The following is an excerpt from Thomas’ book Healing Collective Trauma: A Process for Integrating Our Intergenerational & Cultural Wounds, chapter A Group Process for Integration
“Man started from an unconscious state and has ever striven for greater consciousness. The development of consciousness is the burden, the suffering, and the blessing of mankind.” – C. G. Jung, The Quotable Jung
“Do not waste your suffering.” – Eduardo Duran, “Native, Indigenous Cultures and Healing Trauma” (podcast)
When most of us envision the nervous system, we may call to mind colorful graphics from anatomy textbooks or the animated landscapes of science documentaries (or pharmaceutical commercials, for those living in the United States and New Zealand). Perhaps we visualize the nervous system much like the vascular network—nearly infinitely branching, pulsing with red, pale blue, and whitish fibers. Of course, if we’re young enough, our immediate mental images of these forms may be vastly upgraded—more Alex Grey than Gray’s Anatomy.
But when I speak of the nervous system, I want you to think of James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster sci-fi film, Avatar. In the world created by Cameron, future humans have invaded an inhabited moon in the Alpha Centauri sAvatar Movietar system with plans to dislocate the natives, by force if necessary, and strip the moon of its resources. The moon is a biosphere known as Pandora, and it is the home world of the Na’vi, an intelligent and peaceful race.
On Pandora, the Na’vi people, the souls of all of their ancestors, and the boundless flora and fauna are intimately connected through a vast bioluminescent neural network. This living collective nervous system is visually depicted in the film as glowing filaments of light. It glows in every moss and lichen, every leaf and stem and seed. Its tendrils and fibers run radiant through the roots of trees and emerge from the crowns of heads, culminating at the tips of the long braids worn by the Pandoran people. When the Na’vi connect with one another or with their animals, they can feel the other from within. They no longer need speech or gestures to communicate with the one to whom they are linked. When such a link has been made, it is customary for a Na’vi person to say, “I see you.”
Through this same neural web, they can connect to their ancestors. They can bridge time.
Our own nervous system is not unlike that of the fictional Na’vi. From a purely 3D perspective, we may consider it a flesh and blood apparatus, but we are not purely of this dimension. Everything is energy, and even in the material realm, the gross body isn’t simply mechanical; it runs on electricity. The intricate plexus of the human nervous system is a corporal extension of the subtle body matrix; its fractal reticulations—self-similar and recursive—are a complex natural structure for the flow of light.
The more present, clear, and attuned we are, the more like the Na’vi our capacities for conscious connection become.
We have seen ourselves as islands—individual and isolated, bound to our personal stories. We read predictions of transhumanism, hoping very soon we’ll be able to swallow a capsule of nanobots, able to fight disease; implant a synthetic neural web to make us radically smarter; or upload our minds, memories, and personalities—everything we think we are—onto an external disk or transferable smart card, allowing us to live forever, or at least beyond the limitations of the body.
Yet, within each of us exists already a radiant biocomputer, developed and refined over hundreds of thousands of years. The human nervous system is profoundly alive, interdependent, and interconnected. Once activated, even our DNA code has the potential to upgrade (consider the impact of trauma clearing on epigenetics). As we come to see the elegance of what we are, we understand that we were never truly separate. We learn to wire and strengthen our connection to one another and to our world. Activated and bonded, we may discover that we’ve had within us, all along, profound seeds for conscious healing and amplified intelligence and many capacities for bridging beyond the body or integrating and utilizing it in transcended forms.
But as our world’s mystery schools have so long taught, we need not wait passively for a future we hope will unfold. These capacities are available within us now. It’s our work to uncover and develop them. It is already true that in the space created within the fullness of conscious presence and correlation, we can travel in time.
An activated subtle nervous system allows us not only to sense into but to make contact with a past moment of pain in another, that we might bear compassionate witness. We can connect consciously with the living presence of our ancestors and stand with them in an experience of suffering. We can witness a wound in time from our national or racial memory, and we can tune the dial of our nervous system to that of friend, loved one, or client to connect with an early point of trauma within them, in order to hold it together with presence and witness and healing intention. We can come together in we-space with like-minded healers, therapists, conscious citizens, and changemakers to open the folds of space-time and deliver a bodhisattva’s prayer.
Learn more about Thomas’ book: Healing Collective Trauma: A Process for Integrating Our Intergenerational & Cultural Wounds.