meditation and the military

For veterans, yoga can offer peace

Audra D.S. Burch: Yoga and meditation may be therapeutic for returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering with PTSD or the stress of returning to civilian life.

One week into his second tour of duty, U.S. Marines Sgt. Hugo Patrocinio was wounded by a suicide bomber who drove a dump truck stocked with 1,000 pounds of explosives into a house in al-Anbar, on the outskirts of Fallujah. He had been attacked before, hurt before, but this time Patrocinio was just 20 feet from the explosion.

He would eventually recover from the wounds — the shrapnel in his foot and leg the severe concussion — but the psychological …

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Transcendental meditation studied for military use

Steve Zind, Vermont Public Radio: The military devotes a lot of money and resources to training for combat and to treating post-combat stress. Now there’s research underway at Norwich University in Northfield that uses a tool more associated with peace than warfare to prepare military men and women.

The study is looking at whether Transcendental Meditation will not only make better soldiers, but inoculate them from the psychological trauma of combat.

VPR’s Steve Zind has this story on a group of cadets that some are calling ‘Om Platoon’.

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Vets find ways to de-stress using yoga, meditation

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Lindsay Wise, Houston Chronicle: Army veteran Weldon Holder stood barefoot on a yoga mat and extended his arms straight in front of him, fingers interlaced and palms pushed away from his chest.

“Drink the breath and let the awareness reside in the body,” urged his instructor, Pam Johnson. “Long and smooth. Stay with the breath.”

The pair slowly raised their arms above their heads, then back to their sides.

“Stay, stay in this place, be present,” Johnson said. “Let it happen. … Exhale.”

Holder, a burly 37-year-old former Cavalry scout from Houston, started practicing yoga in September at the suggestion of his wife …

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Inside the Pentagon’s alt-medicine Mecca, where the generals meditate

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Katie Drummond, Wired: The Samueli Institute gets $7.6 million a year from places like the Pentagon to investigate alternative therapies from yoga to acupuncture to water with a memory. But does any of it really work? And can Samueli, a convicted fraudster, really be trusted?

The general is surprisingly good at meditation. It’s not just the impeccable posture — that might be expected of a man long used to standing at attention. It’s his hands, which rest idly on his knees, and his combat boots, which remain planted firmly on the floor. Over the next several minutes, Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, the Surgeon General of the Army, will keep his eyes closed and his face perfectly relaxed.

Few in this hotel conference room, where three dozen have assembled to mark the 10th anniversary of the Samueli Institute, a research organization specializing in alternative therapies, are able to match Schoomaker’s stillness.

Even as our first speaker implores that we “close [our] eyes … feel the chair, feel the air, feel the breath going in and out,” this motley crew of professors, bejeweled clairvoyants, military personnel and Einsteinian-haired futurists tap their toes, shuffle papers and ogle paper plates of fruit and croissants.

>This might be the Pentagon’s best chance at making alt-medicine work — or at least figuring out if it even stands a chance.

“Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you imagine you’re going, you’re actually only doing it right now, in this moment.” Our meditation guru for the day, Dr. Wayne Jonas, is not only a retired Army medical officer and former director of the holistic branch of the National Institute of Health. He’s also the leader of the organization we’ve met to celebrate.

Schoomaker is here because he has a health crisis on his hands. And he’s betting on guys like Jonas to help cope…

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David Lynch gives $1M to teach veterans meditation

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Academy Award-nominated director David Lynch – a longtime advocate of Transcendental Meditation – wants soldiers and veterans to experience the stress-reducing benefits of TM.

The David Lynch Foundation is giving $1 million in grants to teach the meditation technique to active-duty military personnel and veterans and their families suffering from post-traumatic stress.

The filmmaker said Friday that the grants are from the Operation Warrior Wellness division of his foundation, which funds meditation instruction for various populations, including inner-city students and jail inmates.

Recipients of Operation Warrior Wellness grants include Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Wounded Warrior Project and UCLA’s Operation Mend.

Lynch’s credits include the films “Eraserhead,” “The Elephant Man,” “Blue Velvet,” “Wild at Heart,” “Lost Highway” and “Mulholland Drive,” and the TV series “Twin Peaks.”

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Early evidence shows meditation helping veterans with PTSD

The flashbacks and nightmares came often for Robert Singh.

U.S. Army veteran Singh served three tours in Iraq, from 2004 through 2010. He was an Army medic for most of that time. It was a violent, dangerous and intense job. Singh was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2007.

After he left the military in 2010, it became obvious that the drugs Singh was prescribed for PTSD weren’t helping.

So when Singh learned of VetMind, a novel study being conducted at Oregon Health & Science University to understand how mindfulness meditation helps veterans’ PTSD symptoms, he enrolled.

And he’s happy he did.

The meditation exercises Singh learned in the study and continues to practice considerably abated his PTSD symptoms, he says. He has fewer flashbacks, fewer nightmares, and when he does have them, he is better able to deal with them, Singh says. And even though Singh still has plenty of stress — he and his wife and two young children live in a homeless shelter in Beaverton — “It’s made it so I’m calmer. This has made it easier, and I can function better than I was functioning.”

VetMind is still ongoing at OHSU, so the final results aren’t in yet. But of the 45 completed participants, many noticed an improvement in their PTSD symptoms and their ability to cope with them, says Helané Wahbeh, N.D., an OHSU naturopathic physician-researcher who is conducting the study.

“Meditation appears to be an incredibly powerful tool for some people,” Wahbeh says.

A recent General Accounting Office report found that from 2006 through 2010, 96,916 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were diagnosed with PTSD. But the number of Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans suffering from the stress disorder is almost certainly much higher. As many as 50 percent of Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans screen positive for PTSD, with a smaller percentage actually receiving a PTSD diagnosis, according to a 2010 Rand Corporation study.

People can get PTSD when they experience a seriously threatening traumatic event and their response involves intense fear, helplessness or horror. People with PTSD re-experience their trauma over and over again through thoughts, memories and nightmares. They also can experience hyper-vigilance symptoms, like not being able to concentrate, difficulty falling or staying asleep, irritability or outbursts of anger, or exaggerated startle response, and avoidance or numbing symptoms, such as avoiding people or places that remind them of the event and not being able to feel a full range of emotion that they could feel before.

Studies also have shown that PTSD is significantly associated with increased suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

Wahbeh says that the emotional processing part of the brain in people who suffer from PTSD is overactive. And the frontal lobe — the part that regulates their emotional response — is underactive.

Mindfulness meditation actually reorients the brain, Wahbeh says, “so the frontal areas of the brain are better able to process over-reactive emotional responses that hinder people from leading normal lives.”

VetMind is being funded by the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine. VetMind’s primary goal is not to prove that meditation can improve PTSD symptoms; past research has already provided some evidence of that in similar conditions. Instead, it aims to find out how meditation influences certain systems in the body, especially the nervous, hormonal and respiratory systems, Wahbeh says.

VetMind requires participants to visit the clinic 10 times: one screening visit, one baseline visit, six training sessions, one endpoint visit and a final check-out. Participants are assigned to one of four groups that practice either meditation, slow breathing, meditation and slow breathing together, or sitting quietly. During the training sessions, participants learn the techniques and then practice at home for 20 minutes per day. Regardless of what group they are in, every participant gets a CD with the meditations at the end of the study.

For Singh, the meditation has helped considerably and also changed how he believes he’s combating his PTSD.

Antidepressant and other drugs he was prescribed “were making the symptoms go away, but they weren’t fixing the problem,” he says. “Whereas this feels more like I’m doing something about it. I’m fixing the problem.”

The study will eventually include 100 participants. OHSU is seeking combat veterans between the ages of 25 and 65 to participate. Interested people can call 503-494-7399.

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Veterans using Buddhism to understand their military experience wanted for Denver-area study

Professor Carrie Doehring, PhD, and Kelly Arora, PhD would like to interview veterans who have used Buddhist practices and worldviews to understand their military experience. These interviews are part of a research project at the University of Denver and Iliff School of Theology

After a telephone conversation about the project, and completion of an informed consent form, participants will complete a background questionnaire and do two interviews that will be audiotaped. These interviews will be done face-to-face in the Denver area.

This research will help better understand how veterans draw upon Buddhist practices and worldviews to cope with and understand traumatic military experiences.

The research project, Identifying Military Veterans’ Spiritual Coping and Meaning-Making Practices in Response to Trauma, was approved by the University of Denver’s Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Subjects in Research on Oct. 11, 2011, and funded by the Association of Theological Schools.

For further information, contact Carrie Doehring (, 303-765-3169) or Kelly Arora (

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Veterans learn about meditation for treating post traumatic stress

Matt Hoffman: Studies show up to 35 percent of our veterans return home with post traumatic stress disorder. But an old world technique is being used in a new way to help veterans, and some say it’s having great success.

Veterans in Eau Claire heard from Jerry Yellin. He fought in World War Two as a fighter pilot, but when he returned home he couldn’t escape the horrors of war he experienced.

“I saw the remnants of 28,000 bodies on 8 square miles of land. 90, 000 soldiers were fighting. 28,000 were killed, and I flew with 16 guys that didn’t come back,” recalls Jerry.

But unlike during today’s…

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Stress for Success: Meditation helps balance the PTSD brain

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Jacquelyn Ferguson: After experiencing horrific events where physical harm either occurred or was threatened such as violent assaults, natural disasters, health emergencies or military combat, some people develop post-traumatic stress disorder.

Managing such trauma is significantly easier for those who experienced only mild early childhood threats that were followed by physical activity to burn off stress hormones and by periods of calm and security, and received supportive parenting (more on this at

For some soldiers, this means their vulnerability to war trauma actually began in childhood. The more childhood upheaval, the more…

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Re-Wiring your brain for happiness: Research shows how meditation can physically change the brain

Dan Harris & Erin Brady (ABC News): A quiet explosion of new research indicating that meditation can physically change the brain in astonishing ways has started to push into mainstream.

Several studies suggest that these changes through meditation can make you happier, less stressed — even nicer to other people. It can help you control your eating habits and even reduce chronic pain, all the while without taking prescription medication.

Meditation is an intimate and intense exercise that can be done solo or in a group, and one study showed that 20 million Americans say they practice meditation. It has been used to help treat addictions, to clear psoriasis and even to treat men with impotence.

The U.S…

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