Shamanic Energy Medicine for Treating Trauma and Other Contemporary Afflictions, Part 3: Rings of Co

In this third blog of the series on Shamanic Energy Medicine for Treating Trauma and Other Contemporary Afflictions, I go more deeply into the perspectives behind and tools used for working with clients presenting with symptoms of PTSD, depression or anxiety.  This builds upon the second blog in which I built a foundation for understanding shamanic energy medicine by drawing on several decades of research on the transgenerational transmision of trauma and the emerging science of epigenetics.

Transgenerational transmission of trauma is ever-present in work with clients using shamanic techniques.  In western psychology, it also has emerged since the 80s as a factor in a client’s symptoms, particularly if their parents suffered a major traumatic stressor, such as the Nazi death camps.  Recently, scientists are finding that a traumatic event can have an impact on gene makeup which can then be passed on to the offspring of the parents and even further down the family line.

In this blog, I am going to tackle a shamanic understanding of consciousness and the layers of consciousness relevant to the impact of trauma transgenerationally. Human consciousness is a deep and complicated topic which has been argued for more than a hundred years by philosophers, scientists, medical doctors, anthropologists, literary writers, and many others.  I don’t wish to take sides or make a rigorous academic case here. Nor do I want to take on the whole of human consciousness. I consider that subject to be so vast as to virtually unfathomable.

However, my experience engaging with my clients’ and my surface symptoms of PTSD and in their underlying manifestation in Deep Self coupled with decades of interdisciplinary research on violence has led me to have some rudimentary understanding of the content of consciousness related to how trauma impacts us collectively and individually through time and space through the Human Energy Field (HEF).  I am convinced that the dark matter of violence is imprinted in human consciousness in a particular pathway or energy stream into which we as individuals and groups become entrained both consciously and unconsciously.

Rings of Consciousness and Ancestral Experience

I define the consciousness of an individual to be all that is held within an aware or awake state and which expands outward and inward from there in concentric circles into a stream of infinite possibilities, probabilities, awareness and pure energy.  Thus, consciousness contains every thing both known and unknown, tangible and intangible.  We are not aware of the whole of consciousness when we are awake, but we can develop ways to learn more about it and even to use elements of consciousness through mapping and practice.

One way to understand this is when we lie on our backs and look up into the nighttime sky.  In our bodies and from the point of view of our awake, conscious state we are tiny, single point of focus projected outward and upward into a great expanse which has no beginning, middle or end and which is mysterious and unknown.  As we gaze upward, we might at first experience ourselves as separate from what is above us and then, gradually or instantaneously, momentarily lose a sense of self and dissolve into that vast infinity. When we rest in normal, everyday awareness, consciousness is described in terms of what is outside ourselves and yet at any moment, we can loosen this physically-oriented point of focus and experience ourselves as far greater and more mysterious than we ever imagined.

If we instead project our gaze inward into the deep self, we encounter a similar phenomenon: what is inside and beyond our normal, every day sense impressions is like a vast and infinite universe within which our singularity as a human being in physical body within linear time can be experienced as separate or which can also dissolve into infinity in progressive layers of expression and experience.  Both inner and outer, from the point of view of the conscious self, are cloaked in mystery, but can nevertheless be explored through the focusing of intent. When we are able to do this, we begin to understand that even concepts of “inner” and “outer” are merely organizing principles created through cognition by the need to move within, through and around the infinite Living Universal Consciousness (LUC) from the physical, concrete dimensions on “upward” or “inward” towards an all-encompassing oneness.

Within the LUC, there are streams of energy carrying the experiences and imprints of every expression possible within the whole of this ever-expanding, creative matrix of consciousness. The more we as individuals and groups activate and engage along certain pathways of experience and expression in our actions in the physical world, the deeper these energy streams become, much in the same way we understand how a river wears through land until it forms a deep canyon.

So it is that within this infinite and creative matrix, we can follow a very clear map into the dark matter (DM) of all human experience of violence from its grosser to its most subtle manifestations.  This is but one energy stream in the whole of the LUC. We can just as easily follow an energy stream of light matter (LM) in which every human experience of love, compassion and concord can be found and magnetized. Indeed, when working to heal traumatic imprints in a client, we must also reach into the pathways of LM to replace and entrain her energy into a new pathway of expression. But first, we must become familiar with the map outward/inward in concentric, ever-widening Rings of Trauma Consciousness (ROTC) containing the imprints of DM  from personal to ancestral on outward to collective experience.  I map these rings as follows:

  1. ROTC #1:  The awake, daytime domain of consciousness: physical sensations, emotions, thoughts, stories, conscious memories of the recent and distant past (both our own, our family’s, community’s, group’s, nation’s, etc…) of traumatic events.  This level tracks with the the level of consciousness which provides us with the ability to navigate the physical world–to see, feel, sense, and know what is outside around you. Here we most actively and consciously use the 5 grosser senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch, although more subtle versions of these senses are also engaged, often unconsciously. In this ROTC when dealing with the impact of trauma, cognition is dominant.

The next 8 layers are nested in the subconscious and, depending on what is presenting in a client’s life and emotions, may be just barely beneath surface awareness or deeply buried. In these ROCs, feeling and intuition are dominant:

  1. ROTC #2:   The unprocessed material of our own past and present, including unfelt emotions, experiences, memories, whether joyful, neutral or traumatic, and deep-seated beliefs.

  2. ROTC #3: Where our own experiences and memories, both conscious and unconscious, link into and arise out of those of our ancestors, including unacknowledge and unfelt emotions, experiences, memories, whether joyful, neutral or traumatic, and deep-seated beliefs which strongly determine the choices we make in our lives.

  3. ROTC #4: Where our ancestors’ experiences, memories and emotions link into and arise out of those of our clan, tribe, community, culture, nation, race, or group, depending on the societal and geographic understandings of identity and history. These two hold beliefs which strongly determine the choices we make both individually and collectively.

  4. ROTC #5:  Where our own experiences connect through the ancestral and group experience into the entirety of collective human experience through time.

  5. ROTC #6: Where our own and all human experience intersects and engages with the energetic matrices of the non-human realms:  plant, animal, and mineral kingdoms, planetary, solar, and lunar energies, powers of nature (wind, rain, thunder, snow, lightning, etc.), and of the ever-expanding, intricate, innumerable, and infinite manifestations in the universe (stars, solar systems, galaxies, and beyond).

  6. ROTC #7: Where all experience and manifestation is expressed in what Carl Jung called archetypal or mythic expressions, such as the Great Mother or Gaia represented across cultures in various forms and personas.

  7. ROTC #8: The realm of oneness in which all experience dissolves into pure light and energy.

In journeying into the subconscious, and entering into each of these rings, we can access memories, experiences, beliefs, and feelings from past lives. I like to add for those who are skeptical of reincarnation that we can work with whatever comes forward in our journeying and presents itself as a “past life” as arising out of the ROTCs #3, 4 or 5.  For instance, once I had an experience in an energy healing session of the death of a French Holy Warrior on a field of battle during the Crusades.  In terms of integrating this process into my present self, it could as easily have been a memory imprint in my consciousness from one of my blood ancestors (ROC #3). Or it could have been a story arising out of the collective memories of my ancestors who lived in that time period, but who were not themselves warriors ROC #4).  Or it could have arisen out of an experience in the deep wells of collective human experience (ROC #5).  It does not really matter how we view it through our cognition.  What matters is the energetic process of shamanic healing in which we have removed the life-depleting  imprint of the experience and retrieved its life-enhancing energy, meaning and untapped gift. For within every human experience, whether in the stream of DM or LM, there are always the seeds of life, love and power.

So it was that when the healing session was over, I rose from the table free from the physical and emotional pain I came with.  I stayed pain-free for many weeks afterwards. The gift, or life-enhancing energy from that experience was three-fold: 1) I  came away with an understanding of my chronic pain as a physical manifestation of a deep belief in my own “sinfulness” and irredeemability due to my own human illusions and mistakes; 2)  Through active engagement with the dying warrior on the healing table, I rose to the challenge to forgive him and, by extension, my self; 3) I faced death with presence and love and thus contributed to an innate  and developing power within me to be a compassionate witness to human suffering and mistakes–a quality which would serve me well in later years as a university teacher on the topics of violence and racism and as an energy healer.  The movement of and unhooking from the energetic constellation of this old story so deeply imbedded in the western, Christian worldview and thus rooted as a constellated energy in my own Luminous Body by virtue of being raised as a young child in the Episcopal Church and my ancestors themselves having a long roots in Protestant Christianity, enabled me to move forward from that day on with a greater sense of self-confidence, purpose and empowerment in my life. This would be an ongoing process over years of healing work which I discuss in depth in my shamanic memoir.

It is important to point out that the ROTCs I have mapped here do not constitute the totality of human consciousness, nor the totality of the holographic matrix within and beyond human experience and expression.  There are layers upon layers, dimensions upon dimensions beyond conceptualization and even imagination–beyond our human capacity to access, much less understand. This is the Great Mystery, as Native Americans express it.    These 8 ROTCs are simply the map of one energy stream or path within what is vast, complex, and mysterious.  Human beings can enter into this LUC with a variety of intentions and goals and travel along other pathways to find other domains of consciousness and experience.  So it is that a physicist could use journeying or some related version of accessing the LUC to find answers to his questions and hypotheses about the nature of reality.  I am sure there are maps which could be devised–have been followed–by human beings seeking to know things beyond what is consciously accessible. Albert Einstein himself inferred as much when he spoke about how he came to understand the theory of relativity.

The Soul Wound and the Rings of Trauma Consciousness

Shamanic writers describe the effects of a deep trauma as leaving a “soul wound”.  When we speak of the soul, we invoke the very wholeness of a person–his light, love and truth–a state of purity and connection within and outside oneself.  When our innate wholeness and light is invaded and left unrepaired, it leaves a gaping hole–and thus, a lack of wholeness–in us.  This is the very definition of trauma.  There is a profound loss which then continues to operate consciously and unconsciously within a person.

The simplest way to understand this is to imagine what would happen to a child who is sexually molested by her parent. A child is utterly dependent on the parent on every level–physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.  Children who have yet to be untouched by the troubles of our world have such a beautiful, joyful and light energy.

If a child is then invaded by a parent, her very wholeness and sense of connection to not only a safe and loving parent, but a safe and loving world is undermined.  In response, some essential part or parts of self would disappear.  What would be left could manifest in myriad ways in that child’s and then adult’s life: a lack of trust in her own body, in authority figures, in nurturing, and intimate physical connection, among others.  Coupled with this loss of trust would arise a conscious or unconscious belief about self and the world: “Better to not trust the body”, “I must give away my body in order to be loved”, “To be loved is shameful,” “I must shut down sexual feelings,” “I do not deserve to have my body boundaries respected,” and so on.  There are many possible permutations of belief which could arise out of an experience of incest.  These losses then manifest in life-depleting physical and emotional symptoms, as well as in persistently non-life-enhancing experiences. Here we see the symptoms of a soul wound–a profound loss of wholeness.

In the second blog of this series, I mentioned the research of Diane Russell into the lifelong impact of incest in women. She found that there is a shockingly high level of victims of child sexual abuse who then become victims of sexual assault later in life.  This is but one, more serious example of how a childhood soul loss might manifest in negative ways later in life.  In order to understand how and why this happens, we can reach to the concept of the soul and how it links into how the ROTC holds all experiences of incest.

The concept of the soul speaks to the dimension of our consciousness which holds within it everything described in the Rings of Trauma Consciousness. Our soul is the connective tissue between individual, personal experience and history to the ever-expanding matrix of the LUC from our blood ancestors to the entirety of the human community on outward to infinity and oneness. Every human being carries within himself both personal as well as collective history and experience. Therefore, a single act of incest in one boy’s life intersects in the matrix of the ROTC to every other person who has experienced incest within his own family and outward to the human family, as a whole. We can also assume that t