Leaning into the Trauma

Jared Morningstar
3 min readNov 21, 2023

Since about the beginning of September, I’ve been going through easily one of the most traumatic and disorienting periods of my adult life. A situation entirely of my own making to be sure, though orchestrated much more by the clinging, reactive, and yearning part of my soul than by the intentional, reflective bit. And as a result, I made some choices that were deeply immoral and destructive, though it all felt entirely necessary in the midst of things, even as that of course did not sit well with me at all.

Also of course, I very quickly cashed in some of that karmic debt and have been navigating all that I’ve reaped from this questionable period of sowing since — often with dismay, sometimes with horror, always with some pain and anxiety.


Truly, I have never found myself in a richer moment for transformation, healing, expansion, and intimacy with life. Of course (x3), while that’s perhaps great for me, accessing such potential in life never justifies the traumas we inflict on others as we move towards these crucibles for transfiguration — the most we can do is be sincere and forthcoming in our repentance. And if we are actually in pursuit of holistic healing and transformation, this will certainly be a big part of the work itself.

But ah, to become so intimate with anxiety, fear, clinging, sinfulness, pain, and sorrow — what friends to be able to make. Why not stitch together an autobiography in fully radiant technicolor? An ensemble cast for the production, a soup using all the mismatched ingredients about to go bad in the fridge.


To bump up right against myself at every turn, and often hitting exactly the most tender points. I feel some exuberance. Why? If I can find coherent joy and abundance amidst this all, what really is there to be worried about at all? To witness the dramatic crumbling of a thing you think would justify it all — a gift for oneself on the most profound level.

These reminders of external groundlessness are of course necessarily painful. But these are the experiences which allow us the clearest opportunities to gaze directly upon our own eyes with tenderness. Perhaps there is no grounding to be found there either, but that is quite alright, as there is something even better — companionship.

Our ability to be faithful companions to ourselves through those most acutely disorienting and incomprehensible experiences in life is proportional to our ability to hold that same space for others. There is no duality between compassion for self and compassion for others. It’s all interwoven.

So, I try to relish in my flailing and emotional devastation. What exciting things I may be able to do with all this! Trauma is light. Light at its most acute, so of course it burns, but it also reveals, refracts, existentiates, nourishes, energizes, warms… Without these dangerous functions, there would be no possibility for the contrasts of life that allow for beautification — our real destiny as far as I can tell.


So, say some prayers for me on this treacherous road of beautification as I keep hitting up against all my most tender parts. But I already feel a deep equanimity, and even some excitement as I lean into the intimacy of tracing all my contours so intentionally. To be so lucky to have such an opportunity…!

All peace,




Jared Morningstar

Independent academic specializing in 20th century religious philosophy, Islamic studies, and interfaith dialogue based out of Madison, WI.