When we meditate, we prepare to anchor deeply and truly in what is available to us, to make us aware of what is no longer available to us. This meditation strengthens our ability to present and open, increases our sense of inner space, and assists in the wiring of the structure.
Meditation from comfort
For example, if I feel comfortable and not stressed, and I am in a comfortable place – say, in a quiet garden or by a stream in the woods – then I can sit there and attune to my external environment, silently everything around me clearly and in detail. As I close my eyes and turn my attention inward, I experience silence, and a wider sense of inner space.
I’m just in space. I feel clear and present, able to slowly enter and exit my external and inner world relatively easily.
Meditation from stress or trauma
However, if I am stuck as a result of unprocessed stress – or if I experience a trauma – my ability to see clearly and mindfully at myself, others, and the world will be weakened and disturbed. The same goes for my practice-acquired capacity for contemplative perception, and I will feel a sense of suffocation, unable to move back and forth between my inner and outer perceptions.
All my energy and attention will be needed to focus on my battle against the stress and make sure my blood sugar and heart rate, lungs, and limbs are as good as possible. Even if the stress and immediate danger are over, my nervous system will still need time to process the adrenaline and cortisol surge. And maybe my mind needs some time to settle down before I’m back to my old self and ready to go out into the world.
The experience of space: a broad sense of self
Space is an experience of consciousness that is lost, albeit temporarily when experiencing trauma. When this happens, we identify with the event of the moment, losing the broad sense of self-worth that we may have gained from conscious practice. We could be stuck in the traumatic feeling for a while, alienated from ourselves and our Source. However, if we actively engage in contemplation while experiencing post-traumatic symptoms, we can strengthen our ability to retain, integrate, and heal the experience.
Becoming aware of the consequences of trauma
Contemplation methods such as meditation, mindfulness, presencing, yoga, or centering prayer can help us become aware of the consequences of trauma, including dissociation, repression, and detachment. Otherwise, we over-identify with our dissociation, our consciousness diminishes, and we remain stuck as we keep repeating the old stress responses of hyperarousal and numbness.
Striving for bliss?
However, if we turn to the contemplative practice of pursuing—however well-intentioned—the bliss of higher realms or callous indifference, we may find that we are avoiding the spiritual work that must be done for the trauma. . To truly heal we need to be more available to ourselves; more willing to feel and stay with the authentic emotions that present themselves from our experiences, no less.
Practicing spirituality without shunning things develops and strengthens our inner resources—not only to cope with the effects of trauma, but also to integrate, flourish, and change. Then we strengthen our connection with our higher self, our soul. A sense of presence and inner space arises, which gives us the power to perceive our inner process and process things in our lives better.