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Friday, June 26, 2015

Soldier's Heart - The Path of the Spiritual Warrior - Part 5 of 5

PTSD is a broken circle.  You haven't completed the journey yet.  You were abandoned in hell.  We must find ways for you to complete the journey and the circle.  One of the most essential and effective ways to help a warrior return is the application of empathy and love.  This is a universal prescription for the return journey.

I am going to describe to you an example of an ideal model which comes from the Papago people of Arizona.  The first prescription of a returning warrior was to put them in isolation because they were tainted.  This wasn't done as a punishment; it was done for purification.  There was no sex; no food served by the families; no going straight home; both visible and invisible wounds were tended to.  The warrior was surrounded by medicine people (our modern day psychologists, healers, life coaches, doctors, therapists, shamans, etc.) and elder warriors who would come to feed them.  In this space, they were allowed to have an acute time to feel and heal - cry, rage, express the pain - and he was surrounded by all those who understood and who'd been there.  Who 'got it'.  Who were able to listen to their stories.  Then, when the tending was done, they would ask the warrior, "Did you not wish to be a warrior?  Can you not accept the hardships of the journey?"  If the emotions were unbalanced, he was not ready to go.  He was not ready to come out.  But when he got to the point where he was calm and affirming, he would make an affirmation of his warrior destiny - "I affirm my warrior's destiny."  He could then move onto the next stage of purification.

During this stage, in the American Indian tradition, sweat lodges were used.  I've had the great fortune and honor of being able to attend a lodge out here in Los Angeles on my healing journey.  It is incredibly powerful.  Fire is transformative.  In this sacred space you "burn off" all that is impure within you.  You come out different.  Something profound occurs in these rituals and ceremonies.

There are many different types of purification rituals for this stage, not just the lodge, and it can be created to fit your needs and beliefs.  It must be public.  All religions have purification rituals written in them for returning warriors.  It's a universal necessity.  The deeper in the zone you've been, the deeper the wound called PTSD you've suffered - the trauma, the horrors you've seen - the longer, generally, for the purification.

Many of us are walking around feeling polluted, feeling unworthy.  Think how differently our society would be if we followed these simple steps and took the time to heal our wounds before going back into our communities?  What a different world we would have.

After the purification stage is storytelling.  This stimulates healing for the veteran as he re-contextualizes the experience and purges himself of the pain.  Those who listen to the stories serve as a sacred witness to it.  First the stories are told to just one person - your life coach, therapist, trusted friend, or fellow warrior.  You have to empty your story.  Eventually your story gets shared with the community.  The whole community needs to participate.  This is an essential component for re-integration.  Why?  Because you must empty your story so you will be free of the toxic and polluted emotions from the experience.  By sharing your story with others, it becomes a part of them.  They carry it with you.

There are many ways to tell your story, especially using the arts.  You can write about it, dance, sing, paint, perform a work of theater - anything that is creative.  You want to balance the destructive arts with the creative arts.  These are tools of the soul.  And tools of the soul are the most essential tools to provide.

Once you've completed this stage of the return, what follows is restitution into the community.  The community takes these stories, accepts these stories, and carries them as their own.  You no longer have to carry the burden by yourself; we are going to carry it together.  What this does is the community transfers responsibility from the warriors to the whole community.  What you are saying as the community is "I am responsible for having put you there.  Regardless of what my political stance might be, I put you there.  You are part of this community and I am responsible for that.  You did this for me."  Then, the burden is no longer on one person's shoulders; it is shared.  When we share our burdens, we make better choices.  When we see what happens when we put people in harms way, we'll make better decisions next time war becomes an option and the reasons why we are going to war, so that we don't do this to our men and women when motivated by corporate or self-interest.

Then, there are atonement practices, which help the warrior to be restored to the community.  If you have destroyed, as an antidote, you want to create.  How can you do this?  Donate your time, effort, and money to a worthy cause; help re-build schools; get involved in groups that help disadvantaged youths; restore water supplies in war-torn countries; get actively engaged in community restoration activities - whatever it is, this activity must enable you to connect back to the warrior ethos of being a provider, protector, and a restorer of the natural order.

Last part of the initiation is the initiation of yourself as a warrior.  You carry both the light and the darkness.  When both are finally brought together, assimilated and integrated, you carry a new identity.  You continue to give service without any sense of traumatic breakdown.  Your identity gets bigger and bigger while the traumas get smaller and smaller until finally they disappear.  You carry this new identity with honor, dignity, respect, and wisdom.

In order to get to that point, you have to go through a catharsis.  You have to go through a moment where you are allowed to purge all those feelings that have been welling up, that you have been keeping contained and locked up inside of you.  The program that I have created and established which incorporates and includes all of Dr. Tick's decades of dedicated, selfless work for the healing of our veterans, and is the very program that I healed myself from the crushing, devastating effects of PTSD, does this.  It creates the conditions for you to do this in a safe and sacred environment.  Catharsis is the goal.  It is critical for the liberation of the pain and suffering you endure.

The culture of Guatemala has a description for this which I think is very appropriate.  It's called 'dasaigo' - which means 'un-drowning'.  You are 'un-drowning' yourself from the toxic emotions that pull you down.  Catharsis achieves what most therapies fail to achieve - liberation of the soul.  This ultimately leads to forgiveness, not only of yourself, but of others.  Forgiveness is the key to happiness.  What follows is complete restitution and re-integration.  Finally coming back home.

One more story from the retreat I want to share with you.  A Vietnam vet came up to me on the last night, looked at me in the eyes for a long while, and gave me a gift.  He gave me a Soldier's Cross.  He put it around my neck and said, "You now bear the Soldier's Cross.  It's a heavy burden to bear, but you are the right man to bear it."  I am honored to carry it.

As I've stated many times in these blog posts, to successfully heal and recover from this disorder you must learn to master yourself.  You have got to learn the tools and the process of return which enable you to become your own master.  I have brought only the best into my work.  It is my goal to give you the most comprehensive and complete programs for truly healing and recovering from PTSD, and reclaiming the life you were meant to live.  I am so grateful for the many blessings Dr. Tick has given me.  All of us who serve the veteran population and their families are indebted to him for providing the pathway of return for all of our warriors across all the generations so that no one is left behind.  Thank you Dr. Tick.

Let's transform your wounds into gifts.  I want to remind all of you who read this blog that no matter how you got PTSD - whether in war, rape, abuse, disaster, or some other way - you will continue to re-live your traumas over and over again until you transform them.  Transforming the part of your old self into the new self that wants to emerge is critical and essential to your full recovery.  There is a way of doing it without medications, that helps make meaning of the experiences.  Through spirituality, we are restored to our true selves.  And when you learn from those experiences the values and gifts they gave you, unique to you, you will be able to contribute more to your families, communities, and to the world.

Blessings
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Please visit Soldier's Heart's website at www.soldiersheart.net to learn more about the work being done to restoring our warriors and communities.  If you are inspired, please donate!

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Charlie Pacello, an Air Force veteran, is a Life Coach and Healing Expert for PTSD, Depression, Addiction, and Trauma.  He is a facilitator with the Mindful Warrior Project, an author, inspirational speaker, and a candidate for a Masters in Psychology and Theater at Burlington College.  Charlie also works as a trainer with the Soldier's Heart program and with Drs. Ed Tick and Sarah Larsen in trauma release and healing.  He is also the creator of the program, 'Lt. Pacello's Life Training Program' based on his work in healing his own PTSD, depression, addiction, and trauma.  Charlie graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1996 and was commissioned an officer.  He comes from a family of veterans: his grandfather fought in WWII, his father fought in Vietnam, and he was on the front lines of nuclear warfare.  All suffered from PTSD.  Charlie struggled to make that return journey home and is now committed to helping others succeed as he has.  He can be reached by visiting his website at www.charliepacello.com





Thursday, June 25, 2015

Soldier's Heart - The Path of the Spiritual Warrior - Part 4 of 5

This hero's journey I've been writing about is an initiation.  To dismember oneself, you must enter the darkness, and in the darkness, at the very bottom of it, you encounter the Beast.  The Beast is your animal nature; it's the animal within you.  It's the part of you that has a will to survive that is so strong, it will do anything to get what it wants.  It has the power over life and death.  You've got to be honest about it.  You've got to be honest about experiencing it.  Anyone who has ever experienced it, fully experienced it, knows how powerful it is.  It can be consuming.

To gain control of the Beast though, you have to unite the head with the heart.  You can get control of the Beast without allowing it to dominate and control you.

When we were in council at the retreat in 2013, we were talking about the nature of killing.  What causes PTSD in soldiers is 2 things:

  1. The pain of loss.  You lose somebody, your best friend, a guy or gal you went to boot camp with, who you trained with, who was always by your side.  You lose them.  So you have this loss - what could I have done to save him or her, and the guilt attached to that.
  2. Being put in a situation where you have to kill or be killed.  That's the encounter with the Beast.  Ask yourself, what would you do in that situation?
We were given an opportunity to speak after the lecture and exercise.  When it was my turn, I spoke to the group about how you've got to love the Beast.  (By the way, the people gathered together for this retreat were amazing - there was so much deep and honest sharing of the high values, dedication, and passion for our veterans and their families.  It is an honor to be working together with them on this issue).  What I meant by loving the Beast is that you must love them beyond the Beast.  You have to look beyond; you have to see the innocence in them; you have to love the berserker of which they have touched upon in themselves.  You have to love them so much that their true nature emerges.  By judging one way or another whether having killed or not killed and what that means doesn't help the sufferer.  If we want our soldiers to come back home and complete their journey, we have to see beyond that, see the truth in them, and give them our unconditional love and non-judgmental support.

It was at this point, after the exhortation that I made and a momentary break to allow some time to process, we re-convened the council with the reading of a poem.  While the poem was being read, a Vietnam veteran who was sitting two chairs away from me broke down into tears.  He wept.  Dr. Tick and the rest of the group gave him space to release what needed to be released.  He told us he'd been holding onto so much pain that he hadn't wept in 40 years.  He'd felt so safe in this environment that he was finally able to surrender all that he'd been holding up inside of him.  Then, he looked over at me and said, "You are my son.  We need you."  It was a defining moment on the retreat for me on so many levels.

The point is - these warriors, these soldiers, these men and women, they all deserve to come home.  They do not need to be treated as victims.  You've got to look at the Beast with them; you've got to meet it; you've got to walk with it.  You have to walk it with them.  No judgment.  No flinching.  Because you are meeting the inhumanity of humanity with them.  It's part of the collective human shadow.

Now, the purpose of initiation is, ironically, to lose our innocence.  It is to understand both good and evil, to take this wisdom, and then, become one of the leaders and elders of the community in order to bring about the greatest good for all.  Initiation can take many forms.  It doesn't necessarily have to be going to war.  It could be boot camp or going off to college that is a traumatic experience.  When people enter boot camp, it's very traumatic - it's a dismembering; a taking apart of one's individuality and building you back up again for the military model.  You start accessing parts you didn't know you had.

The military is trying to create a unified machine where individuality is stripped away and conformity is of the essence.  It dehumanizes you.  It dehumanizes the individual, the enemy, and civilians.  That's just part of the process.  In order for you to heal from your PTSD experience, you must learn to master yourself by transforming and integrating these wounds to make yourself whole once again.

The homecoming can be very traumatic in itself.  First you have grief attached to it.  There's a culture shock.  There's a loss of adrenaline rush.  The loss of your buddies.  There's a feeling of displacement and anger at the trivialities of life, and a disorientation.  What can you do?  You must find a healthy way of returning home that makes meaning of the experience.  With a study of universal spiritual principles and a realignment with the archetype of the warrior in its fullness, you are able to gain gifts from your experiences; you learn what it is you needed to learn which gives value to your life so that you can contribute more to the world.  You must restore meaning through spirituality.  Included in this is community restoration, which basically means you come to the community and tell them what you have learned.

Having the experience of war doesn't necessarily make you a spiritual warrior.  There is an initiation into being a spiritual warrior once you have been restored to the community.  The true values of a spiritual warrior are protecting, restoring, and preserving all of life.

The Beast, as I wrote about earlier, is a propellant.  If its not related to you, it will come after you.  So, you must embrace it.  You must make him your friend.  Find someone who can embrace it with you.  If it's not me, if it's not Dr. Tick, if it's not someone in the Soldier's Heart community, find someone you trust who can embrace it with you; who can go all the way with you to meet you where you need it; to help you restore your soul to its rightful place.


Part 5 tomorrow.
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Please visit Soldier's Heart's website at www.soldiersheart.net to learn more about the work being done to restoring our warriors and communities.  If you are inspired, please donate!
    
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Charlie Pacello, an Air Force veteran, is a Life Coach and Healing Expert for PTSD, Depression, Addiction, and Trauma.  He is a facilitator with the Mindful Warrior Project, an author, inspirational speaker, and a candidate for a Masters in Psychology and Theater at Burlington College.  Charlie also works as a trainer with the Soldier's Heart program and with Drs. Ed Tick and Sarah Larsen in trauma release and healing.  He is also the creator of the program, 'Lt. Pacello's Life Training Program' based on his work in healing his own PTSD, depression, addiction, and trauma.  Charlie graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1996 and was commissioned an officer.  He comes from a family of veterans: his grandfather fought in WWII, his father fought in Vietnam, and he was on the front lines of nuclear warfare.  All suffered from PTSD.  Charlie struggled to make that return journey home and is now committed to helping others succeed as he has.  He can be reached by visiting his website at www.charliepacello.com


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Soldier's Heart - The Path of the Spiritual Warrior - Part 3 of 5

There are 3 key elements in nations with PTSD:

  1. There is an epidemic of PTSD in its warriors.
  2. The public is not really being involved.  And you can see this in your daily lives.  People just went about their business without recognizing there was a war going on.  Not recognizing that the soldiers they sent out on behalf of the society are also a part of them.
  3. Governments denial of it and not giving it support.  That's why you see so many people working to address this issue - psychologists, healers, holistic practitioners, life coaches, therapists, etc., - who are raising their voices to bring attention to this neglected group of our veterans and active duty members because the government is not doing enough. 

When you see these elements in nations who have epidemics of PTSD, you really have to wonder how and why we are using force.  How and why we use force is very critical.  It appears from the studies done that the more aggressive nations, those who actually cross boarders into other nations, are more likely to have cases of PTSD in their soldiers, airmen, and seamen.

Another thing that contributes to this is modern weaponry.  Modern weaponry is absolutely devastating.  It's carnage on a massive scale.  In order to counteract this, we've had to dehumanize the enemy, which hurts our souls even more.

When a soldier chooses to serve, when they hear the call to adventure, this is the beginning of the hero's journey.  Joseph Campbell wrote about the hero's journey in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.  Campbell uncovered the same mythological re-telling of the hero's tale in many different cultures, societies, and traditions of the world.  These stories were told and passed down through the generations of those societies.  The stories connected them to their ancestral past, the origination of their civilizations.  It was a record of the psycho-spiritual journey all must go through who are called to the path.  These stories are stories of initiation.  Initiation from one stage of life to another.  And, this initiation is circular.

Basically, the process is this:  you have the initiation, the call to adventure; then you have the crossing of the 1st threshold and the plunge into darkness, which is the death and dismemberment stage; this is followed by the upswing which is re-birth and re-memberment.  The death and dismemberment on a psycho-spiritual level is a letting go of the old self.  Re-birth and re-memberment is the adoption of the new self.

One of the important aspects about this for men is that men have to be taught how to be responsible for life.  It's not something that we are born with.  Women have a menstrual cycle.  They are already connected to the responsibility for life.  For women, the changes are already built in.  For men, it has to be provoked.  So, going to war, for thousands of years, has been part of that initiation process, part of the dismemberment - being torn apart - and, in an initiation, this is what occurs, you are symbolically torn apart.  What is actually happening is when you are being torn apart, you are actually being re-made.

Think about a person who gets sick.  They have an illness, and when they finally get over their illness, they're a different person.  They're ready for the next stage of life.  This works the same way on the psycho-spiritual and emotional level.  Part of this re-memberment, this putting back together, is if we don't tell our stories, if we don't own our stories, we are not fully re-born.

Contemporary psychological therapies only teach people how to survive, not to be fully re-born.  We are seeking initiation in a culture which doesn't value full initiation; and thus, we get caught, stuck, trapped, and left with the pain of PTSD and trauma.

In the hero's journey, the most difficult part of the journey is the return.  Why?  Because you've changed and the culture you're returning to has not.  Most soldiers say, and I think you will find this interesting, their most severe traumas occurred not when they were still in the shit, but when they were trying to come back home.  The purpose of the journey, your journey, is to enlighten, deepen, and enrich the community.


Part 4 tomorrow.
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Please visit Soldier's Heart's website at www.soldiersheart.net to learn more about the work being done to restoring our warriors and communities.  If you are inspired, please donate!

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Charlie Pacello, an Air Force veteran, is a Life Coach and Healing Expert for PTSD, Depression, Addiction, and Trauma.  He is a facilitator with the Mindful Warrior Project, an author, inspirational speaker, and a candidate for a Masters in Psychology and Theater at Burlington College.  Charlie also works as a trainer with the Soldier's Heart program and with Drs. Ed Tick and Sarah Larsen in trauma release and healing.  He is also the creator of the program, 'Lt. Pacello's Life Training Program' based on his work in healing his own PTSD, depression, addiction, and trauma.  Charlie graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1996 and was commissioned an officer.  He comes from a family of veterans: his grandfather fought in WWII, his father fought in Vietnam, and he was on the front lines of nuclear warfare.  All suffered from PTSD.  Charlie struggled to make that return journey home and is now committed to helping others succeed as he has.  He can be reached by visiting his website at www.charliepacello.com

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Soldier's Heart - The Path of the Spiritual Warrior - Part 2 of 5

The hardest part of the hero's journey is the return.  I want you to know that it is possible to heal and come home.  I recognize I'm speaking in this series of blog posts to the veterans, active duty personnel, and their families, but the process of healing soul distress applies to most everyone who suffers from PTSD.  Why?  The war you are fighting is the one within.  Whether you got PTSD from war, child abuse, accidents, rape, emotionally or physically abusive relationships, disasters of any kind, whatever it may have been, apply these ideas to your own personal situation.  As the Buddha says, "It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles.  Then the victory is yours.  It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell."  When you win this victory, you come home.

Now, the current medical and psychological belief is that this is a life-long disorder.  The best you can do is deal with it and make re-adjustments.  Everyone else around you also has to make re-adjustments.  And yet, you are labeled as someone who is sick.  What's to be done?  What can be done is you get on the healing path for the restoration of your soul and spirit.  Dr. Tick's work and the amazing people at Soldier's Heart, my work, the Mindful Warrior Project, and others, enable you to do just that.  

Trauma is a wound, a moral wound.  It comes from an ancient Greek word.  It means "a piercing wound".  And the warrior's wound is a moral wound.  Because we've done something, been a part of something, experienced something that went against our hearts.  We had to learn to kill; we had to learn to destroy; we had to learn to accept and unleash the total destructive power contained in the nuclear bomb - this is not something we were born with.  This goes against our hearts.  It is anathema - against the right way.  In order to heal from this, we must place our trauma in a higher power than ourselves.  It places it in a different domain, in the spiritual domain.  Then we can access healing powers that we wouldn't be able to access otherwise.

Many people feel they don't need to be healed.  That they're ok.  Well, let me say something about PTSD.  PTSD is honorable and inevitable in environments of intense conflict.  It's proof of your humanity.  The only ones who don't experience any kind of soul distress after intensely traumatic events are those who are sociopaths, who are incapable of feeling, who have no sense of empathy, which is about 2% of the population.  Intense environments - wars and conflicts - make sane people go insane.  It's evidence of our humanity.  We should be wounded from these experiences and we should take the time to heal and tend our wounds.  When we take the time to tend and heal our wounds with someone who has earned your trust - you don't tell your story to everybody, you tell it to someone who's earned the right to hear it, who "get's it", and who understands the power of empathy - you can and will transform your wounds.  You can digest those experiences, integrate them into yourselves, so that the symptoms shrink and eventually disappear.  Your identity will grow large enough, you will expand large enough so that no longer will the traumas and events of those times in your past control you.  And your life will be yours again.

These invisible wounds.  These piercing wounds to our soul.  In traditional cultures, you would not carry these wounds alone.  The ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and American Indians understood all life to be interconnected; nothing was separated.  Hence, if one part of us was wounded, then all of us are wounded.  If one of our men; one of our women; one of our family members is wounded, we are all wounded.  With this understanding, it takes a more comprehensive, integrated approach to heal this disorder.  It requires holistic healing - the body, heart, mind, and soul connection; it's understanding on a transcendent level what it is that you experienced; it's re-connecting to the earth; it's re-integration within the community and acceptance from the community.

There was something I learned at this retreat which I found fascinating.  The Vietnamese vets from the Vietnam war don't have any PTSD.  The last recorded case was in the 1970's.  And the reason behind this is because they have some major cultural and spiritual differences.  The American mindset points to the brain as the center of the problem; whereas the Vietnamese point to the heart.  The wound is in the heart.  

Now, their spiritual practices are different than ours.  It's foundation is Buddhism and the nature of Karma.  Karma plays a big part in their understanding of the world.  As we watched a video of a healing pilgrimage to Vietnam, the Vietnamese interviewed didn't see the American soldier as the problem; they saw the political leadership as the problem.  They have no hatred for the American soldier.  The Vietnamese understood the laws of Karma and applied it to the bullet.  The bullet was the messenger of Karma.  What this allowed them to do in their mindset was to accept tragedies without judgment.  They figured out you can't control chaos.  The other major difference was the Vietnamese had a community that brought back their warriors.  This community gave them permission to process all that needed to be processed; to digest all that needed to be digested, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, and let go of all the toxic emotions that needed to be let go.  

We don't do that in this country, or haven't done this for our veterans for a very long time.

    
Part 3 tomorrow.
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Please visit Soldier's Heart's website at www.soldiersheart.net to learn more about the work being done to restoring our warriors and communities.  If you are inspired, please donate!

------------------------------------------------------------------------
Charlie Pacello, an Air Force veteran, is a Life Coach and Healing Expert for PTSD, Depression, Addiction, and Trauma.  He is a facilitator with the Mindful Warrior Project, an author, inspirational speaker, and a candidate for a Masters in Psychology and Theater at Burlington College.  Charlie also works as a trainer with the Soldier's Heart program and with Drs. Ed Tick and Sarah Larsen in trauma release and healing.  He is also the creator of the program, 'Lt. Pacello's Life Training Program' based on his work in healing his own PTSD, depression, addiction, and trauma.  Charlie graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1996 and was commissioned an officer.  He comes from a family of veterans: his grandfather fought in WWII, his father fought in Vietnam, and he was on the front lines of nuclear warfare.  All suffered from PTSD.  Charlie struggled to make that return journey home and is now committed to helping others succeed as he has.  He can be reached by visiting his website at www.charliepacello.com



Monday, June 22, 2015

Soldier's Heart - The Path of the Spiritual Warrior - the Inestimable Work of Dr. Edward Tick, Part 1 of 5

Back in the fall of 2013, I spent an incredible weekend at a retreat in Joshua Tree.  It was the Soldier's Heart Level 1 Training weekend for veterans, family members of veterans, healers, practitioners, psychologists, and others who are dedicated to healing the invisible moral wounds of PTSD.  It was one of the most memorable weekends I had on my path of recovery.  I wish I had the ability to describe to you the emotions, feelings, and love expressed in this council.  Dr. Edward Tick and his wife Kate Dahlstedt conducted the retreat for the purposes of training those in attendance on their model, the Soldier's Heart model of transformation from war veteran to Spiritual Warrior.  We were given a comprehensive understanding of the inner world of those who had experienced combat, war trauma, military culture, and the essential role of community in the re-integration process.  Dr. Tick wrote the book, War and the Soul, a must read for all veterans and their loved ones who want to understand the path of the Spiritual Warrior and how it relates to those who choose military service.  His most recent book, Warrior's Return: Restoring the Soul after War presents a powerful vision for changing the way we welcome our veterans back home.  I was given the great honor to be included in this work, to express my own "soul wounding", how this led to me losing my moral compass, and my journey into the Underworld.  These are a must read for you veterans out there who read this blog.  I implore you to get them and begin to understand the true nature of what PTSD is.  As one Iraqi vet has so succinctly stated in Warrior's Return: "We don't need complicated psychological definitions.  PTSD results when your head tells you to do what your heart tells you is wrong."

This Soldier's Heart weekend back in 2013 was so powerful, I've felt the need to write about it and share with all of you my experience.  The vision, message, purity of intention, nobility, wisdom, and deep conviction of Dr. Tick's work to heal the hearts and souls of our veterans is so important, so vital to the renewing and restoring of our warriors and society, it needs to be spread.

Before I go into detail of my experience at the retreat, I want to share with you how Dr. Tick and Kate describe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  They call it Post-Traumatic Soul Distress.  Having had first hand experience with this, I know this to be absolutely, unequivocally true.  Our souls are in distress.  In a moment in time our souls are shattered, broken.  These wounds sear our hearts, we become fragments of who we used to be, disconnected from ourselves, disconnected from the world around us, and we wonder if life will ever be filled with joy again.  It takes immense courage, compassion for self and others, determination, and a fearless commitment to reclaim and create the life you were meant to live.  Believe me, I know.  The hardest part of the journey is the return, and to do it requires an understanding of the true nature of the warrior's path.

Sitting Bull said,
"You tribes behold me, the Chiefs of old are gone, and myself, I shall take courage."
When you're on the warrior's path, you can't change it.  You are on that path for life.  What is so important is the stories we tell.  The stories of our soldiers' are our stories, and yet, as a society and community, we've made this disconnect where they have to bear the brunt of their stories and keep it within them, and hence, they suffer alone.

We need to help soldier's speak their honorable past.  They went there with honor, and they should come back with honor.  Now, we've artificially created the non-combatant/combatant veteran and this negatively affects veterans who have PTSD that never experienced combat.  War has a very long chain, everyone is exposed; you are a part of that war machine.  A person who never sees combat and yet who sees the body bags coming in in order to identify the bodies can suffer just as severely as any combat veteran.  We should never judge another person's suffering.  Another example.  An officer who sends his men on a routine mission and they suddenly find themselves caught in an ambush.  He hears their cries and screams, bullets flying and bombs exploding in the background, and he stands there in total helplessness and terror for the welfare of his soldiers for he can't do anything to prevent or stop the tragedy from happening.  This man or woman can be crippled by PTSD for life.

War has very long tentacles.  It particularly affects family members.  Anyone who has ever lived with a veteran know this.  The vet comes back from the war with the war still raging inside of them.  The family members bear the brunt of having to deal with all the pain, all the toxic emotions, and all the suffering that their veteran is experiencing.

Military service itself can be very traumatizing.  We are broken down.  It is a breaking down of your own unique individuality.  This is necessary in order for the unit to work together as one in times of war.  However, in order to bring our warrior's back, we must rejoice in the warrior's healing.  In order to rejoice in the warrior's healing, we have to start thinking differently.  We have to start thinking differently about warfare, about warriors, and about the invisible wounds of war and start thinking from a holistic, spiritual perspective.  What do I mean by this?

The warrior's path is a psycho-spiritual journey.  The spiritual warrior is an archetype; it's been with us a very long time.  It's been around since man first stepped foot on this planet, in every tribe, in every nation, in every culture.  The problem is, in the last 4000 years or so, we've not stayed true to the values and ethos of the spiritual warrior.  What it's been about is greed, conquest, and aggression.  It's been a perversion of what the warrior ethos is all about.  No wonder so many men and women are broken.

Warriorhood is built into us.  It's among the archetypes that hold us together in our collective unconscious.  What we've forgotten is the path of return.  And there are paths of return that have been in all cultures and all religions, but we've forgotten about them.  The Bible is loaded with rituals to bring soldier's back home; Native American rituals as well.  But because society as a whole doesn't want to deal with these pains and having to accept responsibility for their part in placing these soldiers in harms way, we prevent them from making that return journey.  There is a warrior and civilian contract.  They are out there serving us.  And they are embarking on the hero's journey, everyone is, when we send people to war.



Part 2 tomorrow.

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Please visit Soldier's Heart's website at www.soldiersheart.net to learn more about the work being done to restoring our warriors and communities.  If you are inspired, please donate!

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Charlie Pacello, an Air Force veteran, is a Life Coach and Healing Expert for PTSD, Depression, Addiction, and Trauma.  He is a facilitator with the Mindful Warrior Project, an author, inspirational speaker, and a candidate for a Masters in Psychology and Theater at Burlington College.  Charlie also works as a trainer with the Soldier's Heart program and with Drs. Ed Tick and Sarah Larsen in trauma release and healing.  He is also the creator of the program, 'Lt. Pacello's Life Training Program' based on his work in healing his own PTSD, depression, addiction, and trauma.  Charlie graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1996 and was commissioned an officer.  He comes from a family of veterans: his grandfather fought in WWII, his father fought in Vietnam, and he was on the front lines of nuclear warfare.  All suffered from PTSD.  Charlie struggled to make that return journey home and is now committed to helping others succeed as he has.  He can be reached by visiting his website at www.charliepacello.com



  

Sunday, February 8, 2015

California BBS Investigation of my Life Coaching Practice for PTSD

Are you meeting a challenging time in your life and figuring out what the best thing to do is?  Are you at extremes - having the best of times and the worst of times?  If so, maybe my recent story can help you.

It was the best of times.  I had finally healed after all the work I had done for 3 years and life was really beginning to open up again.  Little did I know what could have been the worst of times was brewing.  Last year someone reported me to the California State Board of Behavioral Sciences; they had "received information indicating you may be advertising in a manner which is false, misleading, or deceptive" and that "These statements may lead the public to believe that you are licensed to practice therapy."  The Board requested information about my Life Coaching practice for PTSD, depression, and trauma.  

It came as a surprise.  Nowhere in any of my advertising or written work had I pretended to be a licensed therapist or psychologist, and I make it very clear to all clients who I work with I am a life coach.  I had spent the good part of 3 years healing myself, developing my program, testing it out to see what worked and what didn't, and putting together what I believe is one of the best, most comprehensive, holistically-based programs out there to bring healing and transformation from soul distress.  A lot of blood, sweat, and tears were spent.  Months of wondering if I was ever going to feel good again, or if life was ever going to be worth living another day.  The deep resounding cry wailing from within clamored for a path to be given me to reclaim my life, and in so doing, show others how they might be able to do it as well.  There were many dark days and sleepless nights filled with hopelessness and despair of a man dying to be born again and given a second chance to live.  

I kept going.  I poured my whole heart and soul into finding a way out of the excruciating pain and suffering I was crippled by from a severe case of complex PTSD.  I never quit.  I never gave up.  And, step by step, with every tear drop, I climbed out of that hell I was in.  Then, at the moment of my greatest success, when I had just been vetted by the military on the legitimacy of my program (see the letter below) and given the stamp of approval, I received the letter from the Board.  It was crushing.  The Board had mailed it to the wrong address and this was a second request, which was mailed to me fortuitously by Michelle Gazeley, who owns the office space Face-to-Face in Redondo Beach.  She's the owner of that office and would kindly let me use it to meet with clients when I needed to.  She mailed it to my home address just in time for me to respond to it.  

"Meeting the Challenge", that was my father's motto for his business, and those words echoed in my mind as I was being asked to meet the greatest challenge to my work and it's integrity.  I submitted to the Board a detailed letter along with my flyers, pamphlets, and my entire program.  I didn't want to hide anything.  After a very intense weekend, I successfully mailed it off in time to meet the Board's deadline.  A month passed before I heard back from the Board.  It was a month filled with self-doubt, sadness, and insecurity of the the unknown.  I kept working - I continued meeting with clients and building my practice;  I attended the LA Pro Bono Fair and offered my Life Coaching services to the community at large; I attended the monthly meeting with the LA Veterans Collaborative; I submitted my application for the level 2 training in January 2015 with Soldier's Heart; I applied to graduate school at Burlington College, Vermont; I continued to do my work with the Mindful Warrior Project in bring mindfulness practices to vets on Skid Row and helped train clinicians at Didi Hirsch on how to incorporate mindfulness into their work.  Finally, on November 3rd, the letter arrived from the Board.  I remember taking a deep breath as I opened the letter to see what the verdict would be.

Below is the exchange in it's entirety, the request for information, my response, and the Board's response.  I share this with all of you because it is my intention to be clear, authentic, and transparent to all who come across me and my work.

The Board cleared me.  Here's a direct quote from their letter:
"After a thorough review of the information obtained during our investigation, along with the response you submitted regarding your current advertising practices, prove that you have corrected the matter.  Accordingly, the Board is closing the case."
The Board recognized my work.

What do I hope you take from my sharing of this story?  I want you to know you too can be clear, authentic, and transparent, and not to give up hope.  Sometimes in our greatest challenges we discover how strong we really are.  We are able to meet it with a clarity and strength we did not know we had and conquer a fear we didn't think we were capable of overcoming.  When we are tested, we must meet the challenge with courage and fearlessness, believing in our hearts what we know to be the truth of who we are, what we stand for, and what we came here to do.  I hope this inspires you to meet whatever challenges you may be facing in your own life.  
  
These are the original letters' photographed.  I apologize in advance if it is difficult to read.  


The Request for Information:



My response:








The Board's response:



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Charlie Pacello is a PTSD, Depression, and Healing Trauma Recovery Expert and Life Coach, a former US Air Force Lieutenant, and creator of the program, 'Lt. Pacello's Life Training Program.'  He can be reached by visiting his website at www.charliepacello.com


  


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

How to Embrace Our Tragedies and Make Peace with our Past

This is not easy.  It requires a willingness to see things differently, a willingness to be guided into the dark recesses in our past and make meaning of the experience.  In order for us to transform our wounds and heal our pain, we must find the courage to go back and extract the good that came out of those experiences, find the gifts in the wounds, and turn our suffering into blessings.  Whether it’s with me or another coach or therapist, the person you choose must have earned your trust.  They have earned the right to hear your story and they stand as a sacred witness to the encounter with the beast, or, as I like to call it, our shadow.  Now, there is no person who’s work best understands the necessity for going into the shadow and finding its gifts than the work of the late Debbie Ford.

The work of Debbie Ford was instrumental in helping me to integrate the shadow side of myself during my healing process, and she is one of my most honored teachers.  Debbie Ford’s life work was focused on understanding the shadow.  The shadow is something we all must face, all of us who suffer from Post-Traumatic Soul Distress.  For some, it’s the encounter with the Beast; for others, it’s those things about ourselves we don’t want to admit, or we hide from others, its secretive, it’s everything we don’t want other people to see or know about us.  It’s the thing we lie about to others, it’s what we lie about to ourselves, and it’s what we are hiding. 

The I Ching says:

“It is only when we have the courage to face things exactly as they are, without any self-deception or illusion, that a light will develop out of the events by which the path to success may be recognized.”

For time sake, I’m going to go through the highlights of the movie “The Shadow Effect” by Debbie Ford, which I have all my clients watch and which I encourage all of you who are reading this blog to watch as well before you go into the work with your shadows, with your traumas, with the pains of your past.  It will give you some awareness of things you may not have known before, and it will help ease the process as you navigate through the dark recesses, these secrets that you keep from yourself and from others.  I’m going to hit on some of the key notes from the film that I believe will be of so much value to you. My goal is when you finishing reading this post, you will have received valuable information you can immediately utilize in your lives as you begin to face your shadows.  Again, I don’t recommend doing this alone, find someone you can relate to, who understands and has been there, who gets it, who will stand with you as a sacred and honored witness as you travel through the Underworld and retrieve your light back.   

To experience one aspect of the soul you have to experience its counter-force.  The shadow comes from thoughts, from emotions, from impulses we find are so repulsive and are distasteful to accept.  So instead of dealing with them, we repress them, and it shows up as: drinking too much, cheating on your wife or your spouse, or getting into fights, screaming at your kids, verbally abusing your partners, and it can even get to the point where its dangerous, where you are thinking of taking someone else’s life. 

There are hundreds of millions of people living in denial of their own shadow.  And all of us are being affected by the collective shadow.  And this manifests as evil, as war, as terrorism, and social injustice. 

The birth of the shadow begins when we are very young.  When we don’t have the rational mind quite developed yet to filter out the messages that are coming in and we are shamed for behaviors that we do.  These messages get ingrained in our subconscious and, like a virus, it gets stuck there and sabotages our sense of self.  It wounds our otherwise healthy egos and then we end up suppressing these qualities, we don’t want others to see these qualities in us, so we build a false self around it.  

We build a false self around these negative ideas we have about ourselves to show everyone we meet that we are not this person.  We create these personas so that we can belong.  We build masks, and live life behind them, and they become our prisons.  When we deny ourselves an outlet for our dark side, it builds up and it builds up, and it becomes a very powerful force that is capable of destroying not only ourselves but the lives of others as well.

You are either going to use it or it is going to use you.  As my dear friend and healer, Miguel Rivera, who runs purification ceremonies for veterans says, “The Beast is a propellant.  If it’s not related to you, it will come after you.”  We must find a way to make friends with it, and by uniting the head with the heart, gain control of the shadow part of our own humanity, without allowing it to dominate us.  The purpose of confronting our shadows is to complete our initiation, our transformation.  We lost our innocence during the events which traumatized us.  These shadows of the past haunt us until we face them.  We need courage, compassion, and empathy for ourselves as we do this. The key though, is when we meet our shadows, we mustn't stay stuck, and we must find the meaning in the experience.  When we are able to identify the meaning these experiences had for us, we come to understand both good and evil and the part we played; we then can begin the process of transforming ourselves through integration of the lessons learned, which allows the charge of the past to fall away, as our souls become larger than the events that occurred, and we are wiser for the experience.  And then, we can use these experiences to bring about the greatest good for all within the community. 

Every quality you see in someone else is in you.  The sinner and the saint; someone who is worthy and someone who is unworthy; someone who is lovable and someone who is unlovable; someone who is brilliant; someone who is stupid; who is a winner; who is a loser; who is kind; who is mean; who is selfish, or who is selfless; who is forgiving; who is blaming; we possess it all.  We are everything.  Rather than confronting our own darkness, we project these unwanted qualities on to others.  When we project these unwanted qualities onto others, we lose bits and pieces of ourselves, and they hold on to some of our unclaimed light as well, because we projected it away.  What we judge in others or condemn is a disowned part of ourselves, and we attack it because it is the part in us that we hate.  And, this is a really important part to get, when we react to a projection, you become that projection.  When you react with an equal force to the aggressor, you become the aggressor.

I think it’s important here to understand what the difference is between a response and a reaction.  The root word of response is responsibility, it comes from a French word which means ‘standing on principle.’  So when you are responding, you’re coming from a place of being.  My being is stable, at peace, connected, creating harmony.  These are the principles that I stand for.  And when I’m responding, I’m responding from that space.  I’m breathing in, I’m checking in on an unconscious/subconscious level with my principles, and then I’m responding.

When you react, there is an action happening, which is re-enacting a belief system, an exchange.  A reaction is taking an action that has occurred before and happening again.  It’s an automatic way of being for us, for society.  It’s not principle based.  So, what you want to do is re-stand on principle, dig in deep, and find a principle that you connect with.  You are constantly looking at what do I stand for?  What do I stand for?  And as other things come up, and they are going to come up, you dig back into the work, the bliss list you created, the value system that you created for yourself.  Everything is an opportunity to reflect, to share, to connect with what you stand for.  Everything is trying to give you something, and this includes the yelling, the screaming, and the traumas.    

If we don’t face what’s in us that needs to be faced, the darkness, and shine a light in the dark, by ignoring these destructive patterns and impulses in you, you will self-destruct; you will implode, rather than explode. 

Traumas affect our brains, they change our brains functions, and consequently, this changes the chemicals and hormones released into the body, which is not a good thing.  So it’s important to express any kind of pain.  Without that expression and how we express it, it stays with us, it gets lodged in the body, and causes us to react and live unconsciously.  If these emotions and what you think, the things that have not been processed from the pains and traumas of your past, it will pollute your system.  These are the most toxic things to our bodies and lead to all the physical, emotional, and psychological impairments that show up later in life.  Our thoughts and emotions affect the organs of the body, there is indisputable evidence.  If we repress our anger, it might seem like it’s a good solution, but pretty soon we run out of places to hide.  By repressing our shadow, it can lead to destructive behaviors.     

We have to resolve the undigested emotions that are in our bodies and dislodge the stress in our minds.  We have to unearth, own, and embrace the very parts of ourselves that have caused us the most pain, and the moment we do, the light of our awareness will begin the process of transforming them.  Everyone has gone through some kind of trauma.  And if we dig deep enough, there is gold to be found in every experience.  Bad experiences can be enlightening experiences because they help us to be who we are.  They help us to be more compassionate, they help is to be forgiving, and they help us to be more loving.  So the gold that we seek, it’s hidden within the dark.  We have to embrace our totality, all that we have disowned, and when we do, we experience freedom, and we embrace it with love.  The more we move through the shadows of our past, the painful memories and experiences, the more light we reclaim.  And we do this kind of work, leading you through your Underworld to reclaim your light, to get you to the point of catharsis.  Which is the true moment of forgiveness.  You forgive yourself, you forgive others, and you are transforming that pain into the material to be used for the manifestation of, the full embodiment of, the greatest version of yourself, the greatest expression of yourself. 

You don’t have to carry this shame with you all alone, you don’t have to keep it secret, and there are people out there who are willing to shine a light for you so that you can see who you really are beyond the shadow.  You've got to fight your way out of the darkness. And I honor people in that way, in that most vulnerable level, because I understand, I've been there, and I will walk with you step by step to get you to the other side.  I took my own medicine. I’m not asking you to do anything I haven’t already done.  We will find what you have learned that gives value to your experience and helps you to transform those wounds into gifts.

Debbie Ford reminds us in the film, “Forgiveness doesn't happen in your head, until it happens in your heart.” 

I want to move forward now to one of the most important exercises I have my clients do when I work with them in healing the pain of their past.  This is just one of many tools I have to help you unlock the prison doors which keep you locked up in the painful recycling of memories, triggers, and images from the past.  I could spend several hours going over how to embrace your tragedies, it is a process one must be willing and ready to do, and have the commitment and dedication to do it.  You must want to heal more than anything, and be willing to invest the time into your own healing, for yourself and for others. 

When you look at your traumas, and when you work with me we will look at all of them, we are going to ask the question, ‘What would you like to re-shape?’  With just this one question, you give yourself the opportunity to re-shape all of your conflicts.  You want to look back at all the conflicts in your life and at the genesis of the conflict, where it began.  And then, you are going to write an essay about it.  At the top of the paper, you want to write ‘I am Whole.  I choose this experience just the way it is.’  You put this at the top of the page, and then you write about it and what you take from the experience. 

It’s important to take the time to find the gifts wrapped up in the tragedy.  Ask yourself these questions as you are going through this part of your life story:  ‘What is the gift?’  ‘How does it serve you?’ ‘What is it trying to teach you?’  What you are looking for is the gifts in the wounds. There is something to be found in there. 

It’s our secrets that keep us sick.  Unlock these secrets.  And while you do this resist all temptation to shame yourself.  Shame is what keeps us doing the same thing over and over again.  Shame is a destructive force, it is the most painful feeling connected to the feelings of unworthiness, it is the lowest energy of the universe.  A healthy shame is designed to support us when we are behaving well or badly.  However, when it becomes negative, it will destroy.  The antidote for shame is true empathy.  Shame cannot survive empathy.  You must have compassion for yourself as you work through these dark places, and have someone there whose empathy and love is totally unconditional and non-judgmental to guide you through to the other side.

The only thing we have to heal within ourselves is to tell the truth.  To become an honest person we must own our shadows, we must own our own darkness, and bring the light of truth to the darkness.  When you shine a light in the dark, the darkness goes away, because ultimately the darkness is nothing.  It is merely the absence of light.  Tell the truth from your whole heart, speak the truth of your experience from your whole heart, and as the adage goes, ‘it will set you free.’

The gold is in the dark.  There are things there to be found which can help you to detoxify the toxic emotions that have kept you imprisoned by these events.  There is something there to teach you, there is something there to reclaim.  Trust in the process as you write your story out, trust in the things I am asking you to do.  This is one of the most effective ways in which I healed myself, by examining the areas in my life that had traumatized me and found the lessons to be learned.  When I got the lesson, it broke the emotional and psychological stranglehold these events had on me, and like a river of ice which suddenly breaks, the water began to flow again, the ice began to melt, and the flow and joy of life returned.  This process works.

I want to say something about emotional triggers.  Emotional triggers, whenever you feel triggered, these are alarms – they are cues to your shadows, they are cues to the secrets of your past, they actually have nothing to do with what is going on in front of you right now, it has something to do with what happened in the past.  It shows you something that you need to uncover and reclaim about yourself.  So, when the triggers come up, start identifying them, and go back to where it originated.  Put down the internal bat, and investigate where and how this began, how it has affected your life, and uncover what it is trying to teach you.  One of the keys for this process to work is you must take full ownership of your life, all of it.  Being at the source of your own life, you are finally able to make the changes necessary to bring about the things you want to experience.  And to clear up the past, you must own up to the part you played in it, and that, on some level, you created it.  This will be different for each individual.  We are not the same, your story is yours, and your traumas are yours.  You know you have grown beyond what has happened to you when you can stand up and say, ‘This is my past.  This is what happened.  And I am better for the experience.  It has given me everything I need to be the greatest version of myself today.  I am grateful for it all.  I wouldn't change a thing.’

The most commonly suppressed emotions turn toxic when we suppress them.  You've got to take on the self-hate, the guilt, the shame, the anger, and see it for what it is.  All the hurt, the hopelessness, the sadness, the jealousy, anger, and hate – you want to ask yourself when confronted by these messengers, ‘what would I have to see, what would I have to know, to digest enough of my history that is stored in my body so that when new emotions open up, new feelings, that they aren't triggered by the 42 events in my past’.  You've got to look at your negative emotions not as enemies, but as friends trying to tell you something.  They are trying to guide you, help you, and support you into becoming something better, something greater. 

Another great question to ask yourself when you look at these events is ‘what do you think you made it mean about you when this happened?’  Did you shame yourself?  Did you think of yourself as a bad person?  A failure, a reject, a killer?  The story is emotionally charged by the meaning you have given it.  You want to understand what you made it mean about you, and why you no longer believe this to be true utilizing universal spiritual truths based on love, peace, and forgiveness as the new baseline for your life.  Eventually, when you have purged the story out on paper, the next step is you want to reduce these painful stories to their elementary facts.  You made it mean something about you that was going on back then, and because you haven’t fully digested it, it keeps coming back, until you get it.  

We all have a unique recipe.  You must learn to love those parts of you that you have disowned; you have got to integrate them back into you.  Discover, as you are writing about your traumas, the good that came out of it.  How did you grow?  What did you become good at?  What lessons did you learn?  What are you grateful for?  What wisdom can you gain?  There is life wisdom to be gained.  

We learn our lessons in the valley, not on the mountain top.  And, if we don’t learn how to forgive ourselves and others, the train stops.  So look at the life wisdom you can take away from the experience.  What was this experience designed to teach you?  What is the lesson to be learned that you can extract from the experience and turn into a blessing?  What did you gain?  What qualities did you develop?  What relationships opened up to you as result of this experience, and what do you know now as a result of having this experience?  How can this new wisdom contribute to your future?  And how can it alter the way you see yourself, the way you see others, the way you see the world? 

These questions, along with the ones I spoke about earlier, you need to ask and answer for yourself as you examine the traumas in your life.  This is challenging work.  Ease into it, be gentle and kind with yourself, when emotions come up, and they will, feel them, let them out and run their course, and when you come back to a place of balance and equanimity, return to the work, get to the cause and source of all your pain, and uproot it.  Go at your own pace, and leave no stone unturned.  The reward of total freedom, peace, and release from your past awaits you on the other end. 

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Charlie Pacello is a PTSD, Depression, and Healing Trauma Recovery Expert and Life Coach, a former US Air Force Lieutenant, and creator of the program, 'Lt. Pacello's Life Training Program.'  He can be reached by visiting his website at www.charliepacello.com