Spiritual Trauma and Redeeming of Soul
With Sharon Stanley
June 21 - 26, 2019
Spiritual trauma represents violations that inflict complex suffering that research has called “soul wounds” and “soul murder.” Clergy sexual misconduct and abuses by spiritual communities and religious organizations are especially involved in profound losses of spiritual safety, connection, trust and self-acceptance.
With trauma, the continuity of life is shattered, the world falls apart. The result is a dissociation and disconnection from the natural world of the body, the environment and the universe.
We are called to spiritual wisdom as much as we are called to emotional maturity. We are each asked to live a vision of grace and power and interpret spiritual wisdom into our subjective lives. It is this knowing of our innate interconnectivity to life that is severed by spiritual trauma.
Early developmental trauma can leave people disconnected from the spiritual core of their soul life, enabling the transference that allows spiritual leaders to carry the connection to innate wisdom on our behalf. The woundedness of some spiritual leaders, resulting from their fragmented unconscious core, results in dissociated practices of authoritarian, and patriarchal abuse. The sense of connection and safety in the world is further diminished by separation and shunning from community and congregational life.
When a trauma involves spiritual and religious resources and coping strategies, individuals can be left with long-term injuries that affect every part of their lives and may be passed down to future generations.
Spiritual injuries result in a loss of embodiment, emotional connectivity with self and others and profound shift in the function of the brain and nervous system. Following severe spiritual trauma, an individual’s autonomic nervous system descends into states of hypo-arousal where powerlessness becomes fused with states of immobility and hopelessness. This fusion operates on an unconscious, bodily-based level and fuels multiple defenses to survive, including complying with or resisting authority, withdrawal from connectivity, loss of innate identity and depletion of life force and vitality
Spirituality invests light into life. Particularly the light of knowledge, to know what is real and what is unreal and that existence has meaning. To exist means to be alive and allow our bodies to hum with vitality and connection.
This five-day program is for therapists, counsellors, social workers and others who find themselves working in the helping professions. It is designed to assist helping professionals address the wounds and deadness of spiritual trauma in themselves, others and in religious and spiritual communities. We will identify the effects of spiritual trauma on the inner life including the body, emotions, and archetypal connectivity as well as the power of spiritual trauma to interrupt multiple interpersonal relationships and abruptly terminate a person’s social engagement network. Our primary focus will be on the principles and practice to repair and reconnect with the sacred, and create new bridges into relationships and community. Hope for healing longs for a light in the darkness, renewal and a return to an intimacy of connection with life.
Movement, being held and seen in community, and contemplation are the work that brings the internal world and external world into alignment so that life can flow, once again, between and within.
For those of you maintaining busy practices, this retreat represents an opportunity to combine rich professional learning with a space for personal renewal and wellness. Mountain Waters offers you a beautiful nature based setting for this course, where you can do morning yoga, walk on forest trails, eat delicious healthy meals, receive a massage, and take care of your wellbeing in a good way.
This retreat course is also available to participants from the Nelson Area who choose to commute to Mountain Waters on a daily basis. “Course only” price is $800 CAD. This includes lunch on all course days. For participants who are attending this retreat from the United States we ask that you pay the tuition part of the the retreat cost ($800) in the US dollar amount.
We will begin with an orientation to universal energies of nature in the environment. The mountains, water, gardens and hospitality of Mountain Waters’ Retreat Centre provides a nurturing space for this journey of reconciliation and re-connection with the sacred. Practices of embodied meditation, movement and somatic awareness will assist us in a gentle process of healing. As we engage in relationship, we will enter into a dialogue regarding spiritual trauma and the challenges and possibilities it creates as we turn toward healing.
Our focus for healing spiritual trauma will be on the repair and reconciliation of cellular, bodily-based states of chronic defenae reactions that keep us in a loop of perceived danger and life threat. We will focus on a holistic frame of healing that incorporates the wisdom of contemporary neuroscience with ancient wisdom. Of particular interest will be the contemporary teachings of the polyvagal nervous system, developmental neuroscience and cellular biology. Integrated with ancient wisdom and relational and body-centered practices, we will move toward shifting chronic defense reactions with safety, connection, renewed energy, vitality and soul healing. We will close with a return to embodied awareness and movement.
Strengthening our embodied connectivity with nature, we will turn inside to attend to our own inner nature, our felt sense and somatic awareness of inner cues of distress, activation and immobility. We will identify spiritual struggles that disrupt our orientation to the world, our beliefs, practices and relationships. These disturbances include relationship with the Divine and sacred, internal doubts, tensions within family, friend and congregations and self. We will explore the role of blame and shame, physical health, emotional dis-regulation and the label of being “evil”.
Practices of somatic empathy, an embodied form of connectivity to self and others, will be developed. The practice of “bearing witness” will be explored where we can accept and receive the pain of others without losing our own sense of well-being. The day will close with access to spiritual coping mechanisms.
Continuing to build new spiritual relationships within our inner realms and in the larger world, we will explore a number of relational, body-based practices for healing spiritual trauma and specific interventions. We will continue to practice “bearing witness” to each other with empathy and compassion and look for new emerging unconscious spiritual resources.
We will engage in forms of somatic inquiry into symptoms, resources and relationships. Interventions will include those oriented to bodily-based regulation of autonomic nervous system and the nurturing of the mitochondria of the cell through body-based interventions, and interventions with imagery, dreams and symbols that restore connectivity to the whole.
We will deepen into spiritual resources of dreams, imagery and symbols that bring a bodily-based sense of connection and explore processes of forgiveness, apology, restitution and “truth and reconciliation”.
Practices of observant witness, reflection and meaning making will be used to integrate the concepts and experiences of participants.
Experiences in the retreat involve embodied meditations, expansion of somatic awareness, practices of bodily-based empathy, dialogue, embodied witnessing, interventions and reflection.