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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.

Please visit Soldier's Heart's website at 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