’s hand on my back, another’s on my arm. It was a fellow pedestrian who was able to retrieve our puppy and return her safely to our arms. Even safe, the sobbing didn’t subside.

When I reflect on at that recent afternoon, I can sum up my body’s response in a simple word: it was trauma.

There are a handful of times in my life where I notice this kind of overwhelming and physical, emotional response to circumstances that reflect a deeper psychological phenomenon. A classroom fight between two of my North High students that involved a metal chair, fists, teeth and blood. The afternoon a pitbull terrier tore through a chain link fence and attacked my other small dog, rendering him lifeless at that same Selby intersection. The day after I came home from the hospital, after giving birth to our son Xavi who died, and my breast milk came in.

What is emotional and psychological trauma?

From the website HelpGuide, we know:

“Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world. Psychological trauma can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away. It can also leave you feeling numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people.

Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and isolated can result in trauma, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the objective circumstances that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized.”

In this time of global upheaval – the unrelenting pressures of addressing racial justice and white supremacy; finding a vaccine for covid-19 and getting it tested and to market; conducting our US elections and voting safely; acknowledging the vulnerability of earth and her inhabitants exposed to environmental, climate chaos —  we have cause for traumatic reckoning. We have cause for spiritual surrender. We have an invitation to practice stillness.

Enter: Spiritual Practice. Enter: praying the psalms. Enter: centering prayer.

This week’s latest police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, touches at the heart of racialized trauma in our world. With each bullet fired into the back of this 29 year old African American man, before the eyes of his children, the ripple effects of trauma move outward.  Our social, spiritual, psychological environmental wounds are open and exposed.

Will you join me and our Loyola staff in spiritual practice and reflection?

 

“O,‌ ‌send‌ ‌out‌ ‌your‌ ‌light‌ ‌and‌ ‌your‌ ‌truth;‌ ‌
Let‌ ‌them‌ ‌guide‌ ‌me,‌ ‌
Let‌ ‌them‌ ‌lead‌ ‌me‌ ‌to‌ ‌your‌ ‌holy‌ ‌altar.”

 

For more information about a weekly opportunity to join in centering prayer:

http://loyolaspiritualitycenter.org/morning-centering-prayer

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