Could transcendental meditation help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder?

Dr. Norman Rosenthal: As Memorial Day approaches, it is fitting that we remember the debt owed, in the words of Winston Churchill, by so many to so few — those men and women who have fought and, in some cases, paid the ultimate price, so that the rest of us can live in freedom and safety.

Here in Washington, D.C., there will be formal ceremonies at Arlington Cemetery and informal ceremonies at the monuments that mark the wars that claimed too many. Likewise, throughout our great country, people will be remembering, grieving, reflecting.

Allow me to share with you the stories of five veterans, who are very much on my mind this Memorial Day. These five young men participated in a study under my direction to determine whether meditation could help assuage the painful and disabling aftermath of their service in Iraq, Afghanistan or both. While serving, all were exposed to the horrors of war in one form or another. They saw their fellow soldiers and the enemy killed at close quarters, directly experienced the blasts of powerful bombs or improvised explosive devices, and drove along country roads, never knowing when they would drive into the next ambush.

After returning to the U.S., these young men were among the huge number of soldiers and Marines (1.6 million and counting) who have suffered the devastating effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms of this condition vary, but typically involve hypervigilance (jumpiness, irritability), detachment, avoidance of situations that trigger memories of the traumatic events, flashbacks and nightmares – as memories spring unbidden into consciousness, accompanied by drenching sweat, a pounding heart…

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Operation Warrior teaches meditation to vets with PTSD

After the horrors of World War II, everyday life seemed impossible for one Vero Beach man.

But 20 years later in 1965 he said something pulled him through. Jerry Yellin, now 86, has started an organization that helps soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, in an unusual way and he wants to share that secret with today’s combat veterans.

His new organization, Operation Warrior Wellness, is a division of the David Lynch Foundation, which is a national nonprofit started in 2005 that pays for the teaching of meditation to at-risk populations.

The kind of meditation used is called transcendental meditation, a form practiced in India for thousands of years that requires only 20 minutes twice per day.

Yellin was a P-51 pilot in World War II who flew 19 missions over…

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Japan. His experiences left him alone and unable to talk to anyone following the war.”The sights and the sounds and the smell and the body parts are a permanent part of my memory,” said Yellin. “To have an incredibly clear purpose of what to do everyday and then one day the war is over and everything you’ve been doing falls away, life really has no meaning.”

But in 1965, two decades after World War II, Yellin said he learned to meditate and it opened his life again.

“It gives you mental power,” said Yellin, “It’s a mind strengthening relaxation technique that allows you to get in touch with yourself.”

Randy Mackenzie, who teaches the technique in Vero Beach, said he and Yellin have submitted literature on transcendental meditation to the Indian River Veterans Council to advertise to local vets. It is only a matter of time before the Veterans Administration recognizes the value of the technique and sets money aside for it, he said.

“Basically it’s a technique that allows people to go inwards,” said Mackenzie. “In terms of benefits for veterans, it doesn’t manage stress it relieves the stress and trauma that they may have experienced in combat.”

Transcendental meditation is among the most researched of all meditation techniques and, according to Yellin, requires instructors to have six to eight months of special training.

At a gala last month at the Los Angeles Metropolitan Museum of Art involving Clint Eastwood, David Lynch, Russell Brand and other celebrities, Yellin helped to bring awareness to the plight of soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder.


To register call Randy Mackenzie at 772-539-7557. To donate call Jerry Yellin at 772-538-8886. Make all checks payable to the David Lynch Foundation.

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