By Marta Czajkowska
If your trauma is bugging you, that means that you are ready to transform it.
Many of our deepest wounds are not our own. They come from a time before us. To acknowledge and touch these parts of us can be extremely healing. Here is good news: If your trauma is bugging you, that means that you are ready to transform it.
We all have our emotional, physical, individual, collective and ancestral traumas. Unless we face them, and heal them through our body, we often resort to coping mechanisms such as rage, denial, addiction, numbing, depression or anxiety. A Scottish proverb says: “You ask about my drinking, but not about my thirst. “ Many of my Polish ancestors coped by quenching their thirst with fire water. It’s the best that they were able to do. I’ll share mine with you, as well as a helpful recording at the end of my Tip from the loving kindness monk Thich Nhat Hahn.
For me the Russian Ukrainian war has brought out many old ancestral wounds, some of them known to me from stories, some never even brought up to the surface of my conscious mind. My grandparents’ childhoods took place during the German occupation of Poland in WWII. My 17-year-old grandma walked 300 miles alone in the winter to retrieve all the families’ money from an apartment in Warsaw during air bombing. My great uncle was on a child fire brigade, literally putting out fires on city rooftops with sand bags, at 12 yrs old. Spying was rampant, and we Polish people never knew for sure whom we could trust. All these ancestral stories continue to echo through me.
When Russia invaded Ukraine, just as the Germans (and many others before them) had long ago invaded Poland, I started experiencing feelings of being unsafe, vigilant, and waking up at night troubled. Reading the news and shaking. Crying while looking at photos of Ukrainian children.
Yes, these are healthy, appropriate human feelings, yet I knew I was coming upon an old story from before I was born, passed to me via DNA and the cultural climate I grew up in. As hard as it felt, I had the awareness that it was surfacing now so that I could untangle it. How, I didn’t yet know.
When the symptoms of ancestral trauma first show up, they seem unsolvable. The emotionality that they elicit shuts down any kind of possible creative solution. So, the first order of healing for me is to get myself into an open, creative, loving, welcoming state.
As a generative life coach, I help others through this kind of stuff, and with this bout of ancestral trauma I got to really ‘walk my talk’. I was feeling very dragged down by the war, powerless, depressed. And I cannot help others unless I first help myself. My primary question became “How do I honor my ancestors’ pain and suffering while also living my best, and most vibrant life?” Unable to answer this question myself, I started having some conversations with my ancestors, (as represented or embodied by modern Ukrainian people.)
I went wondering and wandering in Nature, asking the trees and the clouds. I tuned into my intuition, I meditated. I listened to my body sensations, looking for the felt sense of it all. What’s beneath the fear? What’s beneath the terror? The answer, as answers often do, showed itself to me, crystal clear:
Do not forget about us. Go be your most amazing self, be limitless, be happy, and all the while remember us. As long as we are part of your journey, as long as we get to come along, you have done your work well.
I had also started feeling a tightness in my jaw, my lower teeth squeezing together. When I went in for a somatic experiencing treatment, a memory came to me of being kicked in the face, in some dark basement somewhere. Not sure whose memory it actually was, other than not mine in this lifetime. A release came as they often do, through the body. I got ice cold and shook violently on the massage table. And then the shaking, together with the jaw pain, was gone.
The first step to healing our trauma is to acknowledge it. To really see the full landscape of disaster. Only then can we bring love, safety, compassion and understanding.
Awakening to our ancestral trauma can be painful. Yet it is surfacing for us because it’s time. This trauma covers a vein of gold, ready for us to find and mine with our energy and our resilience. When we bring it to awareness and meet it with love, its golden gifts will be ours to use.
I invite you to contemplate what has been transmitted to you by your blood ancestors and spiritual ancestors. Through this practice you can transform the pain into veins of gold and celebrate the gifts you unearth.
Here is a meditative exercise called Touching the Earth from the late Thich Nhat Hahn, with deep bells and read aloud by him in his wise voice with its gentle strength. You can do this exercise on your own to connect with the “ energy of insight, of love and of experiences” transmitted by your ancestors. Please allow 20 minutes of uninterrupted time and sit upright or walk in nature as you listen.
“I said: what about my eyes?
He said: Keep them on the road.
I said: What about my passion?
He said: Keep it burning.
I said: What about my heart?
He said: Tell me what you hold inside it?
I said: Pain and sorrow.
He said: Stay with it.
The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
Read more about Marta’s story here:
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This post is also available in: 日本語 (Japanese)