The greatest obstacle to spiritual development is… not what you might think. Various religions and spiritual pathways talk about our disturbed emotions, our anger, our anxieties, and our past actions. Others dwell on our persistent clinging or attachment to various aspects of our outer world and inner experiences. Still others cite our self-centeredness, our grasping at a self or so-called “ego-clinging.” Each of these is valid in relation to different stages and aspects of the path. And in every case we could also debate their value or relevance, or the misunderstandings that arise with regard to any of these complex issues. Before we can either reject or accept such a notion, we need to define what trauma is, beyond the concepts offered by either the popular press or clinical psychotherapy.
Trauma can have a wide range of effects and symptoms, as well as extensive metabolic, neurological, immunological, and psychological effects. However, none of these are specific to trauma alone and so the real key is understanding what trauma means for the bioenergetics body, for the intricate web of electrical, magnetic, and photonic forces and fields that make up our subtle body.
Our physical form itself functions as a liquid-crystal matrix, with the fourth, magnetic stage of water being an important part of our composition. Our connective tissue matrix and PVS (primary vascular system) is interwoven through every organ and tissue. Beyond this exquisite network of minute vessels and microscopic collagen, we also have an energy body. Just as there is a network of ever-finer arteries and capillaries, and ever-more-subtle branches of nerve fibers, there is a highly structured energy field. Imagine a polished diamond or some other magnificent gem with billions of facets, intersecting and overlapping in perfect symmetry, reflecting photons carrying complex qualia of information. This network is the formative pattern upon which our physical organism is built. All structure and all function follows these invisible lines of force.
Trauma exists within our body, tissues, cells, and molecules. On a physical level there is now tremendous information about what happens within the vascular system and how blockages and distortion, or a lack or excess of angiogenesis (blood vessel building capacity) accompanies or causes disease. Such disruptions also occur within the complex web of energies, the vibrating strings of light and organized fields that belong to each unique organ and tissue. These take the form of weakened or broken lines of forces, distorted or expanded “bubbles” within the body field, or thickened, tangled, or blocked energetic channels. The perfect symmetry and organization of our bioenergetics structure becomes a tangled skein. To make matters worse, these areas, large and small, then form a defensive field, not unlike the physical scabs and scars with which we are so familiar. They become walled off and inaccessible, “safely” stowed away but also becoming a ticking time bomb.
While we are clearing up past impacts of every description, we may also be busy accumulating fresh trauma! The solution seems straightforward: protect oneself. But how to most effectively ward off these attacks, large and small? Fortunately Vajrayana again is replete with defensive methods and, in fact, a good deal of the daily practice of a tantric Buddhist adept is spent in this way. Daily water offerings, smoke offerings, morning Tara practice and evening protector practice are largely dedicated to preventing harm to one’s health, possessions, sangha, spiritual practice, and the Buddhadharma in general. Also, the extensive and widespread practice of Chöd is a penultimate way of clearing “incoming karma” before it manifests in serious obstacles and difficulties. Then again, merely holding to the identity of the yidam or meditational deity archetype provides ongoing protection, as we discard our habitual identity, the proverbial “magnet of suffering.”
The trauma-resistant form
Inner work of another sort is also necessary and highly effective. That takes the form of building up one’s Five-Element structure, area by area, noting where there are weaknesses and filling in the gaps. The integrity of our five-element matrix is our greatest asset and greatest bulwark against forces of entropy and decay. They are formative patterns of meaning and intelligence that provide a scaffold for bio-photonic light, electricity, magnetism, and eventually a vibrating container built of molecules, cells, and sinews. The Elements should be our first concern in the morning and our last thought at night, providing diurnal protection. If one can achieve full Mahamudra pure light states, do that. But the Elements will still be our guide through the mundane world of apparitions and confused and wandering sentient beings.