Will a Silent Retreat bring up all my trauma? Nov 2023

This is the 2nd of my articles on our Silent Yoga Retreat coming up soon on the 22/3/24 – 24/3/24 in Springbrook, QLD. 
When I started teaching yoga there were a couple of profound teachers that influenced my path. Jack Kornfield, one of Americas first Buddhist monks, talked about how on his first training at a Buddhist silent retreat in Asia in the 1960s, the Buddhist teachers were horrified at the amount of grief and trauma that the Western students carried. This trauma came up in a 10-day Vipassana silent retreat. Jacks father was a violent man, physically abusive to Jack, his brothers, and Jack’s mum. The scars from a childhood, witnessing terrible violence, left a big burden of trauma on Jack and on this first training retreat all this grief and horror, which he had buttoned up so carefully for years, came to the surface. This legacy of childhood trauma was alien to Jacks teachers, it was not common in their culture. The gift of Jack’s insights into the trauma burden he carried from his childhood was that he became the deeply insightful, kind, empathic Buddhist teacher he is today.

There is no person on this earth who does not carry a huge burden of trauma. The 20th century saw two world wars, genocides, massacres, civil wars as well as famines, droughts, and human exploitation. We all have parents and grandparents who fought and survived these world wars, many of us were born into countries in civil war, some people might have escaped regimes of dictatorships and horrific human rights abuses. This intergenerational trauma, together with trauma experienced from dysfunctional childhoods, school systems and workplaces, leave every one of us with this large trauma burden to carry around.

So, if we are all traumatised, what would any respectable yoga teacher do? Specialise in Trauma Informed and Emotionally Resilient Yoga! And we all, at some stage, have to ask whether we will deal with our trauma burden in this lifetime. Maybe now, maybe leave it till we are on our deathbed or facing a huge personal crisis. Its a personal choice. I’m a big fan of releasing my trauma legacy in this life so my daughters do not carry the scars of that trauma and pass it on to their children.  

So how is this Retreat NOT going to re-traumatise us? Well firstly, keep it in perspective. Its only 2 days, not the 10 days of a traditional Vipassana retreat. Also, it’s a Yoga Silent Meditation Retreat: yoga, breathwork, meditation, in Silence. All our favourite things to do, together, in love and in silence.

How do we keep anchored on yoga retreat? On every retreat I create a really safe space for our nervous systems. I hold this space for all of us for the full 2 days. And its called ‘’holding space’’. Your nervous systems entrain to my nervous system and if I am holding a rock solid, loving, calm energy, your nervous system is reassured that this space is OK. Then, in the yoga classes your will be taught somatic experiencing. Using movement, acupressure points and breathwork to calm your nervous system and teach you to create your own safe container, convincing your unconscious self that all is well. Finally, our yoga, our breathwork and our guided meditations will use the principles of titration and pendulation. Titration is a process in which we experience small levels of discomfort at a time, with the focus being to release, and “discharge” the tension from the body. Pendulation is when you pendulate your focus between stressful content and something completely non-stress related (calming/soothing content). You may do this by focusing on a stressful sensation that comes up when you begin processing something important. You then slowly oscillate to a resource such as the trust you have in a relationship in your life, or a belief that is reassuring to you. Oscillating through the two helps the body slowly tap-into and then release, at a balanced pace. Using these principles, you dictate the pace of how much of that inside stuff you want to deal with in any one moment. We do this unconsciously in a good yoga class.

Given the varieties of the human psyche, the fact that differences in genetics and life experiences can result in so many different psychological traits, complexes, and challenges, there will never be a one-size-fits-all approach to healing and spiritual growth. But in silence, once we turn off the initial inner voices and allow the mind, who is busy shuffling through an endless to-do list, anxious, worrying, ruminating over regrets of the past, to slow down, YOU will start to slow. Your thoughts will become more spacious and easier to dismiss, and you will begin to settle into a peaceful place of simply being. Becoming present, it’s the only way to be.
From Amrit Ray: “If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” I cant wait to Retreat in Silence with all of you! Love and namaste Margot

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