Auschwitz Shadow and Light


I am Jewish. I was born of Jewish parents, who in turn, had Jewish parents before them, and so on for as far back as anyone knows. I have never been interested in Judaism, however, and have, in fact, judged Jews and Judaism fairly harshly most of my life, though this has been softening in the last few years. I haven’t denied my ancestry. I just haven’t really thought about it much.

Several years ago, I started having the experience while doing the cat-cow posture in yoga, of tears welling up, with lots of body shaking. This went on intermittently for two or three years. Occasionally I had the feeling that my body was reacting to a physical trauma, or a trauma of being tortured. I noticed that I became somewhat claustrophobic at times, for no apparent reason. I started to have small flashes of memory of torture. They were vague and I couldn’t tell if they were imagined, made up, or even mine.

In Bali about 3 or 4 years ago, I received a series of private one-on-one breathwork sessions, with the intention of healing trauma. Each session seemed to build on the previous one. During the last one, I ended up on my hands and knees (cat-cow position), wailing and sobbing and shaking. Something huge was moving through me. Anthony, the practitioner, asked me

“Where’s the pain in your body?”

“Auschwitz,” I said to him, looking up. “The pain is in Auschwitz.”

I didn’t understand what I meant, but tears poured forth freely. Somehow, the trauma in my body was connected to Auschwitz.

About an hour later, when the tears had subsided and the session was over, I turned to Anthony and said: “You know what this means, don’t you? I’m going to Auschwitz.”

From that point on, I knew that I had to go there. I didn’t know why. But I felt that something would either be revealed to me, something would make sense, or some relief might be felt, if I was able to go to Poland and visit the camps, and bear witness. My image was to simply be there and feel what was there to feel.

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Rick Smith