Osho’s Dynamic Meditation: addressing Trauma?
(first published in Osho Viha)
Comment on Osho’s Dynamic Meditation:
The Processes in the Brain and the Benefits
by Anando Würzburger (aka “Hara-Anando”)
As a lover of Osho’s Dynamic Meditation, I was perplexed to hear that practicing it could be re-traumatizing.
Re-traumatizing is, simply speaking, the reactivation of connections of synapses in the brain that were once created during an overwhelming experience in the past. Whether that experience is successfully “digested” or a post-traumatic disorder is developed depends on how we are able to deal with the situation at the time and possibly complete the overwhelming event biologically within our nervous system and the brain. We were taught that failing to complete creates a problem in the nervous system as well as in the psyche.
So I asked myself: When we engage in Dynamic, especially in the second, the cathartic stage of the meditation, do we merely re-enact the emotions, scenes, sensations in the body – images and meanings that we had with an overwhelming situation in the past – or do we dissolve and complete something? By re-enacting we would simply strengthen the old connections in the brain and thus strengthen the neurological circuits, e.g. the feeling of helplessness, frustration, anger, or pain, as being part of our psyche.
The answer, in my opinion, lies in how we “do” the meditation technique. Dynamic is, as Osho puts it, a cathartic meditation. And here can be the first misunderstanding, which could lead to an unhelpful way of performing the meditation. When we hear of catharsis we think of emotional expression as we know it from bioenergetic therapy or other therapies working with emotional expression. This already creates an image in our mind that directs our body during the meditation.
This image or goal is a product of the logically thinking and calculating left side of the neocortex. Because the left hemisphere is the part of the brain where past and future are located, we tend to repeat what we have once experienced in the past. In that way we re-strengthen the past experience.
So when we approach Dynamic with our therapy-oriented concepts, it is easy to go wrong and hinder
what could be healing. According to Osho and also to the theory of Somatic Experiencing, we need to follow the intelligence of the body. This means that we need to listen to it and let it develop the movements by itself. The process that can heal and clean the body can only happen when we deeply understand how to follow the movements that arise from the core of our body. It is a shift from doing and moving initiated by the left side of the neo-cortex (the “doing and going-for-it” side), to learning how to follow the movements of the body.
Instead of forcing our body to perform according to our ideas and images, our system can learn to listen and follow its own self-regulative, healing capacities. The body knows how to heal itself. The residues of trauma are mainly a consequence of incomplete processes, which means that the body is stuck in the freezing response to an event that was overwhelming to our nervous system at the time of experiencing it. Because of this response the nervous system retains a great amount of activation. Through learning to follow the movements of the body, we allow it to complete the instinctual reactions that the body would have liked to have done and to release the energy that is locked up in the system. At the time of the incident, for whatever reasons, we could not allow the body to complete itself and release the charge in the nervous system.
In the past situation our conditioned minds may not have allowed us to act in an “uncivilized” way, or other circumstances may have prevented the body from completing all reactions and come back to a relaxed natural state. In some forms of bodywork this process is called unwinding, which happens in the second stage of Dynamic.
Biological completion is based on the inherent intelligence of the body to regulate and heal itself.
The neo-cortex, or as Bas Kast calls it, the Social Me, with its rules of how to be and its ideals and moralities, does not allow that natural intelligence to function properly. This is because the Social Me is not oriented by the needs of the body but by the norms of what was “okay” in the society and the group that surrounded us as we grew up. Then there is what Bas Kast calls the Experiential Me, which is rooted in what we call the gut feeling in the belly. In Japanese belly means “Hara” and is translated as “the source of life,” which is the root of our life energy in the belly. Recent research has discovered a second brain in the belly, which is connected to the brainstem or reptilian brain. Together they constitute the oldest part of the human brain and are the root of our instinctual and self-regulative reactions.
If we connect to the second brain, or the hara, we can more easily find what we need and what is good for us.
Or in other words: In the belly we know what we want and need, and we have the drive and force to go for it. This centre is, in many ways, activated by Dynamic, when we bring right attention to it. Connecting to the life source brings healing from the bottom up, and in this way of reconnecting to our natural feelings of ourselves a lot of confusions in the mind can clear up. By bringing our awareness into the centre in the belly through jumping, sensing the energy of the Earth moving up to meet our feet, and feeling the impact of the sound “hoo” in the belly we wake up the hara center in the lower belly during the third stage. When we listen to the instructions for a meditation we tend to listen with the left hemisphere of the neocortex, our logical, goal-oriented side, and try to transfer the instructions we hear into the body. This is then reflected in each stage, as we perform according to the images previously created in our minds.
It is important to become aware of this habit of the mind and to develop a broader understanding so that the healing capacity that lies in the self-regulative movements, the unwinding that originates from the inner intelligence of the body, can happen. We need to find a balance between being “total,” as the instructions say, and allowing the body to relax and not overdo and overcharge. Overcharge encourages re-enacting instead of unwinding past trauma.
When our nervous system goes into a state of being overwhelmed we usually lose the feeling for being connected to the ground, and the energy moves up. That is what usually happens in traumatic events. Remembering to be grounded gives our bodies the possibility of going through emotions and movements, allowing them to pass through and become completed without being overwhelmed as in the past. So staying grounded in all stages of Dynamic is a good indicator and guideline. This way we can make sure healthy completion happens instead of overcharge and “re-traumatization.”