“Mindfulness can…[free us] from what Buddhists regard as the tyranny of…emotions; [it] can open the door to a deeper and more meaningful dimension of interests” (Brach 2008: 27).
“…charting mind movement cultivates an additional level of awareness in which we can simultaneously experience phenomena and observe our–selves experiencing it” (Brach 2008:30).
I left Jamaica a few weeks after completing my BA degree in 2010. I wanted to move far away from the source of my trauma. Trauma was not the word I used then. I knew I was ill but didn’t know what was wrong. I spent the next year in several countries in the Eastern Caribbean (EC). I volunteered at the Roving Caregiver’s Programme (RCP) in Grenada for eight months. I made a notable impact at RCP and was invited to volunteer at the Foundation for the Development of Caribbean Children in Barbados. After two months I moved to Dominica to volunteer at ChildFund Caribbean. By then, I had spent all of my savings on medical bills. I saw physiotherapists, neurologists, herbalists, psychologists, a chiropractor, and an acupuncturist. I did several MRI scans and took thousands of pills. I did not improve.
Though I had experienced severe childhood abuse, I was an active lad. I played every sport and led friends on expeditions across flooded rivers and up slippery hillsides. However, by age twenty–three, when time came for me to leave the EC, I was experiencing sporadic bouts of tonic immobility.
After I returned to Jamaica in 2012, I moved to the Blue Mountains. There, I attempted to do what Brach (2008) states in the second quote above. I would revive a memory (e.g. age 8, 10 pm, mother beating me with a broom), stand outside of it and replay it the way it occurred. Blow by blow, screams and pleas, mother’s unrelenting rage. I would analyse the memory from my perspective, the way I interpreted the experience as a child:
I don’t deserve this. Why is mother so cruel? One way or another, I’ll escape this life.
Then I would attempt to walk in mother’s shoes:
At 14, grandma pulled her from school, forced her to raise her siblings. Her brother beat her mercilessly. She ran away several times, made one bad decision after another, but despite everything, she never left us. She went hungry so we could eat, worked several jobs, endured bullying, condescension, but held strong.
The ‘grown–up version’ of me observing this experience would then approach mother and my young self and encourage them to address their contentions amicably. I applied this tactic to scores of similar experiences with uncles, aunts, and teachers. This did not lead to full recovery but it enabled me to examine the multiple stories that impacted my childhood. It helped me to release some of my rage, especially after I confronted ‘offenders’ who showed contrition.
Brach, D. (2008) A Logic for the magic of mindful negotiation. Negotiation Journal 24 (1), 25–44.