I have recently returned to my home in Brazil after a trip to Japan to teach the second half of the Intermediate SE® Professional Training, which included categories of natural disaster, war, horror, and torture. Japan has suffered many natural disasters throughout its history with the most recent being the massive earthquake and tsunami that occurred three years ago. The country was at the center of World War II in the Pacific and was the target of the first, and only, atomic bomb attacks in history. Many of the effects of these immensely traumatic events are still present, on various levels, today.
I have been visiting Japan for over 30 years now, and I have come to greatly admire and appreciate the country and its people. I first came to study the Japanese martial art of Ki-Aikido—an integrative practice with teachings that have been applied in many areas of human development. It was the practice of Ki-Aikido that helped me to take the first step in returning to my body after a severe trauma that nearly ended my life. (Note: this set the stage for me to meet Dr. Peter Levine and discover Somatic Experiencing® which helped me to renegotiate that trauma.)
Later, I returned to Japan in order to work with people affected by trauma and to teach SE. My experience throughout this most recent visit was certainly intense on a professional level but also on many personal levels. My father was a U.S. soldier in the South Pacific during World War II and he was deeply traumatized by his experience. I felt it was important to take time after the SE training to visit the Peace Memorial Park in the city of Hiroshima—where the atomic bomb was unleashed on the world at the end of WWII. I had visited Peace Park many years ago, but this time was different.
I arrived first thing in the morning on a cool winter’s day. Entering the museum, I encountered numerous displays, including large black and white photos and a film of Hiroshima on the day of the bombing and over the following days. Within the room, the air/energy (ki in Japanese—loosely translated as “life force energy”) was so thick that I could barely move; I could not speak; it was all I could do to be present in that space.
Peace Park was built near what was the epicenter of the blast, and one of the few structures that survived, named the A-bomb Dome, has been left as it was that day. Though I found myself in an extremely altered state, I somehow managed to drift out of the museum in the direction of the dome. As I walked I noticed a path off to the right and a building that seemed to be beneath ground level. I felt a strong pull to enter and curiously I was the only person there. I found myself in the middle of a circular room with a fountain at the center. The walls were made up of more than 140,000 individual tiles—one for each person who died in the bombing. The tiles make up a panorama of Hiroshima after the explosion.
As I turned and oriented to the space, I realized that I was in the middle of the blast site. I sat, alone in that room, for an indeterminable time. It was an unforgettable experience for me: deeply moving on many levels.
There are numerous ways to renegotiate trauma. Peace Park was built as a monument to all who were injured or lost their lives in the bombing; and it is dedicated to educating the world about what happened and why—so that it may never happen again. I wish that all human beings could have the chance to visit Peace Park, but even if you are unable to visit I hope that the ki and intention of Peace Park reaches you wherever you may be.
Author Russell Ira Jones is an SE faculty member and an associate lecturer for the Ki Society International. He has been exploring the mind body connection for all of his adult life. While studying psychology at the University of Colorado he met a Japanese master of Shin ShinToitsu Do (the unification of mind, heart, and spirit). Russell went on to complete a traditional Japanese apprenticeship, a rare opportunity for a westerner. Some time later he met Peter Levine, PhD and entered into the study of Somatic Experiencing. He completed his SE training in Brazil where he founded The Brazilian Trauma Association with Lael Keen and three other SE pioneers. He teaches SE in Brazil, Uruguay, the United States, Europe, and Japan, and currently maintains and operates a training center for SE and mind-body connection in the Brazilian rainforest.
Photos courtesy of the author, used with permission