Healing from trauma, addiction and other psychiatric illnesses is largely about healing the experience of Bare Reality. This is an experience before thought. It is the experience of existence, Pure Awareness, or Bare Consciousness, when the mind is still and silent. Many experience a sense of a connection to a loving life force.
If we are spiritually vital, have a healthy brain, and are happy, bare existence is joyful. The Now is Good. There is a sense of wonder and awe at the miraculous experience of consciousness. The experience is safe, grounding, and reassuring. We feel grateful for the gift of conscious existence. Some intuit a feeling of an intelligent love force that envelopes us and flows through us. We experience Grace. There is immense gratitude and joy. This experience is a quiet Joy of Existence.
Those with trauma, addiction, and other psychiatric difficulties often endure a painful experience of the Now. The Now is not good. Pure consciousness is filled with distress. An overactive amygdala sends out fear alarm signals, even when no imminent threat exists. It is the healing of this existential distress—this fear-based experience before thought—that is the focus of the healing phase of recovery.
How do we heal the pain of bare existence? How do we make the Now good and cultivate a reverence for Reality? There are many ways. Mind-body therapies like meditation, yoga, tai chi, massage, acupuncture, and CranioSacral therapy (https://www.upledger.com/therapies/faq.php) can all help to soothe the mind. They repair a damaged sense of basic safety in the world. After this, developing the capacity to have healthy attachments is critical, for we regulate each other’s experience of safety and abundance through our love for one another. Those who love us also help us to create an insightful, compassionate, and accountable narrative of our life experience.
Some fall victim to using substances that adulterate consciousness in a manner that also induces cravings for more. Addiction sets in and starts to damage the victim. It is essential to understand that the use of any distress-relieving/pleasure-inducing substance (e.g. alcohol, opiates, methamphetamine, etc.) by genetically and otherwise vulnerable people will damage the brain’s drive-reward system; it will induce a strong desire, or craving, for the pleasure-inducing substance. Cravings come with compulsions. Addiction sets in when there is loss of control over compulsions.
People with neglect and trauma histories have a damaged experience of the joy of bare experience. They are in distress, feeling alternately hyper aroused, hyper vigilant, or numb. They do not feel safe. Many experience intrusive memories and nightmares of their trauma. Their thinking patterns are fear-based. For these people, the lure of addictive substances and behaviors can be irresistible because of their ability to alter consciousness and ease distress.
The problem is, Addiction just doesn’t work to heal psychological pain. It only makes it worse, adding yet another struggle to an already difficult life. This is why I encourage my patients to renounce addicting in all ways. It prevents healing and growth.
I recommend to everyone a morning spiritual practice and ritual: the AM-SSS practice:
Start each day with a SSS—Silence, Solitude, and Stillness. Make it 15’ to an hour. People can do whatever feels right for them during this time, as long as it is in silence, is solitary, and is performed with a still mind. Options include meditation, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, meditative journaling (free writing), contemplative spiritual reading (Lectio divina), or meditative walking. It might just be sitting alone with a cup of coffee in the morning, practicing complete presence with the drinking of the coffee.
The point is to still the Mind, bring Awareness to the Present, and cultivate a positive experience of the Now.
In stillness, there is healing. There is the capacity to feel safely grounded. Stillness allows for the Mind to rest, even if for just a few seconds at a time at first. There is the capacity to intuit being enveloped in a Loving Intelligent Universe.” Stillness cultivates the experience of Love in the heart.
Thought colors our emotional experience, so managing thought also cultivates the Joy of Existence. I recommend beginning and ending each spiritual SSS period with a recitation of written affirmations and intensions. These can be any that feel most healing of the pain of existence and that bring you the most joy.
Some examples that I recommend include:
- I am of immeasurable worth.
- At the center of my pain I am whole.
- I vow to care for myself today as if I were my own child.
- Today I will not addict. I will practice other ways to feel better. I will ask for help.
- I vow this day to live with integrity.
- I will treat each person I meet today with reverence and respect.
- May I be a channel for Love from my Higher Self to flow through me.
There are thousands more. Just look deep within yourself and see what affirming and loving things need to be said.
The trick to this practice is just that: practice. Rewiring the brain takes practice and consistency. This requires a commitment borne out of a faith that this practice will lead to healing, growth, and transformation. Set a goal of practicing ninety times in ninety days—90 in 90. You will likely see that in just ninety days you will feel calmer, clearer, and more open hearted. With sustained practice—along with living skillfully—you will change. You will develop spiritual intelligence. You will have a reverence for the Now and will be at peace much, if not all, of the time.
I hope you will introduce this practice into your life, if you are not already doing so. If you are in pain, renounce using anything addictive to manage your pain. Seek professional abstinence-based treatment.
Look around you and have faith. Join a community that will support you in your practice. See that with this practice you can slowly heal and experience the Joy of Existence.
Let me know how this practice goes for you. If you make it to 90 in 90, email me at DrM@drmichaeldmcgee.com. Share how it was for you.
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Image from: https://yoga-sa.com/stillness/.