Today is Memorial Day, a day to celebrate and honor our country’s veterans and acknowledge the depth of their sacrifice. It is also an opportunity to put the spotlight on the struggle, experienced by many veterans, to return to civilian life. Increasingly, returning soldiers have turned to meditation to help ease the transition.
Iraq War veteran Anthony Anderson and WWII veteran Jerry Yellin discusses the challenges of veterans, and the role meditation can play in safeguarding their mental health and overall well-being.
“My first deployment was in 2004, and I was stationed at Camp Liberty in Baghdad,” said Anderson. “I was 21 years old, I was exposed to a lot of violence, I participated in some, and I saw the aftermath of it. I think when you’re young and when you have no experience with anything like that — you have no context to compare to, no precedent — it’s impossible for it not to affect your life. So when I came home in 2005… I just spent a lot of time dealing with the fallout of it — I couldn’t sleep, it was just really bad.”
It wasn’t until Anderson returned home from Iraq that he learned about kriya, the meditation and breathing technique he now uses to center his mind.
“If I knew that when I was in Iraq, I feel I would have had a completely different experience,” he said. “If I had had that ability to repurpose my mind and refocus my mind at the end of every day, to relieve anxiety, to relieve the stress, to refocus myself, I think I would have had a very different experience.”
Luckily, more and more military academies are beginning to include the study and practice of meditation in their cadet education.
“The oldest non-government military academy in the United States is Norwich University, where they train officers,” said Yellin. “They are now teaching the cadets as they enter transcendental meditation, because Admiral Richard Schneider, the president of the university, took 15 of his staff, took six months to learn to see what it was like, and now they’re in the third year of a program of teaching the cadets transcendental meditation. It’s transformed their lives, all of them.”