Peaceful Warriors

Restore your sense of peace from the inside out.


Welcome To Peaceful Warriors

This blog chronicles my experiences with post-traumatic stress, trauma, & brain injury.

It is how I have come to understand stress and how to work with it, instead of against it. 

Our Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries

Service Dog Journey

January 2018

Since August, I have been embarking on yet another aspect of learning to manage stress, trauma, and life itself. I was accepted into a service dog organization and have been learning how to  navigate the world with my German Shepherd Dog, Sailor. If you would like to learn more about that aspect of my story, please visit www.mindfulsailor.com . You can read about our experiences, both positive and negative, with going into public and learning how to be a team. I told my service dog trainer that no one realizes how hard it is to take the step of having a service dog. It isn't just a matter of having your furry friend in public with you. There is a deep seated emotional, physical, and mental element to it that I had no idea would impact me so strongly, but we are growing stronger on the path each day and I am so fortunate to have a dog like Sailor to see me through. 

Simple Tasks

January 2018

Simple tasks never seem so simple when you are someone suffering from traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress. It is easy to get caught up in the overwhelm of life and daily living. If I don't know where to begin with all of the things that I know need to get completed, I have learned to go put the laundry away. Others may run screaming from that statement, but for me it is about the simplest, most effective way for me to feel like I have achieved something. It makes me have to use the organizational part of my brain that struggles with organization and allows me to rely on my affinity for living via color codes. Once that laundry basket is empty I feel like I achieved something. When I have at least a little sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, it is usually easier to move on to another task with a more positive frame of mind. 

This blog chronicles my experiences with post-traumatic stress, trauma, & brain injury.

It is how I have come to understand stress and how to work with it, instead of against it. 

Water Your Soul With Silence

 November 27, 2013 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013 8:13 PM

Being wounded doesn't make you broken.

There are so many ways that a human being can be wounded; physically, mentally, spiritually, morally, and emotionally. Often times we can be wounded in several of those departments all at the same time. It's the reason you get through one thing and think you are home-free. This is until the next thing comes up and you think you have that under control. This is then followed by the next thing that comes up. It feels as if the process never ends.

Having PTSD is like never taking five minutes to step into the sunshine because you don't remember the sun still shines. We can get so lost in our own darkness that we've forgotten what's still "right" with us. We've forgotten that we have a choice to step into our own light, even if just for five minutes. We know that stress is cumulative, but so is goodness. If you remind yourself daily of something good that you've done or something good that's a part of your life, the light grows stronger. Be inspired to water your own soul with silence, so that your inner warrior can bloom and embrace the true spirit of what it means to persevere.

Your greatest battle begins with the battlefield of your own mind.

I am thankful to our heroes for the sacrifices they make for us to have the freedom to share our thoughts with one another in a state of safety. Always remember that you are our heroes, even on the days when you look in the mirror and can't seem to find the hero within yourselves. Meditation can be the journey you take within to reconnect with what is still right with you after experiencing stress and trauma. With daily practice, it has been shown to enhance a person's overall well-being.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 8:58 PM

Welcome to Peaceful Warriors!

"A Peaceful Warrior Resides Within Each Of Us.

Summon The Serenity Of Your Own Soul And Experience The Freedom To Be"

As someone who has not served in the military, I have great respect and admiration for those who do. It is an honor and a sincere privilege to volunteer for those who serve our country at JB MDL. It is my experience with 8 years of troops returning from war that I realized the greater need to offer them the tools to help them uncover the good that still resides under the layers of dust that war leaves behind. With that was the birth of "Peaceful Warriors" and a desire to help all of those who have suffered from trauma. It doesn't matter what your trauma is, it is trauma and it is not reserved only for situations of military combat. Abuse, car accidents, war, addiction, violence, and natural disasters are all examples of trauma that can turn a person's life upside down and seemingly, inside out. It is up to each of us to summon the peaceful warrior within us so that we too can reclaim the land within our own soul. It is ours to claim, but just like the farmer must cultivate his land for the harvest, we too must cultivate an inner peacefulness for the harvest of joy and contentment in our lives. 

Our Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries

We Salute You

December 11, 2013

Experiencing trauma can feel as if you've lost parts of yourself that used to be there. You may also feel that you aren't the same person that you used to be. The reflection in the mirror is suddenly different and the reflection you get mirrored back to you by other people is suddenly different too. The image in return seems somehow broken.

What if we looked at trauma as a part of our evolution as a person, instead of our punishment as a person?  Consider the possibility that the parts of ourselves that we felt were lost aren't really lost at all, maybe they just aren't needed at this time so that we can embark on a journey of discovering the other parts of ourselves we hadn't noticed prior. The journey is long. The journey is arduous, but a hero's journey usually is. A soldier once said to me that, "a soldier fights, but a warrior overcomes." In my mind if that statement is indeed true, then at some point in every soldier's journey he will arrive at the place where he is brought to his knees in order to discover and embrace his inner warrior. Trauma is many times part of that journey, but it does not always manifest itself in the same way. Sometimes it's physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual...............and sometimes it is layers of all of those.

Each person is a product of their own experiences. It doesn't matter if you were in the midst of war in a foreign land or if you were hurt here in the United States. You could have hurt yourself walking out the backdoor of your own home or maybe you were injured in an accident with your car. Trauma is trauma. When we arrive at a place of non-judgment of our experiences and begin to honor our trauma as the road we've traveled, then somehow we have nothing to hide, nothing to fear, nothing to make us feel better or worse than the person next to us or the soldier beside us. Our experiences, our traumas, our sorrows are not in competition with one another. They deserve the honor of being our own and being important in our journey as a human being. Those who have been injured in the line of duty overseas......We Salute You. Those who have been injured in training here in the U.S........We Salute You. Those who have been injured at home, in car accidents, in motorcycle accidents.....We Salute You. Those who serve our communities through police work and firefighting....We Salute You. Those who show no physical wound, but sit quietly reading this knowing it reaches home for them.............We Salute You. Suddenly our playing field is leveled. We are in this together.............military, civilian, police officer, firefighter, community members, families.

Now try a five minute meditation when you conclude reading this. Sit tall. Close your eyes and breathe in for the count of 5 allowing your belly to expand and breathe out for the count of 5, allowing your belly to contract. Do this 5 times. Notice any energetic or physical changes you feel in your body. Accept the moment to just "Be".

Nurturing the Body and Mind

December 01, 2013

December 01, 2013 9:52 AM

The greatest battle we all face is the battlefield of our own mind when we have experienced a traumatic event. A traumatic event can often leave a person feeling helpless down the road, as if they didn't do all they could to change or stop the event from happening. Thoughts like those rapidly lead to thoughts of letting themselves down and letting others around them down. It then becomes a matter of turning on yourself.

The issues that begin churning on the inside become outward manifestations. It can start as simple as being irritable from day to day, not being interested in the things you used to love or not enjoying the company of those you love. On the much more serious end of the spectrum it can lead to addiction in some people, violence, anger issues, broken relationships, sleep issues, drinking, or worse. Instead of nurturing the mind and body through the processing and releasing of traumatic material, it becomes a battle to push it back inside as it desperately forces its way out.

It is awful to be the one experiencing what that feels like, but it is equally as awful to watch someone go through it and not know how to help them. Meditation can be a way of nurturing the mind and body through the processing the brain must go through to establish a sense of equilibrium in a person's life. As a daily practice, meditation can be used as a gentle, kind method of reminding your mind and body that they have not been abandoned through trauma.

Internal Emergency Response Team

November 28, 2013

Emergency workers, police officers, and firefighters are also prone to the kind of high level stress that our military personnel face.

They are plagued with on-going hyper-vigilance in order to be on call at any moment. They must be ready to respond at a moment's notice. This kind of high-level stress can take place while on the job in combat or on patrol on the streets, but it can also take place during training exercises. The constant stress of being called at any moment to handle a dangerous or potentially emotionally jarring situation builds up in the body and the mind. Over time those moments that were shut away will eventually rise to the surface because the brain begins to demand that it be processed. It has been my experience that when it does surface, it rears its' ugly head in ways that we often don't understand. Little things start to break apart around us and it begins to feel as if pieces of ourselves are chipping away and we can't catch them fast enough to put them back in place.

Developing a daily meditation practice may over time help a person to reconnect their mind and body, so that they can better handle the stress that occurs from day to day. It's like setting up an emergency response system inside our own minds. When stress occurs we often act on it, but what if we called in our own personal emergency response neurons to help us keep things in perspective. If we train our internal emergency response team to know what to do in the event of high-level stress, we are more likely to be able to respond to life in a way that doesn't shut us away from the best parts of ourselves in the process. 

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An ongoing series of informational entries


December 29, 2013

What if instead of toiling over developing a fancy resolution this year, you instead resolve to be where you are and be okay with it for just a moment? Shake off the judgment that another year has passed and everything still feels the same. No moment is ever entirely the same and when you develop inner awareness through meditation and energy work, each moment begins to feel as if it is entirely its' own. Outer perceptions begin to feel different because you are more aware of your inner state of being.

It has been my experience with PTSD, that tends to be a focus on the judgments of others, as well as, the actions of others. The actions of others seems to be a real hot-point too. When you've been through trauma, it can be very difficult to be in the presence of those who appear to be taking life for granted and complaining of idiosyncrasies in their life that seem to bear no real significance to the grand scheme of survival. I've seen many tempers flare over this kind of thing and inner frustration becomes outer manifestations. If we focus on the frustration we feel over the actions of others then we will draw in more of the same energy towards us. However, if we turn inward to manage the source of the frustration, our response and interpretation has the ability to shift.

Great Expectations

December 23, 2013

There is a sense of merriment and joy that is supposed to represent this time of year. It's supposed to be a time for being thankful, gathering with family, friends, and loved ones near and far. On the flip side, this time of year can be difficult for those suffering from trauma and post-traumatic stress. It can become a time of year that creates anxiety, stress, depression, and an internal wanting of it to just be over and done with so we can get on with our lives. But that leads me to two questions: What does it mean to "get on with our lives"? and two, What is this expectation that this time of year has to be a time of merriment and celebration?

Let's start with the first question because I know the second was confusing and somehow surprising. Facing the holidays after you have experienced trauma, loss, combat, intense training,and separation from families, can be difficult. Perspective has changed, simple things don't seem so simple anymore. Everything seems to bear a weight that you can't understand and from my own experiences, often felt as if it was more of a burden than a celebration. So once the holidays are over.........."How is it that we "get on with our lives"? What do we do that is different after the holidays than what we do during the holidays? Is behavior really different? From my own perspective, the answer is no. However, what is different is the expectation we've put on ourselves and the expectations of the season. We also face the expectations of those around us wanting for us to be as we were before our trauma.

January comes and there is a collective sigh of relief, a new start, but yet the burden is somehow still present in a different way. What if we took a moment to honor where we are, who we are, and what we've been through at the holidays? What if instead of looking at ourselves as broken, damaged, and somehow not worth joy or interested in celebration, we take a deep breath and honor that the holidays may be a time of solace, quietness, being in tune with who we are at this time. It is a time of accepting that our bodies and minds need to reintegrate with what joy truly is inside of ourselves. The expectations of decorations, parties, being jolly, celebrating, and the stress of preparations that don't seem to feel like they did earlier in our lives are too high a bar to reach right now. Consider the thought that we have to set our own expectation of saying, "Its okay to take our time".

Meditation became the constant for me that I turned to no matter what the expectations were around me, on me, or for me. It became the place I went for balance and connection to the moment because many times we lose our internal equilibrium because we are taking in so much information. One negative thought leads to another before you know it you are the miserable. You don't know why you feel as you do, nor can you explain it those who are pressing you to be "normal". Which leads me to the next question.............

"What does it mean to be normal after trauma?"

Have you ever thought of PTSD as a normal response to extraordinary circumstances? Contemplate that for a bit and see how you feel about it. It is a profound statement I learned from my training. Maybe the process that we go through with stress and trauma is normal and we have to find a way to manage it through medical care, therapy, counseling, and the benefit of complementary therapies like meditation, energy work, etc.

Meditation can help you to be connected to the moment you are in. This is even if your mind is wandering around in the past making you feel like those events are happening all over again or if your mind is wandering around the future where it worries and becomes frightened. What is your mind saying in the present about where you are right now? Many times, in my experience and the experiences I've had with military personnel, we often don't know what our mind thinks about what's happening right now because we've had no way to listen or connect to it.

Consider the idea that meditation can be an inner resource that is always with you, no matter how you are feeling or what the expectations are that are being placed on you, your environment, or other people.

It's a place for you to be who you are, as you are. 

Simple Questions From Everyday People

December 17, 2013

Basic questions from everyday people.

1. Why meditate? It sounds weird.

2. Isn't meditation religious or spiritual?

3. Does this require me to turn off my brain because I can't do that?

4. What does sitting with my eyes closed do for me?

Meditation is something that is not reserved for one small population of people of any particular background or religion. Yes, there are many types of meditation and some are religious or spiritual in nature, but the kind that is being offered by "Peaceful Warriors" is based on the concept of simple awareness of the present moment and does not require you to subscribe to anything or anyone other than yourself in the present moment.

Meditation does not require you to turn off your brain. You can't. It's impossible. There is a constant flow of natural electrical activity going on in your brain physiologically. "Peaceful Warriors" uses a meditation practice that reminds your brain that we are focusing on the movement of your stomach as you breathe, for example.

Meditation can be accomplished with the eyes open or closed, especially for those who are not comfortable sitting in an unfamiliar space with their eyes closed. The brain operates on two parts of our nervous system. In simple terms, one part of the nervous system is linked to hyper-vigilance, arousal, stress hormones, etc. The other part of the nervous system is linked to rational thinking, compassion, and calmness. Meditation helps to activate the part of the brain that signals the nervous system that controls rational thinking, compassion, and calmness. If you never activate the part of the brain that calms you down and helps you to think more clearly and rationally, the other part continues to fire off with more of the same hyper-arousal and hyper-vigilance. If you are constantly on high alert, imagine the toll that takes on your mind, your body, your health, and your overall sense of well-being. I think we can all agree that being stressed out all the time isn't good for our health, our relationships, or our sense of living a well-lived life. It is my personal belief that for the sacrifice each of our public servants makes to protect, defend, and support our lives everyday, they deserve to live a life they can feel good about too and connected to for all the good work that they do. 

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Charting a New Course

January 07, 2014

Consider the source of your reality.

A heart and a mind have been wounded. If we are living our lives from a place of wounded-ness, we remain wounded. If we are living our lives from a place of belief that we can and will overcome, the mission becomes accomplished. I can say I have never met a soldier, police officer, firefighter, or emergency worker who would ever give up on a mission willingly. Each one of them that I have ever met, gave their all to accomplishing the mission at hand for the good of others.

Healing is your current mission. Don't abort the mission before you've given yourself a chance to succeed. Many times missions seem to be against all odds, but we all know that mountains can be moved and missions can succeed against all odds. Just ask the Navy SEALS....if you can you find one! You have to believe that if you have the strength, the stamina, and the ability to put your lives on the line for the good of others, that you have that same power to put that energy into doing what's right for the good of your own soul.

If I had given up, I wouldn't be sharing what I know with you today. There is great wisdom in the journey you travel. You just don't know where that journey is leading you until you get there. Now is not the time to give up on yourselves or give in to the feelings of unworthiness. PTSD is like a thief in the night that robs you of your self-worth. It's as if you become the enemy of your own soul, turning on yourself. If I call you a hero because of the work that you do and the sacrifices that you make, how is it that your image of yourself differs from that? What do you see that I don't see? What is it that I see that you can't see?

It's all about perception and where we are focusing our energy. Think about where you send your energy. Is it toward the positive of who you are and the impact you've made? Or is it toward the sense of unworthiness, worthlessness, anger, rage, and frustration you feel because of the inadequacy and lack of control that PTSD paints us with?

Consider the source of your internal compass. Is it being guided by what's current in your life right now or is it being guided by what happened to you in the past? The past has a way of coloring our current status, but only because we give it permission to do so. Hold up! I can hear you now saying, "BUT I DIDN"T CHOOSE THIS!" You are right, you didn't choose PTSD. It chose you without consent, but you do have a choice as to where you direct your energy. Picture a compass that instead of North, South, East, and West has the directions of past, present, future, and unknown. Where is your compass pointing? Is that where you want to be? If it's not, you get to chart a new course.

Who would have thought you still have choices when you have PTSD? It makes you feel like you don't have choices, doesn't it? It's just a masquerade ball where everything you thought you knew now hides behind a mask of confusion. You do, however, have a choice to pull those masks off and see who you really are again. You aren't at all the person PTSD has you believing you are.

Internal Security Clearance

January 07, 2014

Read this post very carefully.

Read it all the way through to the bottom.

Counseling is a word that someone with PTSD often does not want to hear. There are a myriad of personal and professional reasons why it is not generally welcomed by those suffering from post-traumatic stress. It seems that, from my experiences talking with others, that if you are going to counseling or if someone is suggesting counseling....you must be broken. This is followed by the feeling or insinuation someone must step in to fix you because you are in no shape to fix yourself. You can all blink twice if you've been in that position or felt like you were in that position at some point in your journey or another.

You haven't even given yourself the security clearance to tap into those locked up files inside of you, so why on earth would you want to give that clearance to someone else? What if counseling isn't about you being broken? And what if you could feel "at ease" attending a counseling session, instead of being on edge, dreading it, or feeling like you have to build a garrison around the inner workings of your heart and mind?

Practicing meditation the morning of your counseling session or maybe even an hour before your session may help you to feel more grounded and present in the moment. If there is anxiety prior to a counseling session, where is your mind usually wandering around? Probably in the past, is my personal guess. There may be worry that the counselor or therapist might dig up this or make you want to talk about that. You may have the general feeling that you don't want to talk. Once you make that decision to not want to talk, the body tenses, breathing changes, and a whole myriad of physiological responses take place in the body and the brain because you feel a threat coming that you have to be vigilant against. Fight or flight kicks in.

What if practicing meditation calms you enough to put your mind in the present moment where you are able to look at your counselor from a new perspective and realize they are trying to help you reach the best parts of yourself again? Are you truly hearing what they are saying or is some of it being blocked or changed because you are fighting so hard to protect yourself? It is a process and with PTSD, it is a multi-step process and a multi-layer process. It is almost never just one thing going on inside of you. It is multiple internal connections that create the outward responses that are so familiar to people with PTSD.

Meditation can make working through those steps and layers more bearable by keeping you present and connected to how you feel right now in this present moment. It's just one of many different kinds of tools, that once developed has been shown to decrease blood pressure, alleviate headaches, slow the heart rate, and regulate breathing. It activates the part of the brain that helps to calm you down. If you are calm before attending counseling, there's a chance you may be more receptive to truly listening to what a counselor is saying to you, as opposed to what we sometimes think they are saying. Feeling calmer and more present may also allow you to become more receptive to considering the thoughts and ideas that a counselor is sharing with you.

As I have stated before, we are in this together and I truly believe that as someone who has traveled the long hard road through PTSD and come over the other side of the hill, I feel a distinct responsibility to share what I've learned to help others who also travel this path. I hope that these posts from my own personal experience and perspective, give you some food for thought because often times, with PTSD, the reality we think we are living, isn't the reality at all. It is a perception that has been jogged around inside of our brains because of the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physiological changes that have taken place at the onset of trauma. 

Just Breathe.

December 31, 2013

 10:21 AM

One of the very best things we can do to usher in the new year is to "just breathe". When we are feeling stress, pressure, uncertainty, or any other manifestations of stress our breathing changes. When those changes happen we are not consciously aware of the change. If we tap into it by drawing our attention to how our breath has changed we can help counteract the effect of stress on the body by taking a moment to become aware of how our breath is moving. Taking the time to draw awareness to our breath allows us to then have the power to slow it down or change it. When we consciously become aware of the breath we activate the part of the brain that can help calm us down and release feel good hormones, instead of stress hormones.

Pay attention to how you are feeling today and this evening. Especially if you are attending crowded parties, restaurants, family functions, etc. Notice when you begin to feel agitated, closed in, tense, nervous, sweaty, annoyed, pressured or like you want to jump out of your own skin, etc. Pay attention to what happens to your breathing when those feelings kick in, then politely take a moment to yourself and breathe in deeply for the count of 4 and then breathe out for the count of 4. Do this about 4-5 times and then see if you feel differently.

It is a quick meditative tool that is always available to you to keep you centered and present because we all know that stress is cumulative and boy, does it accumulate fast! One moment of feeling our personal space being threatened or our inner world being tapped into and it adds up fast to not wanting to be around anyone. If the part of your brain that reacts to stress is constantly on high alert, firing off stress hormones and nothing is ever done to activate the part of the brain that responds with rational thinking and feel good hormones, then you stay in a constant state of hyper-vigilance and stress. Developing simple meditative tools that you can use whenever you want can be a way to tap into the responsive part of the brain that helps calm you down.

As always, meditation is a complementary mind/body healing modality to help support already ongoing medical care. It is not a quick fix for the problems we face or the medical conditions we experience, but it can be a way for us be present enough to ride the waves of life with a bit more balance, presence, and an enhanced sense of well-being. Well-being is something that people suffering from PTSD and trauma often aren't thinking about. It seems the constant for many is about surviving the day, so that we can make it to the next one. Life is about living, not just about surviving. It is possible to see yourself through the dust of what you've experienced.

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Remembering Who We Are

 January 25, 2014 

Do you remember the person you were before your trauma?

Sometimes we remember who we were and sometimes we don't. There is no judgment either way, but if you do remember who you were....How would you describe yourself? Were you strong, resilient, self-assured, ready to take on the world, enthusiastic, driven, busy, assertive, etc.?

The reason I ask this is because I have often heard from others about the person they used to be, as if we are one person before trauma and a totally different person after trauma. I used to talk like that too, until I discovered that the person I was before trauma is still the person that lives and breathes inside of the skin I live in now. I just had to find ways to remember that the very qualities that made me strong before my trauma are the very things that make me capable of getting through my trauma. They are the very qualities that have helped me to be successful with the healing process. Notice, I used the word, "process", after healing. Healing is not a destination. Healing is a journey of rediscovering the good that lies within you no matter where you've been, what you've experienced, what you've done, or who you think you've become.

There is often this conversation that goes on when looking in a mirror where we say we don't know who is looking back at us anymore. We've become something that we don't recognize. Those with PTSD face pain, sorrow, frustration, anger, a feeling of being trapped in our their own minds, and a malaise that this will never stop. A focus is placed on all that is wrong with the mind, and the body.

How much of the time are we placing focus on reminding ourselves that if we possessed particular qualities before our trauma, they still exist inside of us?

You are your most difficult mission. Don't leave yourself behind because I know that each one of you would never go into a mission purposefully leaving any of your comrades behind. Remember who you are. Remember the soldier, the officer, the firefighter, the wife, the husband, the mother, the father, the teacher, the leader, the person that you were prior to your trauma and believe that the qualities that made you who you were are still inside of you. It's a matter of recognizing that they still exist and realizing that they are still a part of you to serve you in a new way.  

The Path Before Us

January 20, 2014

What is the path before us?

Do we have the power to affect the path?

Are we destined to suffer because we've experienced our trauma or the trauma of others?

I don't know the answer to the last one because I don't have the power to know that. What I do know is that I used to believe that PTSD meant being imprisoned in our own personal prison, locked up inside our own minds. I realize now that we do have the power to affect the path. Think of it like shoveling snow. It's so satisfying to shovel the snow and to clear a path. You feel like you really accomplished something to see all that snow moved out of the way, until you go outside a few hours later and the snow clogged up the path again. It's so much work! It's so exhausting, time consuming, and mentally frustrating. I just did all that work and now I have to go do it again. PTSD feels a bit like that. I thought I dealt with that, or I thought I fixed that, but then the path seems to get clogged up again. PTSD is a lot of work, but when you have some useful tools on hand to shovel your path out, it can be less daunting. You can begin to feel the progress, rather than the frustrating experience of feeling like you haven't gone anywhere, except backwards. It took many years to figure out that I was holding the shovel all along and didn't know it.

Parts of  Whole

January 12, 2014

Meditation can help you to align yourself with the good that exists within you.

Trauma isn't often a controllable situation that we could have stopped, even though sometimes we think we should have been able to. Situations happen that are just part of the path we were on and now we are,where we are. Developing a level of acceptance of where we have landed is one of the toughest parts of coming to terms with having post-traumatic stress. Acceptance isn't something we give and receive lightly, is it? Not for others or for ourselves.

When was the last time you looked in the mirror and recognized that who you are as a human being is valuable? When you begin to value yourself by giving yourself the permission to take your time, to work your way back into the comfort of your own skin, and to honor how you came to be where you are, life takes on new meaning. It doesn't matter if your trauma happened yesterday, ten days ago, ten years ago, or 40 years ago. Allowing yourself to be in the present moment, as meditation teaches you, allows you to activate the part of your brain that tells you it's okay to be calm. You are safe here. You are loved here. You are whole here.

A sense of wholeness seems to be the common thread missing in almost every person I've ever met with post-traumatic stress. The invisible wounds of post-traumatic stress often make us feel detached from everything. It feels as if pieces no longer fit or that the whole of who we are doesn't exist anymore, but what if the whole of us does still exist somewhere below the surface?

When we place the whole of our energy into where we've been, instead of where we are right now, we've lost our way and we can't see where we are walking. We have to be careful where we put our energy. Often times people look so long at the situation of the past that no longer serves them or their highest good that they end up missing the good behind the door that is standing right in front of them. The uncertainty seems to draw more fear than the situation from the past that holds all the control and keeps them from moving forward. We feel a responsibility to our past because there are things we believe we could have or should have done, but if that were truly true, our lives wouldn't be where we are right now.

It's a daunting road we all travel, but I can tell you that without hope we couldn't have brought each of you home. So do not lose hope in yourselves for the road that you are traveling. You aren't traveling alone, even when you think are. As one of you heals, you lead others to heal beside you. I healed because of the soldiers who taught me how.

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Recognizing Your Own Human Condition

February 06, 2014 

Stress is cumulative. It builds up in our minds, our bodies, our emotions, and our thoughts. Imagine all of the stressors you've experienced throughout your life. Stressors you maybe didn't have time to deal with prior or maybe because of your job you had to simply survive and get the job done. There was no time to feel. Remember that your body is storing all of those experiences. It shows up in restlessness, irritability, lack of patience, rise in anger, illness, pain, tension, tightness, headaches, and the list can go on and on. It's a lot of years and a lot of stressors.

Be patient with yourself when beginning meditation as a tool to help you relax. The myriad of stressors you've faced and continue to face cannot be removed, erased, or alleviated in one day or one session. When beginning a meditation practice, you are not trying to eliminate the stressors or their residual effect, you are simply bolstering your body's own resiliency reserves by tapping into the body's very own ability to heal and recognize safety. When we think of welcoming peace, calm, and tranquility we place our attention on the positive instead of trying to outrun or outsmart the negative. We can't undo what's been done, but we can begin to replace the negative with a positive experience, so that over time the positive pathways that have been built are the place we turn to more naturally than the negative. Each time you meditate you are building those positive pathways by training your brain to focus, instead of it running wild with your thoughts, worries, concerns, agenda, schedule, and daily stressors.

You are defining what your center of balance is going to be. Is your center going to be something from the past that you no longer have the ability to affect the outcome? Or is your center going to be your health and well-being today because that's what you have the ability to affect? Those are questions that are hard to answer because the past seems to have so much control and in your "heart of hearts", you want to feel better. It sounds like a catch 22, doesn't it? But with meditation you have the power to choose your focus. You have the power to say, I'm not focusing on that thought right now, I'm focusing on "peace, calm, and tranquility" right now because this is my meditation. Those other thoughts are not my focus right now, they are welcome to poke their head in, but I'm going right back to "peace, calm, and tranquility".

It's okay to be a "work in a progress" and at some point, you realize that everyone is a "work in progress". Having PTSD is no different than being a different kind of learner in a classroom. Some people come to a classroom and have prior experience and others come with no prior knowledge at all. Consider yourself the experts in this classroom. You know what PTSD feels like, own that. You are not an anomaly. You have simply recognized your own human condition. You would give all to help others, but others aren't who need you most right now. Your own soul, your own being, your own person is who is crying out to you to please pay attention, "Please give me your focus. Don't forget I'm in here. I need you too".  

Today's Meditation: Thank you to troops of JB MDL

February 05, 2014 

Thank you to all of the troops who attended this evening's meditation session at JB MDL. I appreciate your time and willingness to learn. Remember that meditation is a tool that has to continue being developed. 

Do not allow your focus to be discouragement or defeat.............remember........."Peace, Calm, Tranquility". It's your new focus. I look forward to seeing you all at class again. Remember your first time meditating can be different than your second, third, fourth, and so on. Continue with your 5 minute meditation every day..........even if you think it's not working. Each day is different. Each moment is different. Be compassionate with yourselves and know that your inner resource is always with you. Dare I say...."May the force be with you!" A little laughter goes a long way. Have a great week. See you again soon. If you have questions or want to share your experience with the 5 minute meditation, you are always welcome to e-mail me. I'm happy to communicate.

Behind a "Pain" of Glass

February 01, 2014

Begin to believe that the qualities that led you to your trauma are the same qualities that have the potential to lead you out of it. Each time that I've looked into the eyes of someone suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder there isn't much to be said because the eyes meet in understanding. It's a feeling of "I know where you are, even if I don't know where you've been". We each travel our own path in our own way, so there is no way to truly know what someone else's path has held for them. We can't truly know their individual experiences, but we can feel each other's suffering and we can relate to the feeling of being trapped inside our own skin. It's as if the "you" that you've always been, the core person that makes you who you are is inside of you behind a pane of very thick, fortified glass. You are behind that glass with your hands and face pressed against it, saying quietly, "I'm still in here. Please someone notice that I am still in here. I am still me.", but somehow nothing seems to shatter the glass and set you free. Instead you are left feeling the "you" that doesn't feel in control of anything. The "you" that feels broken. The "you" that feels changed. The "you" that feels somehow shattered and tattered by trauma. The "you" that feels as if pieces of yourself have chipped off and fallen away, never to return.

Look at the path behind you. It isn't littered with pieces of the good in you. It's littered with the dark recesses of your experiences. It's littered with dust, debris, and a heavy heart. You search high and low, over here and over there, hoping something will either numb the pain, drown the pain, or light you up inside again. Some travel to escape, some drink, some turn to drugs, some turn to prescription abuse, some turn to other more dangerous methods of numbing and escaping in search of some semblance of relief or some piece of themselves that they recognize. When you have PTSD, you no longer recognize the person looking back at you in the mirror.

I've come out from behind the glass and am honored to show you the way that I was able to breathe again. My eyes used to burn every time I sat with a soldier who had PTSD and I could see their eyes turn red. We both felt the heat of being found out. We knew without speaking that each other had the dreaded "P" word that we thought we concealed so well. It was as if we were looking in a mirror. The suffering was somehow the same, even though the experiences were so drastically different. But it was these same soldiers who pointed out the good in me over and over again, as I did in return. I didn't look at them and see a broken soul. I saw strength, a sense of humor, wisdom, intrigue, and curiosity. If I could see that in them, then it must exist in them, just as the praise they gave to me, must have existed inside of me.

Our reality is often based on the perception we hold of ourselves internally. If we give up on ourselves and believe that we will not survive this, we probably won't. If we believe in the strength of who we are and the qualities that make us great leaders are still in our DNA, then we must encourage those qualities to rise up and do what they did when we were at our best. They cannot fail us now because the odds feel like they are against us.

When you have ptsd, the mind can be like a bad neighborhood. You feel like you don't want to go there alone, but go there you must. You must find out that fear was really the only thing holding you back and that when you address the fear, it no longer holds any power over you.

Meditation doesn't unlock doors of trauma and desperation. Meditation taps into the part of your brain that reminds you that you are in a place of safety, that it's okay to be here because this calm place is who you truly are when you are at your best. It has always existed inside of you, but you have to remember that it's there. Always waiting. Always watching. Always hoping you will remember who you are and that you will come home to it.

Seeds of Discovery

February 17, 2014

In the post I wrote yesterday, I spoke a bit about the importance of the teams we find ourselves a part of. These teams exist in the workplace, a squad, a unit, a family, a platoon, and so on. Each of these teams helps us to define our role, our place, and sometimes our identity. It can be a challenging scenario when you no longer feel like you are part of that team due to injury, change of duty station, deployments pulling you away from families, families feeling distant when you return home, or even the situation of being injured and separating from your service. Although it may not be officially classified as a traumatic event, it certainly can create high levels of anxiety, uncertainty, fear, sadness, and loneliness. My greatest fear when I hear a soldier is separating from the military or police officer is retiring or a firefighter can no longer fight fires, is that they may get lost. They have signed up to do a job that only a small number of people have the physical ability to do and the courage to do. It's unfathomable to me to think of them separating from their service and thinking that they are now not worth much at all.

Every person who has given their life to service for the good of others deserves time to heal, time to rest, and time to enjoy their life.

Each of you deserves moments of rest, appreciation, and support for a job well done. But what do you do when you feel down, out of the game, and lost when you have that new-found time to rest, to "enjoy", to be with your families. It doesn't always feel as good as everyone says it should or maybe the way we think it should. There is a period of reintegration that must take place, but what I've learned is that it's not always about waiting out the time because sometimes many years go by and you still feel that way. The family grows further apart and no one really knows what happened or where the time went. Using meditation as a tool to connect with yourself was the key that I discovered in all of this. I have not served, as I have shared before, but the disconnect when you do not feel whole on the inside is something that can happen to anyone who has a high stress job or has been through trauma.

When you have a tool on hand to connect with yourself, it helps you to close the gap with others. It helps you to understand your response to others and gives you a way to process the uncomfortable things that come up while you are in that period of reintegration. We all want our families to be happy, to be healthy, to be whole, but how can we make that happen when we ourselves do not feel happy, healthy, or whole on the inside. Remember that how you feel on the inside often radiates out from you. Others can feel it because of the bioenergy field we all emit. Others can feel when you aren't yourself or if something is bothering you. Families often want to help, but from my experiences with soldiers, I either hear that they come on too strong wanting to "fix" and "help" so much that you want to jump out of your skin or they back away and leave you to your own devices hoping you'll "come around" when you are ready. Neither scenario usually works out too well because nothing is being done to close the gap. No one is feeling connected to themselves on the inside and it creates a bio-energetic divide that everyone can feel without even speaking. If you aren't sure you agree, just think about the last time you felt really "off" and think about how the people around you responded. Did they back away? Did they ignore you? Did they hound you? Did they simply hug you and tell you it's okay to feel the way you do? There isn't a right or wrong answer here. It's just the experience that you simply had. Families don't always know what to do when someone is suffering from the effects of trauma. They love you, but they only know how to do what it is in their experience to do. Education can do wonders, but the real the work has to come from inside of you. When you are accepting of you and when you release the judgment you have for you, it makes it much easier to connect with others because they will then reflect the acceptance of you right back. It closes a little ounce of the gap at a time.

I speak from experiences in my own life, my own injuries, and my connection to the military. Many soldiers have said to me that I need to share what I've learned because it can help people, so that's why I am doing what I am doing. If something I say plants a seed for you to think about, then that is the most important thing I can offer. We all must find our way through the effects of trauma and stress. There isn't one quick fix for it. It is a process and part of the process is taking those seeds that make us question where we are at and helps them to grow into the seeking of knowledge that will help us breakthrough it all one little piece at a time.

Separation Anxiety & Resilience

February 16, 2017

I was watching an interview with the former LA Laker's head coach, Phil Jackson the other day. He explained how he has used yoga and meditation to help prepare his teams for high performance during their basketball games. He went on to explain how being in the "game" can be stressful for the players. They are often dealing with the pressure and stress of high performance demands, injuries, public media attention, and the risk of being traded or without a contract if they don't do well. It's the side of sports that, as fans, we don't necessarily always consider. It's a high stress job with a great risk of personal injury that could totally alter a person's life path. He explained that meditation can help them to think more clearly and stay present with the task at hand. It was fascinating to learn about another arena of stress, where meditation can have a big impact. I can't say I've ever thought of sports team in quite this light, but when your life, livelihood, and family are depending on your success it's easy to fall victim to injury, stress, and the many demons we often hear about in the media.

Often times, I've heard police officers, firefighters, and soldiers say that they don't know who they are without their badge, their patch, or their fellow men and women in uniform. At some point in each of their careers, there is the anxiety of separation from the protective pod that each of them finds themselves in when they chose their profession. It can be like that for these sports teams too. They become a brotherhood or a sisterhood and even if there are injustices that they feel and face throughout their time, there is safety to one degree or another inside a group of like-minded people who have the same kinds of experiences.

What happens when a soldier exits the military and is unsure of his future as a civilian? What about military personnel getting out of the service who need to find a job in the civilian workforce? What happens when a police officer retires or leaves the police force to live like a regular citizen in his community? What about a firefighter who no longer waits for calls during the night to run off to help his buddies fight the next fire? What happens when a soldier or Marine trains with their unit and gets injured right before deployment and are left behind? These are traumatic separations from their team.

The mind does not just automatically say, "I'm separate from that." It continues to feel, wait, and wonder what it can be doing and what the rest of the team is doing.

It's like a wolf being separated from its' pack. There is potential for depression, loneliness, separation, anxiety, sleeplessness, guilt, shame, lack of tolerance, anger, resentment, and a myriad of other emotional, physical, and mental symptoms that come along with separation from what you devoted your lives to and the people who understood, without words, what life was like for you everyday.

Building tools to help you manage these transitions is the key to being successful within the group and outside of the group. As each one of you develops these tools, you stand as a beacon for others to do the same. It's a matter of creating a brotherhood and sisterhood of those who are resilient and can show each other the way to live a life that you are so deserving of living. Meditation can be one of the tools that you use to help prepare you for such changes, helping you to be aware, present, and ready.

Developing resiliency can help a person to navigate these changes or instances of separation. Resiliency isn't about preventing stress. It's about managing it and being able to effectively handle the effects of it. Resilient people seem to just "bounce back". Sometimes it's easy to view them as having some kind of superhuman ability or maybe they can just "brush" things off, but it's not about any of that. Resilience is about honoring what you've been through, honoring where you currently at, having a daily routine of listening to your body, your mind, and your emotions, and learning ways to keep things in balance. You can't stop stressors from occurring, but how you respond to them and how you choose to handle them can be changed. It isn't something that is reserved for a chosen few. Resiliency is something that can be developed in all of us with some practice.  

What is the difference between combat stress and post-traumatic stress?

I liken combat stress to the daily "battlefield" stress of a police officer or firefighter, as well as, a deployed soldier. It is the daily drain that you experience being simply in the heightened, high stress environment that puts you in a state of being "at the ready" all the time. You are worn out. Tired. Drained. You are irritable, maybe a bit intolerant of others. Sleep is not as restful as it should be. Patience is low. Relationships can suffer. Your schedule and agenda is constantly rattling through your brain. You are just plain worn out from the daily stress of just being on the job. I've also heard it as the term "battle fatigue".

Each of you is working in a environment that holds a lot of stress, whether it be a police department, firehouse, military base, hospital, and so on. Just being in an environment that produces challenging scenarios is enough to cause daily stress. I have met many Reserve and National Guard soldiers who are also civilian police officers or firefighters. They have always offered interesting perspectives on this topic because they are able to understand it from both sides of the fence. Their experiences from the police/firefighter work to the military work is many times different, but how they describe the impact is usually the same.

Developing tools to help you better manage the energy drain you experience everyday can help you to lead a happier, healthier life when you aren't on the job and also help you to be more focused and in control when you are on the job. This is where meditation can play a big role. If your brain is always on hyper-drive having to juggle and manage your daily tasks, sleeping doesn't necessarily always help you relax. How many of you go to bed dead tired and wake up in the morning feeling dead tired? It's terribly frustrating and discouraging. Meditation can help you to make that sleep more restful because you've trained your brain to recognize and produce a state of relaxation. It doesn't automatically know what relaxation feels like if you haven't trained it to recognize it. It all comes down to developing awareness. If you aren't aware of something, how can you make it better?

So how is post-traumatic stress different than the information above?

Post-traumatic stress has to do with the recurrence and re-experiencing of a traumatic event. Yes, there is an overlap with combat stress when it comes to fatigue, irritability, frustration, insomnia, restless sleep, etc. But with post-traumatic stress there are sometimes nightmares involved, flashbacks, behavior that recurs as the brain re-experiences through a myriad of different triggers. Post-traumatic stress is the constant reminder of the trauma you experienced. It can lead a person down a very harrowing, difficult, frightening, and confusing road. It's more than just daily stress and irritability.

There is often a feeling of "why can't I just turn it off?" Others expect you to just turn it off and get back to normal. Unfortunately, post-traumatic stress doesn't work that way, although if it did I can imagine we would all be lined up front and center. It's a process that you must go through to develop awareness of your triggers, awareness of your feelings/emotions, awareness of what's going on in your brain, awareness of the present moment......and you can imagine the list goes on. It feels like you can't ever get out from under it, but that's just a mindset, not exactly the reality. When you begin to tap into how your brain works and begin to develop tools to identify your triggers and identify your emotions attaching to those triggers, it's amazing how the light begins to shine again. This where counselors can be a great tool and resource for helping you to identify what isn't currently in your scope of awareness.  

Which Wolf Will We Feed?

March 5, 2017

There is an old story I have heard a number of times, in a number of ways. I don't know the true origin of it, but its' lesson speaks volumes. It goes something like this......There are two wolves at war within us. One of light and one of darkness. The question is always.......Which wolf will win? The answer: The one we feed.

As someone with firsthand experience with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, I can tell you that we often don't even realize which wolf we are truly feeding. We aren't aware that every thought we have feeds one or the other. Each time you put yourself down for not being able to be "fixed" or each time that you lose your temper over something seemingly insignificant in the grand scheme of things, think about which wolf you are feeding. Think about if you feel like you have a choice in which one you feed. This awareness is where it all begins. With PTSD, it often feels as if you do not have choices. You didn't choose your injury. You didn't choose your trauma. You didn't choose to be unhappy, depressed, or angry. It chose you. Frustrating, I know. But if you begin to recognize that there is a battle going on inside of you and you develop the awareness of what you are feeding with every thought, the choices begin to appear. At first it's a disconcerting feeling to realize that you have a choice in the matter because at some point, saying you didn't choose this is somehow a security blanket making you unable to step forward towards recovery. But as much as the appearance of choices can become a mirror of what you are choosing for yourself on the inside, it is also a liberating feeling once you get past the initial discomfort. Choices feel good. It means we aren't victims of our trauma, we are simply living our lives and had a different kind of experience than the person next to us. Even two people who were in the same war, on the same base, on the same mission, can have two separate experiences. When you honor your experience as simply being your own and honoring that it has lessons to teach you about who you are, you will begin to grow with it instead of against it. Not every lesson is meant to be learned in the moment of trauma, some are learned in the journey through the recovery from trauma.

Our lives are meant to be lived, not simply survived.

There is still so much for us to learn, so much for us to teach each other, so much for us to give back to those who are on the earlier part of their journey. Giving up isn't an option. It wasn't part of the briefing or the mission, so you mustn't give up on yourselves. Your new mission is to reclaim you.  

A Waterfall of Tears

February 23, 2017

Crying seems to be something that comes over a person suffering from post-traumatic stress. It is the kind of sobbing cry that you have trouble even identifying why or what you are crying over. I've often heard about this from civilians suffering from post-traumatic stress and military personnel. The crying feels like an embarrassment because it seems to happen at moments where we feel weakest, but if we shift our perspective as to what's happening when we cry, we can easier identify this as a simple release of energy from the body, as opposed to a weakness. It's important not to fight the tears. Fighting back the tears becomes a stressor, in and of itself. It makes your body tense, your jaw begins to ache, there is pressure in your chest, and a number of other physical symptoms can happen. My impression is that many think that if they allow the first few tears to come, then there will be more and it won't ever stop. What if we lose control within the tears? I can telling that it's impossible to cry forever. Eventually the tears do stop and then you are left wondering why you were so sad. It's been my experience with post-traumatic stress that an answer usually doesn't come right away, which is where I learned how to honor the tears as a simple release from the body. Our traumas, our stress, and our life experiences find their way into our cells and we carry this around with us. When it doesn't get released, things build up on us and well, sometimes tears are how it gets released. It's when we try to suppress the tears and hide the sadness that we run into finding ways to mask it. It's why you often find soldiers turning to alcohol or other forms of addiction and abuse. They just want how they feel to go away and those forms of self-medicating are often contributing more to the problem than helping to process it. On that note, when there is a fear of processing, it become easier to keep masking. Post-traumatic stress is frightening. It's frustrating. It's maddening at times and it makes you feel as if you don't have any choices. Crying makes you feel like that too. Crying usually just comes over you and you just don't want to cry. You don't want to feel your own weakness, but again, try thinking of it as more of a release of energy in the body than a show of weakness.

From a Distance

February 18, 2014

Helping families to understand what it's like for a person living with anxiety and stress is just as important as helping the person suffering.

In my personal opinion, the best thing family members can do to be there for someone suffering from post-traumatic stress is to do your level best to understand that it's never personal, even though it does hurt and can feel very personal. It's equally important to learn as much as you can about the process that PTSD takes and learn to recognize the signs, symptoms, behaviors, and triggers along with your loved one. When someone you love suffers from PTSD, they can often feel very distant. As if they are standing right in front of you, but you can't reach them. It's easy to fall into thinking they don't love you anymore or maybe that they don't need you like they used to, but it's important to know that even though they may not be able to express it in the way that they used to..........they need you more than ever and they know that your love is the most important thing that brought them home again. It's what they held onto while deployed or on the job in a dangerous situation. It's what they thought about right before their trauma, it's what they thought they might lose forever. Now that they are home, they often don't understand why they push away the very thing that kept them alive and pushing forward. It can be one of the most confusing parts of having PTSD. Why when you waited for so long to have your loved ones in your arms again, do you push them away and want to be alone? I can't say I have a complete answer for that, but what I can tell you, is that having PTSD means you have to find your way back home to yourself, inside of yourself. I said many posts ago, that you must reclaim the land within your own soul. You've been covered over by the dust of war, dangerous jobs, car accidents that started on a normal day like any other, and a myriad of traumas that came home with you and are now somehow part of you. If you read in the brain science section of my website, I share articles about how the brain can change. It can support the creation of new neural pathways with consistent practice.

Here is an interesting article that can help families/friends to understand a little about stress and anxiety.


Finding Balance

April 2, 2014

"Nothing is impossible, the word itself says 'I'm possible'!” ― Audrey Hepburn

Have you ever looked at the word impossible in that way before? Who knew that's what was hiding inside of it? I found this quote on a tea bag the other day and had to look it up.

How many times have you thought that your life has become impossible and impassable? How many times have you felt there was no way out of the tangled web that your trauma and stress has put you in? Traumatic experiences often help us to feel trapped by our experiences, but more importantly I believe we become trapped inside of our own minds. It's hard to see that when your perspective is limited by daily disturbances, fatigue, frustration, and problems that seem to be in endless supply.

These frustrations and problems are magnified because that is where our attention is drawn. When you are tired, bruised to the bone emotionally, and have lived day after day of feeling like you are on a hamster wheel, the only perspective you have is of the problems in front of you. It's important to know that the problems get magnified as you begin to focus on how terrible they make you feel. If you aren't ever putting your focus on the good in front of you, then you are likely not to notice it. Take a good look at the photos I've posted here. I've intrigued a number of soldiers with these pictures, so I thought I would share with all of you. What appears to be impossible is not impossible at all. These boulders, with the weight of the Earth and the pull of the Earth's gravity can be made to balance like feathers on end. It's all about letting go of what's holding them down. It's about letting go of the gravity that's pulling them to the Earth and learning to simply feel. They can achieve balance and so can we.

How many mornings do you feel like one of these boulders.....sullen, trudging through another day, just waiting for more problems, more relationship issues, more defeat, and drudgery? The weight of these words is enough to pull us down. If you start your day creating balance, by taking your focus off what's wrong inside of you and what's wrong in your life for just a few moments, you can release what's holding you down. Just as it takes some time and practice to balance the rocks, it takes some time and practice to balance ourselves. You have to believe that you are possible. You have to believe that healing is possible. To heal doesn't mean to fix. To heal means to grow through our experiences, taking the lessons, the heartache, the pain and transforming it into something that paves the way for ourselves and for others.

I never thought I would be able to balance the rocks, but a friend encouraged me. It seemed too foreign of a concept for me to be willing to do. How amazing when I stepped up and was willing to try! The rock fell over a few times and I thought I can't do this. I was ready to throw in the towel, but my friend said to me...............Just let go of effort and simply feel. As soon as I stopped holding on, balance was achieved.

When you've been injured or when you've experienced something traumatic, we have a tendency to hold onto it. There are likely a myriad of reasons why we do that, but the bigger question is.....do we need to? Is it serving our higher good or the higher good of others if we continue to hold on? We are the only ones who can answer that inside of ourselves, but when we ask the question we have to be willing to the hear the answer that comes from our gut. It knows the truth of what we need, but sometimes it's hard to hear. 

Handling Guilt

March 30, 2014

I recently had the opportunity to share the story of how my trauma unfolded with Army staff NCO's and Officers. One of the things that I talked about was the sense of guilt that comes up when you've experienced trauma. It's not something I completely understand to this day, but it's something worth exploring. There is a tremendous sense of guilt that comes over a person who has been through any type of trauma. I've met many soldiers who were riddled with inconsolable guilt for situations that were beyond their control. The event could not have unfolded in any other way. Let's also think about car accident victims who were in an accident that was not their fault, it was just something that happened in a split second to alter their lives. Each of these scenarios creates as much guilt or sometimes even more than a situation where someone was at fault for the trauma they experienced, either due to negligence, duty, or a heat of the moment mistake. The question is where does the guilt come from? If we weren't at fault for the trauma, why feel such an intense feeling of guilt? It really doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but what I believe it to be is this: When we are hard working people who are trained to get the job done and we have high standards for the quality of our work, which many military personnel, police, firefighters, etc. are trained for, there is also this expectation that we must have some kind of superhuman quality that should have allowed us to stop, change, or alter the outcome of a scenario. When were rendered unable to do so, there is a tremendous sense of defeat. We should have done A, B, or C to change the outcome of the event. This is especially true if others were hurt in a situation and we were not. I often use the term "we", not including myself as one of you who have served or are serving, but as a group of people who have experienced trauma. I just like to clarify as I go for those who may be reading this blog for the first time. It's something to ponder because guilt can be a bear to overcome. It sits on top of you like a boulder and with all your might it continues to weigh you down. Ponder what you feel guilty about? Is it valid? Or is it that you are internally expecting yourself to have been superhuman, when in fact, being ordinary is part of the lesson you are learning? 

 We all have expectations of ourselves, but sometimes they simply aren't realistic. Maybe it's a matter of starting smaller and letting ourselves know that we can't serve our families and loved ones around us if we haven't learned to serve ourselves. I can picture you reading that sentence a few times over making sure you heard me right. It's okay, I had to say it out loud to make sure I was saying it the way that I meant it. I have spoken correctly. Self-serving sounds selfish and many of us struggle with the idea that something we are doing is selfish, but what you have to understand is that when you have PTSD or have been through trauma, it's important to care for your soul. You have to because you are the only granted access to it. You won't let anyone else in there and healing has to come from the inside out. If you want to heal your relationships with family, friends, your life in general, begin to get comfortable with the idea of caring for you and examining you without judgment. Each of the soldiers I've met are wonderfully brilliant, capable people, willing to go the course for our country, but we must also go the course for ourselves internally. We change the world around us by first developing understanding of ourselves and our mark on the world.

 Each day we have the power to grant hope or defeat. I chose defeat for a long time until I realized I actually had a choice. I've said in previous posts that when you have PTSD, you don't realize that you have choices because you certainly didn't sign up for PTSD. We know that wasn't exactly a choice, but there are other choices and with that comes growth.

Transforming Our Perspective

March 13, 2017

There are so many layers to post-traumatic stress, so many different ways to view what's happened, which is why I encourage that we not allow ourselves to get set in our ways believing that we are changed and therefore unworthy of a life well-lived.

When in a situation of trauma, we often do not or cannot respond in the way that is most natural. Many times we are catapulted into a survival instinct and unable to even register the emotions associated with what's going on. This is seen so many times in police officers, firefighters, emergency workers, and soldiers who are in the face of danger everyday. A job has to be done, therefore emotions simply cannot interfere with the job to be done. Does the absence of emotion in the instance of a traumatic experience mean that those emotions don't exist within you? Does it mean you do not have an opinion about what you've experienced? Does it mean that your moral compass doesn't exist in that instance? I think that we can safely answer "no" to all of those questions. As a living, breathing human being you have all of the emotions needed to respond in the most humanly way possible. 

 You have a brain that processes what you see and decides whether something is pleasing to you or not. You also have an internal compass in your gut that steers you in the way of right or wrong. All of these things exist within you, whether you are beckoning their presence is another story. The job must be completed. The mission is an order. Therefore, your personal emotions, opinions, and moral compass aren't the front-runners at that point in time, but when you return to your home, those emotions, opinions, and the moral compass within you start to rev up. The things that you weren't able to process in the heat of a traumatic experience are now going to begin their own process. This is precisely when fear and the flight or flight mechanism really start to amp up. When you start to feel a hint of unsettled emotions that draw upon what feels like a personal weakness, it becomes intensely frightening. 

 Steps are usually taken then to either drown it out, ignore it, make yourself so busy you can't be still for one moment, or you can become volatile and angry. These are just a few of the many ways a person can respond when things start to bubble up from the depths of your being. Judgment of yourself begins to set in, followed closely by the judgment of others, and the fear of judgment of others. All of your normal, natural emotional responses now seem foreign and rather enemy-like. It's easier to dispel them as intrusions than to recognize and honor that something you saw or experienced drew upon a great sadness inside of you or an injustice picked up by your moral compass.  

An ongoing series of informational entries

Let's Talk About Energy

April 10, 2014

I've had a number of conversations lately about energy. What exactly are we discussing when it comes to Reiki and other forms of energy work? Just like meditation, energy work sometimes get's a strange wrap for lack of a better way to state it. It's sometimes looked as being a little "out there" or a little "woo-woo". But this is how I think about energy from the perspective of someone who is not a scientist. Everything in our lives is comprised of energy. We see it in fuel being converted into energy to heat our homes, run our cars, power our electronics............energy is all around us. We even convert the food we eat into energy to run our bodies. 

 At the smallest of levels we have molecules and atoms that are moving at relatively high rates of speed that we aren't seeing with the naked eye, but we know they exist. We know they are in motion. The Earth is also spinning on a daily basis. We know this for many reasons, but not because we feel it spinning. We would all be nauseous every day if that was the case. Okay, so now that we've established that we all have experienced and know what energy is, how does this apply to a person being able to either work in energy or feel energy?

In conversations that I have had with a number of police officers, firefighters, and soldiers, I explain energy to them in this way. They use intuition, hunches, and lots of energy to do their jobs every single day. An astute police officer could tell you if a dangerous situation is about to erupt before anything ever happens because he/she is able to read the energy of a situation through gut instinct, intuition, or just plain feeling it in the air. How? By reading the energy and intention of the situation.

From a soldier's perspective, I think of it this way. When a soldier is on patrol in a remote village, they are required to be skilled at reading the people they meet. They have to know if the person in front of them.......who may appear harmless......has ill-intent toward them, the village, or others in the vicinity. They have to be reading what this person is "NOT" saying. They do this in a number of ways. They can certainly be reading body language, but they also have to follow instinct and ultimately energy.

From yet another perspective, do you remember the old saying that Mom has "eyes in the back of her head"? Well, she may not have actually had eyes in the back of her head, but she was certainly able to read the energy of what was going on there. A Mom always seems to know what's happening with her kids without even looking. She may even know that when she gets that little flutter in her stomach and that little inkling in her mind that she had better go check to see what they are up to. It's all about feeling and subconsciously reading the energy of the situation. If the energy feels a certain way, a person can detect danger or intent.

As these people are using and reading energy, they are also absorbing environmental energy into their own bio-field. This is where combat stress can build or on-the-job stress builds up, if you aren't a combat vet. If you are absorbing the energy of difficult situations and you aren't ever doing anything to release or balance your own energy, you can begin to manifest a myriad of different stress symptoms in your body. It can be aches, pains, headaches, tightness, irritation, muscle weakness, on the physical side of this, but it can also manifest as emotional numbness, irritation, sadness, melancholy, or a number of other emotions.

Now how does this apply to an energy treatment?

Energy work may not look like much. Someone stands over you with their hands hovering over your body. I can imagine most people looking at that saying............."I'm sorry, they are doing what???" It seems foreign and unusual because we aren't used to paying attention to our own bio-energy. We all have a bio-energy field that radiates around us. It's kind of like when your spouse comes home from work and they are in a bad mood and you know to stay away without them ever saying anything. Their energy tells you to back it up. So this bio-energy field is always at work surrounding us. If we are constantly stressed, that bio-field is a little murky and it makes you feel run down. If you can take the steps to balance the energy in your body, what you radiate to others is balanced too. It opens a world of opportunity in your relationships, as well as, your relationship with yourself and your own body. Taking care of ourselves shouldn't be a luxury, it should be our daily practice. When you serve others, you too have to serve yourself because if you aren't operating at your best, you can bet your bio-energy is emitting that to others. It puts stress on everything you do everyday.

When you have an energy work treatment, the energy therapist draws in energy and can actually feel the movement of your energy in your bio-field. Sometimes it feels like waves, sometimes spirals, it just depends. If there is a blockage the energy feels unstable and shifts a lot. If the energy is balanced, it usually spirals at a gentle pace. We all have access to feeling this, but sometimes if we have blockages in the energy due to high levels of stress it may prevent you from truly feeling the energy. During the session, as the client, you will generally have a sense of peacefulness come over you. Sometimes the energy feels warm through your body, for some it may feel cool. With your eyes closed, you may see some energetic colors that seem to swirl. It's a relaxing, total body experience. For some people it energizes them, yet for others it can make you so relaxed that you fall sleep afterwards. Each experience is truly individual.  

Neuroplasticity and the Planting of New Neural Pathways

April 3, 2014

Have you ever heard of the term "neuroplasticity"? It a nutshell, it is the brain's way of creating and organizing neural pathways based on experiences throughout life. I think of neural pathways like the roads and highway system of the brain. It's not something we always have a roadmap for, so it's important to understand how the highway system works before you try to navigate blindly.

Everything that we do everyday trains our brain for a specific neural pathway. Constant stress and/or injuries create one set of neural pathways; relaxation, calm, and focus create another set. It has to do with which parts of the brain are being activated.

Rick Hanson gives an informative talk on the brain science behind neuroplasticity, but I think that he presents it in a way that we can all appreciate and understand. The video is about 7 minutes or so long, but it helps to drive home the concept that the brain can change. It can adapt and it can be shaped by the neural pathways that we train it for each day of our lives.This is an important concept for those who have suffered from traumatic brain injuries, but it's also something equally as important for those who have had other traumatic experiences, those who suffer from post-traumatic stress, combat stress, and/or chronic daily stress. If we are having stressful experiences every single day, that's the set of neural connections that are being made most available to us. If we aren't ever activating the parts of the brain that help us to counteract stress, then when we try to access them they don't feel as available because the connection isn't as strong. This is why when someone tries meditation for the first time, they sometimes think it isn't working, when in fact it is actually working. The seeds of a new pathway are being planted. It takes time for the seeds to take root in the brain, allowing it to recognize that a new pathway is readily available to it. When you experience a positive change in the available neural pathways in the brain, you reap the rewards mentally, emotionally, and physically. It's all connected.