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Meditating After Trauma

ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

I was involved in a traumatic situation this past Sunday. Usually the mind-racing that I experience during breath-awareness meditation is neither pleasant nor unpleasant. Yesterday and this morning I was unable to meditate. Vividly disturbing memories of the recent trauma were the only thing on the menu. I was unable to move past them back to breathing sufficiently to keep sitting.

Does anyone have any advice on meditation in this circumstance? Maybe a different type of practice?

Comments

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    When disturbed I've had some success with moving back to breathing meditation by varying the exact method. For example taking deeper breaths, counting the in-breath to ten, focusing on the nostrils rather than the abdomen... pick one and stick with it, and you can expect the meditation transitions to be slower, so it will take longer to reach a meditative state.

    But trauma is a funny thing, it can be very absorbing for a while. If none of the above work I would not try to force things but instead take a week’s break from meditation, and see if the situation persists after that.

    Bunks
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran

    The goal of mindfulness is to open TO whatever you are experience at the moment .. and to RELAX into it.
    No, this doesn't come overnight. Not even over decades. But with persistence, there is progress towards the goal.

    Interestingly, in cognitive-behavioral psychology, opening up 100% to an unresolved trauma is called "flooding". Sometimes it works, but generally the therapist takes the client in stages towards this fear .. always with the goal of facing it and relaxing into it. For instance, if a client has a deathly fear of snakes, the therapist will have them hold and look at pictures of snakes, and do the relaxation techniques during this. And gradually build from there.

    So you can play your own therapist for yourself. Your relaxation tool is your meditation and the deliberate effort of relaxing both physically (becoming aware of muscle tension and consciously relaxing those muscles) and calming through breath-focus. But perhaps don't try direct "flooding" right away. Find something related to, but less-threatening, than the actual traumatic experience.

    Far better .. go TO a therapist for cognitive-behavioral modification. They are the experts and this kind of treatment is highly effective for post-traumatic distress.

    personBunks
  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    @Kerome and @FoibleFull, thanks for your thoughtful insight. I found a dharma talk and guided meditation on this topic provided by Josh Korda, the guy I posted about last week.

  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited May 29

    @ScottPen said:
    I was involved in a traumatic situation this past Sunday. Usually the mind-racing that I experience during breath-awareness meditation is neither pleasant nor unpleasant. Yesterday and this morning I was unable to meditate. Vividly disturbing memories of the recent trauma were the only thing on the menu. I was unable to move past them back to breathing sufficiently to keep sitting.

    Does anyone have any advice on meditation in this circumstance? Maybe a different type of practice?

    You need to get that trauma addressed, and cleared. There are a couple of choices, for a fast, effective resolution of your PTSD, which is what your symptoms point toward. How's your sleep, btw?

    You can Google around your town, for a psychotherapist who offers a technique called EMDR. One treatment will alleviate the obsessive thought/images, but they usually do a couple more, for a thorough job.

    The other option would be if you could find an acupuncturist in your area, who offers an old Taoist modality, called "ghost point acupuncture". What is called "Traditional Chinese Acupuncture" (TCM) these days, doesn't include the Taoist stuff; Mao purged that, and came up with this phony name, "Traditional" Chinese acupuncture. People who have trained in Taiwan or Hong Kong, or who have trained under people from there, or who were lucky enough to find an acupuncture school that taught this, will be able to do the ghost point work. The specific treatment you need is called 7 Dragons. One treatment, and you're like new. :). Serious stuff!

    It never ceases to amaze me that early Man, primitive man, knew how to resolve PTSD, but our "civilized" society only recently figured it out. Where's a good shaman, when you need one?

    Good luck!

    ScottPenKaydeekay
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited May 30

    Does anyone have any advice on meditation in this circumstance? Maybe a different type of practice?

    Prostrations, walking meditation, Tantric Deity practice can help trauma ...
    OM MANI PEME HUM HRIH

    ... meanwhile a silly little prayer for well being ... not that anybody believes in prayer anymore ... oh wait I do ...
    http://realizedone.com/longchenpa/

    ScottPen
  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    @Dakini said:
    You need to get that trauma addressed, and cleared. There are a couple of choices, for a fast, effective resolution of your PTSD, which is what your symptoms point toward. How's your sleep, btw?

    You can Google around your town, for a psychotherapist who offers a technique called EMDR. One treatment will alleviate the obsessive thought/images, but they usually do a couple more, for a thorough job.

    The other option would be if you could find an acupuncturist in your area, who offers an old Taoist modality, called "ghost point acupuncture". What is called "Traditional Chinese Acupuncture" (TCM) these days, doesn't include the Taoist stuff; Mao purged that, and came up with this phony name, "Traditional" Chinese acupuncture. People who have trained in Taiwan or Hong Kong, or who have trained under people from there, or who were lucky enough to find an acupuncture school that taught this, will be able to do the ghost point work. The specific treatment you need is called 7 Dragons. One treatment, and you're like new. :). Serious stuff!

    It never ceases to amaze me that early Man, primitive man, knew how to resolve PTSD, but our "civilized" society only recently figured it out. Where's a good shaman, when you need one?

    Good luck!

    @Dakini, thanks for your suggestions. I've been sleeping fine over the last few days, and I'm grateful for that. I'll consider your suggestions. I've always been curious about acupuncture.

  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    @lobster, thank you for your suggestions. I've been studying the Pali canon so much that I've completely forgotten about the beauty in Mahayana.

  • ZendoLord84ZendoLord84 Veteran
    edited May 30

    try walking meditating, yoga, tai chi, before you sit down. The body get's rid of stress easier then the mind on itself.

    I know this sounds very.....smart-ass (?), but at the end all there is are neutral, pleasant and unpleasant experiences during meditation. Try to meditate through it. Trauma is obvious a very unpleasant experience but isn't it to be treated like any other mental object/thought? Just go back to the breath. Try short sitting periods at first like 3 minutes or so.

    If the trauma really starts to haunt you you should seek some help. Buddhism aint gonna fix everything. Been there, tried that.

    personlobster
  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    @ZendoLord84, thanks for taking the time to respond. I usually do some light exercise before my morning sit-down. This morning, instead of my usual breath-awareness meditation I tried a guided metta meditation instead. That was surprisingly cathartic.

    personlobsterZendoLord84Kerome
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited June 2

    @ScottPen said:

    @Dakini, thanks for your suggestions. I've been sleeping fine over the last few days, and I'm grateful for that. I'll consider your suggestions. I've always been curious about acupuncture.

    What most people don't know, is that the acupuncture points govern not only parts of the physical body, but also the psyche--the emotions, mental conditioning, and so forth. The body-mind, if you will. The ancient Taoists developed to an advanced degree the treatments for the psychical aspect of our well-being, as well as the physical. Rather fascinating, really. Anyway, if you find someone who can do this, one 7 Dragons treatment will have you like new again. :)

  • KaydeekayKaydeekay Explorer
    edited June 4

    You can also try something called Somatic Experiencing therapy, it's a mindfulness practice that uses the body and the innate intelligence of the nervous system to release PTSD symptoms. I used it to help recover from my PTSD, followed by EMDR. I'm not sure if it sounds like you have acute PTSD currently, as it is usually very severe and you would have sleep disturbance and nightmares and A LOT of terror and panic. But you never know where those symptoms may lead and you definitely want to nip them in the bud if they get any worse. My PTSD started with run of the mil anxiety, went on to panic attacks, then fall blown PTSD - which is a nightmare and not something you want to risk. However, luckily, if you treat it then you can live pretty much symptom free/prevent a spiral so I would also recommend that you see to it quickly with a therapist, and don't look for self-help fixes, as it's pretty serious business! The acute stress response to something traumatic (which I think you may have currently) tends to last a couple of weeks - anything more than that and you are looking at PTSD.

  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    @Kaydeekay, thanks for your input. The only symptom I have experienced so far has been the inability to sit with the images of the experience while attempting to focus on my breath during meditation. That has persisted a bit over the last week but I've been able to either do a metta practice or chant the mani mantra when I've had trouble. It doesn't currently appear that my experience was traumatic enough to cause PTSD. Just seems like run-of-the-mill processing of a terrible event.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I hope you manage to process everything as needs be, soon, @ScottPen . This Sangha is awesome though.... cool advice throughout....

  • KaydeekayKaydeekay Explorer

    @ScottPen said:
    @Kaydeekay, thanks for your input. The only symptom I have experienced so far has been the inability to sit with the images of the experience while attempting to focus on my breath during meditation. That has persisted a bit over the last week but I've been able to either do a metta practice or chant the mani mantra when I've had trouble. It doesn't currently appear that my experience was traumatic enough to cause PTSD. Just seems like run-of-the-mill processing of a terrible event.

    You are welcome :). So sorry that you experienced such an awful event, but happy to hear that you don't feel it's PTSD symptoms. I really hope you find some peace and process everything soon. Have you tried writing? It's very helpful for processing traumatic experiences. Hope you feel better soon!

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