How Meditation Can Help Your Military Family Cope
You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by sitting alone in a room. ~ Dr. Seuss
Are you able to sit quietly for a period of time with no distractions and without getting hung up on one particular thought? For me, not long ago, attempting to meditate inspired more panic than peace. When I found out that meditation was going to be a daily part of my yoga teacher training I wondered how I could possibly get through the designated time without disturbing the rest of the people in the room with my fidgeting. It was my number one fear going into the training. I have since learned how to be my own best company while sitting quietly in a meditative seat without distractions.
Meditation is an ancient practice interwoven through diverse cultures and religions, so much so that we might dismiss it because it doesn’t seem to apply to our beliefs or value systems. According to Yoga Journal, meditation is “ultimately a state of being keenly aware without focus.” This is a practice that anybody can use as a wellness practice. The National Institutes of Health describe meditation as “having a long history of use for increasing calmness and physical relaxation, improving psychological balance, coping with illness, and enhancing overall health and well-being.”
In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress found that meditation offered long-lasting relief from post traumatic stress disorder in U.S. military veterans that served in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 11-20% of those who had served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, suffer from PTSD in any given year. That means that you probably know somebody that could use meditation to help cope.
As a yoga teacher who has taught on military installations and in military-dense communities, I wanted to be able to offer meditation as a wellness tool to my students, but I first I needed to nurture my own practice so my teaching could come from an authentic place. As a military spouse, getting comfortable with our own company, and learning to manage stress through a meditation practice can help ease the burdens of our lifestyle. And, as a secondary benefit, perhaps your friends or loved ones will recognize a change in you and become curious about the practice.
There were two major factors that helped me get comfortable with sitting in meditation. First, on the first day of teacher training we were offered different options for sitting. I found that kneeling over a blanket-covered bolster rather than sitting cross-legged helped me sit without fidgeting. Second, I just needed practice. Starting and ending each day of our teacher training with 30 minutes of seated meditation was a challenge but it got easier with each practice so that it became not only tolerable but enjoyable.
My meditation practice right now varies. I love waking up before my family, lighting some candles, and sitting quietly for 15 or 20 minutes before beginning my personal yoga practice. But, our current house is really inefficient and expensive to heat so this winter I have wanted to stay in bed as long as possible. Sometimes my meditation is turning off the radio while I’m driving and quieting the usual jumble of thoughts. Sometimes it’s quiet reflection after reading a passage from Meditations from the Mat, written by Rolf Gates, a former U.S. Airborne Ranger. Sometimes meditation comes in the form of a trail run through the forest with no music. What’s important is that I take time to unplug to recharge my own batteries.
According to Operation Warrior Wellness, for someone coping with intrusive thoughts or flashbacks, a technique like transcendental meditation using a mantra that doesn’t require the ability to concentrate is really beneficial. For more information on Operation Warrior Wellness, including inquiries on how to learn transcendental mediation, email Ann Grant. Because I know many won’t take the extra step to actually email someone for more information, see this guide to mantra meditation to get started.
Whether you choose to unplug in your own way for a few minutes each day, or whether you choose to redirect your focus by repeating a mantra, I hope you will consider using meditation to counter the side effects of our military lifestyle.
Have you ever tried meditation?