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  • Writer's pictureLama Jigme Gyatso

When Trauma Rears its Scabby Head

Dear T., thank you for asking how we could handle the intense emotions that could come up during meditation.

There is a myth that meditation is a time to savor the rapture of thoughtlessness. Based on that assumption any emotion, intention, thought, memory, or imagining that surfaces is an obstacle to be overcome.

But what is that wasn't the case? What if the contemplations: silent, chanted, and those accompanying our mantra recitation, existed to help us process our coarser experiences and the silent meditation was in place to help us to process the subtler experiences (be they external, internal, physical, mental, pleasurable, painful, interesting, boring, glorious, or grotesque)?

Assuming you've already been taught those contemplations, how could meditation, itself, work?

With each inhalation, whether we know it or not, we access our sympathetic nervous system that supports our sensory acuity thus enabling us to notice: vulnerably, passively, viscerally, and randomly. During each of our inhalations we could silently and mentally recite "This" which functions as the ONLY label we need. But what are we to do with all that we perceive?

During each exhalation, whether we know it or not, we access our parasympathetic nervous system that supports our physical relaxation and our mental release thus giving us a moment to take a break from our life-long habit of living in resistance to our experience. During each exhalation we could therefore silently and mentally recite "yes" in acquiescence.

Simply put, meditation's inhalation and exhalation could be dance of noticing and accepting. No we're not saying that what happened to us was right, good, or just. We are simply making peace with our experience, as well as our visceral reaction to it.

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