Why must our inner child be included in trauma-informed meditation?

Photo by Jhon David on Unsplash

I am grateful for the engagement this past month in our community needs survey! A warm thank you to everyone who participated. 

The energy this month was directed towards wondering what trauma-informed meditation is and exploration of what can open up to blossom when we include our inner child in our meditation practice.

I will put the words of community members in bold and respond below to their words. Each of these people gave permission to include their words in this blog.

Needs survey question: Are you interested in trauma-informed meditation? If yes, please share more about your interest.

Yes. Not sure what it would look like. 

I was brought up in a Tibetan Buddhist community where profound meditation practices were explored with no awareness of or attention to trauma dynamics, boundaries or the inner child. The strong drive towards spiritual fulfillment coupled with active suppression of red flags regarding sexual misconduct proved fertile ground for gross spiritual betrayal and harm in my community. 

We’ve seen this dynamic in many spiritual traditions, including the well-known sexual exploitation in the Catholic church.

I would suggest this harm is made possible and perhaps even fostered by the combination of strong needs for spirituality at the expense of and suppression of other basic human needs.

When we start to talk about trauma-informed meditation, we are opening up a space for a wider spectrum of needs, needs for spirituality along with safety, autonomy, respect, being seen, being heard, and other emotional, relational and physical needs.

In the Heal Your Heart Through Meditation (HYHTM) program we include energy psychology to release trauma blocks within the body and emotions. We also listen for and work closely with our inner child. One of the greatest gifts of working with your inner child is s/he gives you access to knowing your quieter, more subtle needs. 

Gaining access to this subtle knowledge empowers you to then act and get your deeper needs met. This allows the practitioner to form a fuller and more robust meditation practice.

Another community member who has completed the Heal Your Heart Through Meditation program wrote:

Intentionally embracing my inner child at the beginning of each meditation is helping me to connect with the vulnerability of feeling and connecting with chronic fear and slowly, gently transform this fear to a felt sense of safety and ease.

Many who have experienced trauma go through life with a hardened armour around their heart and around their feelings. It’s like a layer of shellack around those soft places, and it is created by speed – by quickly skirting around or jumping over anything threatening. 

Meditation in the HYHTM program offers a slowed down space to begin to *feel* again. We create a space of safety where even decades old fears can become less intimidating, and we can begin to see how to touch them, tend them, and move through them, as this community member so eloquently describes.

Another community member who is currently in the HYHTM program wrote:

Having a safe container – something I have felt intensely on 7 day silent retreats (I’ve never had the fortune of doing a longer one) – is really very important to me. So thank you so so much for encouraging me to create my own “shrine” and safe place AND to invite my inner child to come. 

Today she was very present in my meditation and so was the loving kindness and the tears, oh the tears! I saw her before me, all sweetness and purity, and I saw her journey of pain and pleasure and getting oh so lost, I saw it emanate and unfold from inside of her, I saw her journey to come, and I just loved her as a loving parent and I asked her to bring it all, and I held her in my heart chakra and it was very intense and now I feel a little shaky but it is ok and it is good and although it is not an easy process and one that needs deep and compassionate grounding, I believe in the alchemic power of the heart chakra that can integrate all things, through love and compassion.

Since I was brought up in a strong meditative tradition, I bring a robust firmness to the way I teach meditation. At the same time, I understand the kind of deep tenderness that is needed for healing trauma. I combine this firm strength and tenderness in my approach to guiding courageous students in the HYHTM program. 

In other communities, meditation learners are called students. I’d like to establish a different tradition in the HYHTM community and call learners, “courageous students”. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. The students of this program engage meditation with their hearts and they *are* very brave. Therefore, they are courageous students!

The HYHTM courageous students get one small exercise each day, so it is an easier load. The exercises are also part of a game, which allows for some lightness, play and fun. I feel this gentleness is necessary for any trauma healing.

At the same time, over the course of seven weeks, the courageous student creates a full, complete and rich meditation practice. Some courageous students have described this program as deceptively effective.

As courageous students grow their trust and tenderness within the careful and caring process of the program, they are enabled to establish a tender relationship with their inner child and have beautiful and heart-full breakthroughs like thie courageous student described above.

It may even be helpful to bring in the term “emotional literacy” here, which has been identified as critical to success in business and life. The quote above speaks to this courageous student’s growing knowledge of her emotional needs and flows; her emotional literacy is at a high level. Her words show how we need to start to talk about emotional literacy in meditation to deepen the possibilities of meditation for the modern Western world.

From my heart, I thank the community members who have stepped forward and engaged so beautifully this month. It is a true joy and pleasure to respond to you!

With all my love,

Andrea

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