The Soul’s Journey – Understanding Trauma

March 16, 2022

It Began With a Wipe Out.

I am skiing on my own. I am feeling a bit fatigued from an intense powder day the day before. I decide to push myself a little, skiing a run called the Harmony Glades. The snow seems heavy. I make a mistake and topple over. It is not serious but then I am confronted by a series of complications. I try to push myself up but a combination of my limited upper body strength and my skis sliding down the hill causes me to fall back over. This is followed by the sounding of an unusual alarm.

Panic Sets In

I panic a little when realize it my Apple Watch. It wants to know if I am OK or it will call 911. How embarrassing would that be? I struggle to remove my ski gloves but manage to switch it off in time. Then realize the only way out of this dilemma is to take my skis off. With difficulty I click out of my bindings. I struggle to my feet, align my ski to the slope but it keeps slipping. I am becoming less centred and more flustered. Finally I get one on but the other won’t go. It is getting increasingly frustrating. I think I have been successful but as I push away the uphill ski drops off and I hit the snow again. I feel increased anxiety and tension. No one has skied by me and I seem entirely on my own. I notice there is ice built up under my front binding. I manage to chip it off with my ski pole. I try again and it seems to have engaged but feels unsafe and may drop off anytime. I try to ski with the weight only on one ski. Easier said than done. I feel so vulnerable. I begin to ski like a novice. After what seems like an hour I get out of my predicament and back on to groomed piste and down to the chairlift. I feel exhausted and only want to get down the hill except I have 5,000 vertical feet to go.

Understanding Traumatic Response

I was sharing this experience with my friend Trish Walsh, a psychotherapist who teaches trauma workshops and she was able to immediately demonstrate to me that I was suffering from all the classic symptoms of a traumatic experience. 

1) Fear – feeling a lack of safety.  

2) A feeling of being overwhelmed – helpless and/or powerless. 

3) A sense of disconnection  

4) I felt alone and not protected (not necessarily physically but psychologically/emotionally)  

She also told me that trauma could lead to leading a smaller more constricted life. This reminds me of a second traumatic incident when I found myself in a huge alpine bowl, in fog, unable to see, and falling every few minutes during an endless travail that lasted over an hour. I have not been able to face that run again despite conditions being dramatically improved.  

Gabor Mate, author of the book When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress writes that the Greek root meaning of trauma is ‘wound’. He says trauma is a ‘psychic wound’ that develops scar tissue, making us more rigid, less flexible, and less feeling.  

My response to my trauma was to evaluate how I got myself in that situation. My body was fatigued, I was pushing myself, so it reminded me to take care of my body when it’s tired or feeling discomfort. I have tended to push through which is of course old behaviour of a much younger me. It was time to take it easy.  

Healing Trauma

Talking about this with Trish really helped me understand my predicament. I realized that I did not need to avoid the ski run, I needed to use more discernment about when to ski it. I also found it particularly fascinating to realize my response at the time was from the trauma of the experience and that by acknowledging that possibility in the moment it could help me deal with it in a more accomplished and less fearful manner. 

Postscript: Responding to this post Trish commented, “I like at the end you add “talking about it” – that’s one of the most important components of trauma healing. (sharing with another caring, attuned person).”   

Trish Walsh is a Registered Master Therapeutic Counsellor, her website at https://trishwalsh.ca She offers regular workshops on Trauma Training.


The Soul’s Journey – Holding The Centre When Organizing Meetings for a Spiritual Community.

March 8, 2022

A Dedication to All Those Wonderful, Selfless Souls Who Organize Events for a Spiritual Community.

Recently I came across a presentation I made in 2014 at the closure of a gathering I organized for ninety-five people. It struck me it was quite amusing so I sent it to a friend. A day or so later a mutual acquaintance she had shared it with wrote to me commenting “it was so true that it brought tears to my eyes. It can be exhausting! I am evaluating what I have the strength to continue doing at this point in my life.” I realized I was not alone in what had seemed a lonely journey. So this is for all of you who embrace the challenge of organizing meetings in a spiritual context.

Organization Skills and Efficiency Will Not be Enough

If I say so myself I am a fine organizer, administrator and financial manager. At first I saw my primary role as managing financial concerns, organizing a venue, accommodation, food, registration and collecting money. I also helped design the program, coordinate speakers, and negotiate terms. I knew I could handle this with ease. What I did not realize was the human side of the event that could drive one to drink.

Fortunately I had a dream that warned me of what would come. I have to deal with a “disorganized jumble of personal possessions and dirty laundry that I do not want to even touch” I realized this represented the human interaction, the aggravation, the frustration, the procrastination, the confusion and all of the stuff that makes up life when you are trying to organize 95 people and get them to pay you. NB never allow anyone to pay by instalments, I did and it was a nightmare!

Spiritual Communities Are Like A Family

At one point I was sharing with the teacher of our community some experiences and he looked calmly at me and said “I think you are being given an opportunity to experience parenting.” The community was my family but what a challenging family it proved to be.

Like many other families most people are eager to please, want to do the right thing, but despite best intentions things don’t always work out. Just like in a family people like to blame someone else. For example “Its not my fault I am late, you should have given us more notice.” “Why didn’t you make the deadline two days later?’

Typologies In The Family

I began to identify a number of different typologies that frequent a spiritual community. Some people fitted into more than one category. Here are some of the types I learned to work with.

The Technophobe

This seemed to a high proportion of the group – words like Survey Monkey, PayPal, Google, MailChimp run shivers down their backs. While trying to complete a simple registration form many people were convinced they had failed. So they tried to register again, sometimes bypassing the protocol to avoid this by using a second computer. So now I had to deal with duplicates. Many had to bombard me with their experience adding to my work.

The Scatterbrained

So many people cannot make up their mind, change their mind, disappear – three people registered and I could never contact them again. One canceled, booked, canceled, then wanted money back that they hadn’t paid.

The Self-Entitled

A number of people seemed to think I was their personal travel agent giving me instructions to “wait list me for a single, book me a double plus find me a room in nearest town just in case”

The Dyslectic

Some people gave me a wrong email address then complained when they did not hear back. Then there were checks with no signature or amount. Then of course the complaints of “I am sure I paid you.”

The Attention, Deficit Disorder.

Sadly I think most people did not have the ability to read to the end of an email. Literally I would get a question back immediately that I just answered in the email or being asked when they needed to pay when a schedule was attached.

The Dysfunctional Couple

There were a few of these! It shows up by both booking, neither booking or in one case the wife booked and her husband cancelled her credit card payment.

The Anxiety Stricken

These need constant reassurance – have I booked? Have a I paid? Am I registered? When I sent out a notice saying by now I should have received your payment the only people I heard from were those who had already paid, checking to make sure.

Waiting For a Sign

Some people seemed paralysed by indecision because they were waiting for the right sign or omen. This was most irritating as it was my reflection in the mirror. I tend to live my life seeking the sign or guidance. It works well until it impacts someone else. I got a glimpse of how infuriating I must be.

Holding The Centre

The dream was a continual source of support reminding me that this was just more dirty laundry. However I needed to find tools to help me stay centered and not overreact. I tried to remember Juan Manuel Ruiz’s simple formula – “don’t take it personally, don’t make assumptions, do your best and be impeccable to your word” and I took a lot of long walks to recite poetry and mantras. In addition I found music a great solace. Becoming centred helped me rephrase my responses to be a little more considerate and less pointed despite being tempted to launch a tirade: “there is one of me and 95 of you, do you really think I have time to answer your inane, stupid, unnecessary questions?”

Coming back For More

I organized four gatherings of my community. It became an act of service and gratitude. They did not get easier in fact became more complex as we expanded and held gatherings in Assisi, and Oaxaca in Mexico. The finale was supposed to be Assisi in 2020 but we had to cancel due to Covid. It was planned to be my swansong as I had decided to retire from these events. Now my final act was the undoing. Yet in hindsight it was all worth while. What will stay with me is the warm sense of appreciation and expressions of gratitude for a job well done. A quote springs to mind from my Christian studies, in Timothy 4v7, St Paul says: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. It feels like a lovely completion.