Meditation is ceasing daily activity and entering into a focused time of attention on the inner life. It is one of the four components that create structure bringing about transformation in the life of a trauma survivor. The four components are regular mealtimes, productive work, meditation, and exercise. They are all important, but meditation plays such a big role, I chose to do an entire blog about it. This blog is the third in a series about Life Management for trauma survivors. The other blogs can be found here or at:

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Why should I meditate?

Meditation has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety. It helps with depression management and can even lower your blood pressure and strengthen your immune system. But more than that, meditation gives trauma survivors an invaluable tool. 

For the first half of my life, I lived in disassociation. That means splitting from my inner self in order to cope with life. When I was young, I didn’t understand my family system or the impact it had on my life. As I aged, I pushed unmanageable feelings beneath the surface and continued on. Disassociation never lasts. Eventually, all that suffering demands attention, but I did everything I could to ignore it. It wasn’t a conscious decision, it was a survival technique that automatically kicks it when things feel threatening or overwhelming. As we continue along our healing journey, we will eventually have to face the terrible emotional wounds encountered in childhood.

The idea that meditation might help seemed silly to me. It sounded like putting a bandaid on a mortal wound. Take time out and be quiet. The last thing I wanted was to listen to all the horrific noise inside my head.

Trauma survivors need to look at meditation as a tool. It helps slow the racing thoughts and driven behavior. It brings you back to yourself and gives you the power to say no to trauma’s noise. It is a springboard to living in a different way. You don’t have to “do” anything to meditate. In fact, meditation is all about learning to do nothing. 

How do I begin meditation?

Getting Started

If you have never practiced meditation before, I suggest you find a comfortable spot in your house. It can be in a chair or on the floor with some pillows—anywhere. As long as it feels safe and cozy. Take three deep breaths. Be quiet and listen. Did you hear a car pass by? Maybe there is a bird singing outside your window. You hear your dog lay down and sigh. Thoughts begin floating into your head. “Did I order that mac & cheese for the party? I need to clean the house today.” Just let the thoughts pass by.

Meditation tip: It may help to have a notebook handy so you can write down “to-do” thoughts. That keeps them from becoming annoying. 

Slowly, as you do this every day you will find your body slowing down. Your mind will quiet and the inner places of your heart will begin to speak. Don’t give up. Trauma survivors have been living their whole lives running from one thing to the next. We’ve never had a moment’s peace, never listened to quiet. You can’t give up after three minutes and say “this just isn’t working.” At first, it will feel that way, but choose to stay. You will notice I do not give a time limit on meditation. I find that distracting. The rule of thumb: stay long enough to be affected.

Meditation tips

Priming the pump

Sometimes it is hard to get your mind to quiet. Choose a word like hope or peace to help with concentration. Say it out loud. Say it slowly. Think about it.

You can also choose a poem, passage or scripture (depending upon your faith tradition) to get things going. But remember, this is a time for quiet not a time for reading. Only use a short passage or a word from the passage.

You don’t have to be inside in order to meditate. Talk a walk and stop in a quiet spot. Watch the birds and listen to their song. Look at a tree and all the intricacies of the color of its leaves. This is also meditation.

Choose a meditative video on YouTube or another channel. There are many that include nature videos coupled with quiet music. I like to use ones produced by Tim Janis. I have a few short ones up on my own YouTube channel. (Defy trauma and embrace joy)

The point is to take time out and give the inner person some breathing room. To be quiet. Trauma tells you to do the opposite. Our brain is wired to be in constant fight or flight. We change that wiring by being still, by being quiet, and by creating a safe space for the heart. 

What are some types of meditation?

Contemplation This type of meditation, also known as “centering prayer,” is a way to quiet your mind. One friend uses the words “be still,” as they listen to the quiet and greet the stray thoughts that come to mind. The goal here is simply quiet. You don’t take notes, you don’t listen to your thoughts, and you simply get still. The book “Centering Prayer” by Basil Pennington can give you a more detailed explanation. 

Attentiveness/mindfulness This practice is used to open your mind to nature or to beauty of all kinds. Art might be one example. The goal here is to look for life. Life in the every day, and all around you. Life-affirming attention to the colors of flowers, the smell of things, and the sky. Life-affirming attention to the way something tastes, the texture, the smell of it. (I guarantee this practice will change the way you see food!)

If what I’ve said about meditation makes you feel a little hopeless, don’t despair. The noise in our head can quiet. Don’t let it scare you. You might start by just listening to quiet music. There are no rules to meditation. We just want to bring a sense of quiet and peace to our suffering. Do whatever works for you. If you feel deep meditation might make things worse, don’t do it. Start with music or take a walk with no goal in mind at all. We should be proud of every step we make toward life, no matter how small. Peace to each of you, my friends as you defy trauma and embrace joy.

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