I struggle to accept that fully-fledged Warriors who have survived repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, IEDs, hand-to-hand combat in the cemeteries of Najaf and sniper fire are dying in towns across America every single day, from suicide; Warriors who served their country in combat, while protecting the lives of their brothers and sisters overseas, are becoming casualties of war when they return home.
To be clear, more returning Warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan have died from suicide than from injuries sustained in combat. These numbers are seldom talked about, and at first glance, seem impossible to believe: every day, upwards of 23 returning Warriors in the United States die by their own hand. That's nearly 8,000 per year.
I was almost one of these suicide statistics. I too struggled with the spiritual aftermath of having served in a declared hostile fire zone, having witnessed the crushing aftermath of socialism and the privations of a genocidal war. Coupled with an undiagnosed and debilitating illness, I thought about mercy killing myself every day for years.
Based on my own experiences, my own search to find a community of returning Warriors who were struggling with PTS and having trouble readjusting to life in the real world, with a basic introduction to Transcendental Meditation (TM), and finding inspiration in Karl Marlantes' book What It Is Like To Go To War, I knew I had to do something. It occurred to me that there might be a chance to defy the logic and the statistics.
For me, TM acted like a an ice pack placed directly on the heated up and hyper-vigilant part of my brain that couldn't calm down, that couldn't think straight, that couldn't hold a rational or coherent thought. And through the twice-daily practice of TM, I was able to conceive of and synthesize an idea to support and serve active duty and returning Warriors struggling with the devastating effects of PTSD. TM gave me that gift. Where everything else had failed, where other attempts and interventions had fallen short, where I had previously been baffled, TM literally cracked opened my heart and gave me access to the ability to solve a social problem of epic proportions. The experience of TM almost defies description. It represents an experience over which I will never get. I am compelled to pay it forward. To not share this experience with fellow Warriors is tantamount to larceny.
At Save a Warrior, we are worried about the suicide epidemic our Warriors face, here at home. Between PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, the reconciliation that must take place between life in a war zone and life back home and reconciling the trauma that occurred before a Warrior ever suited up to serve, this transition and readjustment to civilian life is harder for most Warriors than they expected. There exists a conflict within the minds, hearts, and bodies of Warriors, and this conflict can quickly become a dangerous enemy all by itself. The good news is the rest of us at Save a Warrior have seen something magical happen, something we try to facilitate, to create a new brotherhood between Warriors in a sacred space for them to learn tools to help with the issues with which they are struggling.
A five and a half day war detox -- as proposed in Karl Marlantes' What It Is Like To Go To War -- our Project offers a safe, effective and evidenced-based experiential therapeutic model designed to mitigate the effects of trauma. A well-grounded, community-based and common-sense approach to healing, the Project supports a Warrior's Heroes Journey through the dark night of the soul, leading to a fully-integrated life and emotional sobriety.
Through ceremony, ritual and spiritual initiation, including a twice daily practice of Transcendental Meditation (TM), an effortless technique which acts to calm the flight or fight response, the hyper vigilance that Warriors cannot seem to shut off, Warriors gain access to their own internal adaptive mechanisms discovering profound relief beyond currently offered treatments. This concentrated dose of essential spiritual nutrients acts as a catalyst to make positive and lasting change. For most Warriors, other than the birth of their children, the Project serves as the ultimate life changing and life re-affirming experience. Transcendental Meditation (TM) is at the heart of this experience.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the David Lynch Foundation (DLF), a nonprofit organization that brings Transcendental Meditation to at-risk communities. On Feb. 11, DLF will host Meditation, Creativity, Performance and Stress, a panel discussion led by Andrew Ross Sorkin featuring Ray Dalio, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Mario Batali. For tickets and information, click here.