Meditation saved my life from abuse and trauma
by Tom North —
Meditation saved my life. My father, Richard North, died in a Navy jet test-flight crash when I was six years old. Fifteen months after his death, my mother, Helen North who had eight children, married a man named Frank Beardsley who had 10 children, making us one of the largest families in the country. We became famous, and our story was featured in the movie, Yours, Mine and Ours. But it was not one big happy family. We all had to hide the fact that we were living a lie.
My stepfather was abusive on every level — physically, emotionally and sexually. His constant rage, disapproval and controlling personality left deep emotional scars. And, to make matters worse, our family hid this from the outside world, so we each suffered in silence. The toll I paid was enormous. Lacking any sense of self-worth drove me to depression and drugs. I imagine many people will identify with these feelings, even if their home life was not as extreme as mine. But trauma is trauma — whether suffered in a living room or the theater of war.
As a young adult, I discovered meditation. It was my passage out of deep depression and emotional despair, and I am here to recommend it as a powerful and effective solution if you cannot get out of the mental patterns that keep you stuck as a victim of past trauma.
Meditation was and still is a vital therapy for my continued survival and healing from a life of child abuse and domestic violence. I still practice it every day, having begun more than 38 years ago.
Meditation is indeed a powerful tool for health and healing on all levels. Research shows that group meditation can produce a radiating influence of peace in society. Recently, Dr. Deepak Chopra sponsored and conducted an online Global Group Meditation for Peace with more than 100,000 people participating from around the world. I was happy to be a part of this important event.
It was a tremendous service Chopra delivered to the audience for, as he explained, meditation is the key to our connection with ourselves — our divine selves. It is also our connection to the collective consciousness. Studies show that everything in the universe is connected, thus it is possible to unite people in heart-focused care and intention to facilitate the shift in global consciousness — from instability and discord to balance, cooperation and enduring peace.
Health benefits of daily meditation
The scientific evidence documenting the benefits of transcendental meditation, especially for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which includes child abuse, is conclusive. While there may always be skeptics, it is irrefutable that meditation delivers improvements in every area of life, from stress management to emotional, physical and spiritual balance.
Dr. Norman Rosenthal, senior research scientist at the National Institutes of Health, has published his studies of more than 300 experiments that prove the importance and benefits of meditation. This is in addition to the many thousands of published reports over the last 40 years that have come out of Maharishi University of Management, Harvard University and others.
In my own experience and in the experience of many meditators who have been cultivating a daily meditation practice over time, the ongoing result has been a steadily growing expansion of awareness and appreciation for all of life. This takes the form of improved relationships with those around us, connection with the entire human race and seeing the divine intelligence in the simplest life forms.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that I now experience an overwhelming sense of love for virtually everyone and everything. A friend and former college classmate of mine said, “I was stopped in commuter traffic on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles; I looked around at the thousands of cars and people and was feeling an unbounded love for all of them.”
If this is the outcome of consistent meditation, then it certainly is worth trying for anyone whose trauma-related or trauma-triggered emotions frequently get the better of them. For those who simply cannot see their way out of their own personal darkness, meditation is even more important. I encourage you to make the commitment.
Steps to help you develop a daily meditation practice for trauma healing
- Give yourself permission to get better and understand that meditation can provide healing and relief.
- Seek out a meditation teacher. Meditation is like walking in an unfamiliar forest. It is best to have a guide.
- Commit to regularity. Research shows that 20 minutes twice a day is optimal.
- Create a space that is just for you to meditate each day. Unplug the phone(s) and put your silenced cell phone where you cannot see it. No cheating.
- Get your meditation checked regularly by your teacher. This is very important.
- If you absolutely have to miss a session, do not be hard on yourself — it is OK to renegotiate with yourself, recommit and pick up where you left off.
- Wait two months and then check in on your memories of pain and trauma. Are you better able to let them go and not allow them to matter anymore?
- Congratulate yourself for staying with it. You are on your way to true healing.
Disclaimer: Please remember that meditation is not a substitute for professional care or psychiatric help if that is what is needed. Many physicians and psychologists recommend meditation in conjunction with standard therapies.
Tom North is an inspirational speaker who spent four years at Maharishi University of Management studying meditation. He is the author of True North: The Shocking Truth About “Yours, Mine and Ours,” the true story about growing up in the real-life Beardsley family where everyday life was riddled with abuse, domestic violence and trauma. truenorthbytomnorth.com.
Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 33, Number 5, October/November 2014.