Meditation has been a holistic practice for thousands of years, one that helps practitioners relax and reconnect with their inner selves. Meditation also allows for people to stay centered in the present moment, which can become an invaluable tool for veterans who are haunted with the memories and nightmares of their time in combat like veterans affected by PTSD.

The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs finds that one in five combat veterans suffers from PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD, if left undiagnosed and/or untreated, can lead to potentially fatal consequences, as military suicides are at an all-time high. 22 veterans a day are committing suicide, undoubtedly because a majority of them suffer from some sort of mental illness or traumatic brain injury that they developed during combat.

But before a soldier reaches that point of desperation, he or she should consider seeking other holistic measures of coping and rehabilitation, such as meditation. Meditation helps remind practitioners that they are part of something much larger than themselves, and during meditation, are encouraged to tap into that space and mentality. It is in this state where an individual experiences complete relaxation, as their life’s problems and anxieties seem infinitesimal compared to the rest of the universe.

However, such a recognition does not at all belittle the experiences that a veteran suffering from either mental illness or a TBI endures. Rather, meditation should simply bring a sense of grounding, as meditation requires that an individual remain in the present moment and clear their mind of all else. Focusing on the breath is a physical way to signal the body and nervous system to slow down and relax, which is an essential skill in acquiring to someone who has developed an anxiety disorder.

In light of this growing epidemic of thousands of soldiers returning from the battlefield with an unstable mental state, an article was released by Julie Watson of the Huffington Post in early 2013 called “Marine Corps Studying How ‘Mindfulness Meditation’ Can Benefit Troops”. The article noted how the Marine Corps recognized the growing psychological crisis among military members, and decided to conduct a test run of a new training program called "Mindfulness-Based Mind Fitness Training". According to the article, the training program is supposed to give soldiers the tools to prevent large accumulations of stress and anxiety so that they can combat those problems before they spin out of control into some sort of disorder.

This sort of program is a rather ground-breaking approach and shows a compassionate side of the military. A former sergeant in the Army named Andrew Chambers revealed in a TED Talk how his basic training taught him to strip away the morals that served a purpose in civilian society. After all, in combat, being afraid or unwilling to kill another will only result in you getting shot or possibly killed yourself. Chambers tells his audience how his training taught him to unearth deep-seated anger and rage that civilian society encourages us to control and ultimately repress. But it is this murderous rage that will only make soldiers better killers out on the battlefield, and that is why such a technique is used during training.

Meditation can allow a soldier to re-connect with himself on a deeper, more personal level, which might ease the pain and severity of re-acclimating into civilian society. Plus, a veteran might be able to slowly abandon the murderous mentality he or she used on the battlefield, and might be able to relocate their previous selves before they enlisted into combat.

Meditation is such a powerful tool, and it is among one of the more holistic approaches to rehabilitation for veterans, although it is not the only one. In fact, an organization called Operation: I.V. supports ten different holistic treatments for combat veterans suffering from either a mental illness or TBI. The organization was founded by Gold Star Mother Roxann Abrams, who lost her son SFC Abrams to suicide due to his suffering from undiagnosed PTSD after his service in Iraq.

The ten programs that Operation: I.V. supports all fall under what is called the “V.I.P. Program,” or “veteran intervention program”. Some of the treatment programs the V.I.P supports are “Vet-2-Vet” therapy, hyperbolic oxygen therapy, and service dogs.

Read Part 2 of this article for tips and tricks as to how to effectively practice meditation, and don’t forget to check out Operation: I.V.’s website for more information about the 501c3 non-profit and donate to help support the treatment programs available for our troops!

Author's Bio: 

Abigail Fazelat is a contributing writer for Operation: I.V., a non-profit organization founded by Gold Star Mother Roxann Abrams who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams to PTSD. Randy took his own life after experiencing a wartime flashback- an experience not uncommon to any combat veteran. As a result, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. as an “intravenous of help” for other Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and contemplating suicide. Fazelat has worked for the organization since October 2013 under a pseudonym.