+1 vote
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by (130 points)
Hello bhanti. I have been wondering how can I use meditation practice to help me in the midst of a traumatic event, or during some sort of hardship? For example, if one was to suddenly become homeless, or worse, if a person were to spontaneously recieve a physical or sexual attack from a stranger, can meditation help us deal with these events that life might throw at us which we don't always have control over? Does Buddhism say anything specific about how we should react to physical violence or abuse?
by (7.7k points)
'Bhante' is the correct term

3 Answers

+2 votes
by (940 points)
Sotthi (Wellbeing to you)

Vipassana meditation can help you anchor the mind in the simplicity of the present moment. In any hardship - sickness, loss, grief, homelessness, abuse - one can be mindful of the actual situation, which is usually a lot more simple than we think. There is an experience of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, or feeling & thinking. In case of abuse, for example, you might be hearing sounds, feeling pain, etc. If you guard your mind against reacting to the situation it will pass very quickly and you won't feel upset by it. Noone or no experience can torture us as much as our mind can torture us. So if you keep it in check by guarding it against proliferating any experience you'll be free from the suffering.
0 votes
by (3.3k points)
Not sure I agree with the answer provided. That's because when confronted with serious trauma the body will react whether one wants or not. There is this biological response that can't be controlled: fight, flight, freeze. Coupled with various degrees of dissociation. And dissociation is per definition the opposite of being aware.

With extreme situations it's a matter of survival and instinctively reacting. Awareness can play a part after the attack though when one has to deal with what has happened.
0 votes
by (7.7k points)
edited by

First make sure your lifestyle is not putting you in risky situations.
That means: 

  • Not frequenting the streets during untimely hours. 
  • Not hanging out at places like nightclubs/pubs where people drink, use drugs and tend to start fights. 
  • Not associating people with reckless behavior
  • Not associating with people known for criminal behavior
  • Not traveling to unfamiliar places without protection. Especially if you are a woman.

As far as the past traumatic experiences, Satipatthana meditation is a very effective technique. When a past memory comes to the mind, do not try to identify with it. Simply note it as remembering... remembering... remembering... until it goes away.

As far as dealing with a traumatic experience happening at the present moment like sexual or physical assaults, you have to be smart and see what you can do to get out of danger. 

Ex: 

  • running away,
  • using non-lethal physical force to neutralize the attacker,  
  • screaming to get help,
  • calling the cops
     

If there's no good option available and no way to avoid the situation, you can practice Satipatthana meditation at that time to mitigate the mental suffering. An advanced meditator may continue to practice mindfulness meditation, even when there are other options available.  But I wouldn't recommend that to a novice. 

If it is a situation like being homeless, you need to cultivate a skill to be able to make a living. It's about earning enough money to maintain the body. You can use both Samatha and Vipassana meditation to help you stay focused on what you need to do to get out of the homeless situation without being sidetracked by unnecessary ambitions/desires.

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