Transcendental Meditation Helps Liberate Refugees from Their Trauma
For Esperance Ndozi, it happened after her husband passed away. Her in-laws turned against her and Esperance endured a brutish assault. Fortunately, her neighbors came to her rescue and, with their help, Esperance escaped Sudan and gained refuge in Uganda. For years she suffered that haunting memory. “I went through a lot. My sleep was not okay. I slept little, and I always woke up, I had a lot in my mind,” recalls Esperance.
For Pemba, the events were too horrible to recount. She lost her husband and children at the hands of Congolese soldiers and endured a vicious assault by the same men. She, at least, was spared her life and she made her way into Uganda as well. “When I lost everything, it was so hard. I couldn’t stand living. I wasn’t able to endure my life,” Pemba says.
Esperance and Pemba are just two of the more than 100,000 Congolese refugees residing in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, who live in the shadow of ghastly and heartbreaking memories.
To help women like Esperance and Pemba heal and rebuild, in 2011, the David Lynch Foundation funded a Transcendental Meditation program in Uganda. Esperance, Pemba, and dozens of other women learned the technique, and their lives were transformed for the good.
At the same time, the David Lynch Foundation funded an independent research study to evaluate the reduction in the symptoms of post-traumatic stress (PTS) among these meditating women. Researchers found that within 10 days after learning the technique, there was an immediate and significant reduction in PTS symptoms, and that within 30 days, 90% of these meditating refugees with PTS were non-symptomatic. Findings from two studies on the project have been published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress (April, 2013; February 2014).
“When you start meditating, your mind and body relax. Negativity doesn’t come near you. If you’re hurt inside, your mind is stressed and tears just come. When my mind is fresh, even if you want me to cry, I can’t! There are no tears in me now,” smiles Esperance.
Pemba finds that her TM practice has given her a clarity and sense of wellness that’s allowed her to move forward and resume a productive life. “I am very happy to meditate. It’s helping me so much. My mind can function again. Before, I could not sleep at all for days on end. Now, I can sleep again. Those horrors happened in 2008. It is only now that I can say I am functioning normally again. Thank you so much to David Lynch and all who have made it possible for me to learn Transcendental Meditation. It has saved me.”
Through the healing influence of their twice-daily meditations, Pemba and Esperance have stepped out from under the weight of their trauma— and say they have been “liberated.”
“Those days, I could cry… I’d wake up remembering how I was raped. Now, I feel like that was in someone else’s body—not my own. Me, I am free. I am a free woman,” Esperance says.