Healing From Within – Veterans Conquering Stress with Yoga and Mindfulness
Host: Sheryl Glick R.M.T.
Special Guest: Eric Walrabenstein
In today’s episode of “Healing From Within”, your host Sheryl Glick author of The Living Spirit a book that shares stories of spiritual awakenings, healing energies and ways to release fear and stress, to develop new thoughts and actions that support healing for creating your best life. Sheryl welcomes Eric Walrabenstein author of Waging Inner Peace and founder of Operation Bootstrap designed to help returning veterans and their families cope with the effects of post traumatic stress disorder and other psychological effects of war.
Eric, a former US Army infantry officer, will introduce us to the first of its kind program which combines modern scientific stress management principles with the ancient mind/body wisdom of yoga to return both body and mind to their naturally relaxed state of balance. We will discuss the seven week “Bootstrap Program” talking about the benefits of yoga classes, guided meditations and other resources for calming and rebalancing the nervous system releasing stress and creating relaxed living.
Eric tells a story that back in October 1980 as a 17 year old, he found himself in a dark and lonely parking garage in Sacramento California and were attacked by 8 big guys and they wanted his wallet and punched and kicked a skinny kid from out of town. “I had a knife held to my throat. There was an affect to my nervous system and for years dark enclosed spaces sent me into a low grade panic and people who looked and dressed like my attackers stirred up a powerful sense of anxiety in me. I would then find myself racked with fear or even anger and sometimes it would spiral out of control. It took about 15 years for me to get a handle on it. While in western talk we would say the event had been emotionally tagged” from the yogic perspective an example of Samskara was formed.
Samskara is a Sanskrit word that translates loosely as impression and refers to any one of the many tendencies of the mind that are responsible for driving our behaviors and perceptions of the world. One part belief and one part habit, quietly working behind the scenes, affecting our every thought, action and utterance. Ex A policeman knocking on your door? How would you likely react??? It depends on your samskaras.
These opinions points of view and interpretations are all things driven by a particular mix of samskaras, or mental tendencies..Perhaps best thought of as bits of programmed code in our brains, these impressions are not fixed, nor inborn, but learned as a result of the experiences we have as we roll through life. We all are unique in how we see and respond to the world and to the changes within that can improve those responses.
Examples : Some of us think pit bulls are cute and cuddly: other are wracked with fear in their presence….Some feel people to be good and trustworthy: others are suspicious of all they come into contact with….some people are self-confident and motivated: others are hobbled by low self-esteem and doubt.
But here is the good news because Samskaras are learned they can also be unlearned. Because of neuroplasticity or the malleable nature of our brains we are able to pave the way for great transformative healing.
The bad experience, Eric had as a teenager paved the way for him to shape the Bootstrap system that would help thousands of people
Sheryl says, “ In my book the Living Spirit I refer to the many tendencies we each have to develop unfulfilling perceptions or Samskaras and wrote…page 128 “ No matter how adept we become to protecting ourselves from the negative energy of others chances are there will be times when we are upset by the words or actions of others. The key is to realize that each person perceives the world according to his or her experience, from this life and past incarnations. Therefore we cannot hope to understand every aspect of another’s behavior. Remember that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience: everyone is trying –on various levels—to find their own way.”
In order to help over 5,000 hard working veterans using a customized yoga program in the privacy of their own homes, legions of our returning warriors have been able to reclaim their happiness by gaining mastery over their inner worlds of thoughts attitudes and emotions—even in the midst of devastating psychological wounds, moral injuries, and life sapping stress conditions, including post traumatic stress The life changing system they used is called the Bootstrap Program a seven week process of investigation and experimentation that employs a customized blend of ancient mind-body wisdom together with modern wellness principles to rebalance the nervous system and nourishes both body and mind. However the Bootstrap program has widespread relevance for anyone wanting to live a more artful and happy life.
There is an epidemic happening in the modern world? STRESS
It is a well known fact that rampant stress conditions are ravaging our general population. Stress due to poor economic conditions worldwide terrorism excessive overuse of social media and technology and political systems that are unable to deal with the changing needs of the everyday citizen. The US Department of Veteran Affairs estimates that of the 2.7 million service members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan up to 20 percent have full blown post-traumatic stress disorder…and also agrees that 90 percent of primary care physician visits are linked to stress related illness.
Symptoms of stress include persistent anxiety insomnia difficulty concentrating mood swings anger high blood pressure to heart disease and depression to autoimmune conditions. And stress also affects our productivity our relationships and our happiness.
The popular belief that stress comes primarily from our circumstance or the outside isn’t entirely correct. In order for anything in our external environment to seem stressful certain mechanisms in our internal world specifically in the nervous must be triggered into action. Why at times does something stress you out and at other times it does not? Stress therefore is acutely dependent on the happenings inside us in our minds and nervous system—our efforts to manage it by manipulating our external world can only do so much.
The term Fundamental Attribution Error refers to a phenomenon in which we assume the cause of an event to be one thing, when in fact, it is caused by a second, unacknowledged source. Example Man running a stop light would be deemed irresponsible and hazardous, but actually may be rushing to the hospital where his son was just admitted after a near fatal accident. Instead of addressing the internal sources of stress the Fundamental Attribution Error has us spending our energies battling external stress triggers like our careers our relationships our finances our families even our own personal history.
1. Feeling calm relaxed and at the peak of happiness and efficiency despite life’s challenges
2. Remaining comfortably at ease, right in the middle of the same situations that once sent you into a tailspin.
3. Transforming the challenges and disappointment in life into blessings that bring even more peace and joy to your world.
When we turn our attention away from blaming our external circumstances for our stress problems or fears and truly take charge of our internal world of thoughts, moods and emotions directly, this is the skill managing our humanness. The first step is to stop blaming the world and seek to understand the true source of stress and inner disturbance…the source within.
Post traumatic stress is a condition that arises as a result of experiencing a highly stressful or terrifying event. In overly simplistic terms the nervous system has been knocked out of balance causing a whole range of potentially debilitating symptoms like insomnia night terrors, outbursts of anger difficulty concentrating and others.
Eric tells us a story of Stephen, a Marine Corp recruit and what his deployment and experiences of war did to him. At first the Marine Corps provided a level of meaning and purpose to Stephen life and he continued to thrive even after his deployment to Iraq but suddenly everything changed in Fallujah..It was there that the weight of the war and fierce battles came crashing down on him. He was wounded and loss his friend Matt to sniper bullets. When he returned home to Camp Pendleton near San Diego he began to vacillate between bouts of isolating depression and explosive outbursts of anger.
After being diagnosed he was placed on a treatment regimen of talk therapies and medication: Prozac for moods ambient for sleep, clonazepam for anxiety, and clonidine a high blood pressure drug that in Stephen case was prescribed for nightmares. All had nasty side effects. There is significant stigma about the condition and the diagnosis of post traumatic stress which meant disaster for his career in the Marine Corp…he was medically separated from the Marine Corp.
Eric and Sheryl talk about the use of alternative healing methods aligned to allopathic medicine so one may find ways of being more comfortable in their body and state of mind and not becoming overly dependent on other forms of western medicine..when used effectively both systems work in tandem to help achieve relief.
Yoga, a 5,000 year old science born in a land on the other side of the globe wasn’t only a practice of moving my body into and out of a series of challenging postures. It wasn’t even the use of breath and focused attention to clear my mind and calm my emotions. No, yoga wasn’t what I was in love with, but the clarity vitality and wellness that yoga allowed me to get to. The fact is yoga is merely a set of tools that helped me to create a day to day experience of joy and lightness in my life, and with the experience of happiness and a joyous relationship with my body mind and the world.
At its heart the Bootstrap program while it draws much from yoga’s ancient science, it is about helping you to awaken and cultivate the balance easeful condition that is in fact your natural state.
Yoga positions rightly performed can have a profound and immediate effect on the nervous system however backsliding, and the steady incremental progress towards more balance and ease in the nervous system is easily lost. While yoga can be useful in calming the nervous system through somatic means, many of its teachers are lead to ignore the lesser known cognitive aspects of the practice that can create such powerful and lasting healing. For your Saturday yoga based exercise class yoga may not be focused on the history of cognitive investigation behavioral experimentation and introspective evaluation as comes from energy session work like Reiki are not always part of the practice. For those with post-traumatic stress and other health issues, the inclusion of both the cognitive and somatic aspects of the tradition are necessary. It was this insight that directed attention to the management of the mind like pratvahara or withdrawal of senses….dharana or concentrated attention…..and vairagva or non attachment to name a few
Managing stress is as much about managing the underlying process that contribute to it and also about managing humanness. The Bootstrap Program is a system that understands the workings of human neurology to calm your mind, increase your vitality, transform your relationships, and boost your enthusiasm for life. It restores balance to all systems of the body while relieving the crippling effects of stress. The system works by enlisting the nervous system to interrupt the mental habits and unconscious tendencies that have become habits of unwanted stress.
2. Intentional Restoration Nidra performed lying down moving your attention to various parts of the body and letting go of judgment while feeling whatever sensations are present.
3. Instant Interventions. We all get knocked down sometimes but the following help: heartfelt gratitude
4. Focused Walking
5. Victorious Breathing
6. Conscious Sipping
7. Scientific Observation
8. Personal Commitment
Remember our struggle against what’s causing us stress in this moment is itself adding to our stress.
The term stress was coined by Hungarian born endocrinologist Hans Selye in 1936. The term translates as the nonspecific response of the body to any demand for change. To put it in a different way stress is your body’s attempt to respond to a particular circumstance in a way that will best ensure its survival. Stress is a normal and necessary part of the normal functioning of the human organism but needs to me managed to avoid chronic overstressed states.
Stress however helps us by providing energy for dealing with whatever threats are present..stress helps to ensure our survival.
The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the initiation of the stress response. Its partner the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for bringing the body back to restorative relaxation. Sympathetic induces tension: parasympathetic induces relaxation.
Eric Walrabenstein author of Wagging Inner Peace has shared with us the very well expressed system the “Bootstrap Program” which is a merging of the scientific and holistic mind body systems of ancient wisdom yoga and positive mind balancing exercises to deal with post traumatic stress or simply to deal with everyday life in order to master our humanness and live healthier happier lives.
Sheryl and Eric have explored the story of stress in modern day life and post traumatic stress affecting so many of our precious veterans and warriors and the amazing system Eric Walrabenstein has developed. We have come to understand how mind-body wisdom helps us master our humanness, deal with stress effectively, and live healthier lives.
Eric wrote… “In case you haven’t been paying attention, life is full of drama long deployments and relationship difficulties employment challenges even traffic and the weather can inject challenge and drama into our lives…and while most of us spend our time trying to get away from such difficulties in the Bootstrap system these dramas are the places where we train to become more adept at the art of living. Think of each life’s drama as an opportunity dressed in obstacles clothing….Bootstrap asks us to modify our relationship with reality to learn how to relax with what’s on the screen and to thus enjoy a newfound level of peace ease and vitality in life.”
Eric and Sheryl would have you find what makes you comfortable in your everyday life and to learn to allow accept and surrender to your inner wisdom and a true sense of knowing your own intuitive life force so you are working in every situation to understand your personal power, remain balanced, calm and loving, no matter what…that is the goal of mindful people.