“When I look back to all [the violence] I went through it is truly a miracle I am alive. To learn TM has been like a life-changing experience. I now feel hopeful. Life that had been grey for so long came back to colours.”

—Mother and Victim of Domestic Violence

Overcoming Traumatic Stress

Poverty and domestic violence is an ever-present problem and can seriously affect the well-being of families. Recent statistics show that nearly 5 million Canadians live in poverty, and more than 200 people are reported as victims of family violence every day. Family violence is considered to be any form of abuse, mistreatment or neglect that a child or adult experiences from a family member, or from someone with whom they have a domestic relationship—victims of family violence experience extreme mental, physical and emotional distress, poor health and low self-esteem. Poverty and family violence are considered major public health issues in Canada.

By the Numbers

Poverty

• Poverty costs Canada billions of dollar annually.

• Precarious employment has increased by nearly 50% over the past two decades.

• In recent decades, the average earnings among the least wealthy Canadians have fallen by 20%.

• Over the past 25 years, Canada’s population has increased by 30%, and yet annual national investment in housing has decreased by 46%.

Violence

• An average of 172 homicides is committed every year by a family member.

• For approximately 85,000 victims of violent crimes, the person responsible for the crime was a family member.

• Just under 9 million, or about one in three Canadians, said they had experienced abuse before the age of fifteen.

• Just under 760,000 Canadians said they had experienced unhealthy spousal conflict, abuse or violence in the previous five years.

• More than 766,000 older Canadians said they had experienced abuse or neglect in the previous year.

• Women and children are among those groups most likely to experience violence in the home.

• Family violence and poverty have extensive and persistent effects on an individual’s physical, mental and emotional health. These effects range from depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and anxiety to physical health issues such as injuries and vulnerability to disease.

• Research has shown that TM can significantly reduce stress levels, including symptoms of PTSD; assist a person in developing resilience and recovering more quickly from stressful situations; help to improve relationships, and be a useful tool in decreasing alcohol and substance misuse. Transcendental Meditation also improves mental clarity, self-efficacy, and brings about a sense of empowerment.

• Working alone or in conjunction with other programs, the TM technique can help bring harmony to the family and a sense of well-being and empowerment to individuals.

Transcendental Meditation is:

  • Evidence-based—over 675 scientific studies; 406 have been published in independent, peer-reviewed journals or other edited scientific publications;
  • Simple to learn—standardized instruction ensures consistent results;
  • Easy to practise—does not involve concentration or controlling the mind;
  • Confidential and portable—can be practised privately, anywhere, at any time.

Benefits of the regular practice of the TM technique include:

  • Reduced symptoms of PTSD and depression;
  • Reduced anger and hostility;
  • Decreased reliance on alcohol;
  • Reduction in high blood pressure;
  • Reduction in high cortisol levels;
  • Increased resilience;
  • Decreased perceived stress.

Our Work with At-Risk Families

Vancouver YWCA: Program for Single Mothers

In February of 2019, the Canadian Women’s Wellness Initiative collaborated with the YWCA in Vancouver to teach the TM technique to 13 women who take advantage of the Y’s programs and services for low-income single mothers. The project was organized by certified TM teacher Deboragh Varnel who did the instruction and administered the pre- and post-test for perceived stress. CWWI provided the funding for teaching the women, and the YWCA provided the space for teaching, and daycare for the children while their mothers were in class. The collaboration will begin again in the fall of 2020.

Results: the participants were administered the Sheldon Cohen Perceived Stress scale before learning TM and after three months of practice. Results indicated that the practice of the TM program had a significant effect in reducing perceived stress. Baseline perceived stress, prior to training in TM, showed a mean of 26.27 (SD=4.17) with a post-test mean of 18.64 (SD=3.98); p=.001). The effect size was large (ES=1.86). These results are consistent with previous research on TM, indicating reduced stress and improved mental health.

“I am a single mom with a disability (I can’t work) who’s been managing an abusive ex’s ongoing attacks through the court system for the last four years. My stress levels are high, and I am not well supported in terms of family or friends. It’s been a really rough go

Since learning TM and practicing daily as I was taught, I have noticed some big changes such as lowered blood pressure, a heightened sense of joy, increased ability to rest and feel calm. Better nervous system regulation, and most importantly, so much more patience and acceptance.

Now, instead of just blowing up at my kids on stressful days, there’s a tiny bit of space between the blow-up and whatever is triggering it… and in that space I find room to breathe and calm down. Then, just like magic, I don’t blow up. My anger and frustration dissipate and I can reconnect with my kids in a positive way. This has created so much stability and deepening of our relationship it’s been beautiful to experience.

Also, the stresses of co-parenting with an abusive ex and ongoing litigation are much easier to manage. I feel way less ‘thrown off’ by what my ex does and more able to stay grounded in who I am and what I want to create.  I am better able to stand up for what is right and speak my truth. I feel much less afraid. Now, my sense is, “Ok maybe it will be bad, but I can HANDLE IT.”

My kids have noticed the difference. They make time for my meditations each day because they see the benefit in my moods and how I interact with them.  They’re so interested they’ve started to model my behaviour as well and go and have mini-meditations all on their own when they’re upset or dysregulated.

Since learning and practicing TM I feel my life opening up. I am no longer just responding to my ex and his abuse. I have the energy and desire to be creative, and helpful to others when I can.  I feel like I finally have the space to start building again. Before TM my mind was always so full… now there’s a bit of room in there and what’s bubbling up is amazing!

The practice itself is easy and 100% attainable. (I’ve been trying to meditate regularly for over 20 years, I’ve attended silent meditation retreats in Ashrams etc- and was never able to start a daily practice.)  But with TM, since the first training, I’ve consistently met myself ‘on my cushion’ 2x’s a day. I’m proud of myself and feel empowered by my own ability to show up.

I would recommend the TM training to any woman who’s encountered any type of trauma in her life. I’ve done hundreds of hours of therapy, read countless books and done dozens of seminars trying to heal from my past, and TM has been the most positively impactful thing I’ve ever done  This recent training of TM has had by far the biggest impact on my life than any other program I have taken in the past.  I’m grateful to the people who sponsored this program for giving me the tool I need to get my life back.

—Nikky Clarke

Canadian Womens Wellness Initiative