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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bringing Mindfulness to the US Military - by Bryan Reeves

Since I am preparing to leave in two weeks for a pilgrimage to Greece to study with Dr. Edward Tick the archetypes of the Warrior, the Healer, and the Goddess, I have asked others to help support my blog and its readers as I dedicate my time and effort to get my mind, heart, and soul ready for the educational and healing journey ahead.  So many wonderful people are stepping up with their skills, talents, and wisdom to bring healing to those struggling with PTSD and trauma, and my friend Bryan Reeves is one of those individuals who is out there making a difference.

Bryan Reeves, a former Air Force Captain, is doing some amazing work with veterans suffering from PTSD.  I asked him at the last Operation Mindful Warrior event (March 30, 2014)  if he could send me something to let those who read this blog know about the work he is doing.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Operation Mindful Warrior, Bryan and another veteran, Ken Lynch, formed the organization back on Memorial Day 2013, to teach mindfulness to veterans suffering from PTSD, and help them acquire the tools which can immediately impact and transform their lives.  Meditation was a key factor in my healing of the disorder and so I know how absolutely essential it is to establish a mindfulness practice.  He recently was asked to speak at Brooks Army Medical Center about mindfulness and meditation.  Bryan graciously sent me this post he wrote for his own blog (thiswildwakingjourney.wordpress.com), and I am proud to share this story on my blog for all of you to read.    

Bringing Mindfulness to the US Military

On Friday, I returned to the US Military. I hadn’t been on a military installation in official capacity in over 13 years.
But the world is shifting.
A few months ago, I got an email from an Army Lieutenant Colonel. She had just read my popular blog on The Daily Love about how to give a truly great hug, saw that I was a former Captain in the Air Force and was working with military veterans suffering from PTSD. She wanted me to come to her facility, Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, to talk to her staff about mindfulness and meditation.
WTF? … Someone in the US Army is reading The Daily Love? I would have thought the military would block such sites from their servers. TDL creates love viruses that could be dangerous for troop morale. I was dumbfounded.
That’s the internet age for you: there’s no hiding anymore. Whatever your heart longs for, Google can serve up in 0.0092 seconds.
So this past Friday, the US Army flew me to one of their premier medical facilities, Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, TX.
The last time I traveled on official military orders, I was leaving Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, for good, on my way to … I had no idea where. I had been depressed for years. I was so ready to remove the heavy intellectual armor my military experience had locked me into; an armor that kept emotion from touching me, and that simply did not let me feel my life. I could not laugh. I could not cry. I was angry – angry at God, angry at life, angry at myself. Why had I gone through this suffocating experience? Why did life take a passionate 16-year old kid and exile him to 10 years of a spiritual solitary confinement so deadening that his enthusiasm for living would quickly fade from memory like a sweet morning dream.
I was not encouraged to think deeply in the military. Yet that’s all I seemed to know how to do as a young man. I wanted to explore the profound depths of life, of humanity. I wanted to know who we were, what we were doing here on this planet, and what it would look like to live life fully. I didn’t want to dominate, control and destroy life. I wanted to fully inhabit life, to breathe myself into every vast nook and through every adventurous cranny in its unending labyrinth. I would sometimes sit by a highway close to base and fantasize about driving off into the horizon, never to return. As a young man, I wanted to explore everything!
But the military would have none of that. It ordered me into a box.
Where I stayed and suffered.
Profoundly.
So late on Thursday, when I finally arrived on base after a travel miscue by the government system turned a 6-hour travel day into 14 hours, old suspicions crept up. My driver drove me through the base checkpoint and I began to feel like a space traveler entering a foreign world, one both familiar and yet vastly distant from the more diverse planet I had since come to know as my own. I began to sense stirring inside me that once-familiar emotional chill that commanded I stay hidden, disconnected, protected by a gunpoint’s length from the mechanistic humanity around me. I imagined myself wearing a space suit in this place, oxygen turned on full blast to ensure I could breathe normally.
In the military, there’s an overwhelmingly masculine ethos of formality, bravado, mission-accomplishment whatever the cost … and a complete avoidance of expressions of vulnerability.
As I acclimated to the base, this ethos tempted me back into its spell.
But I had been invited by the US Army to share the heart of my 13-year post-military journey. The very deep thoughts I was not free to explore inside its fortress, the military was now asking me to come home and share what I had discovered.
photo 1
Since the Army called me, I gave myself permission to fully be Me. I never gave myself such freedom when I wore the uniform.
I talked for 5 hours on Friday, giving 5 presentations about the process and sweet fruits of Self-Awareness, Meditation and Mindfulness.
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I spoke to about 70 military personnel and staff. Many started out skeptical, probably ordered by their commanders to show up for my briefing. But as I invited them to just notice the judgments they were experiencing while I spoke – even about their boredom or judgments about me, something many of them surely had never been invited to consciously observe before – I could feel the electricity of awareness crackling alive throughout the room. I had men and women in uniform closing their eyes, breathing intentionally, and experiencing their thoughts through the eyes of the observer, without judgment, simply noticing and then letting them go.
photo 2

Under No Illusions

I know this work is not some huge magnificent thing that will change the world overnight. What I did on Friday is merely plant one tiny seed in the vast fields of possibility. Soldiers came up to me and thanked me, but far more of them simply left the briefing with little more than a glance of acknowledgement. Still, I can’t know what actually happened when they closed their eyes and witnessed their own thoughts – for perhaps the first time in their lives.
I like to hold two diametric perspectives for this work:
(1) Yes, it’s a beautiful service that can create meaningful positive impact on people’s lives and thus the planet; and
(2) There’s nothing broken, nothing to fix, and I’m doing nothing but following my flow and giving myself to an experience that life calls me to in this moment.
In each moment, we’re simply planting seeds for the next. That’s it. There is no destination. There is no human world where problems don’t exist.
Meaningful work is often about creating a world with less violent, more inspiring problems; not the absence of them.

Operation Mindful Warrior

Twenty-two military veterans will commit suicide today. One every 65 minutes.
58,000 soldiers were lost during the Vietnam War. Since the war’s end, more than 102,000 have committed suicide.
War rages on for soldiers long after the battlefield gets quiet.
I started Operation Mindful Warrior on Memorial Day 2013 with another military veteran who suffers from PTSD. We recruited my business partner in the Center for Mindful Educationand a psychotherapist who also teaches mindfulness to help address this unfolding tragedy. We now hold monthly mindfulness gatherings around Los Angeles, including for homeless vets living on Skid Row (over 6,000 homeless vets live in Los Angeles; 1 in every 9 homeless people is a veteran). My presentation at Brooke Army Medical Center was certainly a breakthrough moment, a seed planted.
We want to expand our offering nationwide by training people to lead OMW mindfulness gatherings in their communities.
If you want to help or know more, contact me at bryan at mindfuled dot com

My Military Redemption

I’m honored that the Military called me back inside the fortress to share what I’ve learned on my adventures. One sensitive person inside the compound, in a position of influence, saw an opportunity to make a positive difference in soldier’s lives and took action. She invited me to come and stand as my Authentic Self, in front of my soldier brothers and sisters. Long ago, in a time of angry confusion, I cursed the military in my thoughts. This moment felt like redemption. The circle drawing itself complete. Coming home.
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I now understand that our world today demands we maintain a strong military, like holding a sharp spear to keep aggressors at bay. However, a sharp spear requires vigilance, lest we hurt innocents or ourselves when wielding it.

Mindfulness is a powerful tool that can help us deepen our understanding of our selves, of others, and of life itself. It can help us meet the problems in our midst with compassion, kindness, clarity and wisdom. Sometimes wielding our spear is truly necessary to battle the darkness whose nature is to seek to extinguish the light.
Let’s just wield that spear Mindfully.
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Learn more about my mindfulness projects:
The Center for Mindful Educationwww.mindfuled.com
Operation Mindful Warriorwww.operationmindfulwarrior.com


About 
Conscious Stardust. Former US Air Force Captain. Previous swiss-army-knife manager for conscious pop artists Here II Here and Ash Ruiz. One-time Oprah Show Guest. Now on the Executive Board of the Global Alliance for Transformational Entertainment (GATE) and Director of The Center for Mindful Education. Author of coming book "Tell The Truth, Let The Peace Fall Where It May" ... among other hobbies. My life unfolds daily in the context of dancing with Magic.