An Indigenous Approach to Healing Trauma
The Healing Power of Listening in Stillness
An Indigenous Approach to Healing Trauma
By Jonathan Davis / upliftconnect.com

People have always experienced pain, and in the vast span of time before the colonial expansion of western culture, indigenous cultures weren’t without their methods of dealing with trauma.

For centuries we’ve largely ignored the wisdom of those among us who are still directly connected to ancestral ways of knowledge. As our modern lifestyle collides with the fact that our Earth is not capable of supporting our current way of life, we are finally starting to look to those who once lived in a state of indefinite sustainability and abundance, for a way forward.

“In order to have sustainable community you have to make sure the people are sustainable. This means healing trauma.”
– Jarmbi Githabul, Ngarakwal / Githabul Custodian

What is Dadirri?

“Dadirri is inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness. Dadirri recognises the deep spring that is inside us. We call on it and it calls to us. This is the gift that Australia is thirsting for. It is something like what you call ‘contemplation’.”
– Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, Ngangiwumirr Elder

When Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann speaks of dadirri, she speaks of a form of deep, contemplative listening that is nothing less than a personal spiritual practice. This type of listening in stillness is widely known all across the Australian continent, in many language groups under many names. “When I experience dadirri, I am made whole again.” Miriam describes. “I can sit on the riverbank or walk through the trees; even if someone close to me has passed away, I can find my peace in this silent awareness. There is no need of words. A big part of dadirri is listening.”

Miriam-Rose
Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann – artist, writer and public speaker
 

Learning and healing through listening

According to Ungunmerr-Baumann the act of learning, from a very young age, is all about waiting and listening; not asking questions. In a culture where everyone is so well practiced at listening that it becomes a spiritual art, it makes sense that when trauma occurred the people would come together and deeply listen to each other. For this reason dadirri also refers to a form of group trauma healing that brings the deep presence found in the solo practice of dadirri to a group setting. Details of dadirri as group practice can be found in Prof. Judy Atkinson’s book Trauma Trails, Recreating Songlines. The essence of dadirri, in this wider context, is the creation of a space of deep contemplative, heart based listening where stories of trauma and pain can be shared and witnessed with loving acceptance.

In my own experiences with original Australians who are deeply connected to country, I have felt that they are so grounded it’s almost as if the land itself is listening to you, through them.

“Healing country heals ourselves, and healing ourselves heals country.”
– Prof. Judy Atkinson – Jiman / Bunjalung woman, author of Trauma Trails, Recreating Songlines

Emotional Completion

According to Prof. Stan Grof, trauma healing comes from finally completing an experience emotionally that may have been physically completed long ago. The initial moment of pain may have become so overwhelming that we make a subconscious decision to ‘check out’; in other words, we emotionally dissociate. Every part of us screams “Stop, I don’t want to feel this!” The problem is that we don’t stop the emotional experience, we just press pause.

When we don’t have the courage or skills (because we are too young, or were never taught) to actually feel all of the emotions of a traumatic experience, we inadvertently trap the part of it we couldn’t handle, and store it away for later. Dadirri is a practice that allows us to open up this trapped pain and trauma in a sacred and held space and with the support of those around us, we can finally feel it in order for it to be released.

“Trauma puts you in a disempowered position that makes it easy for you to be influenced. It interferes with your ability to make clear decisions for yourself.”
– Jarmbi Githabul, Ngarakwal / Githabul Custodian

The importance of a practice like dadirri is that it is completely based on non-judgment. Over time, the story is shared on multiple occasions, and by doing so the telling begins to change. The emotional charge is released a little at a time as the circle around them offers an unwavering reflection of loving acceptance. Very often, the person who has suffered trauma starts to adopt this attitude of loving acceptance toward themselves.

 

Jarmbi Githabul
Jarmbi Githabul, Ngarkwal / Githabul Custodian
 

Limbic Resonance and Revisioning

The reason this works, from the perspective of neuroscience, is because of: limbic resonance, mirror neurons and neuroplasticity. The notion of limbic resonance asserts that without consistent love and acceptance during childhood our brains don’t develop properly. The part that becomes developmentally stunted is our resilience against emotional distress. Similar problems can occur in people of all ages when they suffer trauma. The process of limbic revisioning is about rewiring the neural structure of person who has suffered trauma or emotional neglect; in order for this to occur there needs to be an external example for the limbic brain to mimic.

Deep, respectful, contemplative, heart-based listening based on loving acceptance instead of judgment may well be the optimal reflection for a traumatised limbic system to use as a model for restructuring. Mirror neurons see this outer, compassionate reflection and fire internally in the same way; and neurons that fire together wire together. With a bit of repetition, neural re-wiring occurs (thanks to neuroplasticity) which gives a neurological explanation as to why dadirri is good for helping people who have suffered trauma.

I feel we’re fortunate to be living in a time where, whether we’re indigenous or non-indigenous, we’re waking up.  We’re recognising the common threads between ancient and modern ways of healing ourselves, and by doing so discovering the techniques that actually work.

Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Bauman speaking about Dadirri at an Indigenous Theology Symposium

If you’d like to contribute to the empowerment of Indigenous Australians, consider donating to Jarmbi Githabul’s Wise Up, Rise Up Program.

3.7 ·
2
What's Next
Trending Today
The Daily Show's Trevor Noah Talks With Conservative Host Tomi Lahren
14 min · 9,056 views today · "Tomi" host Tomi Lahren gives her take on the Black Lives Matter movement and explains why she lashed out against Colin Kaepernick for his national anthem protest.
This Short Film Plays Out Like an Epic Movie That Will Shake Your Soul - But the Movie Is Real, and We are The Actors
6 min · 8,364 views today · For next year, we need a resolution capable of confronting the crisis we face, and making a future worth fighting for. This short film looks back on the crisis and confusion...
Escape! From the Cult of Materialism (2016)
50 min · 3,920 views today · Does the philosophy of materialism work to destroy our identities, experience, and environment? Join narrator Daphne Ellis on a radical romp through the evidence and decide for...
Bernie Sanders: Carrier Just Showed Corporations How to Beat Donald Trump
Bernie Sanders · 3,237 views today · We need a president who can stand up to big corporations, not fold to their demands.
Who's Really to Blame for Fake News? Look in the Mirror, America.
Neal Gabler · 3,034 views today · Consider for a moment the oxymoronic concept of “fake news,” which we have been hearing so much about lately. This isn’t your typical disinformation or misinformation —...
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 2,937 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 2,622 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
South Koreans Are Really Good at Protesting
2 min · 2,265 views today · South Koreans organize some of the largest and most peaceful protests in the world. Here's what makes them so good at protesting.
Corporate Giants' "Sustainable" Palm Oil Revealed as Sham
Nika Knight · 1,593 views today · Nestlé, Kellogg's, Procter & Gamble, Unilever and others are linked to child labor and forced labor in Indonesia
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 1,361 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
The Most Mind-Altering Photograph of All Time
4 min · 1,141 views today · Carl Sagan narrates the story of the Pale Blue Dot, the one place we all call home. 
A Tribe Called Red and Saul Williams Offer a Powerful Prayer for Standing Rock and Beyond
5 min · 1,068 views today · Music video for "The Virus" by A Tribe Called Red, featuring Saul Williams and Chippewa Travellers.
Why We Need Big Picture Activism
Helena Norberg-Hodge · 1,059 views today · Despite the countless grassroots projects already under way, the global economic juggernaut can seem too powerful to stop. But because more and more of us are becoming aware of...
How a Land High in the Western Himalayas Can Help Us Understand The Crisis of The Modern World
9 min · 932 views today · This is a clip from The Economics of Happiness. Watch it here. It's a brilliant film that was easy to put at the top of our list of the top 100 documentaries we can use to...
The 6 Grand Illusions That Keep Us Enslaved
Sigmund Fraud · 888 views today · For a magician to fool his audience his deceit must go unseen, and to this end he crafts an illusion to avert attention from reality. While the audience is entranced, the...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 886 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
The Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy
3 min · 684 views today · What is the best way to ease someone's pain and suffering? In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic...
Social Media Echo Chambers: Here's How Most of Us are Living in One
2 min · 630 views today · Americans are blocking out the friends and news sites that won't confirm their views.
The Truth About the Alt-Right
11 min · 629 views today · Our comprehensive investigation into the Alt-Right movement, including its origins, its relation to the Trump campaign and broader implications for the future. Read more: What...
EU Energy Targets Will 'Increase Greenhouse Gas Emissions'
Nafeez Ahmed · 617 views today · New renewable energy plan undercuts itself by boosting dangerous wood-burning industries
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
An Indigenous Approach to Healing Trauma