Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day 11/11/11

As I was scrolling through facebook posts today and preparing to write my blog post about Veterans Day and 11/11/11, I came across a wonderful quote from my dear friend Amanda Richter: "So maybe 11/11/11 means this day is more important. And it is Veterans Day - a day to remember those who have given us the freedoms we wake up to. But, I have always been someone who believes no one day is different than the rest. They are ALL special, ALL a gift, and should be treated as such."

As a society we tend to wait until there's a holiday or a 'big' day to take time to reflect and remember what is important in life. We all get caught up in what I like to call the hamster wheel of life and forget to take time out to appreciate, to feel gratitude, to find peace in our hearts through our breath and allow ourselves to just be. I know that because I did not have the skills or knowledge of self care, the practice of yoga, meditation and breathing, I burned out in my job as a social worker at the Department of Veterans Affairs. But before I did, I had the privilege and honor to journey with our nation's veterans as a social worker for almost 20 years.

My first position at the VA was as the Visual Impairment Services Team Coordinator. I remember 12/5/1988 as though it were yesterday. I had no experience working with visually impaired individuals. I was honest and told the veterans that I was going to learn from them, that we would learn together and I would bring all of my skills as a clinical social worker to help them adapt to their vision loss. This was my favorite position at the VA. I was a program coordinator and was able to combine my public relations and marketing skills with my social work skills. Because of changes in the system, I was transferred to medical social work where I would have the opportunity to meet men and women who bore witness to our nation's history. I was privileged to work with the former Prisoner of War program and the Geriatric Team. I met veterans who, because of loyalty to their oath as soldiers would carry secrets with them to their grave; secrets that were eating away at their heart and soul but they could not unburden themselves and heal.

My focus here is NOT the politics of war or the VA. My motto always has been that this is about people not politics. 11/11/11 is a day of Oneness - to paraphrase my friend Amanda - everyday should be a day of Oneness. Every day a day to be aware of our connection to the infinite and loving Source Energy. We are all warriors who have been injured in one way or another in life. Just like our troops, some have been on the front lines and experienced more intense wounds and some have been in 'support roles' but we are all here together with one common mission - to live freely and happily, to love wholeheartedly and to leave the world a better place than it was when we came into it.

Our nation's veterans deserve the very best care we have to offer them to heal the wounds they have borne to protect freedom. I am so grateful that there are now new treatment modalities to help veterans and caregivers which are going to make a huge difference in the way that veterans are treated for post traumatic stress disorder and the entire array of physical, emotional and spiritual wounds that affect our nation's warriors. Organizations such as the Exalted Warrior Program, The Veterans Yoga Project and all of the yoga teachers who are bringing veterans to the mat for healing. Ana Forrest and the practice of Forrest Yoga helps to heal trauma and she recently did a benefit for the Exalted Warrior Foundation. I am so grateful that as one who lives with post traumatic stress disorder, there are these wonderful, compassionate mind/body interventions which speak to healing one's life after trauma. Matthew Sanford of Mind Body Solutions offers free adaptive yoga classes to veterans and has a model of care for the caregivers. His book "Waking" speaks to trauma that gets stored in the body until we are strong enough to let our bodies speak and heal and how yoga helps one to live fully and freely within their bodies regardless of the extent of physical injury.

Today is an important day to honor those who served. Every day is an important day to honor everyone who serves in life especially ourselves. It all begins with loving kindness and compassion for ourselves so that with full hearts we can reach out with gratitude, love and compassion for all. I am so grateful and blessed to have known so many incredible men and women and their families who served our country. We are a part of each other lives' forever. We walked down a sacred path, sharing time and space and I'm forever grateful for the soul lessons I learned from them through the opportunity to serve them in the capacity of a social worker.

May everyone everywhere today be awakened and feel gratitude for the wonder and beauty and preciousness of life and that this awakening continue as we begin our day on 11/12/11.

I am so humbled by a facebook post from one of the veterans with whom I worked: "Mary thank you so much. You have no idea how much you helped me, I love you for your kindness and concern, and your sincere empathy you have for all of the veterans you helped"

From my heart to yours
With love and gratitude