The Healing Power of Meditationsam
by Krista Noble
Esperance Ndozi, a devoted wife and mother, used to live a peaceful life in Sudan. But everything changed when her beloved husband passed away.
“After his death, [my in-laws] turned against me,” Ndozi says. “They tortured me—almost killed me.”
Esperance fled with her children from Sudan to Uganda. Here, she hoped to begin a new life. But the horrors of Esperance’s past haunted her day and night. She slept fitfully and wept uncontrollably.
“My mind [was] all the time thinking too much, too much,” Ndozi says (Nzodi, 2009).
Ndozi was suffering from posttraumatic stress (PTS). Symptoms of PTS include flashbacks, persistent fear, uncontrollable anger, depression, insomnia, drug abuse and more (David Lynch Foundation, 2013). Victims of PTS often become incapable of caring for themselves or their families.
Ndozi was not alone in the challenges that she faced. It is estimated that 100 million Africans suffer from PTS (David Lynch Foundation, 2013). These men and women have experienced the trauma of war, terrorism, violence, sexual abuse or natural disasters.[ad name=”AdSense Responsive”]
An Unexpected Opportunity
In Uganda, Ndozi’s life took an unexpected twist. A charitable organization called African PTSD Relief (www.DavidLynchFoundation.org/Africa) offered her the opportunity to learn Transcendental Meditation.
Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a simple, natural technique that involves sitting with the eyes closed for 20 minutes twice a day. The technique releases stresses from the physiology, creating a unique state of deep relaxation. TM supports healthy, coherent cognitive functioning. The practice is not linked to any doctrine, religion or philosophy (David Lynch Foundation, 2013).
Transcendental Meditation had already proven successful in treating PTS among former soldiers. In a 1985 study, TM significantly diminished the PTS symptoms of Vietnam War veterans (Brooks & Scarano, p. 212-15). TM was shown to be more effective than psychotherapy in achieving this goal.
African PTSD Relief wanted traumatized refugees like Ndozi to benefit from Transcendental Meditation just as the American veterans had. Hoping for an improved quality of life for herself and her children, Ndozi agreed to learn TM.
A Profound Transformation
Within 10 days of beginning Transcendental Meditation, Ndozi noticed a profound change in herself. She describes her experiences in an online interview (Ndozi, 2009).
“When you start meditating,” she says, “your mind, your body relaxes. You feel [you’re] out of [the] outside world. You are just in your [own] peaceful world.”
According to Ndozi, the feeling of peace endures after each 20-minute TM session.
“No negativity,” she says, smiling broadly. “No, it doesn’t come near me now.”
Ndozi began to enjoy deep sleep at night, and found an escape from her uncontrollable tears.
“When the mind is fresh,” she says, “you see, even if you want me to cry now, I can’t.” Ndozi laughs. “I can’t! It is not there in me.”
When she recalls the traumatic abuse that she endured, Ndozi feels detached from the memory.
“Now, I feel like it was in somebody [else’s] body,” Ndozi explains. “Not me. Me, I’m free. I’m a free woman!”
Was Ndozi’s response to TM typical, or was it an anomaly? Two recent studies involving Congolese refugees shed light on the issue.
According to Refugees International, “For more than two decades, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has struggled with ongoing conflict in its eastern provinces. Today, an estimated 2.6 million Congolese are internally displaced, and more than 460,000 have fled their homes into neighboring countries” (2013).
African PTSD Relief decided to sponsor an experiment. The foundation taught TM to 21 Congolese refugees, with 21 others serving as a control group. All of the refugees suffered from high levels of PTS (Rees, 2013, p. 295-298).
Scientists wondered if the impoverished circumstances of the refugees would inhibit their TM practice.
“They did not have a home,” says Dr. Fred Travis, neuroscientist and Director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management. “They did not have a job. They probably didn’t have a chair to sit in.”
The first study took place over a period of 135 days. Within 30 days of practicing TM, ninety percent of the participants had reached “non-symptomatic levels” of PTS. These levels remained low for the rest of the study. By contrast, the non-meditating control group did not show any reduction in symptoms (Rees, 2013, p. 295-298).
The second study produced even swifter results. Within the first 10 days of practicing TM, the participants enjoyed a significant decrease in their PTS symptoms. Once again, after 30 days, these symptoms were virtually gone. TM did not cause any adverse effects in either study (Rees, 2014, p. 112-115).
Colonel Brian Rees, a Medical Doctor with a Masters degree in Public Health, was impressed by the outcome of the two studies.
“We anticipated improvement, but I didn’t expect this magnitude of change,” says Rees, the lead author of the studies (LeBano, 2013). “The continued improvement at four months also led us to conclude that TM may be a very worthwhile intervention for anyone suffering from posttraumatic stress.”
Although preliminary, the two studies have yielded highly significant results. African PTSD Relief predicts even greater health benefits with sustained TM practice.
TM: A Cure for PTS?
Will TM become a standard treatment for PTS? Dr. Travis shares his thoughts.
“If the scientific community pays attention to ongoing research,” he said in an interview, “they cannot help but seriously consider Transcendental Meditation as an intervention to address posttraumatic stress.”
African PTSD Relief is eager to spread the benefits of TM. In 2011, the foundation sponsored an initiative to teach Transcendental Meditation to 10,000 PTS victims in Africa (David Lynch Foundation, 2013).
Some mainstream organizations have already noticed the healing powers of TM. In January 2013, the U.S. Veterans Administration allocated $2.4 million to a TM-PTS relief study among former American soldiers (David Lynch Foundation, 2013).
From veterans to refugees, TM is bringing hope to those suffering from past traumas. Ndozi, for one, is excited about the opportunities that this technique represents.
Speaking of TM, she says, “This is wonderful. This is wonderful for me and…the whole world should know that.”
Shapiro, David. Founder and President of African PTSD Relief. Suite 314, 1000 Purusha Place, Romney, West Virginia 26757. Telephone: 845-228-8861 Skype: davidshapiro1008, Email: email@example.com
Travis, Fred, PhD. Neuroscientist and Director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management. Dean, Graduate School Chair, Maharishi Vedic Science Department Office. Phone: 641-472-1209Fax: 641-470-1316Skype: fredtravisWebsite: drfredtravis.com
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Brooks, James S., and Scarano, Thomas. (1985). Transcendental Meditation in the Treatment of Post-Vietnam Adjustment. Journal of Counseling and Development 64:212-15.
Bukenya, John. (2011). Unpublished interview. African PTSD Relief. www.davidlynchfoundation.org/Africa.
David Lynch Foundation. (2013). African PTSD Relief. David Lynch Foundation forConsciousness-Based Education and World Peace. Retrieved from www.davidlynchfoundation.org/Africa.
LeBano, Lauren. (2013). Transcendental Meditation Reduces Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress. Psych Congress Network. Retrieved fromhttp://www.psychcongress.com.
Maharishi Foundation USA. (2014). What’s the Evidence? Transcendental Meditation. Retrieved from www.tm.org/research.html.
Ndozi, Esperance. (2009). African PTSD Relief. David Lynch Foundation forConsciousness-Based Education and World Peace. Retrieved from http://www.davidlynchfoundation.org/africa#video=goWNosrfFvI.
Rees, Brian, et al. (2013). Reduction in Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms in Congolese Refugees Practicing Transcendental Meditation. Journal of Traumatic Stress 26: 295-298.
Rees, Brian, et al. (2014). Signi?cant Reductions in Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms in Congolese Refugees Within 10 Days of Transcendental Meditation Practice. Journal of Traumatic Stress 27: 112-115.
Refugees International. (2013). Overview. DR Congo. Retrieved from www.refintl.org.
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About the author
Krista Noble is a freelance writer living in Fairfield, Iowa. She has practiced Transcendental Meditation for 14 years