Trauma As a Doorway to Spirit

From White Racial Shame to Empathy for People of Color Part II
July 5, 2013
“Finding Home in Your Bones” Videos with Dr. Vanissar Tarakali
September 3, 2013

Can trauma be a doorway to Spirit?

Peter Levine thinks so. He writes in his book, In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness,

“Trauma represents a profound compression of “survival” energy…these same energies…can also open to feelings of heightened focus, ecstasy and bliss…it appears that the very brain structures central to resolution of trauma are also pivotal in various mystical and spiritual states.”

Levine also connects kundalini awakening with trauma:

“In trauma, a similar (to kundalini) activation is provoked, but so intensely and quickly that it overwhelms the organism.”

For me, trauma and spiritual awakening have been two sides of the same coin.

Childhood trauma forced me to dissociate from the deathly assaults on my body and turn my focus to communing with the stars, the wind, trees, animals, and the unseen Divine. This continual childhood practice of dissociation and spiritual wandering likely set the stage for the kundalini awakening I experienced in my twenties.

That same awakening eventually unearthed my long-buried memories of child sexual abuse.

Barbara Harris writes in her book, Spiritual Awakenings: A Guide for Experiencers and Those Who Care for Them,

“Children exposed to physical violence, sexual abuse, neglect or other mistreatment or trauma learn to dissociate. They tune out this painful reality and then can tune into other nonsensory realities where they feel safe…allow(ing) absorption into alternate, nonordinary realities.”

Harris believes this practice of childhood dissociation instills the adult capacity to become easily absorbed in altered states and mystical experiences.

Trauma can be a spiritual opportunity. A gift.

However, as Peter Levine notes,

“Mystical experiences that are not experienced in the body just don’t “stick”; they are not grounded.“

My own experience confirms this. I was not able to embody the mystical realizations of my twenties. I was too terrified of the trauma-sensation landmines to be able to stay present with my body.

It is only recently, after twenty years of hard work—trauma healing work–that I am beginning to bring some of these realizations into my habitual behaviors.

Through steady meditative and somatic practices, these mystical insights are gradually being integrated into my daily life, and incarnated into the cells and tissues of this body.

My body is teaching me that authentic spirituality is embodied.

Spirit wants us to dwell in the here and now of stubbed toes and kisses, money and dishes, kind strangers and unjust social systems.

Anam Thubten reminds us to

“Love life, and love it with all its messiness. Life is both beautiful and messy.”

Healing trauma also unfolds in the body; healing is also beautiful and messy. May we all heal into an ever-deepening relationship with Spirit.



Arching Backward by Janet Adler

The Experience of No-Self by Bernadette Roberts

Kundalini: the Evolutionary Energy in Man by Gopi Krishna

Daughter of Fire by Irina Tweedie

Hidden Treasure: Jesus’s Message of Transformation by F. Aster Barnwell

Resource Books

Energies of Transformation by Bonnie Greenwell

Spiritual Awakenings: A Guide for Experiencers and Those Who Care for Them by Barbara Harris

The Stormy Search for the Self by S. Grof & C. Grof

A Sourcebook for Helping People with Spiritual Problems by Emma Bragdon

The Black Butterfly by Richard Moss

**If you enjoyed this article, check out the Navigating Spiritual Awakenings Workshop in Oakland, CA on August 27:


  1. Lauren says:


    Thank you for this post! I appreciate your courage to write about your experience, contemplation about your experience, and your ability to articulate it. I went through a traumatic event at work where I perceived my life and others were in danger. I worked with at-risk youth and a mentally ill kid pulled out a knife when I was working with him. Shortly after that time, I had this crazy energy that felt like a high and “survival” energy was how it felt. I felt enlightened. But I was making anxious decisions. Unfortunately, I made decisions that have led to regret. That energy changed the way I saw life and the people around me. I have begun to reach peace, relax, and calmly reflect on the sequence of events that may or may not have stemmed from this trauma and the feelings that followed.

    Thank you again for putting this into words that give it a name and to know that it happens to others. The integration of the energy to feeling grounded is powerful, and definitely feels like a spirituality I had never known until now. Life has become messy, yet the insights and depth of life I now understand are beautiful. Again, well said.

    I wish you the best in your healing and meditation to reach peace. You deserve it. Your work is valuable.

    Lauren 🙂

  2. A. S. says:

    Is it possible to contact you via email?

    Long story short: I’m a 31 year old male and last year after my mother died I entered a deep depression which led me to Christian based worship and meditation which then led me to reliving childhood sexual trauma that I never knew happened. I spent all of 2015 either in a wonderful mystical state or a horrible one. The things I’ve experienced excite me so much that when I convey them I end up writing literal 10,000-30,000 word essays on my experiences, what they meant, as well as my confusion.

    One of the hard things for me is I come from a Christian background. It’s not just the religion I was raised into but at age 19 I had three separate spiritual/mystical experiences with Jesus/Holy Spirit that were definitely much different then whatever this kundalini thing is. (The experiences were the Christian “born again” experience, praying in tongues, and hearing the internal audible voice of God (which never happened again).

    I had many hundreds of mystical experiences that were of a lower level then when everything happened last year.

    So my biggest confusion is I’ve been into Christian worship and certain Christian ministries and their view is that kundalini is demonic. What I experienced seemed like it was a bit of everything. One specific week when trauma was being released from my spleen I spent 6-8 hours in a state of pure joy and bliss to where all I could do was laugh and splash water in the bathtub (literally that long) as this energy was released. During this time it was as if I was experiencing God like I was a newborn baby (I had a couple of infant/toddler memories during this time). I could also exhale my breath completely for several minutes without the need to breathe at all. Like I could even still talk. Anyway, my point is that during these experiences my “spiritual eyes” was very keenly aware of a specific demonic entity with fangs. I could see it clearly and when I first saw it I immediately recognized it at the same demonic entity that tormented me when I was 5 years old during several nights. I hadn’t seen this thing since age 5 but when I did I recognized it.

    Do you have a view or an opinion on this?

    One of the horrible things since my awakening is my perception. One month I’m an atheist and see the world through that lens. The next month I’m a Christian. The following month I’m new age. It’s like I’m hyper suggestible or something.

    Anyway. If there is any way you could help me sort through some of the things that happened last year I’d appreciate it. Christians I’ve contacted are all way to freaked out by this or something. They don’t get it.

    • Vanissar says:

      Hi Friend, for some reason your comment did not show up until recently. I can offer you a free 20 minute consultation about this, and you can find out if you would like to do further work with me or not. Let me know if you want to do that, by going through my website Also, hhere are books on spiritual emergence/emergency, such as Energies of Transformation by Bonnie Greenwell, or various books by Stan and Christina Grof. It is a good way to find out you are not unusual, and not alone.