Trigger warning: this article refers to domestic abuse and violence.

It can feel jarring to see the words meditation and violence in the same sentence; yet in my life they have mingled closely. It was through my 6-year personal experience of what Rosey Batty accurately calls “terrorism against women” that I discovered the life altering possibilities in meditation.
In this article, I’ll describe some profound and practical ways in which meditation:

  • can support the prevention of violence
  • aid psychological survival through periods when terror is inescapable
  • support the long process of recovery
  • help us to view those prone to violence in a new light

Those who meditate regularly already understand the ways in which meditation helps to prevent violent thoughts, words and actions. People may resort to aggression of many kinds when they feel afraid, overwhelmed, angry, threatened, out of control, disoriented or frustrated.[1]

Of course, there are many other factors that make it more likely someone will act on their aggression, but the above feelings are likely to be present.

Meditation can help in many ways, by:

  • helping to activate the parasympathetic nervous system[2]
  • over the long term, increasing feelings of compassion and empathy[3]
  • heightening self-awareness, increasing our ability to see things from a higher perspective or to assess things more objectively. [4]
  • Increasing self-awareness that helps us recognise unhelpful thoughts and behaviours earlier, so that we can take action, communicate our needs or seek help before acting on those behaviours, or before frustration builds to the point of explosiveness.[5]
  • increasing our sense of self efficacy, so that we feel we have a resource and set of skills to turn to when we need them.
  • relieving anxiety and depression by decreasing mind rumination (circular thoughts).[6]
  • opening new neural pathways to feelings of peace and calm. These are reinforced and built into the brain with repeated practice. “Neurons that fire together wire together”[7] so the more we practice any activity, the more it becomes hardwired into our way of operating. [8]

 Meditation comes with a caveat. Becoming more aware of our thoughts, emotions and the reality of our circumstances can have its challenges. For me, stress relief and relaxation were wonderful and needed, but my deeper motivation to meditate was to gain more understanding of how I got into the situation and what I could do to move through it and out the other side. In other words, I was seeking insight and deeper knowledge that was not available to me elsewhere.

So sometimes meditation was blissful and a welcome relief from the stress and trauma I was experiencing, and other times it was an agonising but relieving session of sitting in the cauldron (or on the one seat) of all I was feeling; despair, overwhelm, loneliness, grief, anger and fear.   I found the two in balance, very supportive in helping me survive and eventually move through the situation I was in. Emotional honesty enabled me to feel the feelings, lighten my emotional load, rally my strength and keep moving forward with greater clarity.

The bigger picture. It takes a multifaceted approach to violence and generations of meditators to make visible change. Meditation can play a valuable and practical role in all stages of prevention, survival and recovery.
Violent and aggressive attitudes usually begin early in life; in childhood and families, so this is a great place to start to introduce meditation. Of course, the answer involves the whole of society.
“If every 8-year-old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” — His Holiness The Dalai Lama XIV

Meditation helps one person at a time, and each person influences people in their circle. We can build a more peaceful world, one meditator at a time. Each meditation teacher plays their part in facilitating the building of inner and outer connection, growth and peace in the lives of their students and private clients.

Psychological Survival
Domestic abuse is an isolating and humiliating experience. Victims can feel helpless, especially when in so many cases, the police are unable to help, or the legal system is slow and weak in their response. Victims can feel alone, endangered and abandoned by their community, wondering what they did to deserve this seemingly unending and hellish experience. It can intensify feelings of anger, grief, helplessness and shame.

Care needs to be taken when introducing someone in crisis to meditation. The pace must be cautious, slow and gentle, with regular check ins with the client to ensure they are able to manage their experience. Remove all expectations of results and respect each individual’s journey and what they can manage on any given day.

Grounding, mantra or movement may be good techniques to start with. Not everyone at this time can manage sitting meditations. It’s ok for them to sit at the edges or not engage at all.

Body-based practices such as body scans or Yoga Nidra may be too triggering if someone has been exposed to physical violence. [9] Sometimes there may be other ways to soothe, such as gentle (or powerful) music, time in nature and walking or dancing. I found vigorous music and movement very helpful for releasing trauma and powerful emotions such as anger and grief held in my body.

Here are some ideas of techniques that worked for me (what works for one person may not work for another):

  • Supporting shock with grounding I remember spending a lot of time in shock. It’s a bizarre state where I felt like I was floating outside of life and the every day goings on of others. The experience felt isolating and surreal. Spending time in nature was healing and grounding. I spent a lot of time walking in the Dandenong Ranges and could feel the instant calming effect of being among the trees. With what I know now, I would use the late Ken Mellor’s grounding meditation as well. Connecting to the five senses and noticing things in the environment stimulating each sense. I think I did that unconsciously at the time. As the ancients say, most meditation is perfectly natural and effortless.
  • Connecting to a deeper part of ourselves that is not defined or touched by what we are currently dealing with; our soul or spirit, or an aspect of our essence or higher self (whatever words or concepts are meaningful). This helps to weaken the grip of shame and rebuild self-esteem. It reminds us of this powerful source of strength in our true nature; that we are good people, worthy of support and helps us to see ourselves as more than a victim. This can be an empowering process and can help us untangle from drama triangles.[10]
  • Self-compassion practices have a related effect; enabling us to reconnect to loving feelings, and temporarily softening the armour we have created to survive. This practice often brings tears, and it’s important to allow grief to flow. It keeps emotional energy flowing and inner growth occurring. These practices can be emotionally nourishing and restorative. Emotional nourishment can be sparse when we’re in survival mode.
  • Connecting through meditation or prayer to a higher power. Through God/Goddess, Life Force, Buddha, Nature, The Universe, Allah, a wise teacher or a creative, loving and unifying power that brings us all into being. A crisis can be the time to let go of scepticism, and surrender to a natural instinct to connect and feel held by something bigger (if that feels right). This can be particularly powerful when there is little in our immediate environment to support us. Such as when legal protection lets us down and we feel vulnerable, threatened or in danger. In deeply needy and vulnerable times, our connection to this energy can be physically felt and received. Our spirituality can become a tangible experience, just as real as any distressing event.  These felt effects, and the calming and awakening possible, can anchor in our body memory, and create new neural pathways. This was one of the biggest gifts of my experience; the deepening and increased embodiment of my spiritual connection. This was the only force that gave me some sense of protection. Mantra and prayer worked well, as did visualisation and heart-based practices such as Metta.
  • Mantra and Chanting Meditations can provide welcome relief from the intensity of trauma. They help to uplift. Ancient Mantras when used regularly, can have a powerful effect and are able to be used in any environment (silently). They can offer great support in tense situations and help reset thoughts and feelings. Chanting out loud can be incredibly uplifting and provide a gentle way to release emotion.
  • Moving Meditation. I found strength, expansiveness, empowerment, growth and relief by regularly feeling into and releasing strong emotions. Again, combining this technique with grounding and movement can help assist the flow of strong emotional energy through our body. Keeping grief moving and not allowing it to stagnate can prevent depression and increase self-compassion and self-awareness. Checking in with how we feel from time to time or in a journal (if it’s safe to keep one) can help us better discern what we need (e.g. rest, food, water, remembering to make an important call). Feeling into our experience, whilst painful and difficult helps us better understand ourselves and how we got here, and begin to imagine a way through. This does take strength as it can be an intense practice, so if depression has already taken hold, then grounding, movement, mantra and nature meditations may be better options to start with.
  • Mindfulness Practices Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mountain Lake meditation and Joseph Goldstein’s Big Mind Meditations are great practices to empower and expand our sense of self and embrace a more empowered perspective. Mindfulness of emotions and thoughts may offer relief from heavy emotions and situations offering more balance and steadiness.
  • Restoring sacred space This is more of a mindful practice. Our home should be a place of refuge and relaxation. But when someone is experiencing abuse at home it can feel far from that. Depending on the circumstances, people can repair and restore their space by lighting candles, playing music, bringing flowers or things into their space that bring them joy. The ritual of tending to the space can be soothing and restorative for some people. My mentor Elizabeth Mellor suggested in recent years playing a favourite guided meditation – such as grounding – on low volume in the background. The same could be done with a chant or prayer.  Doing so offers a holding, calming energy for the whole family. The gentle words infuse the room like a gentle fragrance that offers subtle calm and grounding, which can be really beneficial for children. A healing contrast to the harsh sounds that may have come before.

For many women, separation or trauma may mean loss of work and social connections, and additionally, the transition to single parenting.
Being part of a spiritual or meditative group or community can be a tremendous support.  It can offer a sense of belonging and connection which is greatly needed at this time. I remember enjoying the warmth, openness and gentleness of people I met in these communities. It was a supportive holding space whilst I navigated some big life choices.

Exhaustion and depletion can feature here. We may expect that once the danger has passed, we should be able to function again, but our body may be highly taxed by the adrenaline and emotion that has been charging through it.

It’s now that the real benefits begin and meditation can come to the fore in the recovery process.

Sleep can be a major issue for trauma survivors. So, depending on the individual, now may be the time to gently and slowly move into body practices such as Yoga Nidra and body scans.

In recovery, there can be flashbacks, the sense of danger may linger, and we may still be living in flight or flight, and experience hypervigilance. An underlying anxiety can remain for many years; a sense of feeling unsafe or untrusting. After all, the person that hurt us was usually someone we were once intimate and close with and perhaps had children with.  Recovering from this massive betrayal of trust is a big process. Some form of psychological therapy is a good idea.

  • Relaxation can offer the needed regular reminder that the danger is over, and help restore balance in our nervous system, even if just for a short time. During these practices we often feel the reality of how our body has been affected by events of the past.

Moving into relaxation and meditation can feel painful. There is commonly grief, anger, emotional or physical injury, and a nervous system that burns with damage and exhaustion.

Once again, movement practices such as Yoga, Qi Gong, dance or walking in nature help to open the body and give space for emotional energy, armouring and contraction to release. Ecstatic dance is particularly good, as the lengthiness of the practice and vigorous music offers space for the relief of release and afterwards the glow of revitalisation.

  • Moments of mindful connection.

The nourishing sensual joys of life: time in nature, music, pets, delicious food, the playfulness and laughter of children, or moments with a friend, when enjoyed mindfully can bring welcome moments of connection and bring joy to a heart that is weighted with pain and grief. It’s ok for this connection to take time to be re-established. After trauma the whole world feels different.

  • Visualization

Visualization can be helpful for envisioning a new future, even if the vision is vague. It can help to practise the belief in a better future; cultivating inspiration.
What we may have visualised in the past, (before these experiences) may be different to what we envision now. It can be empowering and inspiring to recognise the growth and change that has taken place alongside the suffering and trauma. There may be a new sense of purpose that is ignited with the acknowledgement of survival.
I remember in one visualisation, seeing a room with a large number of people in it. I was guiding meditation in the room. One side of the room had huge windows in it that overlooked beautiful trees. I was not yet a meditation teacher at the time.










Here it is: The venue for ACMM Retreats 2019-2023

Our reaction to violence and offenders
Whether we are a horrified observer watching events unfold on the news, a relative or friend of a victim, a victim, or we are connected to the offender, there needs to be space for our shock, anger, grief or other feelings. It takes time and inner work to process what is there. Grounding meditations and the Buddhist One Seat Meditation[11] can support intense feelings and reactions by helping us become open and clear as we feel into what is there.

When the inner work is being done, at some point, a realisation may arrive that there is simply no value in demonising those who have been violent, and in their own way, they are victims too. Underneath that violent behaviour in an adult, lives a terrified, perplexed, isolated, and enraged inner child. Wounded and acting out in the most tragic way. What must have happened to that child to make them so violent? What did they see, feel, hear, experience, have happen to them?People are not born violent (with very rare exceptions where severe mental illness has been inherited). This person also needs support, in order to face the truth of their actions, learn, heal and be supported to not reoffend. This is the truth that liberates.

Even though it is a long and challenging process, reformed offenders can be an incredible resource. They can help us understand the conditions that create violence and help us prevent future events.Through their experience, they may offer a pathway for other offenders to move out of their current position. They may be able to illuminate a path carved by experience, and to help others take responsibility for the horror and consequences of their actions, and to reinvent their approach to life.
For this to happen our prayers and compassionate intentions are needed. After all, what is the alternative? Seeing them as stuck in the identity of a criminal? Seeing them continue to devastate lives for generations and future generations of children being traumatised?
Mantra, prayers, and loving kindness meditation, are ways we can offer this supportive intention outward.

“Even the tiniest candle casts out darkness” Marianne Willamson

Here’s an honest and courageous question. Could it be that there’s a part of us that would like to see them suffer? A part of us that is fuelled by hatred and the desire for retribution? We are all human. We can be compassionate with ourselves and our own humanity whilst we reflect on this question, and whether we want to remain in this state of mind.

Being the change we want to see in the world takes emotional honesty, courage and maturity. Who knows? Australia could become a leader in the way we prevent violence and manage it when it occurs.

The work of a meditation teacher
As meditation teachers, we can play a part in the prevention of violence and the support of victims. These things don’t just happen in some parts of society. Violence and its consequences are everywhere. Mindfulness teachers are working in some prisons to support the rehabilitation of inmates. More research into the effectiveness of mindfulness training in the prison system is needed, but early studies show some promising signs in the enhancement of psychological well-being, decrease in substance use, and in the tendency to reoffend.[12]

The holding space you create for your community is very powerful and shouldn’t be underestimated. Some people may never have experienced the gift of being heard and supported in a compassionate way before.  They may never have been spoken to gently and with a kind humanitarian love. They may never have been guided into their inner world before.  Receiving this kind of holding space can be an emotional experience for some, and a life changing experience.

For me, being supported in this way whilst I was going through a challenging time, opened up a lifelong relationship with meditation and other modalities, and was the dawn of a whole new way of life.

Perhaps you can remember that seminal moment, when you found yourself feeling ‘at home’ on the cushion?

Remember when supporting those who have experienced trauma, to:

  • use trauma sensitive practices
  • use inclusive language
  • go gently and cautiously
  • keep checking in with your student
  • look for visual cues
  • don’t assume anything
  • use your referral list
  • use reflective listening skills that highlight people’s strengths

Keep reminding your students of the strengths that you see in them. Hold a mirror to their best self. Your teaching and facilitation provides them with a space in which to journey, explore and gently unveil the gold they have within.

Lisa Forde – President of Meditation Australia and Founder of ACMM.


If after reading this article you feel like you need some support, you can contact:
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
1800 RESPECT 1800 737 732 (Both available 24/7)





[4] During mindfulness practices, blood flow increases to the pre-frontal cortex in the brain. The part that governs higher thinking processes. Activity in the amygdala is reduced, modulating our fear response.



[7] Neuropsychologist Donald Hebb coined this phrase in 1949

[8] For more information on this topic read Rick Hanson’s work here:

[9] there are many kinds of abuse – many are non-physical