Azita Nahai is an innovative scholar and therapist who uses Kundalini Yoga and meditation to support her clients and students through trauma recovery. She will be teaching her beloved class Trauma to Dharma at Sat Nam Fest this April. In a Valentine’s Day interview with Sat Nam Fest blog, she offered precious insights into the journey through trauma to Dharma: this is a journey that everyone partakes in, whether we know it or not. Traumatic experiences have become part of our daily lives, and Azita Nahai is an expert in helping us become aware of how to confront trauma to grow on a path of Dharma.

Sat Nam Fest:
In your classes, you encourage students to contemplate those things that trigger emotional pain. As today is Valentine’s Day, can we talk about the way Valentine’s Day often serves as an emotional trigger to people?

Valentine’s Day is a minefield of triggers. We set ourselves up for disappointment. With a barrage of images of what relationship is supposed to look like, we forget that no one is meant to fill us but ourselves. A short time ago, we may all have felt moved by the Jerry Maguire line, “You complete me.” But once we set out on the spiritual path, we know that an individual has to be fulfilled within him or herself before one can venture out into the land of relationships. The number one relationship is between you and your soul. So, Valentine’s day triggers all the projections we have about romantic relationships. It’s good to be triggered. I like to remember, Don’t waste a good trigger. Triggers let us know that there is a wound that is still there, something emotional that we have rubbed up against. Triggers let us know that we are ready for the next level of healing. Be present with where we once were when we experienced a traumatic event, but become aware of where we are no longer. It’s time to take a pause. I swear by the pause. Breathe deeply. Be completely aware by asking simply, “Where are my feet now?” Feel grounded and admit that some healing still needs to be done.

Emotional pain is like physical pain; it takes time to heal and certain attention must be given to the wound. But we usually scoff at the time that it takes for emotional pain to heal. We often assume that we should be over an emotional wound just because the event or situation passed and is long over. But it is important that we be willing to admit that emotional pains leave energetic aches and sores and sensitive spots. When we suffer a physical injury that needs time to heal, we may need crutches, stiches, bandages, or medication. We may need to nurse sore muscles, tendons, and broken bones. We willingly do this nursing back to physical health. Similarly, with emotional injury, we need to take time to tend to the wounds. This is challenging because the wounds are not physically apparent.

In yoga we say, the issues are in our tissues. We practice kriyas to move those issues through the physical body.

This is helpful, but then there is also an energetic body and a subtle body. Trauma gets into the subtle realms. Trauma is energy that we couldn’t discharge through the physical body. We need to remain extra conscious and attentive because left unattended, these energetic injuries can start to run our lives. Healing is a process that needs conscious focus.

Sat Nam Fest:
Your guidance helps lead people to Dhrama. What is meant by Dharma? What does the word Dharma refer to?

Dharma is our purpose; it’s our Why to being here. Dharma is all the crazy circumstances that support all that you are meant to become. Dharma is a way of living, how we show up in an authentic way of being that is of service. Our traumas awaken this authenticity within us. Trauma helps us to become that phoenix rising from the disaster so that we can boldly ask, “How can I be of service?” That service is Dharma.

Now when you work with trauma, you don’t know what is going to come up for you on the mat that day… it could be heart break or boredom or fear. There is never a clean completion, but more of a constant integration. Dharma is about understanding that there is no clean, complete healing; instead, there is a continual alchemy of healing to nourishing service.

In the world today, we are collectively going through a transformation in our ways of being spiritual beings; we are heading into deeper levels of activism. In the past, the contemplatives stayed in ashrams and cloisters; however, nowadays our collective spiritual transformative insight requires in-the-world action. No one can pursue growth and comfort at the same time. This fact makes many people squirm. It’s uncomfortable out there today. Discomfort is the new black. But we show up with grit and determination and transform the shit into fertilizer. That is the trauma to Dharma way.

Sat Nam Fest:
You have a book that you will be selling at Sat Nam Fest that is about your Trauma to Dharma teachings. Can you tell a little about what that book offers?

Among other things, the book offers principles that help to organize and synthesize the healing process. Healing is not necessarily linear, but there are principles that I have observed that arise in clients and it is all similar across the board. So, these are organic principles that guide the healing process.

Acceptance: This is the hardest step. This is not about condoning the wrong that’s been done to you, but about accepting all that happened as part of your reality.

Agency: This is about realizing we have the power to choose how we are going to respond to the traumatic incident.

Authority: This is a stage when we feel a sense of Self. In our perception, we can let go of being the victim.

Allowing: Balance grit and grace. This is the God piece.

Appreciation: This is when we can come into our community and tribe. We are conscious of the company we keep, and are aware to keep the traumatic triggers

Authenticity: This is when we can feel free to Be Me. I am fallible, flawed, and perfectly imperfect. This is when we easily fall into Dharma. This is the big “Me Too” when we are fully present to ourselves and others in a compassionate embrace that is not all about “Love and Light” but more

Sat Nam Fest:
Once a person overcomes trauma, what is next? What do we have to look forward to when we are living our Dharma?

Trauma to Dharma gives us a way to be with a process of going through our lives knowing we experience wounds but then we know how to use those wounds to serve our highest purpose.

Western minds love to heal in a linear process and then think that it’s over. But healing is not linear. Trauma to Dharma is a conscious way to move through a natural, organic sequence from acceptance to authenticity and every stage in between and around again.

There are two types of responses to trauma. There are those who did not die. They remain stuck in reliving the same trauma the same way. NO growth. And then there are those who come back to life and decide, I am going to thrive. The second group finds a new meaning of life. They acknowledge that suffering is not an either / or situation. They change the way they relate to pain. They perceive the both / and approach that acknowledges and embraces the light and dark energy of every situation.

There is no spiritual bypass here. This is not about “love and light” over everything. This is about facing the ways we want to express ourselves in the entirety of our existence. We realize that our flaws and failures shape our dignity and excellence. We can approach any experience ready to take any hit and transform it into a benefit.

Please join Azita Nahai for her powerful Trauma to Dharma teachings from 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM on Thursday, April 12 at Sat Nam Fest Joshua Tree.