By Nancy Haller, MA, GCFP, LMP, NCMMT, BCTMB
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First Name: XXX
By Nancy Haller, MA, GCFP, LMP, NCMMT, BCTMB
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First Name: XXX
By Susan Mokelke, JD; Narrye Caldwell, MTCM, L.Ac; Alexandra Solomon, MS, LCSW; Scott Williams, MA
“I went in with no expectation, just with the hope of a change. I am amazed at the profound sense of peace I feel already. It is beyond what I thought I was missing. I am excited to experience the changes as I move into the comfort of the peace. I do feel restoration, a completeness, a comfort. I see my kids differently too. I didn’t know I was missing so much.” – Anonymous
Susan Mokelke, JD, president of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies (FSS) and director of the FSS faculty, explains how core shamanism offers time-tested and effective methods to help heal Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Biographies for Susan and her co-authors can be found at the end of this chapter.
The following example of shamanic healing was reported by FSS faculty member Scott Williams. It is one illustration of how “core shamanism” healing methods were used to help a Veteran suffering from PTSD. Shamanic healing derives from the practitioner’s relationship with evolved, wise, and compassionate helping spirits existing in what is referred to as “non-ordinary” reality. Shamanic healers develop their relationships with these spirits over a long period of time, becoming skilled at bringing the power and wisdom of these helping spirits to our “ordinary” reality dimension. These spirits work through an experienced practitioner to do the actual healing work for the client. Since every practitioner of shamanism is unique, individual variations on the basic shamanic healing methods are common, so not every session will closely resemble the one described in the case study below. The case report is followed by a description of some of the principles and methods of shamanic healing, along with resources if you want to learn more.
Shamanic Healing PTSD Case Study: “Dan” – by Scott Williams, MA
I first met Dan when he started work at my place of employment six years ago. He was in the National Guard, and still is. I did not know at the time that he suffered from PTSD, or the depth of his issues. Gradually, as I got to know him, I learned more about his life: he was married, had volunteered for the military, had served three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was suffering from PTSD. Additionally, he had problems both with his marriage and with anger.
After working with Dan for about six months, we were talking and I mentioned that I had a healing to do for a client. He inquired about what that was so I briefly explained shamanic healing to him. He commented that he could really use some spiritual healing. He also mentioned that he was feeling particularly stressed that day as he had just talked to a lawyer about divorcing his wife (she had opioid/alcohol addiction issues). I asked if he would like me to do healing work for him to which he answered, “Can you do it now?”
I explained to him that I could not do it right then but I would see if there was anything I could do for him that day. We both work at a large manufacturing facility where it is possible to find a “quiet” space to vanish into for short periods of time. So, I did a shamanic journey to my spirits to see if there was something I could do for Dan that day. I was told I could give him power. I talked to Dan and let him know that I could pass power to him then. I also told him there were other things I could do for him, just not at work.
We found a spot where we would not be bothered for at least fifteen minutes and we went to work. I called on my spirits to come and fill me with their spiritual power. They came relatively instantly, filled me with power, which I then passed to Dan. After receiving the power, Dan started to slump so I caught him and helped him into a chair. Within a minute he was doing well and in his own words, “Holy shit, what the hell was that! That was amazing!” The passing of power helped Dan recover enough that he could continue on the rest of the day without feeling the draining effects of his PTSD. I reminded him that there was more work to be done, just not at the workplace. He thanked me and we set up a date to do more work.
Several days later Dan arrived where I did my healing work. We chatted for a bit, reviewed what types of healing could happen, and then got to work. I journeyed to my spirits to see what could be done for Dan. I was told he needed extraction (removal of spiritual “intrusions” that do not belong there) and a soul retrieval (restoration of a person’s vital spiritual essence), but not necessarily both that day. I asked Dan if he was ready for this; he was, so I proceeded with the extraction.
That extraction session was the longest I had ever done. Dan had many intrusions in various parts of his body but the most stubborn, and the largest number, were in his chest and head. After spending a long time, I finished with the extraction healing. Dan said he felt a little spent, but also invigorated after the healing. He really wanted to jump right into the soul retrieval but at my suggestion we did not do the soul retrieval, instead I had Dan sit with the extraction for a week to see how things went.
All during the week up until his next session, Dan kept telling me how great he felt after the extraction. He said he had not felt that good in a long time. At the next session I again journeyed to my spirits to see what to do and was told that he needed more extraction done. I told him and he was a little disappointed that we would not be doing the soul retrieval. I again found a number of intrusions in his chest and head and removed them. This session did not take as long as the first. Prior to the extraction I had done a special shamanic healing drumming practice referred to as “Tuvan Drumming” for him; he had injured his knee on his first deployment and it was bothering him.
Dan’s next session was three weeks later; he had his National Guard two-week training and then a week vacation. When he returned to work, he asked me if I could give him power again. I said I could but it would have to wait a while, I was working on a hot job that needed to be finished first. He kept coming over to talk while I worked, discussing how his two weeks had been. Then he told me his week of vacation was for filing for divorce and also getting his wife into a treatment program. He definitely needed a boost but the most important thing is that he was not having anger issues around his wife. After having the extraction work done, he was able to work with and for his wife calmly, even though their marriage was ending.
One thing that had not changed for Dan was that he still had problems sleeping due to the PTSD. Routinely, he only got two to four hours of sleep per day. He said he got used to that while in Iraq. At the beginning of working with Dan I had asked him if he had seen a doctor for his issues. He said he talked with a therapist in the military but did not tell him about the extent of his issues. He was afraid if he did, he would be discharged from service. I had expressed that I would do healing work for him, but that he should continue seeing the therapist, which he did.
The week he came back to work Dan asked for power twice, which I did for him. At his next session I did a soul retrieval for him. As you might expect from someone who had done three combat tours and was ending a marriage, there were a number of “soul portions” that had left Dan.
After checking with my spirits, I proceeded with the soul retrieval. I brought back four soul portions for Dan. There were a number of others that were not ready to return at this time. I also did a “power animal retrieval” for him at the time of the soul retrieval. After it was done Dan opened his eyes and inhaled a giant breath—it almost sounded like a small jet engine it was so intense. He then dropped his head and sobbed and cried for about ten minutes or so. It was a very humbling experience to be in the presence of this man who had fought for his country, being so emotionally present and raw.
Since I worked with Dan, I saw him every day. I could see the change in him happen on a small, daily basis. His rapid, intense, anger slowed noticeably. He seemed happier and smiled more. He told me he was sleeping more. He told me he felt more like himself than he had in a number of years.
Since then I still work with Dan, but on a much lesser scale. I did more extraction work for him and two more soul retrievals over the next few years. He now sleeps at least five or six hours a night. He still has some anger issues, but it takes a lot more to get it started. As Dan said, “I don’t even get mad at other drivers anymore.” In this process I taught Dan how to do shamanic journeying, which he still does even though he says he does not believe in this stuff! What he does believe is that it has helped him. It has allowed him to regain himself, to stay in the military, and as he stated, not to become another Veteran suicide statistic.
Shamanic Healing and Core Shamanism: Some Background
Shamanism is the world’s oldest spiritual practice, dating back tens of thousands of years. Our ancient ancestors used shamanic methods to alter their consciousness and travel to other realms to interact with helping spirits for the purposes of healing and gaining practical knowledge to help themselves and their peoples. Shamanism has been found on every inhabited continent. For Westerners, our shamanic traditions were lost centuries ago due to religious and political oppression. But beginning in the fifties, anthropologist Michael Harner (1929 – 2018) began his decades of pioneering work, originating, researching, and developing authentic methods of shamanic practice in order to restore this highly effective spiritual heritage to the West. In 1980, his classic book, The Way of the Shaman, launched a worldwide reawakening of interest in shamanism. Today these methods form a complete knowledge and healing system called “core shamanism.” Core shamanism consists of the “universal, near-universal, and common features of shamanism, together with journeys to other worlds, a distinguishing feature of shamanism.”
Training in core shamanism is particularly suited to contemporary society, as it does not focus on ceremonies, rituals, or other culture-specific practices of shamanic peoples. Rather, it addresses the underlying methods of shamanic practice worldwide. Students of core shamanism learn to alter their consciousness through classic shamanic non-drug techniques, primarily repetitive drumming, in order to activate their own spiritual resources and learn directly from their own helping spirits how to heal and help others. Core shamanism is very much an independent spirituality, a system of personal knowledge, not of faith. Shamanic practitioners are trained in methods, particularly the shamanic journey, so that they can travel directly to the compassionate helping spirits and discover and know truth for themselves.
Methods of Healing
Shamanism is a holistic healing practice. As noted in the above case study, it works very well with other forms of healing, including physical medicine and psychotherapy. Shamanism works at the level of the soul. It is a basic principle in shamanism that all forms in creation have a soul, and that in order to be healthy and function optimally in life, the soul must be vital and empowered, and fully present within the body. Otherwise, even the best physical and/or emotional medicine cannot be completely effective.
In addition to a fully empowered soul, from a shamanic view, everyone needs a connection with at least one guardian spirit, commonly referred to as a “power animal,” to help and protect them. These two things—an empowered soul and a helping spirit connection— form what is sometimes called our “spiritual immune system.” If this system is weakened, which can happen due to trauma or neglect, we may fall prey to illness, depression, bad luck and accidents, loss of vitality and purpose, and a general decline in body, mind, and spirit.
Trauma can occur to a person in a myriad of ways. The obvious trauma of exposure to violence and conflict, as is the case with combat Veterans, is of course a major source of what is called “soul loss.” But soul loss can also occur through emotional pain and shock, accidents, long term illness, constant stress, overwork and even the loss of connection with nature. The shamanic healing method needed for soul loss is called “soul retrieval.”
Soul retrieval is a shamanic methodology in which the practitioner, with the assistance of their helping spirits, in an altered state using rhythmic drumming, makes a shamanic journey to locate and return missing portions of a client’s soul, which have been lost due to some form of trauma. The missing soul portions can be thought of as part of a person’s vitality and essence that they can no longer access, leaving them diminished and lacking in power. The shamanic healer is guided by their helping spirits in finding and identifying soul portions that are ready to be returned to the client and re-integrated. When found, the practitioner is trained to gently return them to the client, by blowing them into the chest and top of the head. The work can be quite moving for both practitioner and client. The client may experience an immediate healing effect, though often things shift over a period of time as the soul portion re-integrates.
Another form of restoring power to a client is the return of a guardian spirit, which appears most often in the form of a power animal. Power animal retrieval is done in a similar way to soul retrieval. Power animals are a treasured and crucial aspect of our spiritual immune system, providing spiritual power, help, protection, and advice. It is important, in maintaining one’s connection and relationship to a power animal, to learn ways of working with the animal spirit in ordinary reality. The shamanic practitioner, after returning a power animal, can advise the client on how to nurture this important relationship.
Sometimes, if a person is lacking in power due to soul loss from trauma, they can become vulnerable to spiritual “intrusions,” such as “spiritual darts” resulting from people’s hostile thoughts or other small non-physical influences, which can lodge in the non-corporeal aspect of the physical body and cause localized pain and illness. The shamanic healing method for removal of these intrusions is called Extraction Healing. This process is done while the practitioner is in an altered state, using drumming or rattling, so they can work closely with their helping spirits to do the work. After these intrusions are removed, power is restored to the client with soul retrieval and/or power animal retrieval, so they are no longer vulnerable to such non-physical influences.
All of these methods are facilitated by the shamanic healer, who brings the spirits’ power here, but it is the practitioner’s own helping spirits that do the work. Before every healing session, the practitioner will journey to ask the spirits what healing is needed—as Scott did for his client in the case study above—and then proceed accordingly, as directed. This practice, of asking the spirits for information and answers to questions, is called Shamanic Divination. In addition to direct healing, with the client’s permission, the shamanic practitioner can also ask the spirits to provide information and knowledge about the client’s situation that can help them on their path.
An essential ethical consideration before any shamanic healing can be performed is obtaining the expressed permission (informed consent) of the client to do shamanic work. Shamanic healing deals with the soul. Each person has the right to decide what to do in matters of their own soul and to choose their path without interference or undue inﬂuence.
What is a shamanic healing session like?
Since shamanism is an independent spirituality, each shamanic healer develops their own specific ways of setting up their practice and working with clients. But if you go to a well-trained practitioner of core shamanism you will find common themes and methodologies.
In general, initially the practitioner will ask some general questions about what is going on for the client, briefly explain shamanic healing and obtain permission for shamanic work, and then set an appointment.
When the client arrives for the session, the practitioner will settle the client comfortably, fully clothed, on the floor, in a chair, or on a treatment table, like a massage table. The practitioner will then use rattling, drumming, and sometimes singing to connect with their helping spirits and “power up” in preparation for the healing work. Typically, the practitioner does a short divination journey to determine what methods will be used in the current session. Some practitioners use a special shamanic drumming recording (rhythmic drumming at 3–7 beats per second) to support their shift in consciousness; others drum for themselves. Some practitioners may even have a drumming assistant. Any of these methods is effective to alter consciousness.
Once the healing methods to be done are determined, various things may happen, depending upon which method is to be offered. The practitioner may rattle and drum a lot more, may dance/move around the client, and may use hand motions near the client’s body, with some light touching involved (permission to touch is usually requested in advance). There may also be singing or chanting, and at some point during the treatment power may be restored by blowing gently over the chest and at the top of the head.
At the end of the session, the client may choose to share their experience of the work with the practitioner. The practitioner may also offer a few directions or follow up suggestions, if guided to do so by the spirits. It is not usually necessary to talk a lot, since the work is accomplished spiritually at the level of the soul, and a quiet peaceful space can facilitate the client’s integration of the experience. The practitioner may recommend that more than one session is needed, as was described in Dan’s case story above, or sometimes a single session is all that is required at this time. The timing and number of sessions is directed by the practitioner’s helping spirits.
How does someone become a shaman? How do I find one? Can shamanic training be helpful for PTSD?
“How do I know if someone is a shaman?” Michael Harner was asked. “It’s simple,” he said. “Do they journey to other worlds? And do they perform miracles?” When a person starts to perform miracles of healing, consistently getting good results, then that person might be named a shaman by his or her community.
In indigenous cultures, people became shamans in various ways. They might survive a life-threatening illness, undergo initiations or physical challenges, inherit the role, pay a master shaman for the knowledge, or be apprenticed to an elder shaman. In contemporary society, though these processes may still be a factor, people may feel drawn to shamanism as a healing practice, often after receiving a miraculous healing themselves, or perhaps have a transformative experience that they discover is shamanic in nature. This may lead them to investigate contemporary shamanic training.
In 1985, Michael and Sandra Harner established the FSS, a public nonprofit educational and charitable organization “dedicated to the preservation, study, and teaching of shamanic knowledge for the welfare of the Planet and its inhabitants.” The FSS offers an integrated program of weekend workshops and advanced residential trainings that guides students through progressively advanced methods, practices, and initiatory experiences. The program includes workshops for gaining shamanic knowledge, such as Shamanic Dreamwork, Divination, and Spirits of Nature, as well as the primary shamanic healing methodologies. The ethical use of shamanic methods and power is emphasized.
In addition to receiving healing, shamanic training can often be useful for those who have suffered from PTSD. The shamanic journey, particularly, offers the journeyer the opportunity to experience personally the realms of the helping spirits, an expansive dimension of compassion, wisdom, healing, and oneness. In addition to being able to contact the spirits for personal knowledge and help with daily life, shamanic journeying can provide a cosmic perspective of our place in the universe, resulting in a hopeful and inspired orientation toward one’s life. Altering consciousness through non-drug methods using rhythmic drumming is time-tested, effective, and safe. Most people can learn the shamanic journey fairly readily. The steps of the practice are set forth in Michael Harner’s book Cave and Cosmos: Shamanic Encounters with Another Reality (see Appendices A & B); or one can take the FSS introductory weekend The Way of the Shaman® under the guidance of an experienced faculty member.
To find a shamanic practitioner to work with, it is important to do your own research, just as you would when seeking any other healthcare professional. Sometimes you can find someone who has had a good healing experience with a practitioner, and you can start with their referral. Be sure to talk with the practitioner and find out how they work, what they charge for their work, and what training and experience they have. Find a practitioner you feel comfortable with and avoid those who charge excessive fees, promise healing miracles, or boast of their skills.
The FSS provides a practitioner list, searchable by location, of people who have participated in Foundation advanced trainings such as the Three Year Program in Advanced Shamanism and the Two Week Shamanic Healing Intensive, and how many years they have practiced. All practitioners work independently of the Foundation and no endorsement can be made since it is the connection with the helping spirits that makes an effective shaman. But high-quality training and practical experience are good places to start looking. You will find resources for finding practitioners at the end of this article.
Shamanic healing is finding a well-deserved place as an effective complementary healing modality for people who struggle with the disabling effects of trauma in general, and for veterans with combat related PTSD in particular. The methods reviewed in this article are time-tested, authentic, and effective non-drug practices for addressing trauma and illness. Though they may be considered “alternative” in contemporary society, they have a track record of success that dates back tens of thousands of years. Shamanic methods can be an important part of the recovery process for many who suffer with serious medical conditions and traumatic life experiences. We hope this brief introduction will help demystify shamanic healing for those who might benefit from this ancient therapeutic methodology.
Visit the Foundation for Shamanic Studies website, shamanism.org
FSS Faculty Member Contributors: Susan Mokelke, JD; Narrye Caldwell, MTCM, L.Ac; Alexandra Solomon, MS, LCSW; Scott Williams, MA
Susan Mokelke, JD, is the president of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies (FSS) and the director of the FSS faculty. She has worked with non-profit educational organizations her entire adult life. Susan has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Southern California and a Juris Doctorate from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. She has practiced shamanic healing since 1999 and has been an FSS faculty member since 2006. More about Susan: https://shamanism.org/fssinfo/mokelke.html
Narrye Caldwell, MCTM, L.Ac,is a shamanic practitioner, martial artist, and teacher of traditional Chinese healing arts. She is a graduate of the FSS Two Week Shamanic Healing Intensive, Three Year Program of Advanced Initiations in Shamanism and Shamanic Healing, Harner Shamanic Counseling Training, and an FSS faculty member. She also teaches at Five Branches University and at the Academy of Martial Arts in Santa Cruz, CA. More about Narrye: https://shamanism.org/fssinfo/caldwellbio.html
Alexandra Solomon, MS, LCSW, is a shamanic practitioner and licensed clinical social worker. She is a graduate of the FSS Two Week Shamanic Healing Intensive, Three Year Program of Advanced Initiations in Shamanism and Shamanic Healing, andHarner Shamanic Counseling Training, and an FSS faculty member. Alexandra has a master’s degree from the University of Connecticut School of Social Work. More about Alexandra: https://shamanism.org/fssinfo/solomonbio.php
Scott Williams, MA, is a shamanic practitioner and an archaeologist. He is an FSS faculty member and a graduate of the FSSThree Year Program of Advanced Initiations in Shamanism and Shamanic Healingand the Two Week Shamanic Healing Intensive. Scott works for a major aerospace manufacturing corporation and has an MA in anthropology from the University of Connecticut. More about Scott: https://shamanism.org/fssinfo/williamsbio.php
Visit the FSS faculty directory for biographical information: https://shamanism.org/fssinfo/directory.html
By Judy Weaver, C-IAYT, E-RYT500, YACEP
“Yoga teaches you how to listen to your body.” – Mariel Hemingway
“YOGA is a journey of Your Own Growth and Awareness by quieting, strengthening and learning to control the mind, body and spirit.”
In 2007 I met Beau MacVane, an Army Ranger recently returned home from his fourth tour of duty in the Middle East. Beau had just been diagnosed with Amyotrophic
Lateral Sclerosis – also known as “ALS.” or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Over the next few years Beau incorporated the teachings of yoga to both battle and ultimately make peace with his body’s inevitable decline. When Beau passed away surrounded by friends and family, he left this world with an indomitable inner strength and peace-of-mind more powerful than any mere physical malady.
Using my 30 years of learning and teaching, I founded Connected Warriors, a non-profit delivering Trauma-Conscious yoga programs to Veterans and their families around the world and BodyMind Recalibration™ a multi-discipline practice building cognitive and somatic body-mind relationships. I also developed protocols for three clinical studies used by Connected Warriors and other health care practitioners. Connected Warriors empowers Servicemembers, Veterans and their Families worldwide through evidence based Trauma-Conscious Yoga with a vision of helping the world feel better – one breath at a time. Today Beau’s legacy is a burning torch Connected Warriors holds high to light the way for others to find the path of inner peace.
I am also a Yoga Alliance On-line Presenter, part of Core Curriculum Working Group, participate in one of their advisory boards and was a contributor to the Yoga Service Council (YSC) book “Best Practices for Yoga for Veterans.”
What is Yoga?
Yoga is an ancient system of physical postures (asana), breath (pranayama), meditation and self-awareness. Synchronization of the mind, conscious breath and movement regulates the nervous system increasing resiliency. Yoga postures and breathing techniques build the mind body connection by strengthening self-awareness, aiding the ability to observe and to stay with inner thoughts and feelings. This practice can help regain a sense of control and ownership over your body and experiences. Practicing yoga is a tool to learn to listen to your body and make choices to take care of yourself –this is mindfulness.
The objective of this practice is to sit quietly with yourself without employing a strategy to hide from yourself. This evolution of your higher consciousness or enlightenment happens when the physical, emotional and spiritual energies connect.
“My name is Melody Jackman and I will always think of myself as a beginning yogi. I started yoga in college but couldn’t find the right class or instructor to hold my interest for more than a couple of classes here and there throughout the years. When I joined the Army I hadn’t been practicing for several years and I volunteered for a unit that is more physically demanding than most. Pain that I had been able to ignore in the past was quickly beginning to affect the way I performed on runs, and I was unwilling to go on profile. Yoga at that point was still so far back in my mind that I never even considered it for pain management or correction, and so started going to a chiropractor. Being in a male dominated profession I was willing to do what I had to keep myself pieced together enough to stay off profile and physically keep up with them, and at that time it meant going to the chiropractor five times a week.
I went on like that for close to a month before a new program became available to the unit, Connected Warriors. I didn’t go right away, yoga isn’t considered something that the “guys” would do, and I was very careful to keep my image of being one of the guys. When I started to hear about attendance increasing I figured that was my chance to give it a try. I was still only thinking at that time of changing up my physical fitness routine, and not wellness. When I did finally drag myself in there I discovered something wonderful, here finally was an instructor who “got it.” I had never before gone to a yoga class and sweated as much as I did that day, I was sore, the kind of sore you get when you push yourself to your limit, and the pain that was threatening to put me on profile was going away. One Connected Warrior class a week brought my chiropractor visits from five times a week to three, then once a month.
After a while I began to notice that the yoga was also good for quieting the mind, for an hour I could let go and just breathe, not process, not worry, no stress. I could deal with the days issues without getting angry, my resilience improved, and stress management became easier. I began sleeping better, and relationships improved because I was a happier person.
Today I am no longer in that unit, but I now fly helicopters and that can be physically demanding on a whole other level. On a recent deployment we were lucky enough to have access to a Connected Warriors class, an I can tell you I really depended on that class. The wellness of the mind is just as important as wellness of the body and in an hostile environment those things can get off kilter very quickly.
In closing, go do yoga, just do it. What do you have to lose? Who cares what everyone else is doing, or what they think. Its your body, and you have to live in it. Why wouldn’t you want to be the best, happiest you that you could possibly be?” – Melody Jackman — Aviation Chief Warrant Officer Two
“Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit (ancient Indian language) root yuj meaning to bind, join, attach and yoke, direct and concentrate one’s attention on, to use and apply, also means union or communion. Yoga is a timeless pragmatic science evolved over thousands of years dealing with the physical, moral, mental and spiritual well-being of man as a whole.” (B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga).
Yoga is one of the six orthodox systems of Indian philosophy that was systematized in 200 BC by Pantanjali, author or representative of the Yoga Sutras. The Yoga Sutras consist of more than 196 aphorisms covering the Science of Yoga. These are the four classic Yogas:
The Sutras clearly delineate; its aim, the necessary practices, the obstacles you may meet along the path, their removal, and precise description of the results that will be obtained from such practices. These selected Sutras are examples of the scope of this practice:
Yogas Chitta Vrtti Nirodhah – Sutra 1.2
The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is yoga.
The entire science of yoga is based on this. Patanjali has given the definition of yoga and at the same time, the practice. “If you can control the rising of the mind into ripples, you will experience Yoga.”
8 Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga– Sutra 2.29
Steps to quiet one’s mind and merge with the infinite
Yoga and the Military
The Bhagavad Gita is a beloved Hindu narrative about moral and ethical dilemmas and the violence and death of war. The concept of dharma or life’s purpose discusses how warriors are to be their very best to achieve their dharma. In India, there is a long history of the practice of yoga and the military – maharajas retained yogis to train their troops because of their strength, flexibility and powers of concentration.
The Eight Limb Path correlates yoga and the military:
The Practice of Yoga
Hatha Yoga introduced in 15 AD by Yogi Swatmarama, a yogic sage, is a system of postures. Hatha comes from the Sanskrit language – “ha” meaning “sun” and “tha” meaning “Moon” united pairs of opposites. Yoga is a mindfulness practice inclusive of physical postures, breath regulation and meditation practices.
The physical practice is a controlled environment to notice the condensed energy in the body and habitual ways of reacting to confrontations and to learn to use tools or strategies to transform an outcome. As you manipulate the body to find the tension, you are developing self-awareness through conscious breath and mindfulness – synchronization of breath and movement regulates the nervous system, thereby reducing stress and anxiety and increasing, resiliency.
According to Dr. Timothy McCall, Yoga as Medicine, “Breath is perhaps the most important tool in yoga practice.” Pranayama practice is breath regulation to develop correct normal breathing. Prana, a Sanskrit term meaning “absolute energy” is the universal vital life force that holds all things together; it is a physical, mental, spiritual and cosmic energy. Prana is connected through the breath and is the key that connects life to the universe. Ayama means “extend, draw out, restraint or control”.
Pranayama is the science of breath control and, according to Patanjali’s Sutra II.49, “It is to be practiced only after perfection in asanas is attained.” Dr. Krishna Raman states, “In pranayama, the mind and consciousness is withdrawn deep inside to the core of the being”. The practice of Pranayama is the conscious expansion of the natural capacity for breath that ultimately allows the free and undisturbed flow of prana that quiets the mind and enables concentration or focus (dharana).
There are many different pranayama practices providing different physical, physiological and biochemical effects on the body; either stimulating or soothing cells. The main objective of practicing pranayama is to achieve “normal breathing” by the abdomen expanding on the inhale and contracting on the exhale or normalizing the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body. It is the practice of controlled inhalation, exhalation, retention and suspension of breath while moving the thoracic organs vertically, horizontally and circumferentially.
Each inhale brings in oxygen and prana; each exhale removes carbon dioxide, toxins and apana (downward and outward flow of energy) and each pause (kumbhaka) allows less oxygen absorption leaving more carbon dioxide in the blood which aids in the calming effect. This assists in quieting the mind. However, the stability of the mind is first achieved by the control of the body through the practice of asanas. The mind becomes peaceful when the health of the body occurs.
This regular practice cultivates a listening which gives space to what is, while deepening connections to who you are. Begin to ask what your body is communicating to you? What sensations are present? Where are you stiff, tense and stuck and what contributes to this state? You will find that the answers come easier the more you practice.
“I am a Connected Warrior. I have recently retired after 36 years in the military: 10 years in the United States Marines, 26 years in the United States Army. The last 19 years have been with the Special Operations community as a helicopter pilot deploying with the most elite forces that the U.S. military has executing missions in every environment that only the most elite can accomplish. I never titled myself as a warrior, but I was blessed to be around warriors of great bravery and commitment to defend and fight for the freedoms that we as Americans are so grateful for. The acts of heroism that I have witnessed go beyond the imagination where most people only see them on movie screens.
So how does this fit with being a Connected Warrior? Yoga is hard; in fact I have been told it is a journey to finding your own position, your own breath, and your own peace. As a 54-year old married with two grandchildren I have to rethink what life is and what is my purpose in this life. Being around great men and women who gave it all and leaving the company of heroes has been difficult for me. I don’t have my brothers with me anymore. There are no missions to plan. There are no dark nights to fight in. And I miss it. But now I want to focus on how I can stay as healthy (physically, mentally, and spiritually) as I possibly can for this next phase of my life so I can honor my wife and children, to be in their lives and make great memories that will hopefully be passed down for generations to come.
Yoga physically is challenging. I have been sitting in a helicopter cockpit for over three decades and it has punished my body by not being able to have full range of motion. I have lumbar stenosis and yoga is helping to rehabilitate me so I can enjoy my life in the act of MOVING which as I get older, is a gift to do.
Yoga mentally is helping me use my thoughts to concentrate on listening to my body, helping me to command my body and helping to fuse both thought and movement together. Honestly, I have found yoga has a way to refresh or elevate your thoughts to a better place so I can live a fuller life.
Yoga spiritually has helped me hear my breath. Even now I write this and can’t explain how wonderful that is to me. Breath is life and it is wonderful. As a Christian yoga reminds me how God has given me the gift of life and how grateful I am to breathe, move and think. I am a better person, fuller person with Connected Warriors. I love being around warriors who are still pursuing LIFE. Thankful for my time on the mat. NAMASTE.” – CW5(R) Kenneth Poindexter — Owner of Mugsy’s Coffee Company
“With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things.” These words from the poet William Wordsworth quite beautifully reflect the process of meditation. For this, of course, is what we want: to see into the life of things, to be in touch, to be connected, to feel at home in our own lives. We don’t want to live out our days mechanically, unaware, disconnected, and lost in the shadow of our conditioning.
According to Dr. Joan Borysenko, a pioneer in the field of mind/body medicine, “Meditation is anything that brings us to the present and keeps us there”. This mental discipline moves us beyond the conditioned “thinking” mind into self-awareness and a deeper state of relaxation. Meditation is being prescribed as an adjunct to improve many dysfunctions and diseases. Practicing meditation is equally important as the core goal of Quieting the mind.
Meditation may take on many forms but its foundation basically lies on these principles:
To concentrate bring your focus on one thing or object. The object of focus may be your breathing, a word that you repeat either verbally or mentally, or the sensations that we feel in our body. Meditation usually involves the senses of which we smell, feel, see or listen.
“Quieting” the mind is not easy so whenever you find yourself thinking of some other thoughts, don’t fight them but rather acknowledge them and let them pass. Meditation is the practice of maintaining complete awareness of one’s experiences on a moment-to-moment basis. This gives us the ability to respond to situations, as well as to our thoughts and emotions, with full awareness.
“I am from Arkansas. I am a husband and father. I joined the Army in 1996 as a helicopter repairer. I have been on numerous combat deployments. I am a leader and I lead by example. I started Connected Warriors Yoga to enhance my fitness performance and to deal with some nagging aches and pains. Through my own practice, I recognized the value a consistent yoga program would bring to my Soldiers physical and mental well-being. I plan on incorporating Connected Warriors Yoga into my current aviation unit’s physical fitness program.” – Mark B. Baker, Command Sergeant Major, U.S. Army
One meditation technique is to use a mantra or a Focus Phrase which is a positive word or short phrase that you can use to help bring your mind back to the present and intercept negative thoughts. You use your Focus Phrase by silently repeating the words to yourself. Repeating the phrase is like pushing a pause button on your mind. The repetition intercepts or slows down the distracting thoughts, increasing your level of mindfulness and redirecting your stream of consciousness toward a more beneficial and calmer space. A Focus Phrase can also be used when you feel stressed or unmotivated.
Choose a phrase that is comfortable and natural to you. Examples – Breathe. Be still and trust. All is well. Just be. This will pass.
Another technique is to focus on the breath – either counting the inhales or exhales or noticing the feel of the breath on the upper lip or counting the breath to a selected number and repeating,
Plan to meditate about the same time every day – whatever time of day or night you can be consistent. Establish a place you can use every day where you can be relatively undisturbed during your practice. Sit as long as you can every day, it will help you cultivate and maintain your awareness as you continue through your day. A daily practice of as little as five minutes or more is beneficial.
Begin by taking a few deep breaths and soften and lower your gaze or close your eyes. As distractions come continue to gently bring your attention back to your Focus. As long as there are no emergency sirens blaring in the background, there is no need to acknowledge outside noises or your thoughts – let them come and go without engaging them.
Remember the whole point in meditation is not to stop the thoughts in the mind, but to notice the thoughts and without engaging them, let them pass through your mind. When you focus your mind on something, you are less likely to get caught in your thoughts. And when the mind does wander, which it will inevitably do, coming back to your Focus is a way to bring your mind back to the present and on your intention to meditate.
Benefits of a Yoga Practice
Multiple research projects have demonstrated the significant benefit of yoga as an adjunct to treatment modalities to include substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress. “Yoga treats the biology and psychology of an addict” (Frederick, 2012, P-8). Addicts and those suffering from stress, anxiety, and PTSD have shown a low level of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter calms the neuronal pathways in adults. “Yoga has been proven to increase the levels of GABA in participants” (Saeed, 2010). “Exercise may be efficacious in reducing depressive symptoms, but the poor quality of much of the evidence is of concern.” (Lawlor, 2001, P-767).
“Three years ago a retired Army Command Sergeant Major invited me to a Connected Warriors yoga class at Fort Campbell. Needless to say, I was apprehensive about going to an unfamiliar activity that I perceived as new age stretching for women. Walking in the room, I was surprised to find such an eclectic group of participants from all different age groups, genders, body types, and fitness levels. Many had some type of knee, shoulder, or back injury – battle wounds from a dedicated life of service. Much to my surprise, the class was an intense workout that challenged my strength, balance, and flexibility. I found myself returning each week to learn new postures and for the challenge of pushing myself to the edge. During that year, I noticed physical changes such as my knee no longer swelling after long runs and ruck marches, increased inner core strength, and an overall improvement in my level of fitness.
After that year, I changed jobs and could no longer attend the class at Fort Campbell but was fortunate to find the Yoga Mat studio in Clarksville that offered Connected Warriors classes. I started bringing my six-year old daughter to class, and she instantly fell in love with her yoga practice. She even started conducting her own classes at home where she would teach her younger brother. Throughout the year that we practiced together, I found that the classes strengthened our father-daughter relationship. I also started noticing mental changes. I felt more calm throughout the day, was able to fall asleep faster at night, and those little annoying things that would set me off were no longer that important.
This past year everything changed. My teacher and mentor, Kathy, invited me to participate in the Elevated Warrior program and attend the 200-hour Connected Warrior Teacher Training. Having seen and experienced all the benefits of Connected Warriors yoga, I knew I had to share those benefits with my fellow Servicemembers, our Veterans, and their Families. I’ve had the opportunity to teach injured Soldiers, Family members who deal with the stress of frequent deployments, and seasoned Veterans who continue to serve our nation. It’s incredibly rewarding to see their practice grow as they realize the positive effects of yoga on their mind and body. Looking back at that first class three years ago, I can’t believe how much my life has changed and how many others have been able to share that same experience thanks to Connected Warriors.” –Michael, SGM, U.S. Army Veteran with 20 years in service, RYT-200
A YOGA self-practice will help you learn how to handle stressful situations in a more relaxed manner by quieting and focusing your mind, which encourages positive thoughts and self-acceptance. By increasing relaxation and lowering stress, you may feel benefits in the following areas:
Trauma-Conscious Yoga is based on the understanding that trauma is held in the cells of the body and mind – it is physiological rather than psychological and that reconnecting the body and mind with the synchronization of conscious breath, movement and concentration in a safe, secure and predictable environment supports health and wellness. The evidence based protocol manages and eases trauma’s negative consequences occurring in the body mind by reducing potential triggers of stress and providing choices which is the opposite of trauma. Practitioners learn techniques to reconnect and develop awareness of the body mind needs in that moment.
Connected Warriors classes serve as therapeutic community engagements providing benefits to both the veteran/military and civilian communities. A large part of the physical benefits is the release of calming and positive thought producing chemicals which occur when in social gatherings with like-minded individuals. Handing out the first Connected Warriors T-shirts in 2011 our warriors immediately took off their branch of service T-shirts, put on their CW T-shirt and started talking to one another – something that was missing previously. They became a new tribe with a new uniform.
In a landmark study published July 25th 2017 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Dr. Erik J. Groessl and researchers from the VA San Diego Healthcare System found that veterans who completed a 12-week Connected Warriors yoga program reported improved behavioral-based pain management, demonstrating a significant decline in opiate use (Veterans Affairs Research Communications). Additionally, a Connected Warriors-partnered scientific study from 2015 operated in conjunction with the Department of Veterans Affairs found that 62% of participants reported a positive reduction in pain, 70% an increased level of flexibility and balance, and 100% reported an increased level of social interaction and stress management behaviors.
A Nova Southeastern University multi-year study completed in 2015 researching the effectiveness of trauma-conscious yoga instruction clearly demonstrates the physiological and psychological benefits: participants report that one of the most meaningful outcomes of their time spent in Connected Warriors sessions is the camaraderie they experience as a result of belonging to a group of “brothers and sisters” who are also embracing yoga to improve their lives. That is, engagement in Connected Warriors sessions helped participants to no longer feel isolated. Social isolation is recognized as a primary contributing factor to suicide. As such, through work with trauma-conscious yoga instruction, Connected Warriors is directly battling our current suicide epidemic.
“My military story begins in May 2011 where I graduated as a Distinguished Military Graduate (DMG) from The Citadel: The Military College of South Carolina (DMG-top 10% in the entire Nation for Army officers commissioning into service). I served in the Army from October 2011-November 2016 as a Medical Service Officer. I was a medical platoon leader for 3-187 IN BN, 3rdBCT, 101stAirborne Division (AASLT) where I deployed to East Afghanistan and received a Combat Medic Badge and two Army Commendation Medals. I then was given the position as the 3rdBrigade Combat Team-Medical Operations Officer where I was in charge of six of my peers, 212 medics and responsible for the medical readiness of over 4,500 Soldiers.
My transition back into society was one of the hardest things I have ever went through and still go through today. My story is filled with trauma and suicide (13 close friends/peers/Soldiers) because they could not find solutions to the mental health difficulties that combat veterans face. My own solution was to drink and use pharmaceutical drugs in order to escape the realities of mental torture that I was experiencing on a daily basis. The constant feeling of loneliness and depression (which would transition into stints of adrenaline fueled anxiety) was driving me crazy. Coming back from deployment I did not have my support system (my platoon) anymore. They were transferred to other bases or had their own lives and families to tend to. And by 2014, I started to think about suicide myself. I even attempted suicide on multiple occasions.
After the last failed attempt (while in the military) I decided that I needed to get out of my current environment and start all over. I transferred to Ft. Knox, KY to become a medical recruiting officer. The geographical change did not make things better, it only made things worse. My loneliness and depression intensified, and my alcohol and drug use took off. I was drinking and using just to get through the day (not just to go to bed at night). This is where my “solution” soon became a bigger problem than my emotional distress. Luckily, I was admitted into a 30-day program at Ft. Knox- Lincoln Trail Behavioral Health facility. This is when I truly knew I needed help, but I also knew that mood stabilizers and sleep meds were just another short-term fix (just like my previous misuse of alcohol and drugs). I was discharged from the Army under Honorable conditions in November of 2016. And shortly after, I was back to using and abusing drugs and alcohol because by that time it was my solution to everything.
I was truly ready to die, and I welcomed it. Luckily a friend reached out and got me into a treatment facility located out of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and this is when I first found yoga and meditation. I knew that I had found a new passion and a new solution. My new goal in life was to help other veterans who were struggling. After treatment, I was homeless/living in a halfway house, with no bank account and desperate for someone to take a chance on me! That is when I reached out to Judy Weaver and Connected Warriors. Judy and this program truly changed my life on every aspect. Without Judy, I know in my heart I would be dead today-through suicide or overdose. This program did not only give me a career purpose. It led me down a path of contentment, community and spiritual growth that most men/women never get to experience in their entire lives. Today, because of Connected Warriors, I am enjoying life drug, alcohol free and medication free (mood stabilizers & sleeping medications). I wake up every morning and make it my mission to help a Veteran. I volunteer on my off time as a Veteran Liaison for the Amiri King Foundation and Save a Life: US. I volunteer to help Veterans find affordable sober living housing through a company called “Sober Living by Tiffany” in Ft. Lauderdale. I truly have an understanding of myself and how I can be most useful to my community and the world around me and I owe it all to Judy Weaver and Connected Warriors”. – Brian Thornsberry, Director of Operations, Connected Warriors
General Asana Practice Guidelines– Getting ready for a physical practice
When you practice either at a CW led Trauma-Conscious Yoga class or on your own, please practice with these guidelines in mind:
Check-in with yourself – Opportunities to notice your breath as you consider
Words from a Connected Warriors teacher and Veteran best summarizes how Trauma-Conscious Yoga is an intervention for physical, mental and spiritual health and wellness.
“I’m a damn Marine and haven’t cried in a hundred years.”
Have you ever noticed that when two people look at a piece of art that they usually focus on something different? Abstract art is a great example, you probably see a man in uniform sitting on a yoga mat in an art studio with a dusty floor. Well, I am that man. Let me tell you what I see.
I see a child that was beaten by his alcoholic father. “I probably deserved it.” [scrape away some clay]
He beat my mother in front of me and my brothers. “She DIDN’T deserve it.” [scrape away]
Finally, after all these years she is leaving him. [more dust on the floor]
Why am I getting tossed back and forth??? [dust]
My best friend killed himself. We’re just kids! [scrape, press, dust]
I have to move out on my own, get a job, pay my bills and finish high school on my own. [more dust]
I am trying hard to make dad proud but nothing is working. I’ll try harder. [scrape]
I have to get away from here but how? I’ll join the military, that’ll make him proud. No. [squeeze]
Going to war. I want to go. I need to go. [press]
My best friend was burned so badly that I didn’t recognize him when he asked for help. [take more off]
Back from war. He’ll be proud. No. [dust]
He died. Damn it!! Why?? Just once!! Why didn’t you say those words??? PROUD. [f!@k]
Regroup. My family. My career. Focus. [dust]
Failed marriage. Kids won’t speak to me. I’m alone. [mud, dust, scrape]
Career. New love. New life. Hope. [dust]
Another war, deployments, will she put up with it?? Will she put up with me?? [scrape away]
Dave…my friend, my mentor, my Marine brother. Why?? Why did you do it??? [hell, f!@k, dust]
She did it. She stayed with me. How?? [dust]
She shared her breath, her life, her yoga. I can sleep!!!! I can breathe. I can rest. [dust]
This is what I see coming from the clay.
Namaste.” – MSgt “Lee” Beckler, USMC, Ret. (20 years), RYT-200
Owner Sage Yoga Studios, Fallbrook, CA
Connected Warriors is deeply committed to helping the world feel better one breath at a time. Address: 4950 Communication Ave., Ste. 115, Boca Raton, FL 33431. Website: http://www.connectedwarriors.org, Phone: 954.278.3764
By Dr. Steven M. Zodkoy, DC, CNS, DACBN
“I am keenly aware of Soldier On’s Resiliency Program and how it is benefiting veterans and active duty personnel. The program has been explained to me by a first-hand recipient who I have known and respected for many years. He credits his experience with The Resiliency Program with restoring the quality-of-life to his personal, family, and professional life. He has also witnessed the benefits of the program in numerous other participants. I believe that the addition of The Resiliency Program on a larger scale would be of value in improving proficiency, resiliency, and morale of our military personnel and veterans.” – Admiral Mike Mullen, U.S. Navy (Ret.). 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Courtenay: The truth, I think, is that I am afraid to tap on the glass that surrounds me. Convinced that the slightest crack in my psyche, in my life, might shatter the glass and that I will be exposed…naked and defenseless…to the sounds, the triggers, the constant barrage of ‘outside’ when I wish there were only ‘silence’, only ‘peace’. My reflection scattered in shards on the ground, reflecting only pieces of my true self laying alongside dry blades of grass.
The Resiliency Program is one of the most unique and successful programs to help Veterans and service members overcome PTSD. What makes the program different is that it utilizes clinical nutrition and hands-on emotional desensitization techniques to restore normal function to the mind and body. The program focuses on restoring balance and control to the fight-or-flight pathway (HPA-axis, sympathetic nervous system) to improve both the physical and mental health of the participant. The added benefits of the program are that participants starts to feel results almost immediately and are completed in 180 days. This approach is dramatically different from using medications which control the nervous system and may require a lifetime drug use or talk therapy which slowly works through traumas and stressors that often takes years to complete. The personal strength and fortitude to accept, process and move forward from traumas offers a much deeper healing and greater long-term success rate, and The Resiliency Program does all that!
The Resiliency Program’s History: The Resiliency Program was initiated by my encounter with a mother who was concerned with her daughter’s abnormal gait. During a routine chiropractic exam, I noticed that this teenager did not walk normally but rather swung her leg out and around. Her physical exam indicated no muscle weakness nor any joint limitations, so why was her gait so strange? This question had been baffling orthopedists, physical therapists and other healthcare providers for nearly a year. Talking with the mother and daughter revealed that the mother had been on active duty, a Colonel in the USMC, and that the daughter had been stressed over her safety. I switched my examination to look for hidden emotional traumas and stresses. I quickly found several hidden emotional issues that were weakening her whole musculoskeletal system and exacerbated her gait issue. The key reason for her gait issues had been found, it was not physical but rather trapped emotional trauma. Her care for the next several weeks focused on nutritional supplements to help her deal better with stress and Neuro Emotional Technique (NET, I will explain this in detail later) to quickly and effectively relieve the trapped emotional trauma. Her gait, which has been abnormal for years, was restored to normal within weeks and her overall health was greatly improved.
The Colonel quickly understood the magnitude of the work that had been done to her daughter and enquired if her Marines with PTSD would benefit from this type of care. I explained that PTSD with the associated symptoms of; anger, anxiety, burnout, confusion, fatigue, depression, insomnia and pain are all caused by the mind and body’ inability to accept, process and move on from traumas and stressors. Supporting PTSD patients with nutritional supplements and emotional desensitization techniques (like NET) would definitely help to resolve many aspects of their problem and thus The Resiliency Program was born.
The first few years of the program were fueled by word of mouth, with one successful case sending in several others until the buzz was all around. Request for meetings by the the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Navy and Marines led to an even greater buzz and an urgency to expand the program. Those in command of troops and responsible for their well-being were quick to accept and promote the program, but government red-tape and the lack of vision by military medicine looked like the end for the program. A chance encounter with Jack Downing, the CEO of Soldier ON a veterans’ service organization, led to the exponential growth of the program. Jack Downing saw the vision of restoring emotional and physical health back to Veteran so that they would have a high quality of life. He realized that The Resiliency Program could do that quickly, effectively, and cost efficiently.
The Resiliency Program in conjunction with Soldier On has been able to help 100’s of Veterans achieve a higher quality of life, greater than what was ever thought possible after being diagnosed with PTSD. The program is loved by Veterans for its quick and long-term results. Their families love that the program restored their loved one to an active part of the family again. The key to the program’s success comes from understanding how the mind-body processes and heals from trauma and restoring those normal pathways through clinical nutrition and hands-on work.
“In one word, “AWESOME!” I still can’t believe the results. This is exactly what I needed and have been searching for. Thanks to the Resiliency Program. I am living a life with balance and finally have a regular sleep routine. This is a must for anyone living with mental health issues.” – John C.
How The Resiliency Program works:
The success of The Resiliency Program comes from the understanding that emotional and physical stress will abnormally affect the biochemistry of the mind-body. Chronic emotional and physical stress will often wear down a person’s ability to deal with even the most minimal stressor and often lead to over compensation reactions including anger, fatigue, panic attacks, and physical complaints. PTSD causes the mind and body to lose its ability to maintain homeostasis thus leading to both physical and emotional symptoms. Proper care for PTSD requires a two-prong approach including a method to deal with emotional triggers and past traumas plus support for the biochemical pathways that have been worn out. Relieving the trauma and rebuilding the system allows for true healing, balance and restores homeostasis to the mind and body.
Traditional PTSD treatments fail because they focus on controlling the mind and body. Medications will push a biochemical pathway in only one direction, but health and happiness require that these pathways be able to fluctuate as life’s situations change. Traditional talk therapy often stresses the participant to an even higher level leaving them feeling worse, agitated and unwilling to work through the painful memories. Healing a Veteran with PTSD requires protocols to gently relieve the emotional traumas that cause stress and support to restore normal fluctuation in biochemical pathways to achieve homeostasis. The Resiliency Program does both of these.
“”You don’t have to go through life angry”. That’s what a friend of mine said when he told me about Dr. Zodkoy’s Resiliency Program and the use of the Neuro Emotional Technique. Within hours of treatment, I called my wife in a state of euphoria. I had emotions I hadn’t felt for years and definitely not since commanding a combat brigade during Surge Operations in Iraq. I’m able to be happy again and as my wife put it, “You finally came home”.” – Colonel Dave S.
Nutritional Support for PTSD:
The idea that nutritional supplementation could change the outcome of PTSD is completely beyond the realm of traditional medicine. The common thinking in the medical field is, that if a drug isn’t strong enough to help with PTSD…how can nutritional supplements. The reason nutritional supplements are more effective than medications in PTSD is because drugs push a biochemical pathway in only on direction, but our moods need to fluctuate with the changing events throughout the day. Nutritional supplements by nature bring the mind-body into homeostasis or balance so that it can adapt to life’s daily changes. It is nutritional supplements ability to restore homeostasis to the mind-body that restores a PTSD sufferer’s sense of well-being and happiness.
Military medicine wanted no part of nutritional supplements or natural approaches to helping with PTSD. The strongest argument was that there were no studies to prove that nutritional supplements would help in any way with the mental or physical complaints of active duty personnel. To prove that nutritional supplements can improve the emotional and physical complaints of active duty Marines I did a study, with the support of command officers looking for a way to help their Marines. I lectured to 100s of Marines on the signs and symptoms of Burnout, a less threating term than PTSD, and had a group of volunteers ready and willing to be helped.
The participants were recommended nutritional supplements based on clinical lab testing that measured how well their biochemical pathways dealt with stress. These clinical lab results were correlated with questionnaires about their physical and mental complaints and a questionnaire about whether they felt Burnout. This process was repeated at 90 days and changes to their nutritional supplements were made. The study was completed at 180 days.
The results of this study proved to be amazing and was the basis for The Resiliency Program. When the study began all participants were rated at “extremely to moderately” burnout. 180 days of nutritional supplements had made a remarkable change. A remarkable 95% of the participants had moved up at least two levels and the group were now rated at only “moderate to no” burnout. There was also an average 80% drop in the groups emotional and physical complaints from the start to the finish. This small study clearly showed that nutritional supplementation can effectively improve physical and emotional complaints in a short period of time.
The study showed that by focusing in on how the mind and body’s biochemical pathways deal with stress we can effectively use nutritional supplements to help those with Burnout. The relationship between Burnout and PTSD is well documented, the common link is an abnormal response to the fight-or-flight (stress response) pathway. The key to successfully utilizing nutritional supplements to improve the physical and emotional complaints of Veterans with PTSD is to focus on the same Fight-or-Fight pathway. The Fight-or-Flight pathway is an ancient biochemical pathway that was designed to give humans a short burst of adrenaline to deal with an imminent danger. The problem is that today’s stressors are not short lived but long and drawn out which burnout the Fight-or Flight pathway leading to PTSD. This is even more evident in the military where warriors are doing more with less and for a lot longer. Basically, we are wearing out our Fight or Flight mechanism which causes us to be unable to deal everyday stressors. The Fight-or-Flight pathway is controlled by the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal axis or HPA-axis which links the mind to the body. If we want to help rebuild the Fight-or-Flight pathway we need to give nutritional support to the HPA-axis.
“I think it’s a great program with an innovative approach to Veteran Care. For the first time, I am sleeping better, feeling less anxious and calmer. Through a combination of supplements and NET, I found that I could be myself again” – Belinda
What does the HPA-axis control:
The HPA-axis is the link between the endocrine and nervous systems and the mind and body. Every physical and emotional event involves the HPA-axis so even a small imbalance can have a large effect on our health. HPA-axis systems help us protect ourselves from danger and stress. The problem is that this system was designed for short term use and today’s stressors are nearly constant and often excessive. While in the past we our ancestors may have had to run from a tiger, today we have a lot of constant low-grade stressors; phones, emails, TV, etc, that wear us down and leave us venerable to any major events. The simplest way to understand the system is that when the brain perceives a stressor it releases hormones through the HPA-axis, that at the end, releases adrenaline to fight the danger. Veterans with PTSD have been proven to have a compromised HPA-axis pathway which is no longer in balance. A compromised and imbalanced HPA-axis often will trigger an abnormal response to stress. Examples of an over response from the HPA-axis include; getting enraged or panicked over a minor incident, a muted response to a major stress or being unable to motivate themselves to do the basic things. Resetting a normal and appropriate response to a stressor is key to restoring emotional and physical health to a PTSD sufferer and nutritional supplements are key to rebalancing the HPA-axis so that can happen.
Symptoms from HPA-Axis Dysfunction
“…referred to Dr. Zodkoy and The Resiliency Program – one week into the program, I cannot believe how much better I feel, how much better I sleep, and my mood is much better.” – Eric
Nutritional supplements that help restore normal HPA-axis function:
The HPA axis, Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal axis, has been accepted by healthcare professionals as the main biochemical pathway involved with how we deal with stress or rather do not deal with stress. A person’s HPA axis is highly influenced by their genetics, personality traits, race, age, lifestyle, and their physical and emotional environment from childhood to adulthood. These variables make it difficult to test the HPA axis with standardized lab tests and limit the effectiveness of monodirectional medication to correct any dysfunction. Nutritional supplements are extremely effective at restoring balance and control to the HPA-axis and thus relieving stress and PTSD.
There are numerous nutritional supplements to address the HPA-axis biochemical pathways, which provides excellent flexibility to adapt this approach to a patient’s individual needs. Supplement protocols can be adapted to address genetics, allergies, lifestyle habits, and medical history. The goal of the nutritional supplements is to support the HPA-axis’ natural fluctuation and homeostasis function to maximize recovery from anxiety, burnout, and PTSD.
Hemp Oil (CBD) Full Spectrum with <0.3% THC is the hottest nutritional supplement in the US, reaching nearly $1B in 2018 or 3% of all nutritional sales in just a few years on the market. The reason behind this incredible success is twofold. Researchers and patients have found benefits for both physical and emotional issue. It has also been found to be extremely safe with minimal side effects, risk factors, addictive tendencies or attenuation. A recent study showed that 91% of PTSD sufferers using CBD felt dramatic relief. Additional studies have shown that CBD reduced cortisol in stressed subjects, the key component of the HPA-axis, that correlated with them feeling relief from stress. Another large study recently showed that 80% of participants said their anxiety was relieved by over 75% with the use of CBD with no side effects.
Full Spectrum Hemp/CBD oil’s mechanism of action is through the Endocannabinoid System, which directly interacts with 65 biochemical pathways in the brain and body. There is an extremely high affinity for receptors in the Hippocampus and Hypothalamus (HPA-axis), which explains why it is effective for treating anxiety, fear, stress and PTSD. Research has concluded that CBD can reduce past and present fears thus reducing stress and anxiety. The results suggest that CBD can reduce acute Fight-or-Flight responses to stress, and it limits the consequences of emotional trauma to the mind and body. There are numerous additional pathways by which CBD can mitigate stress including; improving sleep, reducing pain and promoting an overall sense of wellbeing.
The dosage for full spectrum Hemp/CBD oil is very broad. It is recommended that a person start with 10mg of CBD a day in a liquid oral form, taken under the tongue (double that amount if taken in capsule form). It takes about a week for CBD to build up to full strength, so do not rush the process. You can double the dosage if you still have symptoms after a week. You continue to double the dosage until your symptoms resolve or no additional benefit is felt. While there is no risk in taking too much, there is also no benefit, and overdosing may limit the benefits. While many patients feel relief with 10mg/day dosages, studies have used 300+ mg/day safely and effectively.
Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a nutritional supplement that is usually derived from soy. It is an important part of cells’ membrane and it is part of how cells communicate with each other. While it can be found throughout the body, it is found much more densely in the brain and nerve system. Research has shown that anxiety with PTSD is linked to a shrinking hippocampus, which is part of the larger HPA-axis system. A smaller hippocampus is known to trigger flashbacks and fear in PTSD sufferers. This issue is exacerbated by sufferers self-medicating with alcohol.
Supplementation with PS can help restore normal Hippocampus-HPA axis function and mediate the symptoms of fear and flashbacks. It has the added benefit of helping to restore normal memory function. The mechanism of action is thought to be by the normalization of the release and response of cortisol, the main hormone of the HPA-axis. A typical dosage of PS is 300mg/day, preferably 100mg – 3x day.
Omega 3 oils (think fish oil, but there are others) plays an important part in repairing the damage that long-term stress has on the brain. This should be of no surprise since the brain is more than 60% fat. Researchers have determined that Omega 3s help heal the brain and reduce symptoms through 4 main way; they reduce inflammation, they stimulate healing through Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), they reduce and regulate cortisol (the key hormone in the HPA-axis), and improve cardiovascular activity to increase blood flow.
It is also known that alpha-linoleic acid, another Omega 3, is directly linked to reducing fear in PTSD sufferers and the general public. DHA, another Omega 3, can increase the accumulation of phosphatidylserine which helps restore balance to the HPA-axis and mitigates anxeity. EPA and DHA have a synergistic effect with Hemp oil improving its effectiveness by 10+%. There is strong evidence that Omega 3s can directly influence other biochemical pathways in the body providing multiple avenues to reduces anxiety, fear, stress, and PTSD while resetting the HPA-axis. The recommend dosage for Omega-3 is 2000+mg/day, lower dosages were not found to be effective.
ADAPTOGENS are a loose family of nutritional supplements that are thought to help the body “adapt to stress.” Their mechanisms of action all differ but their goal is the same, to restore the body to homeostasis this is achieved by stabilizing the HPA-axis.
Magnolia Bark has two main components, honokiol, and magnolol, which have been a part of traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Research has shown that Magnolia Bark can pass through the brain-blood barrier and is neuroprotective. Its mechanism of action is through the downregulating of Glutamate receptors, which overstimulate the mind and body. It also works through the Endocannabinoid system in a similar manner to CBD. Animal studies have shown that Magnolia Bark has a direct regulating effect on the HPA-axis which reduces the negative effects of stress and helps with the associated depression. A typical dosage would be 250mg/day an hour before bed. An additional 250 mg can be used for break through anxiety.
Roseroot (Rhodiola rosea) has been shown in research to reduce cortisol and downregulate the HPA-axis. Roseroot (Rhodiola rosea) has been shown in research to reduce cortisol and downregulate the HPA-axis. It has the benefit of working within 30 minutes and lasting for up to 6 hours making it one of the most effective adaptogens. Rhodiola dosage at 600mg/day has been shown to reduce burnout and stressed induced fatigue.
Ashwagandha is unique as an adaptogen because its mechanism of action involves modulating the GABA receptors to promote a sense of calm and reduce triggering the HPA-axis. Research has shown that a dosage of 300mg twice a day is helpful for stress reduction and weight loss.
The examples above are only a sample of the adaptogens available. Adaptogens have been linked to numerous health benefits: improved cognitive function, sleep, energy, moods, physical endurance, sexual desire and function to name just a few. The underlying reason for their wide-ranging health benefits comes from their combined ability to reduce the function or stimulation of the HPA axis, which relieves overstimulation on both the endocrine and nervous system.
Nutritional supplements offer several advantages over other methods to help PTSD sufferers including; they are highly effective, safe, affordable and have minimal side effects. Nutritional supplements also work with the mind and body, unlike drugs that try to control the mind and body. Many sufferers start to feel relief right away with nutritional supplements which encourages continued use and prevent frustration from waiting for a change.
Nutritionally supporting the HPA-axis so that a Veteran will have an appropriate response to stress is a key step in healing PTSD. The HPA-axis can be neither to active or sluggish when responding to stress or both physical and emotional symptoms will occur. The HPA-axis response needs to be fluid and fluctuate throughout the day and night and nutritional supplements allow for this, but medications do not. The next key step to healing PTSD is to quickly and efficiently remove trapped emotional traumas so that the HPA-axis is not constantly being stimulated or stressed.
“I have been on the program for 3 weeks. There has been an 80% difference in my mental state of being. I am much happier and my depression is almost non existent. This is an awesome program.” – Patrick
Emotional Desensitization to Release Trapped Traumas and Emotional Triggers:
A simple way to describe how a trauma leads to PTSD is to compare it to a record player playing the same song over and over again. The song is the trauma and the mind is the record player, the song becomes the music of your life as the trauma is always in the back of your mind. Nutritional supplements are excellent for rebuilding the mind-body and reducing the volume of the music, but emotional desensitization techniques stops the music. I like to describe emotional desensitization as taking the record off the record player and putting it on the shelf. We are not denying the trauma happened, but it doesn’t have to be the background music of your life. There may be occasions when the record (trauma) comes off the shelf and plays again, but if it goes back on the shelf it has become a bad memory not a trauma.
NET is the main technique used to achieve emotional desensitization by physicians while The Emotion Code is used frequently by the general public. NET is an excellent way to help the mind acknowledge, accept, process and move on from past traumas and stressors. It is not cognitive therapy or talk therapy but instead a technique that quickly allows for a trauma or stressor to be recognized and processed through a series of questions and tapping of the acupuncture meridian system (no needles). A recent study on NET revealed that normal brain function is restored for PTSD sufferers in as few as six sessions. NET can often relieve years of emotional trauma starting with the first session while a full program may take 6-12 sessions.
NET seems simple, so how can it be so effective? Most people exposed to a trauma will naturally processes the event and moves on with just a bad memory. A percentage of the population will not be able to process a trauma and the mind will continue to play the event over and over again trying to make sense and find a way to process it. NET simply and effectively identifies the trauma and then gives the mind a pathway to process it. NET works because it is simply assisting the brain to do what it wants to do.
Note: There is no way to predict who or what trauma will cause PTSD. The factors involved in developing PTSD include: genetics, personality traits, history, present state of mind, nutritional status and numerous other intangible factors. An example is an introvert may get past a friend being hurt in a battle, but an extrovert may not. An extrovert may tolerate general combat as long has he/she is with their squad, but an introvert may find it traumatic being in constant close quarters.
“I am a service disabled Veteran diagnosed with severe PTSD. I have a Service Dog who provides care and security for me as well, but has not been 100% successful. The addition of The Resiliency Program using supplements and holistic treatment has enhanced my ability and desire to actually live life to the fullest. I am feeling better about myself and am no longer in a fog. Medicines and psychological care from the VA were substandard and made me feel worst. Thank you Dr. Z …” – Jason L.
When a person has PTSD there are two factors involved in every case; an abnormal fight-or-flight pathway and trapped emotional trauma. The Resiliency Program success comes from the fact that it works with the mind and body to restore normal functions and homeostasis to the fight-or-flight pathway and gives the mind a way to process the trauma. There may be additional factors involved in each case, but The Resiliency Program is an excellent first few steps toward restoring health, wellness and quality of life!
Biography: I have been in practice in Freehold, NJ for 30 years. I am a board-certified chiropractor and nutritionist. I have authored a bestselling book on Amazon titled, Misdiagnosed: The Adrenal Fatigue Link. I have lectured to physicians across the country, at the VA’s Warrior Related Illness and Injury Study Center, the Pentagon and to the command at Quantico. I have also been a member of the Joint Civilian Orientation Committee for the Department of Defense. The Resiliency Program, which I developed and direct, has helped 100s of Veterans to achieve a happier, healthier and more fulfilling life. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Kurt Ballash
“On the battlefield, the military pledges to leave no soldier behind. As a nation, let it be our pledge that when they return home, we leave no veteran behind.” – Dan Lipinski
Courtenay: I often feel like I am on the edge of a building looking down into nothingness. That nothingness offers me more than the daily stress and disappointment I deal with constantly. When I was inpatient at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital I felt like I was always on edge. Not only did I not want to be there, but I also never felt safe and there didn’t seem to be anyone, patient or staff, whom I could trust. My internal paranoia got fired up on a continual basis as did my preference to be left alone; choosing to stay in my room to read or sleep or to work on a puzzle on my own when I was forced to stay in the common area. I still zone out pretty frequently when I get overwhelmed or when I am overtired. Sometimes it happens when we are watching T.V. because I am not really into paying attention. This is generally because there are other things I would rather be doing besides watching television.
Ballash Woodworks: How did it all get started? It all started with sourdough hard pretzels. Every time I walked into my grandfather’s shop there was always this oversized tub of sourdough pretzels sitting on the work bench. Well at the time the tub seemed oversized. I would munch away on this huge twisted pretzel and watch him and my father scurry around the shop for hours. I’m sure along the way there were lots of, “When are we leaving?” or “How much longer?” that seemed to interrupt the progress that needed to be made.
Memories that seem to go back as far as I can remember. By the time I was born my grandfather was already a Master Craftsman, and my father was well on his way. My grandfather started learning on his own before leaving home to serve during the Korean War. When he returned home he didn’t want to return to the farm life so he started woodworking as a business. I heard stories of him riding a Harley Davidson to each job with a sidecar turned ladder rack right next to him.
My father started working with him in the late 70s and by the time I was born in 1984 they had already managed to scale into a 2,400 square foot facility. It looked like my grandfather had successfully changed the trajectory of our family. He took us out of farming and into woodworking. A decision without a doubt led by God knowing that woodworking would be the purpose I needed much later in life.
As a kid I remember annoying my father in the shop all the time with request to start nails or cut boards. I am sure my father never saw it that way though, he was just happy to be able to teach me. For me the hammer in my hands was heavy and foreign, so I would choke up on the handle by grabbing close to the head. I thought this made things easier, but I didn’t understand the physics behind the hammer. It would take me dozens of taps on the head of the nail to get the nail moving. My father would coach me and tell me to hold back further on the handle in order to get better swings. Now I was missing the head of the nail repeatedly. But you know what? I learned determination, perseverance, and how to swing a hammer when I was incredibly young.
I remember the first time I grabbed some hard maple to practice on. “Dad can you start some nails for me?” He laughed a little bit, at least in my memory, and he might have said something about the wood selection, but I didn’t hear it. I was just staring at the nails he would tap into the hard maple sharply. They stood up straight, spaced out a couple inches apart, there must have been a dozen of them.
SMACK! A miss. Smack, smack. Ping!
The first nail I made contact with went shooting across the shop. I had hit it just enough to move it, just not enough to push it into the hard maple. The second nail started driving through the wood then bent over. I tried straightening the nail to attempt to drive it the rest of the way, but that wasn’t working. You see, I was failing. But that failure stimulated learning. I thank God now for those opportunities now, because it paved the way for me to resume this trade after running from it for so long.
I didn’t always want to be a woodworker. I wanted to get away from home to make my own path. I wasn’t even very good in shop class. I never applied myself. I viewed working every day in a dusty shop as a dead end and not really leading towards a greater cause. How much more wrong could I have been?
I was in High School when it happened. The school rolled out large rear projection television into the cafeteria for the staff and students to stay informed on what was going on. Other kids in my school were crying, some were scared, some couldn’t care less yet. The first tower had fallen. I watched the next plane strike the second tower. I watch my own countrymen and women jump from the windows to face a different death. Just thinking back to that day brings back tears for the families that were directly affected by the cowardly perpetrators.
I think this is when I knew where I was meant to go. I wanted to join the Navy and go be a SEAL. However, due to a couple of major mistakes I made as a juvenile, they said I wasn’t the right fit, just in a not so nice way. Next up, the Army. I was deferred away from going into the 18X program (Army Special Forces) because my security clearance was going to be a huge hurdle. I was told by my recruiter not to apply for one and to establish a few years in service before attempting to breach into the Special Operations Command.
So I enlisted as a Combat Engineer. I told him I wanted to build stuff and blow stuff up. I left for Basic Training in January of 2003 and traveled to the Fort Leonard Wood Missouri. During Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training (AIT) I was selected to pilot and stand up a new military unit, the 67th Engineer Detachment.
If I remember correctly, I think two or three of us from my class were selected for this program. When we first arrived, we were checking into a one room office in a small office building on post. There were only about a dozen of us there and we were paving the way for a new military capability, using the Military Working Dog (MWD) as a countermine asset. The British military had been using K-9s in this way to clear large suspected mined areas.
In the later portion of 2003 a group of seven of us were sent to Melton Mowbray in the United Kingdom to train with the Royal Army Vet Corps. We weren’t just being trained on handling these MWDs, we were trained to train them. We taught the dogs scent discrimination, basic obedience, and the clearing patterns they were to use both on leash and off. We spent six months training our K-9 companions and created a bond with them in the process. I was assigned two dogs, both black labs. One was named Beanie, and the other Bruno. After finishing our training Bruno and I returned to the U.S. for our next mission.
In late 2004 I was deployed for my first rotation to Afghanistan with Bruno. We were primarily used to clear unsafe areas in and around Bagram and Kandahar for various expansion projects I am sure they have long since completed by now. Our team was also used in emergency extractions for mined areas. While landing, a C-130 had a tire blow which caused them to pull off the runway into an uncleared area we used to call “Charlie keyhole.” My squad leader and I cleared a safe lane to the door which allowed them to exit the downed aircraft safely. After that extraction I was selected from a small group of handlers that supported a team of Special Forces in the Nangarhar Province.
I was introduced to the other side of war there. I was no longer behind safe high fencing and alarms, I was out on the very furthest reaches of the country with a team of 12 guys and a few support staff they kept on site. We lived in a what appeared to be a castle. We had the circular towers on each corner of our compound, each with some type of crew served weapon ready to be manned if needed. We had soft skin trucks with little to no armor and were told that speed was security.
I was attached to this team to assist in the vehicle control point set-up near our camp, as well as assist with mobile operations. I would bring my dog through after they finished clearing a compound of hostiles. While they were cleaning up the inside I was part of the outer security and then they would call my dog and I in to check for explosives.
At the age of 20 I was experiencing the full nature of war. The first time I reached down to pull a corpse from a vehicle the body felt like jello. This happened a few weeks before my 21st birthday. It was like every bone in the body had been pulverized or liquified and all that was left behind was a sack of meat and fluid. I was instructed to grab the clothes not the body as it was easier to drag to a cleared area.
Do you remember the first time your bravery was tested? The first time you had to look at paralyzing fear in the face. I has stood in front of judges that could tear me away from the comforts of home, I was an adrenaline chasing ATV rider as a kid, but never once had I faced true fear. The fear that will stop you dead in your tracks and cause the whole world to slow around you. The fear that initiates the bio-chemical reaction in your body telling you it’s time to fight or hide. For me it was the first time I heard bullets impact the rock surfaces on the side of a mountain peak. The sound that pierces your ears when those tiny projects slice through the air at thousands of feet per second. I found out fear was no different than any other obstacle you’ll face.
After returning from Afghanistan in early 2005 I started physically preparing to attend Special Forces Assessment and Selection. I went through my only divorce before starting the course and felt I was ready to tackle this mountain of a task. I was selected as a Team Medic and was about to go through 2 years or more of training. I was missing the fight.
I was dismissed from training near the end of the medic portion. I had made it through the patrol phases, SERE, and some language. I made it through the first six months of the medical course known as Special Operations Combat Medic (SOCM) and was into Special Forces Medical School. I was nearly done with training when I lost focus. I was distracted by a second job I had taken to help pay my bills and child support as a Physical Fitness Coach at a local gym, and my grades were suffering. I started watching my GPA slip from mid 90s to mid 70s. I failed.
I learned a lot in that failure but not until years later. At first, I was angry at myself and the “long tabbers” that were tab protecting in my eyes. Regardless, I re-enlisted as a 68WW1 (SOCM) and went to USASOC to support operations in Iraq as well as other key areas of interest in the region.
I went on to become a technically proficient Medic but wasn’t a very good Soldier. I didn’t like cutting my hair or wearing regulation boots. I didn’t want to wear those stupid PT uniforms that chaffed the crap out of my chest. This was the next step backwards for me because with that lack of care came a level of recklessness. I was caught with steroids and demoted and later kicked out of USASOC for improper PT attire in a DFAC. Sounds stupid doesn’t it? I can speculate that perhaps there was also some political maneuvering in there by some seniors I pissed off along my career thus far.
I ended up in the 82nd, a place where I was not very happy. I was destroyed. My motivation was gone, and I didn’t fit in there. I wasn’t indoctrinated into constantly berating your soldiers into forced compliance, and I certainly wasn’t into the baby-sitter mentality they had there. Stare at the painted walls for hours waiting to be dismissed because something might come up. I mean in the age of cell phones you think that wouldn’t be an issue, but there were also a lot of “shammers” in the larger units as well which complicated matters for leadership.
Regardless it was proven to me through my experience with the leadership that the seniors could not be trusted with anything. They would strive to find reasons to article 15 lower enlisted to buffer their “stats” to make them look better in front of the big-wigs upstairs. I left that place with a lot of anger inside of me that I couldn’t really control. During my separation from service they attempted to down grade my discharge to other than honorable for unstated reasons. It took my filing a complaint to get it rectified and I was never offered a reason on why they did that.
I was discharged honorably under a chapter 5-8, Separation for the Convenience of the Government (Involuntary Separation Due to Parenthood) in February 2013. After they lied to me during re-enlistment I no longer felt I could trust even my direct line supervisors, and if I couldn’t trust them CONUS, how could I trust them OCONUS when my life was in their hands. I refused to get a Family Care Plan for my youngest child and that led to my separation.
My grandfather had passed away from cancer around this time, and I inherited some of his tools from his boat workshop. I started putting them to use while returning to work as a physical trainer at a local gym. I jumped from job to job until I landed in security contracting. The money was great, but I wasn’t healing and, in many ways, I was just running from the deeper issues. In between trips overseas I would continue to hone my skills as a tradesman and continue growing my reputation in my area.
It wasn’t until I attended a retreat that I started healing. I started to see woodworking as a conduit through which I could stay busy, as well as give me time to meditate and work through the war scars in my head.
I think for many of us, being in the military becomes our purpose. It shapes who we are and how we react to everything around us. After service we lose that purpose and guidance and don’t know how to channel the things we’ve learned into skills that help us succeed in the civilian world. We feel dirty for the things we’ve had to do and see, and sometimes we can’t get those images out of our heads. When you’re still serving you have guys around you to distract you from that noise, but when you are by yourself in your apartment, and don’t have the interaction of like-minded individuals to distract you from those things, you are forced to start healing or start running. Many run to a bottle of beer or their drug of choice. This path most usually leads to further destruction of their minds, and unfortunately suicide. We lose more of our Soldiers here at home than we do overseas, all because we’ve lost that greater purpose.
What I learned to do is to find something I was passionate about and to make that my purpose. As a type ‘A’ personality, I like working with my hands and controlling the flow of work. I felt called to start a business doing what my family have been doing for generations now.
Perhaps when my grandfather left the farm years ago he was following his calling in order to set the foundation for what would save my life. I’m not saying when I started working in my shop that I instantly stopped all my destructive behaviors because He [God] knows I am as much of a sinner today as I’ve ever been. The main difference is I don’t let those sins define what my purpose is. Throughout my years of working on my own I have learned to just try and be better today than I was yesterday. Woodworking allows me to quantify that in a way.
Throughout the course of my time as a woodworker I have had the chance to work with one of a kind pieces of wood. But nothing would ever prepare me for this project. I was contracted by a luxury home builder to create a fireplace mantle out of a piece of petrified wood recovered from the Cape Fear River. Being that the organic material in the wood had been replaced by inorganic material, it was no longer truly wood. It was a dense concentration of minerals and rock fragments. In order to cut it down to the correct dimensions I had to contract a local water jet operator that operated at 60,000 psi.
Once the piece or petrified wood was cut the water jet left imperfections in the surface that needed to be corrected. During the polishing process I was watching sparks shoot out from the mantle. I washed down the surface to reveal that there were streaks of metal tracking through the center of the petrified wood. I guess the only thing I really regret about this project is that the customer was satisfied but I was not. When I envisioned a final project I saw something free of flaws and smooth. They were happy with the slightly rough edges left over from the water jet tracks. They enjoyed the rough appearance that was left behind and felt it enhanced the overall look they were going for. At the end of the day I had to be happy that the customer was happy. In fact the exact words were “exceeded expectations.”
Another project that meant a lot to me…I connected with a local Veteran who received a 1970 VW bus from his wife as a retirement present. This is a vehicle they use not only to drive around town, but also to go camping in. He had come to me looking to take this historic vehicle and add his own personal touch. He didn’t care about rebuilding to historical accuracy, he wanted something that was unique. He bought a piece of live edge soft maple that had got gorgeous grain and color differentiation.
He wanted to use this piece to replace the drop leaf table and spice rack as well as the center table. After a little wait the day for install was ready. He came over and left the keys to his van with me and got on his bike and rode away. Two days later I was calling him back to set up a time for the reveal, which took place a month later. He wanted to capture the reveal on video and also help me capture the moment to use in future videos or testimony advertisement. After the month had passed, and he hadn’t seen any pictures in a while, he was ready to view the transformation. I first opened the side door to the van and he instantly lit up with satisfaction and smiles. But the best part was yet to come.
When he first hired me for this project he wanted to do something special. He wanted to create a shifter knob that would allow his unit coin to sit inside of. So when I opened the front door and revealed the shifter knob, he began to weep. He was overcome with happiness seeing that his first unit coin was now a permanent addition to a van that meant so much. I received a fair wage for this job, but nothing can ever offer greater payment than seeing true satisfaction on a customers face when they see what you have created for them.
That is how I impact everyone I come into contact with. I pour my passion into every piece so they all hold a special place in my heart. The fact that he was a brother-in-arms made it so much better than just another random customer.
I can see in my final products what I used to call mission complete. We would take a moment to gather our thoughts and learn from our experience to get better. I do that now when I do my final look over. What did I do well? What can I improve on? Do those questions sound familiar? I could see that the more my mind was healing from war the better my final product was getting. I could approach projects with a calm mind and this allowed me to think through my projects more completely.
I was starting to see how the military had prepared me for entrepreneurship. A lot of what we learned as non-commissioned officers and even lower enlisted can be directly applied to successfully running your own business. The decision-making process, adapt and overcome, mission first mentality are all things that as Veterans of war we have become more experienced in a rather short period of time. But how could I use what I had learned to help other Veterans recover from their war injuries?
I started reaching out to other Veterans, inviting them to come hang out and learn. I really wanted to help them find their purpose and just hang out with other guys like me. Have someone to talk to when things were bothering me, as well as be an ear for them to share their burdens with. I started to really understand how, with many hands, a heavy burden becomes light.
By Mike Wright
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” – Earnest Hemingway
Courtenay: When did I become broken? I think it was a very gradual thing that happened through years of hard work and determination, unnoticed while I thought I was strong, secure and confident. When the USS COLE (DDG-67) was bombed while I was in boot camp, and I think that was my first real shock that something wasn’t right with the world, and that there were people out there who would purposefully reach out to hurt others who had done absolutely nothing to them. In this case, my fellow Sailors…my shipmates…and all of us in bootcamp were destined to become the replacements. This is something I wrote that night, after the bombing, in honor of those fallen, and those who continued to fight to save their ship.
Pages, Squires, and Knights
Shrill voices pierce the gloom
A flag unfurled and held up high
Snapping in the wind
Shiny lances are grasped
In readiness for the fight
Where one knight falls…another must rise
To follow in the wake
To carry the flag…and steady the lance
In sweaty, adolescent hands
Smooth faces in armor reflected
Chins move with the slightest quiver
A final touch or whisper
Clasping a loved one’s token
And then the replacements disappear
Into the coldest night
Are you reaching your breaking point? No matter how much we train – mentally and physically – everybody has their breaking point. Whether it’s physical and mental health challenges, financial woes, or what some describe as the “daunting task” of re-assimilating to civilian life, the pressure can be overwhelming.
In its first four years of use around the world, the Blu Room technology has demonstrated consistent health benefits for tens of thousands of people. This chapter presents personal stories from three Veterans as well as an introduction to the science behind the Blu Room technology to help explain how the Blu Room structure with all of its components – some obvious, some not – can account for those health benefits.
Science helps alleviate doubt in the minds of people who are unfamiliar with the technology and it will reinforce hope in those people who have not found complete relief in other medical technologies. The Blu Room augments and integrates with any conventional treatment plan. It provides a synergistic influence that helps provide balance by bringing the user to a point of stasis. A person suffering from acute or chronic health conditions need not give up the other programs that may be helping their condition. The Blu Room will compliment any other program.
What is not covered as much in this chapter are the subtler emotional and mental health improvements that are often overlooked in the search for relief from a physical malady. Compassion, love, understanding, a state of calm in the face of adversity – these are also benefits that Blu Room users have reported. They are the renewed states of mind that deeply influence the physical state of the body.
“Far too often, we’re leaving our veterans to fight their toughest battles alone.” – Senator John Walsh (D-MO) (First Iraq War combat veteran to serve in the U.S. Senate)
You are not alone. The healing journey begins with a change of perspective, a mental reset or rebirth that leads the body to a physical renewal. May the words in this chapter help restore your confidence in the journey to a greater you.
We are at wonderful place in the evolution of the Blu Room. Over 120,000 user sessions have been provided in the USA and 11 other countries. There are 35 operational Blu Room locations with 8 additional locations under construction. Countries with Blu Room services include Argentina, Austria, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Switzerland, Taiwan, and USA. Four locations are for private use or employee-only programs and the remaining locations are open to the public in either clinical or spa/wellness settings. You can find locations at www.bluroom.com.
The Blu Room has become so popular so quickly because it works. It’s effects are not just skin deep. It works down to the cellular level. We have strong evidence of this in how the Blu Room has helped people with cancer, diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, PTSD, neurological disorders, and more.
What we have found to be the most effective is how the Blu Room stimulates the mind to change an attitude – how you look at yourself. Self-love or self-respect or self-confidence are topics we don’t talk about enough in medicine. In the last hundred years, medicine has become so specialized with the body people sometimes forget to attend to the mind and spirit. The Blu Room technology supports all three – the body, the mind, and the spirit or will.
The Blu Room helps the patient move forward from their past. For example, a Soldier who has had trauma on the battlefield is finally able to move forward and find place of equilibrium or stasis.
The Blu Room technology helps a person begin to feel better, sleep better, and have renewed hope that he or she can get physically better. We know how powerfully the mind influences the body. We know that healing always begins in the mind. The Blu Room provides the user with a beautiful sense of well being. When you feel better, you think better. When you think better, you begin to feel even better. Our Blu Room patients reach a place where they are able to see themselves well.
The Blu Room is a novel environment so the experience varies from person to person because we are each individuals. It bumps you into a different part of your brain and opens a door for a new mind perspective. Many people have described it as being deeply relaxing, lifting their mood, and bringing about a state of slightly detached calm or peace. A common side benefit of this state is a relief from aches and pains. Some people experience dynamic shifts in perspective and spiritual insights. Some people have reported profound personal healing.
Our state of mind influences everything we perceive. Our state of mind also influences our genetic expression, so mind and DNA are inextricably combined. Whatever the mind is, the body becomes, and the environment reflects. Since the mind is the greatest healer and the mind is intertwined with DNA, the Blu Room can augment a person’s natural healing abilities. We have really only scratched the surface of what the Blu Room can do. The future of health technology is very exciting.
Dale and Dave are both Vietnam Veterans. Like many Veterans, they walled off that part of their lives when they returned to civilian life. But behind the wall, powerful issues festered and grew. They were explosives waiting to go off. This is a similar theme for those who are transitioning out today. But what do you do when pills and alcohol don’t work? Lash out? End up on the street? Suicide? Most Veterans who commit suicide are over the age of 50, just like Dale and Dave.
I am the younger of two boys born in 1942 to a beautiful teenager who gave me a doorway into a world of potentials. She was the oldest of a dozen sisters and a couple of brothers. I never met my biological father as he had another path to follow that did not include raising children. My mother felt that my brother and I needed male guidance. Her occupation as a waitress did not allow time and money so she placed both us in a Catholic military school which I attended for grade levels 1st, 2nd& 4th.
Highlights of my journey include:
After the Vietnam war, I married and had my first of two children. Working as a professional photographer for a large color processor I managed a staff that provided services for 30 or so High Schools and Universities. Sports photography included Skydiving, Rose Bowl, Stanford and the 49ers. I have a degree in Aviation and I am a licensed pilot.
Plagued with PTSD and other war-related issues, I left California in the early 70’s and bought a small country store in southern Oregon. Here I became the gas station, grocery store, and U.S. Postmaster, as well as a volunteer fireman. My son was born. I sold the store, kept the Postmaster position, and built a horse ranch on the edge of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. This is when my “running” activity began. Moving to Grants Pass where I attempted to keep my PTSD under control, I became Postmaster at Murphy, OR.
Shortly after a near death experience (NDE) in Red Bluff, CA, I made some radical changes in my life. I divorced my first wife and left the Postal Service just a few months before my retirement after 25 years. I felt this choice was necessary to avoid going “Postal” and getting myself in serious trouble because of harassment by my then boss in the Postal Service.
I remarried to a wonderful woman that introduced me to a video called “The Magic Brain” which introduced me to Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment (RSE) and the Great Work. We moved to Kauai where we lived on a 4,000 acre cattle ranch that had been private for 200 yrs. Using what I learned at RSE, I made a focus card on building a cabin which became a reality but was much larger than expected. I also made a focus card on fabulous wealth that also was also realized. It is my understanding that the only reason I am still in this body is directly the result of my ability to grasp what I have been taught.
About 5 years ago, having no insurance, I was encouraged to go see if the VA would assist me in removing a tumor that had been growing on my neck. After reviewing my Combat records, the VA did so. The VA has been treating me for Agent Orange, Prostate, Urinary, IBS, Nerve and Esophageal Issues. Concussion issues accompany daily life with noise from the brain.
At present I am 75 years old, have 6 wonderful children and 14 incredible grandchildren.
In the fall of 2016, I was gifted 30 sessions in the Blu Room and after 10 sessions they profoundly affected my physical and mental status to the point I am amazed on a daily basis.
My wish is to convey my story in a way that inspires movement from within those that have the ears to hear.
David is a 71-year-old Vietnam Veteran with a history of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) who had a severe heart attack in April 2014, and subsequently a stroke in August of the same year. His heart attack was so severe, that on the way to the hospital he went into cardiac arrest – he was successfully resuscitated and required stents in two of his heart arteries. The sustained heart damage caused him to have congestive heart failure from severe ischemic cardiomyopathy with a heart pump fraction of 30%, normal being about 65%.
Only four months after this heart attack, he had a severe stroke, that left him with right sided weakness and expressive aphasia, the inability to speak – he had a vocabulary of 2 words – “yes” and “no”. After his stroke, he was in a rehabilitation center for a month. He has been doing speech therapy for the last four years.
David started using the Blu Room in February of 2017 and has been coming twice a week for two years. He still has speech difficulties and his memory is affected but he is doing a lot better. He must pause and find his words but is able now to speak in full sentences. Sometimes he has to try several times to say what he means before it comes out with the meaning he intended. His speech therapists are amazed at his remarkable progress. He gets teary eyed when he talks about his journey with the Blu Room. He says it is not because of his PTSD, he only killed one person in the war and was able to cope with the horrible things he saw – it took him about 8 years after the war to come to terms with his life. There was something else that happened.
David explains that he experienced the Blu Room as both negative and positive for several sessions. Then something happened to him in January of 2018 and since then all his sessions were positive. He says that it was not the Blu Room that was negative, it was that something in his being was out of sync. David did not realize that his body and mind were not in harmony. Then in January he felt in the Blu Room like his body, his age and everything about him caught up with himself. After that, everything was all right.
David’s neighbor Helena notes that she was the one he came to when he had his heart attack in 2014 and she called 911. Having known him for many years, she describes David’s transformation over the past year nothing short of miraculous. She says David used to be a grouchy, grumpy man, easy to get angry and have a temper. In the last few months she notes that he is so sweet, completely transformed, moved to tears in his emotions and able to express them with the people around him. Helena notes this is not the old David, he is completely new, completely transformed, and unrecognizable from his old self.
David explains that the Blu Room can help you heal at your own pace. If you add to it by intentionally working on healing yourself and your attitudes, it can help you speed up your healing. He says he added to his healing by looking at this “negative” in his life, his “shadow,” this being out of sync with himself. He explains that if you are adding more to your healing then it will take even less time in the Blu Room, until there is a time where the negative “issue” is diminished to “nothing”. The negative disappears, it just is gone one day. David says it depends on what you are doing and how you are in your own healing. That is what happened to David in the Blu Room. His negative disappeared to nothing, and what was left was love.
He cries exhausted after he explained this, and the look in his eyes speak to a much greater understanding than he has words for. David describes that after January 2018 the Blu Room helped him heal something that now is peaceful and calm, like a shadow that got lifted.
He cries because he has no words for what happened to him. How do you say that something in the depth of your being, that you felt throughout your life but could not give words to, but you could feel sitting there with every breath and that was like a nagging shadow? That is what got healed in David through the Blu Room. He can best express it in his eyes with his tears, and this thing that happened is bigger than words. And yet because it happened he is now able to speak better, and his brain is continuing to heal.
David continues to improve, and he surrenders to his journey. He is scheduled to get an implantable defibrillator put into his heart soon due to his low pump function. A few months ago, he had some chest pains, but now despite his poor heart function, he does not have any symptoms of heart failure. He is accepting his journey and is doing what he needs to support his improvement, including following up with his doctors and continuing the Blu Room treatments.
– Ana Maria Mihalcea, MD
Supervising physician, Mercy Blu Room Program
A pilot who served in Afghanistan, Cynthia returned home from the war and was struck by a pickup truck, suffering a traumatic brain injury. After trying physical and speech therapy, she started Blu Room treatments. “The Blu Room was very peaceful and therapeutic,” Cynthia said. She went three to four times per week for 20 sessions. “My short-term memory was coming back thanks to the Blu Room sessions.”
An brief overview of the science
The Blu Room is a patented technology that shields the user from the outside world. It provides an environment that induces a deep state of mental and physical tranquility. The room includes music to provide a relaxing – and for many people a therapeutic – effect on the individual within. Speaking as a former Top Gun fighter pilot, any treatment that includes music, relaxation, and soft lighting seems at first to be a bit too “touchy and feely” but there is plenty of evidence that the Blu Room’s high-tech combination of all those items helps a lot of people.
The Blu Room creates a novel atmosphere that insulates the user from the daily environment. It provides the user with an uplifting environment that can augment one’s state of creative focus. The room is a small octagon-shaped space about 12 feet across with a couch in the center. Highly polished mirrored stainless steel lines the interior walls, floor, and ceiling which give the room a high-tech look reflecting into forever. Blue LED lights illuminate the interior and non-visible ultraviolet phototherapy lamps stimulate some of the metabolic effects described below. Since the brain isn’t busy responding to the stimulus of the everyday environment, the mind is able to relax, free associate, or hold a relaxed state of focus without distractions (theta state).
The sun is an indispensable factor in regulating our genetic material, biological rhythms and, many biological processes via the skin and the eyes1. However with the emphasis on medications in the modern marketplace, the therapeutic effects of sunlight – in particular the ultraviolet B portion of the spectrum – have been overlooked. Even so, clinical studies guided by the progress in physics, chemistry and molecular biology have resulted in very effective treatment of certain conditions with ultraviolet phototherapy. We now have a greater understanding of the science behind what our ancestors knew intuitively in previous centuries with their veneration of the life-giving properties of the sun.
Frequent, brief exposures to UVB light have many biopositive systemic effects on the human being. In many cases, these effects can be obtained from UVB lamps with very low “doses” to compensate for the shortage during the darker months of the year when there is less sun.
For example, vitamin D3 is created in the skin when it is exposed to UVB irradiation. When processed in the liver and the kidneys, the bioactive form of vitamin D3 is created. Vitamin D3 is actually a hormone. It influences cellular information, cell differentiation, endocrine regulatory systems, immune function, and heart metabolism.
More than 400 independent clinical studies2have proven that UVB narrowband lamps are safer and more effective than any other lamps in their class. This is because these lamps emit only a single wavelength from the ‘B’ bandwidth of the UV spectrum. This also means that exposure times can be much shorter.
The sun emits a wide spectrum of light whereas the Blu Room provides only narrowband UVB florescent light along with visible blue LED light. A comparison is shown in FIGURE A3below. The right side of the chart shows the relative amounts of the light spectrum that reaches the Earth’s surface after sunlight has been filtered by the atmosphere. The blue line to the left of the chart shows the relative amount of the most therapeutic portion of the UVB spectrum provided by the narrowband UVB lamps.
The amount of solar radiation in the entire UV spectrum that reaches the earth’s surface varies by latitude, time of year, time of day, and atmospheric conditions. The total UV (UVA + UVB) portion of solar radiation is roughly ten percent of the total irradiance reaching the surface. The UVB portion of solar radiation is even less. Direct measurements with a UVB meter indicate an irradiance level of 0.33 mw/cm2at solar noon on the summer solstice at 45 degrees north latitude on a clear day. Measurement with the same meter at the edges of the user’s couch in the center of the Blu Room indicate an average of 1.0 mw/cm2. This provides a general exposure guideline that users can relate to their personal experience. Three minutes of UVB in a 20-minute Blu Room session is roughly equivalent to 10 minutes in the summer sun on a clear day at mid-latitudes, except that Blu Room users are not exposed to any UVA which is the main cause of skin cancer4. A 10-year follow-up study of patients exposed to narrowband UVB showed no significantly increase in the risk of skin cancer5.
The Blu Room experience
The Blu Room is useful for anyone – including children and the elderly – who wants to step out of their daily environment. Users have reported a wide range of personal benefits, including:
Under the supervision of a physician, patients with the following conditions have found benefit from their Blu Room experiences:
Cancer: breast, meningioma, lymphoma, prostate, bladder, colon, uterine, squamous cell
Pain: back, hips, knee, neck, shoulder, headache, ankle, foot, stomach, spinal stenosis, cervix.
|Acid reflux||High blood pressure|
|Ankylosing spondylitis||Left ventricular ejection fraction|
|Astigmatism||Osteoporosis bone density|
|Cerebral palsy||Parkinson’s tremors|
|Chronic Fatigue Syndrome||Post-operative infection|
|Decubitus ulcer||PTSD/Trauma disorder|
|Diabetic insulin level requirements||Tachycardia|
|Diabetic neuropathy, foot/ankle open sores||Tendinitis/Tendinosis|
|Epiretinal Membrane reduction||Thyroid disorder|
|Erosive Osteochondrosis||Vitamin D3 serum levels|
|Hepatitis C viral load|
To date, all research has been informal, retrospective, and primarily anecdotal. A number of the patient benefits reported above have been documented with before and after lab work or imaging ordered by either the supervising physician or the referring physician. A selection of case studies and user testimonials6 can be viewed at www.bluroom.com. The volume and wide range of beneficial reports have paved the way for more formal prospective clinical research that is slated to begin at a new Blu Room facility in a US state that currently does not have a Blu Room service, thus bias can be reduced in both patients and providers.
Healthcare providers, scientists, and the most of the public agree on the benefits of relaxation. Peer-reviewed medical studies on relaxation and meditation confirm the benefits. However, mediation takes training and relaxing can be a challenge in our busy lives. We know the healing powers of relaxation such as increased attention span, improved memory, relieving anxiety and depression, pain relief, and spurring creativity. The deep relaxation induced by the Blu Room promotes vasodilatation, facilitating blood flow throughout the body and especially the brain. A 20-minute session provides a natural “high” that creates a whole-body healing effect. Relief from nagging discomforts is commonly reported by Blu Room users.
The Blu Room also provides a lifting of mood. Mood is a residual attitude we carry with us between emotional storms. When mood is lifted, the storms can abate. In addition to a vitamin D boost, the Blu Room triggers the brain to release endorphins. Among other effects, the secretion of endorphins induces a sense of euphoria and enhances the immune response. With higher endorphin levels, you feel less pain and are less affected by stress. Many users report a sense of detachment, a sense of no time passing, and a state of joy, all of which are normal states.
There is a great deal of research on the benefits of a short nap during the day. A 20-minute nap provides significant benefit for improved alertness and performance without leaving you feeling groggy or interfering with nighttime sleep. A 20-minute Blu Room session will give you an extra boost over a regular nap. Shift your brainwaves from beta (the day-to-day reactive state) to the deeper – more creative – frequencies of alpha or theta.
The theta brain state is a slower rate of brainwaves that occurs during deep focus or during dream sleep. The theta state can be accompanied by vivid imagery, creative thoughts, insights, and inspiration. Many Blu Room users report experiences similar to the theta state, including temporary loss of awareness of time, a sense of detachment, even mild euphoria.
In our daily waking state of consciousness, we are polarized in our thoughts and emotions, self and other, positive and negative, good and bad, morality and karma. To move in consciousness to the alpha or theta brain state provides a period of stasis, calm, peace, and even joy in the absence of polarized thought. Imagine a little slice of heaven on earth. The Blu Room is based upon the metaphysical science of elsewhere – “on earth as it is in heaven.”
All pathologies begin as polarized attitudes that chemically stress the body. When you remove the polarity, you make room for deep relaxation, a sense of tranquility, and the opportunity for the greater mind to be present and observe a greater reality to be experienced in the body.
In addition to clinical locations, the Blu Room can be found at spas and wellness services. Most spa/wellness programs treat the body. When we think “spa,” we often think of massage, facials, manicures, etc. When we think “wellness program,” we conjure up weight loss, fitness, supplements, and more. With the Blu Room, relaxation and beauty starts with the mind. True beauty is a radiance from within, where one feels calm, open, light, and inspired! It is hard to be radiant when you are stressed out, in pain, in fear, or lacking sleep. That is where the Blu Room comes in. The Blu Room was specifically designed to give you peace in your mind, helping you to explore unknown vistas that were there all along.
The Blu Room experience is designed to be safe. With any experience in a new environment, it takes a while for the individual to adapt. For example, in learning to SCUBA dive or fly an airplane, the training starts slow and simple. We do advise people about the cautions related to UVB exposure which are minimized by the structure and duration of the Blu Room sessions. As described above, short but frequent exposure to UVB light has many positive systemic effects on the human body.
The Blu Room offers a door to a new future through a synergistic environmental experience for the occupant. It provides a safe tool to foster a wide range of subjective and objective improvements. When it is also used in an integrated health management practice under the supervision of a healthcare provider, it may provide a valuable adjunct for prevention, rehabilitation, and innovation thru synergistic medicine.
“I refuse to let anything blind me to possibility.” – JZ Knight (Blu Room inventor)
JZ Knight grew up in a family where her four older brothers volunteered to served their country in war: During WWII, Victor was a paratrooper in the European theater and Charles was in the Navy in the Pacific theater. In the Korean War, Gayle served in the Army and Donnie served in the Navy. As a young girl, JZ experienced first-hand the impact that war has on all family members, both during the conflict and afterwards when they all came marching home.
“We are treating the wounded soul – this is photosynthesis for the soul.” – Dr. Matthew Martinez, DC (C0-developer)
Dr. Matthew Martinez served in the U.S. Army Psychological Operations Command in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
Mike Wright is the Operations Manager for Blu Room Enterprises, LLC. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1981 to 1991 as a Tactical Fighter Pilot and Instructor Pilot in the F-16, A-10, OA-37, and A-7.
1. Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V. Medical treatment with phototherapy. 2013.
2. Product leaflet retrieved August 24, 2016 from http://www.usa.lighting.philips.com/prof/lamps/special-lamps/medical-lamps/medical-therapy-uvb-narrow-band/uv-b-narrowband-tl/928034900129_NA/product/downloads
3. Figure retrieved August 24, 2016 from http://www.solarcsystems.com/us_narrowband_uvb.html
4. Gorham E, Garland C, Mohr S, Garland F. UV: The original Source! How to use it. Diagnosis and Treatment of Vitamin D Deficiency Workshop. April 9, 2010. UCSD Department of Family and Preventative Medicine. [6/2010] [Health and Medicine] [Professional Medical Education] [Show ID: 18717] retrieved August 24, 2016 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMiswBTjNls
5. Weischer M, Blum A, Eberhard F, Roecken M, Berneburg M. No evidence for increased skin cancer risk in psoriasis patients treated with broadband or Narrowband UVB phototherapy: a first retrospective study. Acta Derm Venereol 2004; 84: 370–374.
6. Disclaimer: Testimonials are based on the real-life experiences of a few people, recorded in their own words regarding their own personal experiences of the Blu Room, and you are not likely, nor should you expect, to have similar results. Testimonials are not intended to make claims or even imply that the Blu Room can be used to diagnose, treat, cure, mitigate or prevent disease. Testimonials have not been evaluated by the FDA or any other regulatory entity. Blu Room Enterprises, LLC makes no representations or warranties as to results.
Blu Room® is an internationally registered trademark and service mark of JZ Knight. Used with permission. U.S. Patent 9,919,162.
By Kathy Dunbar, New Mexico MT 1452
“Massage therapy has been shown to relieve depression, especially in people who have chronic fatigue syndrome; other studies also suggest benefit for other populations.” – Andrew Weil
Courtenay: This morning when I walked outside with my hubby to go to the gym to work out we were met with a blast of cold air mixed with the sounds of heavy machinery and the smell of exhaust and all three wrapped themselves around me like a scarf in the wind, binding my senses tightly and depositing my mind and body back in Kandahar at the airfield where these ‘elements’ were a normal occurrence. The chill in the air was what hit me first, numbing my face to what would come next. Because of my reaction I remained silent during the entire walk to the gym…mainly, I think, because I was trying to process what I was thinking and feeling; more importantly I was trying to reconnect with the present and ensure myself that I was in a safe place and not navigating the dusty, loud, smelly and chilly streets of Kandahar. The cold air initially took my breath away, somewhat like how you feel when someone knocks the air out of you or when you feel like you can’t catch your breath. Quick breathing immediately followed, which I worked to control by trying to consciously slow down my breathing…which took a while. The further away we got from the noise and smell triggers the easier it got to recover.
The ability to SLOW down, relax and BREATHE also helps Veterans when it comes to massage therapy. It is in fact essential to the process. If you don’t allow your muscles to relax during the process then you won’t be able to benefit.
I have been a massage therapist since 1990, and in 2009 I was asked by Chuck Howe, President and founder of the National Veterans Wellness and Healing Center of Angel Fire, New Mexico, if I would be interested in providing massage therapy at a Veterans’ Retreat. These retreats are speciﬁcally for Veterans who have been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and their spouse/partner/support person. Because the Veteran’s PTSD always aﬀects their relationships with those around them, it is important to include the partner, who will also be struggling with the situation.
The retreats are a week long residential in-depth immersion in healing and coping strategies. They have education classes in the mornings, in which they learn about the science behind PTSD, what happens in the brain and body during trauma, and how that causes changes over time. The participants learn to recognize it in themselves, what triggers them, and how they react. Then they are taught a variety of tools to cope with it, and have opportunities to explore and practice those tools in a safe and supportive setting. Communication skills are also taught and practiced, with help from other group members and staﬀ if needed. In the afternoons they have a counseling session every day, and then they have a couple of other therapies, such as massage, acupuncture, Tai Chi, chiropractic, or energy work (such as Reiki or other types). They can wind down at the end of the day with a gentle, individualized Yoga class. By the end of the week they have had a chance to experience all of these healing modalities that they might not have ever tried before, and so can discover what they might want to pursue when they return home after the retreat.
At our retreats, we omit the “D” in PTSD, since what are considered symptoms in civilian life were often an appropriate survival response during the traumatic situation, and become inappropriate only when those situations are no longer present. Then their reactions can become harmful and not useful. Labeling them as having a “disorder” can cause feelings of helplessness, but our goal is to guide them to ﬁnd healing and well being. The retreats are free to the participants and includes lodging, meals, and all activities. They can also receive follow-up care with counseling and our other therapies after the retreat ends. Everything during the retreat and after remains conﬁdential, which frees them to open up and be honest with each other and the staﬀ.
I wanted to work at the retreats because I know too many Veterans of diﬀerent wars and interventions who have had diﬃculty adjusting to civilian and family life after or during their service. Closest to me was my beloved uncle, who served in Burma in WWII. He always carried the burdens of his experiences, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I also had a friend who never returned home from Vietnam, and several who came back scarred or extremely ill from exposure to Agent Orange. And I was horriﬁed by the way many of our returning servicemen were treated after coming home. I loved the idea of the retreats as a way to ﬁnally give them the warm welcome they deserve, and of acknowledging their sacriﬁces.
My role in the retreats is mainly to provide massage therapy to the participants, but I also ﬁnd it helpful to be present for the initial welcome ceremony (which brings some of our guests to tears) and many of the other activities and meals throughout the week. This way we can get to know each other in a relaxed setting outside of the therapy room, so they can feel comfortable and cared for by all the staﬀ. At our initial dinner they have a chance to introduce themselves, and we on staﬀ do so as well. We explain a bit about what we do, and let them know we are open to any questions or concerns they may have about the therapies we provide.
When our guests come for their sessions, it is essential for us therapists to be prompt and ready, and to project calmness and openness. The space should feel safe and undistracting, without obstacles that can trip someone or make them feel hemmed in. Some of them may have TBI (traumatic brain injury), mobility issues, or deﬁcits in vision or hearing, so there needs to be a clear pathway to the treatment table or chair, and any necessary aids to settling in, such as a step stool or a sturdy chair they can grab onto to help them get on and oﬀ. I also let them know I am available to assist them with getting off or on the treatment table or chair, or with any undressing or redressing, if wanted or needed. Their level of undress for our session is their choice, I explain that I will work with what is comfortable for them. I always have an assortment of pillows, bolsters, and blankets on hand so that we can get them as comfortable as possible throughout their session.
I do not use any scents, since I do not know what allergies or sensitivities people may have, or even what scents may be a trigger for someone. A scent that may be ﬁne for one person but may be a problem for the next, so I avoid using them at all. Background music is also something to consider since tastes vary. What one ﬁnds pleasant and relaxing may be jarring to another. This certainly applies to Nature sounds. Forest birdsong may not be relaxing to a veteran who is reminded of their service time in a jungle, or ocean waves can cause anxiety for someone who almost drowned in the ocean, although both of these soundtracks are well-received by most. Each person is an individual with their own set of experiences; there is no single relaxing thing for everyone. For this reason I keep a variety of music and Nature sounds, and let each person choose what they want. No background sounds at all is also always an option.
On occasion I have had participants who wanted to check out the room thoroughly and see what was behind every door, and this should not elicit comment from me. They can do what they need to feel safe so they can relax. Before we begin our session I ask what they want from their time with me. Some will want speciﬁc work on an old injury or problem area, some want relaxation, some want vigorous work to energize them. Many participants have never had a massage before and they don’t know what they want, so I explain possibilities and emphasize that THEY ARE IN CONTROL of their session and that nothing should make them feel uneasy or unheard. If they feel they want to stop the massage at any time or change the focus, that is what we will do, with no need to explain or feel bad. If someone does not want a massage at all, I ask them to let me explain about massage, and to answer any questions they have, so that they will have some information to help them decide if they’d like to try it at another time. I never take it personally if someone decides they don’t want a massage, or don’t like a technique I’m using. Ego has no place in this interaction, and I must not have any particular expectations of our session other than that I will do my best.
My job is to draw upon my knowledge, intuition, and heart to do what I can to help my client along their journey of healing. It is very important to keep in mind what they are dealing with, and why they have chosen to attend the retreat. If someone wants speciﬁc work on an injury or problem area, I have been well trained in Medical/Orthopedic massage, and have actually taught it for 10 years. This modality encompasses many diﬀerent massage techniques in a focused way, such as Trigger Point Therapy, Cross-Fiber Friction, Positional Release, Muscle Energy Technique, Myofascial Release, etc., with the aim of normalizing damaged or dysfunctional soft tissues. It is crucial to be knowledgeable about pathologies and injuries that I may be presented with and to know what techniques may be helpful or harmful in each case.
Since I also earned a degree in Exercise Science and was certiﬁed as a Health/Fitness Instructor by the American College of Sports Medicine, I can advise my clients on helpful exercises and stretches to address some of their simpler problems. In seeing so many Veterans, I have worked with many injuries and old wounds from their service.
One of my favorite techniques to use is Myofascial Release (MFR) and Myofascial Unwinding, as taught by John Barnes, PT. These modalities are very eﬀective for softening scar tissue, separating adhesions, and freeing up layers of tissues that have become stuck together and hardened. Since MFR doesn’t push hard into the body but uses lighter pressure to actually pull the tissue layers up and apart, restoring movement and ﬂuid ﬂow, it is relaxing and non-threatening to an already traumatized body. Body tissues often hold on to painful memories and emotions by tightening up, forming “energy cysts” or what many people refer to as “knots”. Some of the trauma that is held by the body in this way will be locked away and cause pain, and can be diﬃcult for self awareness to access unless unlocked. Releasing the energy cyst with slow, gentle, mindful touch can help the client let go of the diﬃcult memories and emotions as they become aware of them. It also frees up energy that was used to hold on to those repressed feelings, and that energy then becomes available for healing and building resiliency. The release can be a huge relief, but it can also bring up intense emotions, especially during a powerful retreat week.
When someone becomes really agitated or confused or emotional during a session, or has a ﬂashback, I work to bring their attention back to the present and their surroundings as quickly as possible. Speaking in a calm voice, having them look at objects around the room or concentrate on breathing or bodily sensations (such as wiggling toes or ﬁngers), are some ways to bring them back to the here and now. Depending on the person and the moment, it may or may not be a good idea to touch them, but if intuition says to touch, a light but ﬁrm static touch may be best, being careful not to startle. Any issues that come up for them during our session, I encourage them to discuss with their counselor. People suﬀering with PTS are often stuck in, or too easily switched into, the Sympathetic mode of the Central Nervous System, commonly referred to as “ﬁght/ﬂight/freeze” mode. In this state, which is essential for survival in a dangerous situation, stress neurotransmitters and hormones are released to prepare the body to ﬁght, ﬂee, or freeze. When the danger is over, the body should shift back into Parasympathetic mode, also known as “rest/digest/heal” mode. This is the state we need to be in to absorb nutrients, get restorative sleep, and rebuild body tissues. If a person stays in Sympathetic mode chronically or enters it too often, there can be damage to the body and brain from the prolonged exposure to the stress hormones. This can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, mood disorders, kidney damage, diabetes, impaired immunity, etc.
It is important to let the body and mind experience the Parasympathetic state so that a person can learn how it feels and can ﬁnd ways to get there more often. Massage therapy can be very eﬀective at bringing a person into this state, and helping them relax and feel at ease, so that it becomes a more normal state of being. We are hard wired to enter the ﬁght or ﬂight state more easily, since it is critical for survival in a dangerous world, but we need to be able to switch into relaxation mode when possible for long term health and well being.
Many of my clients at the Veterans’ retreats suﬀer from insomnia, anxiety, hypervigilance, and depression. We have found that MFR, aside from the physical eﬀects of normalizing tissues, can also induce a deep trance-like state in which the nervous system can reset the “tension thermostat “ and experience profound relaxation and healing. This state is extremely restful, switching the body into Parasympathetic mode and allowing that neural pathway to become stronger. Many clients fall asleep while I’m working, to their surprise, and report to me the following day that they had their best sleep in years that night. This gives them hope and motivation to know that there is a way to ﬁnd peace and rest. Myofascial Release also includes Craniosacral work, which gently works with the bones of the skull to restore the free ﬂow of cerebrospinal ﬂuid, which nourishes and protects the brain and spinal cord. This essential ﬂow of ﬂuid can become uneven or blocked in places, from trauma, tension, or illness. When the ﬂow is hindered it can lead to many complaints including anxiety, headaches, mysterious pain or numbness in various body areas, dizziness, insomnia, and many other symptoms that seem unrelated and inexplicable.
Restoring the normal rhythm and freedom of the cerebrospinal circulation allows the body to rebalance and heal itself and nourishes the nervous system. I always try to educate and explain what may be happening with a client’s body when they have pain or physical problems. When they can get a clear explanation for why they feel the way they do, it reassures them that they’re not just imagining it and that there are usually self-help actions they can take. Learning strategies to help themselves gives them a feeling of having some control in their life and encourages them. The bodywork also helps them to physically experience some of the strategies they learn in their morning education sessions.
For example, practicing open communication during their massage, paying attention to bodily sensations, recognizing triggers and excess tension as it arises and practicing overcoming them. These lessons are reiterated and bolstered by all staﬀ in many encounters throughout the week so that they become ingrained in participants by the end of the week and can be readily accessed when needed. It is exciting to watch them learn and practice and apply their new tools in diﬀerent situations as the week goes by. When they leave us to return home, most feel much more conﬁdent that they can apply the tools in daily life challenges. Massage generally has many beneﬁts for just about everyone.
Touch is extremely important for the nervous system to remain aware of what’s going on in the body. It also helps increase blood and lymph circulation, enhances immune function, can help with injury healing, digestion, elimination, breathing, increase ﬂexibility, improve sleep, decrease blood pressure, pain, and anxiety, and allow the body and mind to relax. It should give the recipient a feeling of well-being and even bliss, something we could all use more often.
Massage can be of particular benefit for our clients with PTS. It helps them experience a relaxed state, which may be rare for them and hard to attain. It can help the body to let go of old trauma and begin to heal and restore balance. A good balance of neurotransmitters and hormones will give them a feeling of well-being and will maintain long term health. The bodily awareness that gentle and focused touch can bring can make them aware of physical problems that may have been ignored or that are developing, so that they can be addressed before they become worse. Massage can bring a person “back into their body”. Many people who have experienced trauma will dissociate from their body, and cannot really heal from it until they fully inhabit their body. Receiving a massage, especially in the setting of our retreats, lets a person know they are cared for and acknowledged. For them to know that everyone around them, staff and fellow participants, are working towards their healing, wellness, growth, and happiness, is a powerful incentive. Especially for those who have felt isolated and removed from society, the circle of caring people surrounding them can give them strength and comfort, helping them to move forward.
When a retreat client feels beneﬁt from their massage, I give them information so that they can ﬁnd a practitioner in their home area. We also have a program for follow up care with our staﬀ at the Veterans Wellness and Healing Center in Angel Fire, NM, where we are based. This care is either at no cost or deeply discounted for them. Many of them do utilize the continued care, and many participants keep in touch with each other and form their own support groups and continuing friendships. In the 10 years of doing these retreats we have witnessed amazing growth and progress in participants’ wellbeing, and the entire staﬀ is dedicated to making each retreat safe, loving, supportive, and eﬀective.
If you are a former or potential client, or if you want more information, you can contact the National Veterans Wellness and Healing Center via phone at (575)-377-5236 or visit the website at: http://veteranswellnessandhealing.org.