A Vasana Erupts

Yesterday I described how I was confronting thorny decisions of weight, which were reminding me of years spent as a refugee adjudicator. And I added that what I was feeling “isn’t a vasana and so it doesn’t yield to processing.” (1)

Within two hours of writing that, I was crying my eyes out on a city street.

My experience is not more important than yours. That’s not why I describe what happened. I describe it so that we can all have some sense of what might be occurring for us at this time when all that is not of love is coming up to be cleared.

People who don’t know how vasanas work would probably not allow themselves to just cry on a city street.  Long before that, they’d be feeling vaguely out of sorts and having a fight with their spouse or grumbling at a drugstore clerk.  They might even pick up a gun and shoot someone.  They wouldn’t know what was happening.

But those who know that a “sleeping volcano” just went off would stop and experience it through to completion (or ask Archangel Raphael to take it away).

So what was happening? I describe it so that you can see how vasanas work. A vasana is an habitual reaction pattern anchored in past trauma but triggered in the present moment by circumstances that look similar in some way.

I said that the difficult decisions I was facing in the present made it necessary that I approach them with the same seriousness and sobriety that I approached decisions made while a refugee adjudicator. I found myself carrying myself the same way I did back then. Back straight, head held high, gaze aimed straight ahead – my posture reflected the seriousness with which I regarded my work.

The resort to the same posture and the rise of the same attitude is what linked the present moment to the experience as an adjudicator and had me remember all the tales of woe and misery that one hears in eight years of listening to refugee claims.

I remembered what it felt like to give decisions day after day. I remembered how all the Immigration and Refugee Board Members carried themselves in this same upright manner and had the same expression of seriousness on their faces.

And we all knew what that expression meant and why it was there. No one ever made fun of a Member’s seriousness. Everyone knew what was at stake.

It was there because we knew we were listening to claims that had to be gotten right. If we made a mistake, we could be sending a person back to possible imprisonment, rape, torture, or death. There was nothing frivolous about what we were doing and everyone knew it.

However now I was without that straight-backed posture, that annealed, almost stony look of seriousness that I carried day in and day out in those days. Now I’d become a jellyfish compared to the tortoise in a shell I was back then. I have no character armouring any more to prevent those traumatic memories flooding back of the horrendous crimes against humanity that we might be required to listen to.

Women treated as sexual slaves, others who had had acid thrown in their face, children who were trafficked for profit, children who were made to marry against their will, men who had seen their relatives … I’m afraid I can’t bring myself to say it … all the misery, all the suffering flooded back into memory again.

Now I had no access to trauma counsellors, other Members, a Legal Department who would listen to us vent. And so I just sat on a bus bench and cried.

All that is coming up that is not of love is being seen, experienced through and released. I’m crying again as I write this, sobbing, letting out the accumulation of sad tales from Mexico, Bangladesh, India, the Congo, Rwanda, Serbia – all around what we called the “refugee-producing” world.  All the men, women and children who risked their lives to smuggle themselves into my country and now sat before me, their hopes of living a life of safety and freedom resting in my hands.

Now is my time to release all that stored-up trauma and, as I do, I think of policemen, firemen, soldiers, doctors and all the emergency and security personnel whom society pays to handle its misery and trauma.  All the people who have swallowed all of its suffering sometimes to their detriment and will be releasing all of it back into the world right about this time….


(1) “Weightinesss” at

Print Friendly