“The past has no power over the present moment,” said Ekhart Tolle, currently one of the most celebrated authors on spirituality. This radical, but not new, idea is being rediscovered, and has a lot to offer those who suffer trauma from memories of the past, including those diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
Is it possible to be healed of traumatic memories through gaining a sense of the divine “now” that is always present?
PTSD is not a new phenomenon. The ancient Greeks, for example, knew about it, and found ways to meet the problem, some of which included the entire community in healing rituals. Ancient religious texts also record experiences on how healing from such suffering can occur, especially through understanding, and choosing to live in, a spiritual sense of the present moment.
Many spiritual leaders have experienced trauma at one point or another in their lives, yet went on to make a great difference in the world. Take the apostle Peter, for example, who witnessed the violent crucifixion of Jesus, his beloved teacher. And yet, Peter was lifted out of that painful memory when he glimpsed Jesus’ life intact in the Divine, during what Christians call the Resurrection. Peter went on to live in accordance with his new insight – that the past has no power over the present spiritual reality.
What does it mean to live in the “now” – to be spiritually present? People may describe it in various ways. In her spiritual explanation of the phrase “Thy Kingdom come” from the Lord’s Prayer, Mary Baker Eddy described her sense of it by the interpretation: “Thy kingdom is come; Thou art ever-present.”
Learning to cultivate this ever-present sense of divine Life lifts us out of the entrenched belief of existence as wholly embedded in the human experience, including past events. It points to a present spiritual consciousness, grounding us in the “now”; thus dissolving the emotional shock and awe of past traumatic events.
The modern world is re-learning these ideas, and is beginning to take a more compassionate, holistic attitude toward the healing of trauma. The PTSD Association has an article on its website that specifically addresses the value of a spiritual approach. Jonathan Ellerby PhD, a Hay House author and speaker, writes:
“When we share a common intent to support each other and to stay connected to the possibility of a greater power in life, something extraordinary begins to emerge. We encounter the raw spirit of love and healing in the world: we find a spirituality that doesn’t try to deny our pain; instead it helps us to transform it. In these moments we become healers for one another; we find Spirit at work in the world, in the hearts and minds of those who help.”
Laura Hildenbrand, author of Seabiscuit, wrote another novel called Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption. It is the true story of a young pilot who crashed his plane into the Pacific Ocean. He then spent three years in a Japanese POW camp being tortured and starved. On returning to the US, he suffered badly from PTSD – fear, sleeplessness, rage, violence and alcoholism – to the point of being on the edge of losing everything. In a telling moment he experienced a glimpse of his life as connected to the divine – right then, and without the trauma of the past. That glimpse of the “spiritual now” freed him, and he went on to live a long and productive life.
Many of us have experienced painful or traumatic events in our lives. And the memories of these can visit us out of the blue, holding us in an awful repeated re-living of the experience. When well-meaning friends tell us to “move on,” it can leave us feeling guilty and helpless. But there is a way through the suffering.
The more we understand and feel the deeper, present capability of divine Love to heal permanently and effectively, the more we will see that everyone is entitled to a resurrection – a new life free from pain and sorrow.