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Suggestions Requested - Spiritual path vs Trauma Healing


I read this article and something really resonated -

"~~Progressing along the spiritual path when deep trauma is present often results in frustrated stagnation or perhaps worse, dangerous Guru Madness – where the spiritual awakening is real but is coming through the person with a frequency of disassociated trauma lurking in their shadow, often with disastrous consequences for their students."

I have been cycling through Dukkha Nanas for few months, linking my practice log -

I believe I have been through some amount of trauma including emotional abuse, sexual abuse, Neglect, tenedency of attracting lots of narcissists in life since I seem to be an empath and have feeling of not being good enough. Have been cooking since 6 years of age, baby-sitting my younger siblings (one is autistic, even potty-trained her when she was 10+, had been cleaning her before that) , supporting lots of people physically, emotionally and financially without even Thanks.

I mentioned all this to give a context since I do not believe that these stories are too important any longer. I am avoiding this kind of unhealthy behavior and do not hold any grudges against anyone. I am still responsible for taking care of my parents and autistic sibling (when other sister keeps herself out) which causes certain stress but I am trying to do the best I can in making arrangements and not take unreasonable load due to parental expectations.

Focus is for self to heal and make progress beyond dukkha. At conscious level feels like I have made progress in healing but do not know what lurks in subconscious and unconscious mind. My husband has observed that I seem to be in lot of pain and recommended for me to go to retreat for as long as I need to sort things out.

I woulld appreciate any ideas / recommendations / suggestions regarrding how to proceed further, continue my practice or stop and take a different path.

Metta to all .

RE: Suggestions Requested - Spiritual path vs Trauma Healing
5/14/19 11:23 AM as a reply to Anicca Dukkha Anatta.
Few more relevant points :

* Never had any sort of counselling / therapy or help.

* I believe I was depressed as a child and teenager, my husband played a major role in getting me out of that and bringing happiness in life.

* Have gaps in my memory, feels like I have selectively forgotten certain incidents in life.

* Since childhood many times I look at mirror and find a stranger staring back. Even though not suicidal but hardly have any attachment with Life even though have Mensa level IQ, Professional degree, A husband who loves me immensely and a portfolio strong enough that we can comfortably retire and backpack around the world. Feel very close to giving up the world and becoming a nun , only reason I do not do that is would not want to put my kids and husband thru that.

* I believe I healed a lot due to 2 vipassana retreats and regular practice since October 2018. That allowed me to forgive any percieved misdeeds against me (everyone has their own version of reality so its all stories no absolute truth) and have compassion for everybody.

Observe Aversion towards Dukkha and craving towards Equanimity (& desire to completely heal) while sharing all this.

RE: Suggestions Requested - Spiritual path vs Trauma Healing
5/14/19 11:26 AM as a reply to Anicca Dukkha Anatta.
Have you considered therapy? Based on the personal history you posted I'm not sure focusing just on your meditation practice is going to help you fully figure things out. In fact, your practice could potentially land you in trouble if not accompanies by working with a respected, reputable therapist. You may dig up past experiences in meditation that you will need help to deal with.

Just a suggestion, as you requested.

RE: Suggestions Requested - Spiritual path vs Trauma Healing
5/14/19 11:40 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Gratitude for your response Chris.
Since I do not hold any grudges against anyone and have not been digging out any new experiences in past 2-3 months (Just undescribeable sadness without very specific logical reasons) , have doubts about efficacy of therapy. Also as a resident of India there is lot of stigma against taking help and quality of help is poor many times. Having said that thanks for ur suggestion, I'll consider exploratory sessions and see if that helps.
What would be your suggestion regarding practice. Even though Dukkha has been gut-wrenching and spectacular simultaneouly I feel this has been a very cleansing and purifying experience. So many things have been surfacing and going wrong like crazy in last few months , feeling of burning past karma in wholesale keeps arising.
Also any recommendations regarding doing a 2-3 week retreat.

RE: Suggestions Requested - Spiritual path vs Trauma Healing
5/14/19 2:59 PM as a reply to Anicca Dukkha Anatta.
You may want to read the r/streamentry Guide to Health, Balance, & Difficult Territory if you haven't already.  There was another good thread there on how to avoid re-traumatizing yourself as well.

Good therapists can absolutely make a big difference. Although it may be difficult to find a good local one, some of them practice over Skype.  I've personally found somatic experiencing & EMDR helpful at actually processing and integrating trauma.  A good therapist will help you regulate yourself in treatment so that you can learn to dip into difficult mental and physical sensations and then dip back out again so you won't be overwhelmed or re-traumatized.  It can really make a big difference. 

I've also found DBT helpful for working through how trauma shows up in my relationships and actions and to start to undo learned patterns that are related to anger, fear, and shame.  It has also really helped with learning to set better boundaries in my relationships with others.  

More than any specific technique, what really helps is finding someone who understands trauma and who you can tell anything to without them being shocked or judgmental. Actually being able to verbally communicate your internal experience and memories of trauma to someone else and feel heard is very healing on its own.

When you're coming to practice with a trauma history, more insight is not necessarily going to be super helpful.  Perceptual/perspective shifts can be freeing, but hybrid high disregulation/high insight states are possible and not a lot of fun.  I personally wouldn't go for a long retreat until I felt like I really had the trauma piece mostly sorted out -- both in terms of neutralizing and integrating memories of past experiences and in terms of my life being on an even keel.  There have been a lot of times where it's felt like I need a really big or dramatic spiritual event or grand gesture from a loved one to feel better, but what's actually worked is trying to even out the highs and lows and to socially connect and continually work towards being more present.  Not to say that the big spiritual events haven't helped since they definitely have, but it seems to go better when they just pop up and I do my best to navigate through them rather than me intending to have more big events.

RE: Suggestions Requested - Spiritual path vs Trauma Healing
5/18/19 12:58 AM as a reply to JP.
Thank you for such a thoughtful and detailed response JP. Much apprectiated.

Went thru all the links and material. Most of the therapies listed are not available in India but Reddit and linked thread are awesome resources, will revisit a few more times. I see the point of not going for big retreat because in some ways there is impatience and looking outwards for some magic to happen. Gentle practice , Patience and Metta might be what is needed.

Also based on suggestion from Chris as well I talked to a friend who connected me to a therapist practicing MAP (Mind Alignment Practice). Will explore and see how that goes. My friend pointed out that forgiving people who have caused hurt by itself may not be enough for healing to happen.

I'll continue the practice but focus lot more on Shamatha instead of Vipassana.

RE: Suggestions Requested - Spiritual path vs Trauma Healing
5/18/19 1:10 AM as a reply to Anicca Dukkha Anatta.
Considering retreat at Panditrama Lumbini in Nepal and Pa-Auk Tawya Forest Meditation Centre  some time in future. Based on reviews looks like 2-3 weeks is bare minimum which is what i am in a position to spare currently in near future. The reason has slightly changed , based on feedback Impatience to progress has definitely toned down but need for teacher / Support / proper instruction has increased. Seem to be struggling around in a dark room, some light would be very nice. Will keep the intention in mind and see what happens , nott too attached to result one way or the other.

Also 60 day retreat sounds very appealing but given my son's exams not possibble for 2019-20. Anyway my practice may not be there yet. Well its desire which is observed and may be energy of intention is being supplied to it.

RE: Suggestions Requested - Spiritual path vs Trauma Healing
5/21/19 12:56 AM as a reply to Anicca Dukkha Anatta.
A friend recommended Internation Buddhist Meditation Center in Kathmandu. A particular teacher there ( Angarika Vimalananni ) has been recommended by my friend's friend who herself is a nun . I'm considering a 20 day retreat during their Monsoon Retreat.

Approach to retreat has changed significantly, I will not be going there with any expectations. Enjoying the retreat is reason good enough. Thought some about the healing of issues due to past history and realised that Vipassana practice has been the one which has brought out and healed lot of issues. That seems to be most healing thing even if quite hard n unpleasant at times. Based on interactions with some counselors and Mind Alignment Practioner looks like meditation will be more helpful as long as practice continues with Metta and Balance.

Metta to all.

RE: Suggestions Requested - Spiritual path vs Trauma Healing
5/31/19 1:25 AM as a reply to Anicca Dukkha Anatta.
Time for an update I guess -

* A friend has been helping with some Mind alignment process & Mirror therapy sessions. I humbly accept that lot of healing was needed before progress in practice. Lot of healing seems to have happened. Circumstances have not changed, but approach towards them has. Stopped looking at self as victim or wallowing in pain / pity (always work in progress) . Sits have changedd significantly, have stopped getting killed in 100s of ways, lot less images, mostly lot of itch attacks which while not very pleasaant are quite manageable. Lot of spontaneous arising of Metta and compassion towards people who hurt me, since can see the pain they have dealt with.

* Realized that even though Vipassana created the base and clarity for the healing to happen, it was not enough. Lot of self-love and forgiveness was needed to heal the wounds. Progress with all the disintegration and wounds was probably not easy / possible.

* Applied for a 20 day retreat at Kathmandu IBMC and got accepted, will be starting on July 22nd. Not going there with any goals or targets. 20 days of focussed meditation in silence cutoff from external world feels appealing  ( if a bit scary) .

Metta to all.

RE: Suggestions Requested - Spiritual path vs Trauma Healing
6/5/19 5:04 PM as a reply to Anicca Dukkha Anatta.
A couple of people recommended therapy, I would agree.  One suggestion would be to call or see a few psychiatrists.  They often work with a number of therapists and have some idea of which therapists are getting better results.

RE: Suggestions Requested - Spiritual path vs Trauma Healing
6/6/19 10:31 AM as a reply to Eric G.
Thanks for your kind response Eric.

I agree that lot of healing was/is needed before I could make further progress. The mirror exercise therapist with which I worked was underwhelming but my friend (Who got out a very painful divorce and had similar issues of low self worth) has made major impact on me. I have dealt with 2-3 psychiatrists / counsellors in India ( in context of other family member) and my faith of their efficacy is rather limited. At this point I would be down to finding people on internet and hoping one of them clicks, recommendations are non-existent due to prevailing social stigma.

Also while I try to overcome my past experiences and current issues I am still dealing with setting up safe / comfortable place for parents / sister and taking care of their major needs like doctor appointments, bank work etc. . (Thankfully I have setup basic facilities like home, furniture AC, cook, maid etc. ) But my need to move to a different city means I have to get things settled again since their dependency is significant. Once again India has very imited options for autistic/ mentally retarded people and also old age care (apart from huge social stigma again). My friend's help / sessions have gotten me to a point where i am able to make required tough decisions without getting emotionally sucked in. I am able to respect my personal space and sanity. Things are far from perfect but progress is definitely being made.

My hope is my friend continues to help me and I am able to function well and get things on my plate cleared to a certain extent. After my move to a different city I'll have more time and space to make sure I practice from a place of Peace and Balance.

Metta to All.

RE: Suggestions Requested - Spiritual path vs Trauma Healing
6/9/19 12:16 AM as a reply to Anicca Dukkha Anatta.

I also have a lot of “psychological issues” and seem to struggle with them more than most people.

I dont feel I have to choose between the Buddhist path and therapies: I just do both.

I have this routine of going to 2 retreats a year and live my life. When crises occur and my psychological issues disrupt my life, I activate “crisis mode”: I increase my daily meditation, work less, and start a therapy until the problem dissolves.

I have found several therapies helping depending on the particular issue. I have found that EMDR can do absolute wonders. I also enjoy the Work by Byron Katie.

Over the last six years my life has improved considerably.

I wish you good luck on your healing and progress on the path.

RE: Suggestions Requested - Spiritual path vs Trauma Healing
6/10/19 8:20 AM as a reply to manucho.
Thanks for your kind response Manucho. I wish you healing and progress on path.

In terms of practice going for a 20 day retreat to Kathmandu in July so that one is good :-) . Too many things to be taken care in routine life so cant reduce the amount of work I am doing. I am permanently ready to go sit in nature , do very little and just be, in some ways retreat will provide that opportunity even though its hard work and we never know what comes up on surface.
I am looking at EMDR facilities in my city, will see if can attend some sessions in August after coming back.
Its work in progress but doing so much better since have made a choice to not be a victim. Instead of blaming the people in my life for the pain in past I am able to have compassion (starting with self) and actually work towards their well-being. Its position of power and skillful Karma, not of a weak person dependent of external approval.
Still overwhelmed by the chaos and work to be done but every step in right direction takes us closer to peace.

Metta to all.

RE: Suggestions Requested - Spiritual path vs Trauma Healing
6/20/19 3:38 AM as a reply to Anicca Dukkha Anatta.
Time for an update I guess :

Have been making peace with lot of gnarly issues in life. Friend has pretty much been a counsellor ( mostly end up having 60-90 minutes session with her every week even though its not formally scheduled). Going to drop sister at an Home for differently abled people next week. While I hope for the best, am not too bothered if she will adjust well or not. If not will find something else (good options in India r scarce). Lots of dirt which was pushed under the carpet seems to be coming out, is being observed and let go. Dukkha in practice has reduced significantly. Even though I'm not really qualified to say that but feels like practice is progressing really well. Anyway what is being felt/observed and how skillfully it is being handled is more relevant compared to external diagnosis regarding the stage of insight I might have accessed.

Metta to All.

RE: Suggestions Requested - Spiritual path vs Trauma Healing
8/26/19 1:33 AM as a reply to Anicca Dukkha Anatta.
I guess time to update and wrap up this thread with some positive news :

A day or 2 ago suddenly got reminded of the pain I was experiencing in past. Realized that even when the thoughts came up, I just could not viscerally feel the kind of pain which existed in past and was never far away from surface. Felt like past has lost its grip on me and I have healed.

Here are the practical updates related to the story :
* Continuing the meditation practice every day.
* Went for 10 day retreat to IBMC Kathmandu, that seems to have gotten me out of Dukkha into Equanimity.
* My friend helped me with Mind Alignment therapy till June end.
* Dropped my sister at assisted care facility, dealt with all kind of emotional drama, blackmailing etc. from parents . Sister herself has adjusted wonderfully.
* Trying my best to support parents with their daily life and long term arrangements etc. but somehow do not feel that I'm responsible for their happiness.
* I believe combination of my friends help and practice has healed me.

I have certain health issues like Menopause, Hypothyroid, Iron and Vitamin D deficiency all of which cause depression and anxiety kind of symptoms but despite all of these I feel strong and whole now (almost invincible because there is nothing to loose). May be Equnimity is to be thanked.

Thanks for all the Metta and kind support I recieved. This writeup comes from a place of encouragement. Diligent practice and therapy together is very powerful so anybody struggling with past trauma please do not loose hope.

Metta to All ....