The Four Immeasurables and Trauma

There is a classic prayer in Buddhism called the Four Immeasurables. It is often used as a practice to help practitioners open our hearts, to cultivate the awareness which helps us to understand and treasure our common connection to all beings. The lines are as follows:

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  1. May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness

  2. May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering

  3. May all beings never be separated from the supreme joy that is beyond all sorrow

  4. May all beings abide in equanimity, free from attachment and aversion

I recently received a teaching on these passages from Buddhist scholar and teacher, Choying Khandro, of Dakini’s Whisper, in which she offered a fresh perspective. Instead of merely reciting the lines as a supplication, as though someone else or something else is responsible for creating such conditions, Khandro-la suggests we read each of the lines in three ways:

a) As a prayer

b) As a fact

c) As though I am personally determined to make such a thing happen

For example, let's take the first line: “May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.” I first read the words as is, sensing them as a plea from my heart to the universe. I feel these words go out, encompassing all beings and all realities, and sit briefly as that energy flows.

Next, I slightly change the wording in order to read it as though it is fact: “All beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.” Here, I pause, and really visualize our universe as a place where this is so. What is it like to live in such a world? What energy is present? What details can I see/hear/touch/taste/smell? How do other beings react to experiencing such conditions? I take some time to flesh out as many details as possible, to really make the statement tangible.

Finally, I read the line as a mission statement: “I am determined to ensure that all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.” With this statement, the abstract becomes concrete. I am now choosing involvement. This simple alteration not only changes the tone of our meditation practice (click here for a great article on the dangers of 'McMindfulness'), but it transforms our mere prayer and visualization into Power. It provides us with a means through which we may resolutely and actively engage with our world.

Those of us who have experienced trauma often feel powerless. Weak. Hopeless. Helpless. We're so accustomed to being ignored, beaten down, dismissed, and/or trodden upon, that we’ve often given up. But this simple shift from prayer statement to personal power statement alters the lens through which we view our circumstances. Armed with our vision created in Step b), our factual statement, we are consciously choosing to reframe our experience of our world. My circumstances, beginning right now, are not something negative being done to me. Instead, I am the fuel of positive change.

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Of course, this is a mental exercise. But it's not so difficult to come up with even one small thing I might be determined to do today to ensure that all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness. This might mean that I resolve to offer a smile to everyone I encounter that day. Perhaps I take a bag along and pick up trash as I take my daily walk (plogging, anyone?) Maybe I ______________, well, how about you take a shot at filling in the blank?

In the big picture, these seemingly small actions probably won't erase our traumas nor those of the people we have chosen to help that day. But as we heal, as we move from our current “normal” toward our healthier “new normal,” this simple meditation tool can help us transition from passive bystander to active participant, from victim to survivor.

It may not feel easy, vowing to move forward from your heart. But as my Buddhist teachers have often said, “That's why we call it practice!”


At Bodhisattva Bodywork, I offer a variety of stress reduction and trauma resolution therapeutic services in my Chapel Hill office and online via a secure video link. I’m also affiliated with a trauma-focused group psychotherapy practice in Japan: Trauma Treatment Center and Resources (TTCR), which offers body-based therapy sessions and educational seminars in English, Japanese, and Korean.

A body-based deep relaxation practice


Relaxing the mind through relaxing the body.

This article from Lion’s Roar, an online Buddhist magazine, leads you through a simple three-step meditation process. The practice given is based on Buddha's teaching to not only become aware of our mind, but also the body, “...visiting each part with awareness, acceptance, care, and without judgment.”

This gentle, supportive, exploratory approach to the body is also an integral part of Somatic Experiencing (SE™) and Somatic Touch trauma resolution therapy. Through contacting and simply noticing what is present in our physiology, we begin to heal:

At Bodhisattva Bodywork, I offer a variety of stress reduction and trauma resolution therapeutic services in my Chapel Hill office and online via a secure video link. I’m also affiliated with a trauma-focused group psychotherapy practice in Japan: Trauma Treatment Center and Resources (TTCR), which offers body-based therapy sessions and educational seminars in both English and Japanese.

Fatigue? Mood swings? Memory lapses? Physical aches and pains? It could be dehydration.

I hadn’t realized how used I’d gotten to the pain emanating from both hip joints until a visiting relative asked me, “Why are you walking like that?” My usual morning stiff-legged gait had caught his attention.

X-rays ruled out arthritis. I tried chiropractic and acupuncture, but neither provided long-lasting relief. I wasn’t sleeping well, and was tired and cranky. In desperation, I scheduled an appointment with nutritional health coach, Rachel Khani.

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After completing a very thorough diet, exercise, and lifestyle intake, Rachel suggested a few very simple dietary changes. At the top of the list was her recommendation that I drink at least 70 ounces of water, pure water, every day.

That’s two liters of water a day! I protested, but I was in pain. I did as Rachel recommended. Within two weeks, I was sleeping through the night and my hip pain was GONE. To say I was surprised would be an understatement--I was stunned. I couldn’t believe that simply consuming more water could make such a difference.

After this experience, I now routinely ask clients about their water consumption habits. For more information on why water is so important for our well-being and for some ideas on how to increase your own water consumption, please click here to read Rachel’s post: “Are you depressed….or dehydrated?”


At Bodhisattva Bodywork, I offer a variety of trauma resolution therapeutic services in my Chapel Hill office and online via a secure video link. I’m also affiliated with a trauma-focused group psychotherapy practice in Japan: Trauma Treatment Center and Resources (TTCR), which offers body-based therapy sessions and educational seminars in both English and Japanese.

Looking for Stress Management? Body-based "trauma therapies" can help!

We’ve discussed that trauma isn’t only defined by big, overwhelming events; it can also be the end product of cumulative stress (click here for more information). Even so, I have some clients who don’t feel “traumatized,” but they ARE stressed out and want to feel better! Not a problem! We can use many of the same techniques to help.

If we accept the standard definition of stress as “a state of physical, mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances,” we can see that any method which serves to release this strain or tension would be beneficial. Another important point is that if we choose to work with, for example, physical tension, we'll often register a reduction in our mental and emotional tension as well.

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I'm a massage therapist, and massage has long been used to relieve muscular tension. Most of us have had the experience of feeling completely and utterly relaxed after a good massage, and we therefore know first-hand the state of physical, mental, and emotional well-being that follows such a session. (If it’s been a while, please click here to make an appointment!)

Meditation is another helpful tool in our stress reduction arsenal. As with any tool, we obtain the most benefit from consistent, regular practice. Even just a few-minutes-a-day meditation schedule can offer a sense of being more grounded, more present, and more readily able to handle the highs and lows of life. I have a teacher from whom I receive instruction, and I often lead clients in short guided meditations, but simply selecting from among the plethora of meditation apps on your smartphone and downloading and following along will be helpful.

Somatic therapies are also effective methods for relieving stress because they too emphasize and utilize the mind/body connection. Somatic Experiencing (SE™) and Somatic Touch are sensation-focused, and are perfect for those who wish to learn more about how their body physically responds to and stores stress. A specially-trained therapist serves as a guide through this process, offering verbal and hands-on support and encouragement as the client accesses and discharges tension. For those who are experiencing stress as a form of emotion, Integral Somatic Psychology (ISP) offers a method of physically connecting with and processing these feelings.

I'm happy to discuss any of these and other body-focused modalities, and how they may help you reduce the stress in your life! For clients in Japan, I'm also affiliated with a group practice (TTCR—Trauma Treatment Center and Resources) in the Saitama area. There, we have English- and Japanese-speaking therapists trained in mindfulness meditation, somatic therapies, and other body-based modalities to help with stress management.


At Bodhisattva Bodywork, I offer a variety of trauma resolution therapeutic services in my Chapel Hill office and online via a secure video link. I’m also affiliated with a trauma-focused group psychotherapy practice in Japan: Trauma Treatment Center and Resources (TTCR), which offers body-based therapy sessions and educational seminars in both English and Japanese.

Transforming the Experience-Based Brain (TEB) -- Healing through Support

It's my month for learning! I just completed my second time through the beginnings of Dr. Steve Terrell's Transforming the Experience-Based Brain (TEB) training, and I'm excited.

With Dr. Steve Terrell, developer of Transforming the Experience-Based Brain (TEB)

With Dr. Steve Terrell, developer of Transforming the Experience-Based Brain (TEB)

TEB is post-advanced training for therapists who work in the field of developmental trauma; that is, trauma which occurred so early in life that we may not have languaging to describe it. Moving beyond “talk therapy,” TEB incorporates touch skills, attachment theory, polyvagal theory, and work with primitive reflexes into a protocol which supports clients as they make their way from their current “normal” to a “new (healthier) normal.”

I've been a client myself and have been using the TEB skills (I use the general term “Somatic Touch”) in my office and on-line practice for the past year. I've been amazed at how quickly I and my clients report feeling less fearful/angry/depressed, and more present, more alive, and more able to easily and freely engage with others. All without much discussion, and often without knowing the original source of the problems!

Developmental trauma, regardless of the source(s), causes ruptures within our natural stages of growth, leading to physical, mental, and emotional illness. With TEB, we learn that these states are understandable and natural, and the gentle, hands-on work creates a stable base from which clients organically repair these disconnects themselves.

If you'd like to learn more about TEB/Somatic Touch and how it may help you thrive, please give me a call at (919) 636-9439, or email me at “anna@bodhisattvabodywork.com.” If you feel ready to make an appointment, please click here.


At Bodhisattva Bodywork, I offer a variety of trauma resolution therapeutic services in my Chapel Hill office and online via a secure video link. I’m also affiliated with a trauma-focused group psychotherapy practice in Japan: Trauma Treatment Center and Resources (TTCR), which offers body-based therapy sessions and educational seminars in both English and Japanese.

An additional healing modality--Integral Somatic Psychology (ISP™)

The entire staff of the Trauma Treatment Center and Resources (TTCR) in Saitama, Japan with Dr. Raja Selvam

The entire staff of the Trauma Treatment Center and Resources (TTCR) in Saitama, Japan with Dr. Raja Selvam

Okay. This will be a little graphic. Vomiting. Diarrhea. Inability to eat and a greenish complexion for a couple of days. And it (thankfully) wasn't the flu. What in the world?!

I just returned from Dr. Raja Selvam's first ever Integral Somatic Psychology (ISP™) training in Japan, and to say I learned a lot is an understatement. But not only that, I also experienced the power of this work.

Dr. Selvam combines his decades as student, psychotherapist, and teacher into his four step method of fully embodying our emotions in order to more quickly and effectively move through trauma into health.

As I worked with my own deeply-held sense of worthlessness, familiar bodily sensations began to morph into unbelievable emotions. With the guidance and support of my therapist, I was able, for perhaps the first time, to access some of the rage I'd been suppressing and to give it a voice.

So, yes, I then experienced the above “healing crisis.” But it passed. And I'm left with a renewed vigor and the beginnings of a new self-definition. (I'm also very grateful not to have all of that suppressed negative energy still housed within my body!)

My extreme reaction was not replicated among the other 60 or so students attending. All, however, were able to locate and expand an emotion, and through that process remove and even transform some of the “charge” surrounding past trauma. These practical experiences clearly illustrated that accessing and embodying the emotions which underlie our sensations can be an extremely effective method of healing.

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At Bodhisattva Bodywork, I offer a variety of trauma resolution therapeutic services in my Chapel Hill office and online via a secure video link. I’m also affiliated with a trauma-focused group psychotherapy practice in Japan: Trauma Treatment Center and Resources (TTCR), which offers body-based therapy sessions and educational seminars in both English and Japanese.