Judith Blackstone: Trauma and the Unbound Body

December 4, 2018

Judith Blackstone: Trauma and the Unbound Body

Judith Blackstone December 4, 2018

Judith Blackstone is a pioneering teacher of contemporary spirituality best known for developing The Realization Process, a direct path toward nondual awakening. With Sounds True, she has most recently published the book Trauma and the Unbound Body. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Judith about applying The Realization Process to the healing process—whether it’s physical, relational, or psychological. They discuss the Process’s application to unprocessed trauma—especially how fully inhabiting the body can highlight long-term physical constrictions. Tami and Judith talk about the methods for releasing that constriction, as well as the difference between awareness of the body and inhabiting it. Finally, Judith leads listeners in a core breath practice for settling into the body and attuning to the fundamental consciousness that is always available to us. (57 minutes)

Tami’s Takeaway: As part of our conversation about “disentangling the constrictions” that are held in the body as a result of trauma, Judith Blackstone teaches one of the central practices of The Realization Process—the Core Breath Practice. This is a powerful technique for quickly entering the subtle core of the body (a vertical channel that is described in many spiritual traditions). Once we enter this subtle core, we have a powerful resource available to us for releasing traumatic experiences held in the body. The takeaway: do the Core Breath Practice regularly as a way to stay in deep inward contact and “unbind the body.”

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Judith Blackstone, PhD is an innovative teacher in contemporary spirituality. She developed the Realization Process, an embodied approach to personal and relational healing and nondual realization. She is author of Belonging Here, The Intimate Life, The Enlightenment Process and The Empathic Ground.

Author photo © Laura Kavanau


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Founded Sounds True in 1985 as a multimedia publishing house with a mission to disseminate spiritual wisdom. She hosts a popular weekly podcast called Insights at the Edge, where she has interviewed many of today's leading teachers. Tami lives with her wife, Julie M. Kramer, and their two spoodles, Rasberry and Bula, in Boulder, Colorado.

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A Guided Practice to Connect with Our Deep, Inner Bein...

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When we attune to ourselves as fundamental consciousness, we find that this pervasive space is not empty in the sense of void. Even though it is experienced as stillness, it is lively, luminous stillness.

In my method, the Realization Process, I attempt to avoid metaphysical assertions about what fundamental consciousness actually is or what qualities it actually possesses. However, an important part of the Realization Process, for both healing from trauma and for spiritual awakening, is to attune to specific qualities that appear to be inherent in this lively pervasive space. These qualities, which we can attune to pervading everywhere, are experienced as the fundamental qualities of our own being. In this work, we name these qualities: awareness, emotion, and physical sensation. Attuning to these three qualities can help us feel whole within ourselves and unified with our surroundings.

Before we go further, by “quality,” I mean the “feel” of our experience. A distinguishing characteristic of a quality is that it cannot be translated into a direct description of the experience. For example, the quality of love, exactly how it feels, cannot really be conveyed to someone who has not experienced it. We can talk about the experience—we can say that love is warm or that it causes us to want to connect with someone that we feel this toward, but we cannot put into words the exact experience of love itself. In the same way, we cannot convey, to someone who has not experienced it, the color red, the taste of vanilla, or the sensation of coldness. This is true for all of the many qualities that make up our experience, including the unchanging qualities of fundamental consciousness.

We attune to each quality through a different section of our body. We attune to the ground of awareness in, around, and above our head. By awareness, I mean that part of the ground within which perceptions and thoughts occur. We attune to the ground of emotion in the mid-third of our body—our chest and midsection. By emotion, I mean that part of the ground within which emotions, such as grief, anger, and joy, occur. We attune to physical sensation through the bottom third of our body—our lower torso, legs, and feet. By physical sensation, I mean that part of the ground in which physical sensations such as heat and sexual pleasure occur.

We need to be attuned to all three qualities of fundamental consciousness in order to reach our most subtle and most complete experience of ourselves and the world around us. The blend of awareness, emotion, and physical sensation pervading everywhere helps us attune to and resonate with the awareness, emotion, and physical sensation in other people and in all of nature.

PRACTICE: Attuning to Fundamental Consciousness

Sit upright with your feet on the floor. Keep your eyes open.

Feel that you are inside your whole body at once. Find the space outside your body, the space in the room. Experience that the space inside and outside your body is the same, continuous space. It pervades you. Experience that the space pervading your own body also pervades your whole environment. Do not move from within your body to do this: attune to the space that seems to already be there, pervading you and your environment.

Attune to the quality of awareness. This means becoming aware of your awareness. Attune to awareness around, within, and way above your head. Experience the quality of awareness pervading your whole body so that it feels like you are made of the quality of awareness. Experience the quality of awareness pervading your whole body and environment at the same time.

Attune to the quality of emotion. Sense the quality of emotion in the middle of your body: your chest and gut. Experience the quality of emotion pervading your whole body so that it feels like you are made of the quality of emotion. This is not a specific emotion; it is the subtle ground of emotion. Experience the quality of emotion pervading your whole body and environment at the same time.

Attune to the quality of physical sensation. Come down into the bottom of your torso, legs, and feet to attune to the quality of physical sensation. Experience the quality of physical sensation pervading your whole body so that it feels like you are made of the quality of physical sensation. Again, this is not a specific physical sensation; it is the subtle ground of physical sensation. Experience the quality of physical sensation pervading your whole body and environment at the same time.

Now experience the quality of physical sensation pervading your whole body and environment and the quality of awareness pervading your whole body and environment at the same time. Add the quality of emotion pervading your whole body and environment. At this point, the qualities blend together; they become indistinguishable from each other.

Sit for a moment in this rich field of awareness, emotion, and physical sensation, pervading your body and environment.

This is an adapted excerpt from Trauma and the Unbound Body: The Healing Power of Fundamental Consciousness by Judith Blackstone, PhD.

A Guided Practice to Connect with Our Deep, Inner Being Blog - Judith Blackstone

Judith Blackstone, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychotherapist in New York and an innovative teacher in contemporary spirituality. Her published works include the books Belonging Here, The Enlightenment Process, The Empathic Ground, and The Intimate Life, as well as the audio learning course The Realization Process.

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Buy your copy of Trauma and the Unbound Body at your favorite bookseller!

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Judith Blackstone: Trauma and the Unbound Body

Judith Blackstone is a pioneering teacher of contemporary spirituality best known for developing The Realization Process, a direct path toward nondual awakening. With Sounds True, she has most recently published the book Trauma and the Unbound Body. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Judith about applying The Realization Process to the healing process—whether it’s physical, relational, or psychological. They discuss the Process’s application to unprocessed trauma—especially how fully inhabiting the body can highlight long-term physical constrictions. Tami and Judith talk about the methods for releasing that constriction, as well as the difference between awareness of the body and inhabiting it. Finally, Judith leads listeners in a core breath practice for settling into the body and attuning to the fundamental consciousness that is always available to us. (57 minutes)

Tami’s Takeaway: As part of our conversation about “disentangling the constrictions” that are held in the body as a result of trauma, Judith Blackstone teaches one of the central practices of The Realization Process—the Core Breath Practice. This is a powerful technique for quickly entering the subtle core of the body (a vertical channel that is described in many spiritual traditions). Once we enter this subtle core, we have a powerful resource available to us for releasing traumatic experiences held in the body. The takeaway: do the Core Breath Practice regularly as a way to stay in deep inward contact and “unbind the body.”

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Express Your Creativity to Jump-Start Vitality

Have you ever felt like you lost a part of yourself? 

Sometimes it happens. Life changes, and we change with it. It could be a move, job change, marriage, kids, taking care of elders, or any sort of transition. Sometimes it’s not even a difficult transition that makes us lose a part of ourselves but a decision we make to keep on with some things and release the rest. And yet, we might regret leaving that part of us behind. Often, the part of ourselves we leave behind is a creative part of ourselves that we might think, in today’s world, is less important or less valued. 

This certainly happened to me—for about fifteen years. Basically, I lost my voice. As much as I loved singing, for reasons I could not fully understand, I knew part of my path was to continue in my study of healing. Unfortunately, when I chose graduate school, I also decided there was no point in singing anymore if I was not “serious.” Not only did I relinquish my opportunity to prepare for a professional career in classical western opera singing—I simply stopped singing altogether. And by making that black-and-white decision, based more in perfectionism than in feeding my heart and soul, I lost a huge part of myself for more than fifteen years. Singing was a gift I was given to bring me back to my own creative bliss—but I had been blind to its purpose for most of my life. And a part of me literally felt like I had died.

I’ll bet many of you can relate. External circumstances seem to shift the tides of our lives so that sometimes we lose parts of ourselves society doesn’t necessarily directly reward. If we enjoyed art, dance, music, or other areas of creative expression when we were young, unless we pursued these passions as professional artists, we might have lost sight of them over the years. We often think we have to leave creative pursuits behind in our process of “adulting”—making money, providing for a family, and pursuing a career. However, losing that creative juice comes with real costs—we can end up losing our ability to innovate, our fluidity, and a great deal of our joy.

Thankfully, our creativity is never really lost. In my case, I found the joy of singing again spontaneously while singing to my kids when they were young. When they got a bit older, I decided to reclaim the fun of singing for myself. Out of the blue, I created a Guns N’ Roses cover band called Nuns N Moses. I searched for musicians and convinced them (all straight males) to dress as nuns while I dressed as Moses for part of the show, changing lyrics and singing songs from Moses’s perspective. It was hilarious fun while paying homage to one of my favorite childhood rock ‘n’ roll bands with excellent musicians. Soon after, I was asked to front an Iron Maiden tribute band called Up the Irons. The music was amazing, and the band was a hit, with thousands of fans and a busy gig schedule at the best venues in Southern California. I found myself blissfully singing my heart out—and I had more energy than I ever had in my life.

I share this personal story with you for two reasons. One is to remind you that the parts of you that you think are forgotten actually live on inside of you—particularly the creative parts of you. These are the parts that long for authentic expression, in whatever ways they are able to manifest. They do not die, and when we give them voice, we actually provide healing for ourselves—an ability to bring us to a greater sense of self-awareness, self expression, connection, and ultimately transcendence. The second reason is to challenge you to consider ways you can step out into a more authentic expression of yourself—even if it feels risky to you. The best thing you can do is to break the false idol of yourself. Creative expression gives you the tools to connect with yourself beyond your cultural and social conditioning and to connect with others in true heart and soul expression. Nothing can be more freeing and more healing.

PUTTING CREATIVITY INTO PRACTICE

Fostering Our Flow

How do we begin to jump-start our experience of creativity and its links to flow, improved mood, and vitality to augment our own deeper, more authentic expression of ourselves and our healing? Following is an easy guide:

First, recognize that you are a creative being. The more you identify yourself as a creator, the easier it will be for you to create in different settings, even at work. Even the scientific data suggest this. 

Start simple. Remember that no one defines what is creative except you. Is there a particular creative activity that draws you to it? It does not matter whether you have prior experience with 

  1. It does not need to be a specific art form, either (putting creative outfits together or improvising a meal without a recipe are examples). Pick something easy for you to engage in at least once a week for six weeks, and do something that you can easily fit into your day or week. (Singing in the car or dancing around the house for fifteen minutes a day counts!)

Go beyond judgment. Suspend your and others’ judgment, and move beyond your discomfort. Believe me, I know what it’s like when the kids beg you to stop singing in the car! You will encounter a whole slew of judgmental statements, most of them likely from yourself. As Nike loves to say, “Just Do It.” (In my case, when encountering my children’s complaints, I keep singing, but I do it more softly so as not to irritate their eardrums beyond belief.) When feeling uncomfortable, do it anyway and tap into the bodily, energetic feeling that you have when you are being creative. That will help you break through those negative self-judgments and clear those vrittis, or mind disturbances!

Observe, persist, and enjoy. Notice how you feel after engaging in your creative act. Be your own scientist. Explore how you feel after the first time, and then the second time, and so on. How did the rest of your day go after you allowed yourself some time for creativity? Keep at it, and even try your hand at something new. You might feel more comfortable working with an art form you have learned in the past. However, remember that your goal is not perfection—it is connecting with the energy of creativity. There is something to be said for examining an art form with “beginner’s mind.” Keep honing your creativity by focusing on both things you know and things you don’t know, and see what insights come to you as a result.

author photo

Shamini Jain, PhD, is the founder and CEO of the Consciousness and Healing Initiative (CHI), a nonprofit collaborative that leads humanity to heal ourselves. Dr. Jain is an Ivy League-trained clinical psychologist and an award-winning research scientist in psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) and integrative medicine. She is a sought-after speaker and teacher in mind-body-spirit healing. Dr. Jain is also adjunct faculty at UC San Diego. For more, visit shaminijain.com.

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