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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

Building a Mindful Nation, Veterans First

Oct 27, 2013 05:37AM

What if America’s combat veterans were able to combine their formidable skills with inner awareness training and mind-body healing practices? Imagine public schools and VFW halls in urban and rural communities across the country becoming centers of social renewal, staffed up with a corps of veterans turned educators and trauma recovery specialists. This is the vision of Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), author of A Mindful Nation, whose ideas inspired the creation of the new Mindful Nation Foundation.

“We have a lot of vets who fall through the cracks,” said Ryan in a talk at the recent Wisdom 2.0 Business conference in New York, which addressed mindfulness in business. “They won’t go to the Veterans Administration because they feel like they’re going to get labeled ‘post-traumatic stress’ and they don’t want to have anything to do with it.” The PTS diagnosis is a stigma that cuts against them personally and in the tight job market. “So what happens is, in six months to a year, a year and a half later, they take their own lives,” he said. The alarming suicide rate of combat veterans, which at last count was at least 22 per day, one every 65 minutes, created urgency for the veterans program to be the first addressed by the foundation.

“Mindfulness Training for the Veterans Corps” is the foundation’s invitation-only pilot scheduled for early next year at the Garrison Institute. Designed for veterans with experience in meditation, yoga or a related mind-body discipline, 40 participants will be recruited from such related organizations as Project Welcome Home Troops, the Mind Fitness Training Institute and Warriors at Ease.  The five-week training will be staffed by teachers with military background and extensive training in mindfulness, meditation and coaching.

Once trained and formed into a working community, Ryan said, “the veterans will go out and find these young men and young women who won’t go to the VA, do almost a search and rescue mission” and then lead sessions to help them adjust from their war experience to daily life. Over time the program’s success will be measured by how many lives are saved.

Mindful Nation Foundation will help build the mindful nation movement at large, celebrating, connecting and supporting it in a collaborative way. According to the director Krishna Pendyala, its ultimate goals are “pupil-centered education, patient-centered healthcare, people-centered policies and family-centered businesses.”

A former technology and business entrepreneur, Pendyala has studied and observed the human condition since childhood in India. In an unusual move, he successfully integrated life coaching into his executive leadership career in the U.S. Three or four years ago, he said he “began to dream about creating an enlightened society where inner awareness empowers people to thrive in harmony.” Pendyala left his corporate career but soon thereafter discovered Ryan and their common vision in A Mindful Nation. The two agreed that building a mindful nation is the next phase and Pendyala brims with enthusiasm about the task. He explains the Mindful Nation Foundation veterans program will put more tools in veterans’ tool kits and support them with mentors, building on the work already being done.

In Ryan’s vision for veterans, the goal is to not only raise enough money to pay a veterans corps some kind of stipend, but then take that kind of proven model to the Veterans Administration and advocate it be adopted and funded from the VA budget. Out of the $150 billion annual budget (2013), even a small investment in this type of preventative medicine will save lives and accomplish significant reductions in healthcare costs. Meditation, yoga and other mind-body practices already have the seal of approval from America’s leading research universities and are a regular feature of such renowned healthcare institutions as the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Center.

“Think about one of these veterans coming back to their community to be a teacher in a school to help raise a mindful kid. This will accomplish the goal of having role models in our communities. Why wouldn’t we want to do this for our veterans?” Ryan asked.

When asked how one might help the foundation with its aims, Pendyala said simply, “Go offline. Get to know one more person each week. Then engage with them in a meaningful way.”  This is the deepest vision of America as a mindful nation, for veterans and everyone else.

Grace Ogden is the founder of Grace Productions, which offers transformational consulting and Living Sacred events. For more information about Grace Prodcutions, visit



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