Hi there, my name is David.
I’m a writer, educator, and trauma professional originally from Toronto, Canada. My life’s work is training people to lead mindfulness in a trauma-sensitive way.
What does trauma-sensitive mean, you might ask?
Trauma-sensitive means that we’re aware of the unique needs of people struggling with trauma. We’re equipped to recognize trauma symptoms, respond skillfully, and prevent retraumatization in our work.
Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness® (TSM) applies this to mindfulness and meditation. TSM illuminates the pros and cons of mindfulness with respect to trauma, offering theory and techniques that can be applied in whatever setting you’re in.
Since 2016, I’ve trained thousands of people in TSM. From meditation and yoga teachers, to coaches and health-care workers, to religious and classroom teachers, I’ve heard how practical, powerful, and relevant TSM teachings are.
This has been very meaningful for me—not just as a teacher, but because TSM has been a personal journey for me.
In 2006, I ran into trouble on a silent meditation retreat. One evening I felt something akin to a circuit breaker going off in my body, leaving me numb and dissociated. In that moment, I trusted that like every other experience I’d had in meditation, this too would pass.
It didn’t. At least, not entirely. In the coming days my senses became muted and muffled, my appetite vanished, and I found myself bombarded by intrusive thoughts and images.
When I met with my teacher on retreat, I left with the following instructions: be mindful. Trust the process. Don’t give up. And for the time remaining on the retreat, that’s exactly what I did.
When I returned home that summer, my friends’ faces revealed what I already knew: the meditation retreat had left me worse for wear. I was disoriented and having difficulty returning to my everyday life. At the same time, I still loved mindfulness and meditation. My practice had helped me become more aware of my body, less identified with turbulent thoughts, and happier and more content than I’d ever been.
When I talked about my experience with colleagues, I was surprised to hear them use the word trauma—a term I’d studied as a psychotherapist, but never associated with my own life. But after starting personal work with a trauma professional, the symptoms I’d been having began to make sense. I learned I was experiencing vicarious, or secondary, trauma after years of therapeutic work. I’d been continually exposed to stories of violence that had become traumatizing, and my symptoms had shown up on retreat.
Galvanized, I began to explore the relationship between mindfulness and trauma. I began talking to mindfulness educators, mental-health professionals, and trauma survivors, eventually writing a dissertation on the topic. After a video of my dissertation defense began circulating online, I also started hearing from people who’d had similar challenging experiences in meditation.
With each email, I grew more concerned. Given the high prevalence of trauma and the soaring popularity of mindfulness, it was likely that there were others out there who were struggling—potentially beneath the radar of people teaching mindfulness. From my own personal experience (and training as a trauma professional) I also knew how beneficial certain techniques could be in meditation, and how mindfulness could ultimately support trauma recovery.
This is why I created TSM.
I wanted practitioners to be able to help people avoid the potential pitfalls of mindfulness practice for trauma survivors and leverage it’s powerful benefits, as well.
In 2018, I published a book with W. W. Norton titled Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness that became a #1 New Release on Amazon. Last year I led the first-ever TSM training online to 500 people, and the approach has been adopted into multiple mindfulness training programs around the world. I recently began offering a CEU-accredited, self-paced TSM training which is now available for the first time ever.
Discover the Truth About Mindfulness and Trauma
Mindfulness is a double-edged sword when it comes to trauma. In this free webinar, I teach you why that is and tools you can apply immediately in your teaching and practice.