Trauma Induced Spiritual Awakenings


Trauma or the pain of confronting unexpected radical changes is the bitter medicine of our current day and age.  It requires us to continually grow and evolve–to find the Source of Creativity that supports inner stability amidst an ever changing, unpredictable external landscape of unexpected challenges.
I found myself challenged today by unexpected changes while composing and editing this blog.  I am ‘on the road’ traveling right now.  I stopped and settled into a hotel with the intent to write. . . Suddenly I discovered I have no computer access.  The hotel’s business centre’s one lonely computer is also not giving me the ‘access’ I need.  With frustration mounting. . . And after a few deep breaths. . . I decided to type this blog post with my thumbs on my ‘Smartphone’.

Adapting to change is only part of the story.

The bigger questions arise when we are confronted with changes so deep, so radical that we are truly required to stop and do some serious soul-searching.  Then, Life’s tragedies have the power to initiate something that I call a ‘Trauma Induced Spiritual Awakening’.

How do you cope with the stress of unexpected changes–the small ones, like no computer access, and the big ones that shatter your world?  Personal disasters like abuse, neglect, or a life threatening health crisis and loss?. . . Or political betrayals and economic or environmental disasters?  This is the stuff of a breakdown that may lead to a breakthrough, what I call a ‘trauma induced spiritual awakening’.

The idea of ‘Awakening’ to our ‘True Self’ through soul tests and challenges is not a new concept at all.  Ancient and indigenous cultures talk about these kinds of experiences as ‘sacred rites of passage’  Psychology describes it as post traumatic growth (PTG).  I think of it as a psychic and spiritual awakening that leads to greater embodied awareness.

I will be talking about this more in my next FACEBOOK LIVE Chat on Wednesday September 28 at 11:00 pacific time / 2:00 Eastern. . . and I hope you can join me, and share your thoughts, questions and comments and questions in real time with our international community.

Maybe you would like to share a bit about how the school of hard knocks has been a valuable spiritual teacher for you?  I’d love to hear. . .

Being ‘Awake’ While Dying

The ancient mystery teachings suggest that there are two ways by which we die—the death of the body and the death of the soul—and the greater mystery is the death of the soul—how we Awaken after a psychic death, while we are still alive in our body.

Death of the body, it is said, is the lesser mystery. . . We cannot help but Awaken to our spiritual nature—to finally realize that there IS more to life than just material reality. . .Sometimes it is easier to realize this after we are released from our physical body with all its appetites and attachments.


I had originally intended to share with you in this blog, my learnings about “Trauma Induced Spiritual Awakenings” as an example of this mystery of psychic death and spiritual renewal. . .

However, in light of my last 10 days, I would like to share some of my own Awakenings while witnessing Marg’s dying—her showing me and others how to be ‘Awake’ while she was dying. . .

No one, of course, can predict ‘when’ someone will depart from this world any more than we can predict when a spirit enters our world as a baby at the time of birth.  On Thursday, Marg told Ann, “I am tired of dying”.  Although I did not know when, I knew it would not be long. . . . at 11:00 pm on Thursday night, Marg’s pain apparently began to increase to the degree that the nursing staff gave her Ativan and morphine on Thursday night.  After my blog went out, I received an email that our friend had died that day (Friday), attended by her friend Margarita, who stayed with her throughout the night.

Our North American culture seems to have forgotten how to usher loved ones into the other world, and so I am sharing here with you some of what I did while I was with Marg during her final days.  I am not listing everything, because it would make this post too long. . . though I know there are many, many traditions that have not forgotten. . . and I invite you to consider how you might help yourself and others when the time and opportunity comes upon you.

I recall a teaching from the Dalai Lama, who suggested that we can assist someone when they are dying to have a good birth next lifetime by helping them clear their mind as they transition.  He recommended the use of prayer, chanting and ritual.  I went to visit my friend with that intent; and I feel honoured that Marg gave me permission to chant to her during some of her very last days here on earth.

Every evening that I was with Marg, in between our brief conversations and giving her sips of water or attending to other needs, I asked for permission from Marg to chant to her.  Once permission was granted, I performed various transition rituals.

The chanting seemed to soothe Marg, like a lullaby soothes us when we are young—like chanting Om mani padme hum for a few hours.  Sometimes I was drawn to chant the Sikh Kirtan kriya SA-TA-NA-MA (which translates as ‘Infinity-Life-Death-Rebirth.)  Or I would usher her to sleep with Dream Yoga chants to seed the deep knowing of how to ‘Awaken’ in her dreams.


I also felt moved to chant the Hebrew prayer called the Shema. .  .“Listen”.  When I was 12 years old, I was taught to recite this prayer on my deathbed. . . so, I was told, “our final thought in this world is remembering our Oneness with the Creator and all of creation.”  I frequently followed the Shema with chanting the  13 attributes of the Eternal, a prayer that is chanted on the holiest day of the year. . . before we enter the ‘holy of holies.’

Adonai, Adonai, El rakhum v’khanun, erekh apai-yim v’rav khesed v’emet. No-tzayr khesed la-a-lafim, nosay avon vafesha v’khata’a v’nakay.

Yod-Hey-Vav-hay, Compassion and Tenderness, Patience, Forbearance, Kindness, Awareness.  Bearing love from age to age, lifting guilt and mistakes and making us free.              

(Transliteration and translation, from the Aquarian Minyan Makhzor)

Once, when I chanted the 13 attributes of the Eternal, Marg opened her eyes. With her 80 year old eyes full of sparks of love, she beamed her toothless smile at me as I continued chanting; both of us gazing at each other for some time while I was chanting. . . And I suddenly realized. . . “Marg is emanating each of the 13 attributes of the Eternal. . .

. . . She is looking at me with. . .

. . . Compassion. . . Tenderness. . . Patience. . . Forbearance. . . Kindness. . . Awareness. . . unconditional Love. . . carried forward from Age to Age. . .”  I saw her as completely released from guilt and mistakes. . . she was already Free in that moment.

I felt liberated too. . . I experienced the Eternal. . . within her. . . within me. . . And, when passing the Nursing station I saw the Eternal in each of us. . . within and beyond the stories of our lives.

As I walked from the Hospice to my car at 1:00 am in the warm, Texas summer’s night’s air. . . I experienced the Eternal within the trees, and night’s sky. . . and all of existence.


In essence we are all free.  Though we live in a world of forgetfulness, we have within us this ability to remember our essential nature.

Before leaving Marg for the last time, the final ritual I performed, I invited Marg and Ann to join me in a traditional forgiveness ceremony. Marg’s last words to me as I left her room on my way to the airport were, “I love you.”

And although I may forget from time to time Marg’s final teachings while I live amidst and within the paradoxes of our ordinary world, I will also remember—and I will remember her. She remains with me in the secret chambers of the heart where souls touch and embrace in eternal-love-age-after-age.

Teachings from the Edge of Life, Death and Beyond

In the midst of all of this birth in my life—birth of my online course, birth of my FACEBOOK LIVE Chats, the start of a new season of Supervision, and interviews for the 2017 Embodied Awareness 13 month program, I received news of the imminent death of a dear friend and spiritual family member. This moved what I teach about death and rebirth to a very intimate and deep personal level. I am compelled to share with you some of my learning’s from the time I have spent with Marg, through excerpts from my journal and emails to friends:


“Interesting what brings us together”. . . Marg said these words to me when I first walked into her hospice room in Austin, Texas. Labor Day weekend I heard from friends that our friend Ann was with Marg, who had been transferred from hospital to hospice.  I felt moved to be with Marg.  Marg, Ann and I were part of a community of about 15 others who, in the early 1980s, all studied together with Angeles Arrien  one weekend a month for four years.  (As a side note, Angeles was called ‘Angie’ back then, and in the mid 80’s asked us to call her Angeles instead.)

for-sept-16-16-blogIt is all interesting—what brought us together 35 years ago, when our souls were seeded with insights from ‘Angie’, and fertilized in each other’s company over the years…To witness how we have all taken root…and how Spirit has flowered in our lives.  How we have added blessings not only to each other—but to so many others…as each of us continues to engage in the Great Work, each in our own way—and as Marg is now teaching us. . . in the end, it is truly all about love, acceptance and trust.

When Marg was hospitalized a few weeks ago, Ann flew in from Northern California to be with her.  Ann has been a steady presence every day from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm. Ann stayed until 10:30 pm to greet me the evening I arrived from the airport.  Ann mentioned that while she was in Hospital Marg said, “My inner spirituality has never let me down”.  Though Marg seemed to have forgotten saying that (when Ann mentioned it for my benefit), as soon as I looked into her eyes—in spite of her body being riddled with metastasized cancer, tumors visibly bulging beneath the surface of her skin—it was obvious.

None-the-less, Marg is in a state of acceptance instead of fear. Receptivity instead of resistance or trepidation. Peace and surrender to “what is”.

And when she connects with friends and family, Marg’s spirit flickers ‘all there’—lighting up the room with a magnificent toothless grin and the flame of love shining through her 80 year old eyes…

The first day I was with her, someone said to her, “You look uncomfortable” (as they were about to call for a nurse).

Marg simply said “So what. . .”

I chuckled. “That is a great attitude Marg!” I replied.  She looked me straight in the eye, smiled, and said “Thank you.”  A model of acceptance and surrender to “what is” without getting lost in it!  Be ‘in the world, not of it.’

. . . And other times, Marg asked for medication.  There was/is no one ‘right’ way.

On Labor Day, she had many, many visitors, of family and friends and she rallied to say hello to everyone.  The family shared stories.  There was no conflict.  No rivalry.  Lots of humor, generosity and love amidst some tears.

Ann also read to Marg many beautiful emails from so many friends from around the world that day.  Apparently, Marg was the US Representative at several International Semiconductor Policy Conferences.  She made many friends around the world, especially in Japan where the conferences were held. The people she worked with ‘across the pond’ on her trips to Asia deeply respected Marg and expressed so much love and gratitude for her for being their teacher, mentor and guide.

I know I am here learning one-last-lesson from my friend—a lesson in how to live with dying and die without fear.

As a side bar—during our studies with Angeles, ‘Angie’ shared many native Basque cultural teachings with us.  She also shared an ancient numerology method together with images from Tarot Cards to understand our soul’s destiny. Marg’s numerology added up to a 5. This correlated with Tarot Key V, and made Marg a Hierophant—“a teacher and consultant.”  On the surface Marg was a computer geek. However, she was also a poet, painter, philosopher and storyteller…A teacher and guide sharing sacred stories with anyone who asked questions or had ears to listen…clearly.  Marg lived a life that fulfilled her Hierophant soul’s destiny—Who could ask for more?

My First Facebook LIVE Chat… Amazing, Fulfilling, Enlightening…

As many of you know, last Wednesday (August 31) I held my first Facebook LIVE Chat.  It was a wonderful hour of engagement and sharing.  Most wonderful for me was the participation both during and after–being able to connect with local and far-flung friends in real time on the Chat and through comments after the Chat ended.  The response was more than I ever expected and still leaves me in awe.

After sharing some of my story for about 20 or 25 minutes, I took questions from my audience.  In this week’s blog, I would like to share with you one of those questions, and my response to it.

Embodied Awareness image

Question: How does this approach (of using Embodied Awareness in our daily lives) differ from others – what makes it unique?

{BH} All right.  So one of the things I think is fascinating today is there is a lot of talk about mindfulness–Mindfulness is a method for awareness meditation.  The difference with embodied awareness is it is about the integration of our awareness into our bodies.  We use our bodies as receiving stations for guidance from inner resources as well as outer resources (receiving input through our senses).  This allows that creative source within us to synthesize all of the information.  Then, when we ask for and receive inner guidance we can receive insights on how to take our next step in a way that is in harmony with ourselves, with our environment, with other people and with that Great mystery, we call the Creator.

How do all of those things come together?

Embodied awareness in many ways is a bit of a different approach, it’s similar to what I talk about in my Spiritually Directed Therapy programs.  There are five steps in spiritually directed therapy—embodied awareness is the core:

The first step is to connect within, connect with yourself and your inner spiritual resources to gain guidance and wisdom.

Nextobserve and witness your experiences, your reactions, thoughts or interpretations of your experiences—that’s where mindfulness comes.

This is followed by deep listening—listening to ourselves and others with the ears of our heart, to listen with your whole body, heart and soul–and share your feelings with yourself and others.

Then we also engage our intuition and our creativity through embodied awareness.  We expand into our capacity to see, to hear, smell, taste, touch—as well as being aware of our gut responses on an energy level, our heart and emotional, telepathic transmissions.  We also get clairaudient signals, like our capacity to read intentions.  We open our inner eye through symbolic awareness, visions, dreams; and, this awakens spiritual discernment–the awareness of “how we really know what’s true”.  Our intuition, or intuitive awareness, puts it all together by perceiving the greater pattern. That’s why I think of ‘intuition’ as a pattern recognition ‘function’ that then ultimately brings us into full realization of who and what we truly are—spiritual beings, which is also known as Self-realization—So that’s what embodied awareness is about

The final step is to embody that Self awareness.  Ask your Self for guidance “what do you do now?” and commit to take action, to bring your gifts into the world.  So that’s what I would say is unique about this.