Bringing Heart to Life

For me, it all started when I started to let go of the mental thought-processes of doubt, worry, and fear, and allowed myself to fall into heart-centered feelings of unconditional love and deep faith in a higher power. For me, it was a process of realizing that life was much more than using my intellect to figure things out, or even just having a positive-based belief system. For me, it was learning to follow a path that included diving more deeply into my yoga practice – being more deeply devoted to the ideal of oneness, of One Love, of Christ consciousness, of learning to live in the eternity of each moment. For me, it was about embodying with wholeheartedness a lifestyle of loving awareness and authentic presence.

Of course, these awakenings usually come about in our darkest moments, right? It was no different for me. I remember the moment specifically – my body shaking in fear, my mind lost in endless cycles of unanswered questions. When the essence of life smacks you in the face, you wake up. When you get lost inside your head consumed by who you think you are, sometimes it takes a storm to help you re-member who you really are.

All of these years later, I look back at the wonders of life that have unfolded since that time. All of these years later, I look with amazement at the community that has come together at Heart of the Village Yoga to support one another – not only in the practice of yoga, but also in the quest to live more satisfying, heart-centered and community-building daily lives. All of these years later, I realize innately that it takes a village to realize the essence of life – it takes a community to practice loving awareness and to build loving relationships.

So now… a dozen years after I was smacked in the face… 9 years after a US Army veteran from St. Croix looked me in the eye and said, “You’re not leaving, are you?”… 6 years after I shared a vision with a US Air Force veteran from San Diego and co-founded Warriors Live On… and 4 years after I started a new journey with my wife at Heart of the Village Yoga… I have the opportunity to bring my heart to life by bringing the essence of our “Village” to California. Next week, Memorial Day weekend, I will have the opportunity to bring yoga to a group of veterans on a nature excursion on the Pacific Crest Trail outside of Big Bear. I have the honor to walk with presence and authenticity, as a warrior and alongside warriors, carrying with me the heart of our Heart of the Village Yoga tribe on a trek with Warriors Live On.

You might say that Warriors Live On initially grew out of our own healing experiences and practices, from those darkest times when my wife and I struggled through PTSD utilizing the practices of mindfulness and yoga and nature-based living, to our shared experiences of healing with Eva Belanger and other United States veterans, to our shared vision of bringing our own successes with holistic practices to a wider population of veterans through a new non-profit organization called Warriors Live On. Since its founding, Eva has been the force behind the actual manifestation of the vision; I have only been a voice of support from the other side of the country. (I remember writing a letter of support when WLO set out on its first nature excursion shared here on this site.)

Warriors Live On is now an organization which provides integrative healing processes for post 9-11 combat veterans who are battling the debilitating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Recognizing that the effects of PTSD on both mind and body can be healed, WLO now offers integrative programming incorporating nature treks, acupuncture, Somatic Experiencing, Organic Intelligence, yoga and nutrition. This multi-modal approach eases the symptoms of PTSD and opens the door to a new way of living.

To those of you who have become my family and my circle of friends at Heart of the Village Yoga, please know that I carry with me your love as I bring my heart – our collective heart – to a new circle of friends next week with Warriors Live On. To those of you who I will have the honor of being with next week, please know that I am humbled, honored, and excited to share this new journey with you.

Each of us has a story to tell and new stories to compose. But each of our individual stories are part of an ever-expanding larger story. Each chapter unfolds, usually where we direct our attention. When we embrace intentional practices, life has a miraculous way of letting those practices turn into reality. Sometimes, it takes a journey of a hundred steps to look back and see the first step. Sometimes, it takes a journey of a thousand miles to look back and realize you’ve been sharing the path with many, many others. Sometimes, it takes a lifetime of experiences to realize that it is all about living a life of loving awareness in the eternal gift of each moment.

Bringing heart to life begins with the first step, yes. Its enlightening now to have the good fortune to look back and see those steps, those chapters in my own life. But it begins again with the next step. And it expands as your heart expands. And it expands again when you have the love and support of a village. And it expands again and again when you realize that you a part of an ever-expanding field of relationships, mutually interdependent and connected. Bringing heart to life is about embodying loving awareness in each timeless step. Its about bringing your authentic self and your whole heart – a full heart, a clear heart, a strong heart, and an open heart – to life in each moment. Its about being a warrior and a healer for the benefit of all.

I am honored to recognize the warrior in each of you, and I am humbled by the wonder of our ever-expanding circle. To those of you struggling in this moment, take heart – and take the next step. And the next. It takes work. It takes practice. But, one day at a time, life unfolds. The gift of the current struggle will be the lesson learned that will help awaken the essence of who you really are. Have faith in your higher purpose… and take your next steps with intention and with open eyes, bringing your heart to life!

Please support Warriors Live On here.



Leading with Heart

Recently, someone asked me about my leadership principles. Words like vision, integrity, responsibility, and discipline rolled off my lips. Showing up with authenticity and presence, with a strong sense of inner knowing and mutual respect. Acting in a right manner, consistent in thoughts, words, and behaviors.

Of course, the archetype of leadership is the warrior. And last week, I spent 4 days hiking in the White Mountains along the 20-mile Presidential Traverse with 3 other warriors. (We started with 4 other warriors, but one was brave enough to say that the trip wasn’t for him. He became our base support.) Including our base support warrior, three were combat veterans; one was an amputee (and Paralympic alpine skier). I was the organizer and perceived leader.

Only one hiker other than me had mountain hiking experience. One was from the US Virgin Islands; not accustomed to sub-70 weather… They all knew me; only a couple knew each other before this week.

On our second day, after an initial first-day 4-mile steep climb towards the ridge line, four of us set out into the rain and clouds, temperatures around 50 degrees-F, and sustained winds of over 30 mph. Soon, at the ridge, we endured gusts over 55 mph. The way was rocky and wet. 7 miles.


It soon became very apparent that we were all leaders. We took turns in front. We took turns caring for each other. We easily became a close-knit group. There were no issues with where we were going. There were no issues as we adapted to options we faced. The tenants of leadership organically materialized, strengthened, and flowed naturally from us, individually and as a unit.

We’d later roll into the AMC Lake-of-the-Clouds Hut and people asked us who we were. We seemed so comfortable with one another, like brothers. People noticed; they felt our presence.

Upon reflection, we knew that we were not just warriors, enduring the hardships of our experience with determination and fortitude; we were also healers – we were relating to each other from our hearts, indeed as brothers. We discussed the relationship – the balancing act – between our warrior and healer instincts. We discussed the special relationship we shared with each other and with our natural surroundings. We became immersed in the bond of friendship and our connection with the natural world around us. It seemed like the power of our group was well beyond the power of four individuals.


In yoga, we become aware that, as individuals,we are on a self-realization journey discovering our own true nature. We utilize teachings from the Patanjali-Sutra that help guide us in our interactions: learning to live lives of non-violence (ahimsa), making ourselves more sensitive to the ways we often do subtle violence with our minds and our bodies to ourselves and to others; and learning to be authentic and truthful (satya), ennobling our own true nature through right action, allowing those around us to not feel deceived. We learn to be compassionate, with an open heart and an open mind. We feel safe being our authentic selves. We exude trust and faith in each other.

On our hike, these practices became our way of being. It was so nice to be in a place of sharing, of mutual support, of safety – even while immersed in a world of adventure and challenge.

Through heartfelt leadership, all of us as warriors and healers, balanced and flowing, we became one powerful unit, feeling successes well beyond the sum of each of our individual contributions.

In yoga, we look towards the ideal of pure awareness (isvara), surrendering to the unknown, letting go of perceived boundaries and past conditioning, having faith, and embracing the wisdom of uncertainty… together as one.

On this trip, I believe we scratched the surface of these feelings, towards this ideal, leading ourselves forward like we were one common soul – with heart. And in peace.


On these rocks, we became Brothers.

Of course, our next challenge will be bringing these teachings into our daily lives and to the world around us. Maybe as brothers, we can.



A Vision Statement Written in 2012

Last week, after visiting with my friend Eva in San Diego, I was reminded of a vision statement that I had written in 2012 to help us begin a new non-profit organization, Warriors Live On. Eva has steadfastly worked on developing this organization since that time and growing it with new partners and participants. I returned to Vermont after that time focused on finding new work, hoping that one day we’d work together again. After meeting with her last week, I was overwhelmed with pride and respect for her and her work.

I also dug out the following vision statement that I wrote at that time. It is interesting to note that I wrote this before my wife and I started work at Stratton, before we opened up a yoga studio in Manchester, Vermont, and before I started a hiking club with my warrior-friend Jonah. It was before I met other friends living with PTSD or learned about Y12SR or read about current neurological research in mindfulness or knew about HeartMath or Brene Brown or Candace Pert. It was based on personal experiences and insights. It makes me wonder if this vision statement will be in my future intentions again…



Provide educational and life-changing experiences for people, especially combat veterans, battling through the symptoms of PTSD who are motivated to learn and live in a supportive and healing environment that includes: (1) therapeutic adventure activities that build trusting community and individual understanding of new self; (2) whole body-mind-spirit healing and therapies that teach new healthy daily practices to heal effects of trauma; and (3) educational experiences in an interactive, interdependent and sustainable working community that build new life skills for a fulfilling and enriching life.  

(1) Therapeutic adventure activities that build trusting community and individual understanding of new self:

  • Programs and activities that use experiential education models in an adventure setting to provide therapeutic and behavioral-changing outcomes. Through intentional and directed group activities and processing that includes interaction, teamwork, and trust-building, participants build sense of safety and have enriching “ah-hah” moments that build community, self-efficacy, and understanding of personal strengths and behavior.
  • Participants build relationships with other participants, interns, and staff through activities in an outdoor natural environment.
  • Teaching is conducted in a strengths-based, non-judgmental manner, building trust, mutual respect, feelings of safety and support.

(2) Whole body-mind-spirit healing and therapy that teach new healthy daily practices to heal effects of trauma:

  • Programs will be holistic in nature, addressing whole body health, and teaching daily practices that can heal the effects of trauma. Traditional therapies for PTSD deal primarily with the mind; cutting-edge holistic therapies take advantage of the interconnectedness of mind, body and spirit.
  • Participants will have the following therapies and healing services available to them on a daily basis (in addition to the recreational and adventure therapies): yoga and meditation; one-on-one and group therapy; creative art and music activities; animal therapies.

(3) Educational experiences in an interactive, interdependent and sustainable working community that build new life skills for a fulfilling civilian life:

  • Retreat setting will be a working homestead with organic gardening; food shopping and meal preparation education for healthy nutrition; animal care; synergistic relationship-building with local farmers, restaurants, and merchants; sustainable practices using renewable energy and recycled water technologies; artisan skill-building such as timber framing and/or other homestead crafts; and landscaping work. Participants will learn these practices through hands-on experience.
  • Through participation and group reflection, life-skills are learned, relationships are built, group behavior is valued, and personal “can-do” attitudes are developed.


On-site workshops, group sessions, skill-building, healing and therapeutic services.

Off-site adventure workshops and activities, therapeutic recreation and experiential learning.

On-line outreach, community-building, and educational services to the broader community of veterans with PTSD and people battling through trauma. Educational articles, blogging, expert advice, on-line mentoring and support services.

Writing: books, articles in professional journals, on-line media.

Trainings, consultation and mentoring for interested groups and organizations.

Participation in research and cutting-edge studies.


Veterans of OIF and OEF who are either diagnosed with PTSD or who are battling through similar symptoms of combat stress, such as depression, anxiety, panic, and inability to function, and who are generally having trouble functioning and living in their civilian lives. These veterans will most likely be those who have already been treated in a clinical setting and are adjusting to home life unsuccessfully, or those who have never been diagnosed or treated and are having difficulty with the symptoms years after their active duty. The veterans will be screened, interviewed and required to complete an intake process to determine motivation, need, and behavioral issues. This will not be a program for veterans that are suicidal. It will be a program for veterans who are aware that they have a problem adjusting to civilian life and that they are motivated to learn how to get better.

There will be a code of conduct that will include: norms of behavior (mutual respect, no alcohol or casual drugs or other self-medications not prescribed, safety, etc), activity guidelines, responsibilities for group living, and future mentoring and promotions (recruiting future participants).

Ideally, each session would have 10-12 participating veterans attending on scholarship for the session, 4-6 long-term seasonal interns (alumni, veterans who can stay for longer terms, interested civilians with PTSD experience) who would provide primary facility services and support on a work-for-free participation basis; and 4-6 fee-paying civilians who would volunteer to be involved in group skill-building and recreational activities.

Eventually, will conduct programs and retreats for caregivers and families of veterans addressing the veteran’s “dynamics” at home.

Location and Housing:

The retreat is intended to be sustainable and organic in nature. Permanent housing will be provided for 2-4 facility owners (and their families or partners). Temporary housing will be provided for participants, interns and fee-paying guests (18-24 total).

Housing will be low-impact, low-energy, green and sustainable in nature. Common and public services will be shared. Private spaces and facilities will be provided.

Permanent housing will small or tiny houses. Temporary housing could be a series of small modular-types cottages, tents or yurts.

There will be a common building with a commercial kitchen, laundry room, public baths and showers, yoga and meditation room, meeting room, treatment room, offices, and fitness room. Common building could be renovated existing farmhouse. There will also be a barn for outdoor workshops, animals, equipment storage, and facility support.

Entire facility would be planned in a manner that retreat could be subdivided and sold as private or public housing.

Retreat has become a sustainable geographic location with the following physical attributes (no order of priority):

  • Acreage (approximately 25 – 50 acres).
  • Proximity to thriving community with local farms and artisans and support services.
  • Proximity to preserved nature land, preferably forested and mountainous, open spaces, great views.
  • Proximity to sustainable water supply, for drinking and recreation. Consider climate in 10-20 years.
  • Temperate local environment with high norms for days with sunshine (for solar facilities: no extreme heating- or cooling- days; for outdoor recreation; for growing food; for health).
  • Progressive community economics and social services; proximity to wealth for local financial support; like-minded businesses for partnerships and synergistic, socially-responsible relationships.
  • Proximity to major airport & transportation hub (plane, train, bus, vehicle travel) for easy access for travelers.
  • Proximity to adaptive sports facility and volunteer base for outdoor activities.
  • Proximity to outdoor education and therapeutic recreation choices: (1) Hiking and backcountry travel, (2) Flat water kayaking, (3) Biking, (4) Whitewater rafting, (5) Skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing (Backcountry, downhill, cross-country), (6) Rock climbing, (7) Surfing.
  • Veteran-friendly community, perhaps with local VA facilities for referrals.
  • On-site running water (stream) for tranquility and meditation.
  • Proximity to university with research interests in our work.

Organizational Philosophy:

Participant involvement will be experiential, hands-on, interactive, and relationship-building. It will be conducted in a manner that teaches life skills that can be applied daily in civilian life. As such, participants will be responsible for many of the daily activities required to run the retreat.

For continued growth, learning, and involvement in cutting edge work, the schedule and culture of this organization will promote learning and off-site travel. The leaders of this organization will be able to bring new life to this organization each session, promote work and personal growth in between, and continue on-line support as necessary at the same time.

To keep the organization a grassroots and socially-responsible business, we will seek supporters at a grassroots and local level. It will be desirable to have many small and invested supporters rather than just a few remote supporters. We’d like this organization to be as sustainable as possible. It may require individual fees or contributions from participants. We’d like to partner with local farmers and healthy food providers to assist with food services and joint marketing. We’d like to partner with local adaptive organizations for mutual support and longevity. We’d like to partner with larger organizations to provide services that are more intimate and holistic than they can provide. We’d like to provide with various holistic health organizations for services, such as local practitioners, local artisans, and local transportation service providers.

Other Relevant Ideas Related to Healing and Culture:  

Process begins when person becomes aware of a personal issue and becomes motivated to change. For someone to decide to then spend time with us, they’d have to first develop a feeling that coming to our program would be safe and beneficial. So, they’d have to first have some level of trust, faith, and hope that coming to our program will help. This is where on-line community with story-telling may be beneficial.

Story-telling might provide sense of validation, validation that their personal experience is a result of normal reactions to abnormal circumstances. Thus, on-line community might also provide educational stories, providing feeling that one is not alone and that others have same or similar symptoms.

Education might help participants realize that: the mind and body have changed; there are practices to help you change again; the physical imprints of trauma are stored in one’s body; emotional pathways are wide-open- all emotions- positive and negative, and logical and memory pathways are reduced; pathways to healing involves mindfulness, body work, and re-programming of thought processes to affect emotional response.

Developing mindfulness skills through meditation and therapies, and discovering the mind-body-spirit connections through yoga and outdoor activity in beautiful (and safe) settings will be the foundation of a beneficial community environment. We’d also teach: relaxation techniques to help get rest, recover and help body re-program nervous system; healthy eating and lifestyle skills that help body rebuild healthy cells, pathways, and bodily systems.

Vulnerability- Being vulnerable is uncomfortable for everyone, especially for those trained to be stoic and trained to control the situations one is faced with. However, through experiencing vulnerability in a safe and supportive environment, we learn about ourselves, our true and authentic nature, and we learn to appreciate the positive emotions that we are now experiencing.

Through learning about our own personal vulnerabilities, our true selves and authentic nature, and our inherent strengths and positive attributes, we develop self-efficacy. Through self-efficacy and feelings of self-worth in our “constantly-growing” bodies, with a new outlook that lets go of control and embraces living in the moment mindfully, we further develop positive emotions and we start to open up the neurological pathways to parts of our brain and body that have been shut down, allowing ourselves to heal previous physical imprints and re-program ourselves to a new healthy being.

Through this process, we discover a new sense of worthiness, that inside we feel like we are safe, worthy, and deserve goodness. We start to have faith in the future again, faith in ourselves, faith in others. Fear starts to become manageable and it eventually subsides. With faith comes hope; hope is a fundamental feeling that continues to allow all other positive emotions to develop.

Being in a beautiful outdoor setting not only helps participants feel safe, it helps them see beauty again in the world, helping them tune into the big picture, the miracles of life, and further develop positive emotions and spiritual presence. Being in a supportive environment where people appreciate the positive aspects of each other (strengths-based), participants start to let go of self-judgment and see the possibilities of positive, interdependent personal relationships with others, and will be motivated to find supportive communities at home.

Other skills-based and teams-based learning activities (food planning and preparation, arts and crafts, fitness and sports, sustainable home-living skills, animal care) further develop the sense of interdependence, worthiness, self-efficacy, and the feelings that we can thrive in our new bodies in our new civilian lives, and feel safe. Other creative activities like music, drumming, story-telling, and dance also help develop the idea of being vulnerable, non-judgmental, and free to share positive emotions.

Experiential education (EE) and therapeautic adventure (TA) models in a strengths-based learning environment, in a setting that is beautiful and safe, are the basis for developing this healing or living-well process. In an intentional manner, participants will be faced with sequenced situations that develop teamwork, trust, communication, and being vulnerable with others. If this vulnerability takes place in a safe and supportive sequence that builds trusting relationships, personal skills and interpersonal trust, participants go through a self-realization process that allows them to continue to succeed, one step at a time, building self-efficacy and self-worthiness. Other complimentary therapies would be utilized to support this process along the way, helping participants cope, helping participants become more aware, helping participants learn to be compassionate towards themselves, helping participants find physical health and spiritual health in their current mental being, and helping participants develop positive emotions and feelings of faith and hope. The EE and TA processes are the basis of what helps us all to quickly develop the sense of brotherhood or (sisterhood), trust, and which allows us to begin the process of being vulnerable and open to learning, changing, and living happy and well.

A Message to: Warriors Live On

A few years ago, I was fortunate to be in a place and time where I was a part of the birth of Warriors Live On. Filled with hope, we envisioned creating transformative experiences that would integrate various healing practices to help combat veterans transition from combat to community. Based on our own successes with various healing modalities- mindfulness-based therapeutic practices, heartfelt and supportive human interaction, mentorship and community-building, outdoor education and connection with nature, and other healthy living practices- we saw the experience of a long trek as being a metaphor for living. Many steps. Ups and downs. Each step an opportunity to let go and move forward. Each step an opportunity to Live On.

I’d like to send my best wishes to those who have made the first Warriors Live On trek a reality- participants, sponsors, volunteers, other supporters. I send my heartfelt respect and congratulations to Eva Belanger for your dedicated and determined work to turn dreams into reality. I am not there in person, but I am there in spirit! I hope to be with you along the next journey. I love you all.

I encourage anyone reading this post to support this effort. You can so here.

I offer this humble personal note to trek participants, just as a way, perhaps, to plant more seeds:

It seems that life is often about finding balance between the opposing forces that pull us in one direction and then another. Each step you take on this trek is like a balancing act. Moving forward is a balancing act between holding on to what serves you well and letting go of what doesn’t support you well. Being yourself is a balancing act between accepting the fabric of who you already are and striving towards the life you’d like to lead. Let this trek help you move forward in a new balanced way. Let the experience of being with others in nature, trekking, sharing, supporting, and learning give rise to new perspectives in your life.

Learning from nature can teach us how to find better ways to live. Living in flow with nature can help us heal and move forward in a balanced way:

Winter is the season of the Warrior: it’s about standing with integrity; it’s about being present like the air we breathe and being strong yet flexible like a tree in the changing Northerly winds. Take moment to stand with your trekking mates, as a group of brothers and sisters, as you know how, respecting and honoring one another.

Spring, the present season, is the season of the Healer: it’s about being whole-hearted; it’s about being supportive, like the earth we stand on, and learning to trust the interdependence of all living things as we spring to new life. Take a moment to lay down in the loving arms of Mother Earth and feel its infinite support for you; look South, feel the warmth that’s always there.

Summer, the season you are approaching, is the season of the Visionary: it’s about seeing and telling the truth without blame or judgment; it’s about walking forward with authenticity towards your life’s purpose, being your true shining self, like the summer sun. Take a moment to be mindful of your true self, without judgment, as you walk forward, look East with the clarity of a new day, and live on.

Autumn is the season of the Teacher: it’s about reflecting upon and accepting things without attachment to the outcome; it’s about trusting and letting go, like leaves falling from autumn trees or water flowing down meandering streams; it’s about finding the wisdom in all things and being your own teacher. Autumn is about transformation, like water, as we constantly seek our source. Just as the sun sets in the Western California sky, let go of today and have faith in the new day ahead. Tomorrow, you will be a mentor for another warrior….

Balancing our Warrior and Healer instincts, our Visionary and Teacher attributes, we too flow towards our source, I believe, the center of our being, the ocean of inner peace and love that connects us all. For me at least, when I am in this place where I feel this balance and deep sense of connectedness, using nature as my model, I feel at home. (For me, this usually occurs in the mountains… where my spirit soars!)

To each combat veteran trekking with Warriors Live On this month, I wish you the best. I send you my best wishes, my support, my love, and my unconditional respect. I hope that the experience in nature with a team of supportive brothers and sisters helps you find balance, see new perspectives, and feel the connectness that we all share. Trek On! One step at a time. As Warriors, Healers, Visionaries and Teachers…

In all four directions, in all four seasons- and like the air, earth, sun, and water- may you find balance, inner peace and inner power, and Live On!

And please know that you can travel in all directions and still find your way to Vermont! I’d love to meet each of you one day.


Bob Speck and Eva Belanger. The day we met.

AbilityPLUS at Mount Snow

It’s official. I’ll be returning to Mount Snow! I’ll be doing some coaching, training, and special program coordination work with AbilityPLUS, a couple days per week, starting now. Anyone want to be a volunteer adaptive ski or snowboard instructor at Mount Snow?


West Dover, VT– Bob Speck, an accomplished adaptive sports coach and educator with more than 40 years experience in snow sports, adaptive sports, and outdoor education, has joined AbilityPLUS as Special Programs & Training Coordinator. Bob will be based at the adaptive sports organization’s Mount Snow location, where he will work with Program Director Linda Walsh to coordinate volunteer recruitment and training, facilitate PSIA/AASI events, assist in the development of special programs, and act as head coach of the AbilityPLUS Alpine Race team for Special Olympics and Paralympics events eligible athletes.

“AbilityPLUS at Mount Snow, our volunteers, and the individuals and families we serve are extremely fortunate to have Bob Speck join us as Special Programs & Training Coordinator. Bob is a remarkably insightful, mindful and compassionate person, with a wealth of experience in the adaptive sports world and beyond,” said Walsh. “This season, we are poised to exponentially strengthen our programs serving the Mount Snow family, and Bob is the perfect addition as AbilityPLUS continues to grow and move forward!”

Bob is a PSIA/AASI certified ski and snowboard instructor, a former member of the PSIA-E educational staff, a registered yoga teacher, NOLS outdoor educator, and certified personal trainer. He teaches yoga at Heart of the Village Yoga Studio in Manchester ( and is involved with non-profit organizations dedicated to working with combat veterans with disabilities, including and Wounded Warrior Project. No stranger to Mount Snow, Bob was formerly a Mount Snow ski school instructor, staff trainer, program manager, and mountain bike guide more than a dozen years ago.

“The thing about Bob is he knows no limitations – as a coach, mentor or leader – and he instills that attitude naturally in the individuals and families with whom he interacts,” noted Walsh. “We’re truly blessed to have someone of his ability and dedication accept our invitation to devote his skills to the AbilityPLUS family.”

In addition to his work with people with disabilities, Bob is a registered professional engineer in the State of Vermont and currently performs consulting work with Stevens & Associates in Brattleboro. He maintains a part-time practice designing timber-framed structures and helping develop design concepts for homes and barns that integrate efficient structure, design aesthetics and sustainability. Bob bases his work on the concept that everything is connected – personal wellness, healthy homes and community, and the natural environment. Bob, his wife Jo, and their dog Emma, live in Manchester, Vermont.

AbilityPLUS is a not-for-profit charitable organization that offers life changing athletic and recreational opportunities for individuals with disabilities, to create freedom, promote independence, support inclusion and help those individuals and their families discover their full social, emotional and athletic potential. AbilityPLUS serves people with any physical or intellectual disability, from injured service men and women to people with autism across the spectrum. AbilityPLUS is a chapter of Disabled Sports USA, and is a Paralympic Sport Club. For more information about AbilityPLUS programs, volunteering and financial needs visit

Sight on the Light: Teaching, Training, Coaching and Mentoring

It’s wonderful how things unfold.

As I’ve written, I recently returned home from a 100-hour Yoga Teacher Training Immersion with Eoin Finn and Blissology Yoga with the intention of doing more teaching, training, coaching and mentoring.

Well, I’ll be finalizing plans this week to work part-time with Abilities Plus at Mount Snow to coordinate staff training and special programs (Special Olympics, Paralympic Sports, Wounded Warriors). Abilities Plus is an adaptive sports program affiliated with Disabled Sports USA, and specializes at Mount Snow in life-enriching programs for people with visible and invisible disabilities. See More to come soon…

I’ve also committed to start to teaching yoga at Heart of the Village Yoga Studio. I’ll begin with two classes per week focused on yoga for athletes. See More to come soon…

I’ve also been approached about doing some mentoring work locally. More to come? We’ll see.

Also, an organization we help start a couple of years ago in San Diego, CA, called Warriors Live On, is planning their first mentoring programs for this fall. I hope to be involved helping to develop these important programs over the next few weeks. This work is very close to my heart. See

All part-time work to supplement my normal design and consulting work, but it’ll be nice to get some traction again doing things that will get me out-of-the-office again, with people, doing more teaching, training, coaching and mentoring… with a sense of excitement and wonder!


Twin Lights. Photo by Eric Berkander

Always more to come…When you keep your Sight on the Light!

Day 3: Evrie Littl Ting is Gunna Be Aw’rite!

I’m not a psychologist. In what I share in my public blog, I am purposely a little vague; the privacy and health of others is my ultimate concern. For us, remembering traumatic experiences is no longer really helpful; we try to focus on re-training our bodies through practice for a healthy and vibrant future. We try to adapt for on-going change through mindfulness-based yoga practice. But, perhaps some more insight on my last post will be insightful.

Tetons- Bob Meditating
The diagnosis of PTSD implies a diagnosable “disorder” (the D), one that doctors with post-doctoral training since 9/11 are better qualified to evaluate. The symptoms with which we are familiar are severe bouts of panic and prolonged anxiety, nightmares and lack of sleep, fear (feeling trapped), inability to function, loss of hope. The body is in a prolonged fight or flight (sympathetic nervous system) response. Human bodies are not adapted to this prolonged state of survival-required arousal; bodily functions start to shut down in order to protect vital survival functions. The PTSD diagnosis is usually caused by a particular event, or series of events, wherein your inner sense of safety and survival (or your basic core view of life) is severely disrupted… perhaps over a period of time. So much in this area of mental health has been learned since 9/11 and from the veterans of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where prolonged exposure to life-or-death stress (whether real or imagined) has caused consistent symptoms. In years past, these symptoms might have been diagnosed otherwise (mental breakdowns, hysteria, battle fatigue, psychotic behavior, manic depression, bipolar disorder, etc). It can become especially hard to heal from PTSD if it is held in the body for long periods of time (as was our personal experience); animals have an immediate “somatic experience” wherein the body shakes and lets go of the trauma. (See Peter Levine’s work with somatic experiencing, or his book “Waking the Tiger”).

In my case, it might have been the years of trying to save my wife’s life during the “breakdown” that changed my body’s nervous system. In my wife’s case, we’ll never be sure if it was the “events” in her previous life’s experiences that were triggered years later in our lives together (ie, loss of feelings of safety, feeling trapped), or our health system’s misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis (and the subsequent loss of hope), that led us to the brink of life and the severest PTSD symptoms. We just know that when we found specially-trained doctors (a miraculous story unto itself), and trigger sources were no longer present… and we “let go” of attachment of what we thought life “should be like”… things improved. For me, this “letting go” was a spiritual experience wherein I decided to “let go and put faith in the Universe”. I clearly remember that instant in time.

The overall experience put me in touch with what it feels like to lose hope… and how important it is to have hope. In my view, healing starts with a feeling of internal safety and personal worthiness… and a twinkle of hope that one feels, an internal feeling of faith that everything will be okay. It builds through acceptance and an understanding of the validity (normalcy) of what you’re experiencing and how your body is reacting (body and mind together as one). It takes time; it takes support from compassionate people; it takes building feelings of self-esteem through successful experiences; and it takes present-moment awareness to learn to build your life back up and live again, one step at a time. We found that reflective moments in nature helped us re-connect with the awesomeness of things outside of our heads, and to ultimately re-connect with our own natural feelings of positivity and wonder. Through time and practice, we build resilience, re-connect with ourselves and our natural authentic selves (the being we were each born as). This might be called learning to love ourselves again. Eventually, these feelings of love spread outwards and are more easily accepted inwards, and because of the new awareness of the value of life and feelings of true happiness, we might also have enhanced opportunities to feel more connected to all things. We might relate more intuitively to the plights of everyone and every being fighting their own battles in life.This building process, the re-programming of mind-body-spirit connections or neurological byways, are facilitated by the practice of yoga and mindfulness, in my view, perhaps also in conjunction with other energetic healing modalities.

Healing is a life-long journey of learning and adapting.

The healing takes steps backwards with judgment and negativity, and excessive stress.

So, to the point of my previous blog entry, the PTSD (or disorder) might just be the severe case (wherein one loses ability to function) at the end of the spectrum of PTS… (post-traumatic stress). PTS might be thought of as all mental health challenges we might face as we grow and try to survive through disruptive, de-stabilizing or “traumatic” events… like when we don’t feel validated, when we don’t feel worthy or good enough, when we are bullied, when we don’t feel safe or when we do not experience unconditional love, when we are otherwise emotionally, physically, or mentally abused. Or, when we live in a world of constant comparison, judgment, fear, winning and losing (and losing)… Ya know?

That’s why I think our practice of yoga is so valuable to so many! The mindfulness part is like modern-day cognitive behavioral therapy… being aware of unhealthy thoughts and judgment and observing our thoughts with more wisdom! And since trauma is held in the neurological systems of the body… body therapy is required. To me, practicing loving kindness just connects us in the present moment to feelings of peace in our bodies (our natural parasympathetic nervous system), and lets us know that everything is okay .

Okay. I’m babbling. I guess the purpose of mental health couseling and therapy is to uncover the layers of thought-processes that are not healthy so that one can succeed again. I suppose it’s our journey to learn how to peel away the layers of obstacles we’ve created for ourselves and to live our lives as our authentic selves again, whoever we are and whatever we’re “diagnosed” with. For us, our yoga practice and our therapeutic outdoor experiences have been our way of learning and healing.

I guess it all starts with feelings of acceptance and love, safety, and a ray of hope and faith… faith that we are all connected and everything will be okay and happen exactly as it should…

Some kids never have the chance to feel these basic feelings of safety and love…. Are they more susceptible to the challenges of life and to PTSD?

“Weaknesses” are only what we have put in or minds (or others have put in our minds)… all perceptions, yes? But feelings of love?

Feelings of love are real, the truth, our path to the Divine. At least in my view.

I’m not sure if this will help anyone or not… but I thought it might provide more insight beyond the previous posted article on what I’ve learned through my own personal experiences with PTSD.

All of the best to you! Keep walking forward on your individual and shared paths… one step at a time… one day at a time. Learning from living.

Evrie littl ting is gunna be aw’rite…

Skating at Warrior Weekend

Hold On to Happiness!

Day 2: PTSD and Me

I’m starting my second day back from Vancouver. I just finished a morning workout incorporating a bit of Blissology (see below).

As I’ve discussed before, my wife was previously diagnosed with PTSD as a result of things which happened in her life before I met her. The severe symptoms didn’t manifest themselves until years later in our marriage when events triggered behavior we couldn’t explain. Because we have endured much and survived, we walk together now in many ways as one spirit, though we try to walk paths respecting the dignity (see definition from August 8 post) of each of our unique spirits. Thus, one could say I have PTSD too.

You see, I live through the roller coaster ride of emotional response too. This morning, like many other mornings, we smile at each other, give each other a hug, but I know she is struggling, I know she had intense dreams. I also know that it will be through her walk with her dog and her teaching at her yoga studio, as well as my validating, dignified and non-judgmental response, that she will find her way back.

PTSD stifles the lives of many. Yes, post-traumatic stress affects the lives of almost all people, in my opinion; it is the “D” part with which we all struggle. We don’t want the past to get in the way of our ability to function in the future, so we avoid the “D” label; but, sometimes it does. We’ve recently left meaningful jobs because of the fear that the work environment would trigger negative responses; we did not want those reactions to burden others… and we know that in order to help others, we will need to work in supportive environments ourselves.

It is easy to blame others. Sometimes, it seems so natural and rational to blame our situation or circumstance elsewhere. But in the end, it is our responsibility to care for ourselves and move on. Moving on involves letting go of expectations for what we envisioned life “should” be, practicing mindfulness and not letting our thoughts become our identity, and connecting with other supportive people, nature, our bodies and our spirits. Yoga is a practice that has saved my wife and me… it helps us live through the “D.”

She came home from our workshop yesterday in an anxious place, perhaps triggered by feelings of being trapped in an unsafe environment, perhaps feeling detached from her home (yoga community and Emma), perhaps feeling overwhelmed by the emotions of others. With PTSD and with intuitive powers in hyper-drive, one becomes very susceptible to the emotions of others, in my view.

Last night, a student of hers texted while enduring a downward spiral. A friend of mine (combat veteran) texted me while struggling with current and past issues in her life. We want to help. It is our nature. It helps us. We just try to remember that through our practice… whether it be walks in the woods with Emma or together, engaging ourselves as best we can in our daily routines, or practicing (or teaching) yoga and expressing love, tuning in mindfully, we will ask the right questions and get truthful answers.

My workout “cave” above the garage has been my morning retreat. This morning, it went as follows (below)… with Emma at my side… and my wife teaching at her studio. Life goes on. And it is a miraculous ride. We are thankful for all of our experiences, light and dark. There are lessons in all experiences. We are thankful for all of our friends, those who are struggling and those who are between their struggles. Just like all of you, we seek our light… by helping to illuminate others’ lights.

photo (4)

My Cave

My morning Blissology workout in my cave:

A Long, Loving Self-Hug

An Intention to be at Peace Today

A1: One-leg rear lunges with 2- 25 lb dumbells, 3 x 10 each leg, tree hugger engaged, with the breath, hips extended, integrated legs.

A2: Chin-Ups, 3 x 10, integrated arms and shoulders, focus on open chest, stable anterior serratus, isolated lats…. and core suspenders engaged.

B1: Squats, 3 x 10, 185 lbs, engaged sole arches extended hips and tree hugger core, spreading floor.

B2: Push-ups, 3 x 18, Chaturanga, open chest, DUO engaged, tree hugger core, slow.

C1: Inverted rows on gym rings, 3 x 12, integrated arms, tree hugger and back body engaged, open heart, serratus and low traps engaged.

C2: Planks, 3 x 45 sec, alternating one leg up at a time slowly, 5 sec count, tree hugger, integrated arms and shoulders, extending out through heels.

D1: Slightly bent lateral shoulder raises, 3 x 12, 20 lb dumbells, tree hugger, with the breath slowly focusing on eccentric movement, sole arches angaged.

D2: Shoulder presses, 3 x 18, 20 lbs, same as above.

Inverted head stand on shoulder stand, boat pose, and bridge.


Write this.

Feeling better now. I’ll do some flow yoga later at Heart of the Village, maybe transpose a vinyasa flow routine to start getting ready to teach myself this fall…

Jo came home… a big class… and many compliments on her softness.

Life is interesting, eh? A big miraculous puzzle…

Getting ready to go up to Stratton to help design a large summit deck for next year’s Wanderlust… and work this weekend on the design of buildings being restored in Wilmington, VT… a couple years after being vacated by the effects of Hurricane Irene…

An Experiential Learning Event with Wounded Warriors

I’ve used this forum to write and share my thoughts about living experiences. I’ve hoped that my thoughts might help someone who reads them. I’ve learned to conduct myself in life as a role model whenever I can, a mentor if you will, each day, each step along my personal journey. And, I’ve learned that through personal reflection I learn to take my next steps from a place of mindful intention.

It is from this perspective that I feel so fortunate to have shared a few days last week with the wounded veterans who participated in Wild Mountain U’s first program at Stratton Mountain. Organized and supported by the Wounded Warrior Project, the event was intended to provide a short health and wellness retreat for wounded warriors who live in the Northeast. Similar to other events we have conducted for other organizations, the program was unique, special, and life-changing. Thank you to Stratton Mountain. Thank you to Bill Hannigan of WWP.

Here are some of my reflections…

We continue to see through our real-life experience that the practice of yoga and mindful-learning can be life-changing for people battling through the symptoms of trauma and PTSD. The practice of developing awareness of thoughts through focused attention on the body and breath helps re-establish healthy internal byways that might previously have been stuck or frozen as a result of the trauma. The mind-body-spirit connections are powerful, and yoga can be a powerful healing tool. We were fortunate to spend time morning and afternoon as a group in Stratton’s new Living Room yoga studio practicing yoga, breathing, and meditation.

The opportunity to be a part of a supportive community where each individual can feel safe and at ease is the basis for any successful program. This happens through intentional design and process; it also depends on positive attitudes of mutual acceptance and dignity. Each individual is important. Each individual affects what happens. The opportunity for warriors to meet with other warriors of similar experience is so vital… and part of a successful program is facilitating this process than letting positive things happen. We spent casual group time at the resort, in the Inn at Stratton Mountain, at Bentley’s, at the Living Room and Sports Center, and in Hearthstone condos. It was an honor to meet and get to know each warrior.

Being outside in a natural setting doing physical activity supports natural healthy, relaxed, and authentic behavior. We were fortunate to spend time walking from location to location on dirt roads and pathways, and to spend time at the top of the mountain walking around and playing in the snow.

Being aware of healthy options and practices provides alternatives for comprehensive paths of healing. We spent time learning about fitness, nutrition, food shopping and preparation, and even spent some time making our own juice! Stratton is fortunate to have a fitness center with a gym and indoor swimming pool. Our hope is that these wellness tools will inspire further inquiry and a sense of empowerment. After all, our minds and bodies are a product of what we digest, how we exercise, how we rest, etc… things we can control.

As much as I like to think of myself as a mentor, in reality each person who attended this event was my mentor. Learning to live through the challenges in life these warriors are faced with gives them perspectives in life that are unique, insightful, and inspiring to others, including me. Sometimes, it seems that we have a hard time letting go of the way we think things or people should be like, and just accepting (and being grateful for) the way things are. It is especially hard when your body and mind are stuck in the past as a result of the trauma and you are struggling against comparisons and judgment about the future and just trying to survive in your present daily existence. When we let ourselves be as we are, and focus on small positive steps, sometimes things fall into place better. It was nice to be around a supportive group of warriors, a group of warriors whose nature is based on dedicated work, honor, service, integrity, and mutual support, in an environment where we could just be ourselves and learn together. I give thanks to each of the warriors for being exactly who they are, and for bringing themselves to Stratton and Wild Mountain U… and being a part of my life.

For me, this event indeed inspired me to keep walking the walk I’m walking, with clear and mindful intention that this is my way.

Reflections on My Miraculous Life

About 18 years ago I took a sabbatical from my position as a partner in a leading Upstate New York consulting engineering firm. I went on a NOLS trip. I decided to spend more time in Vermont where I taught skiing and guided mountain biking on weekends. I was always inspired in the mountains. I went there. I stayed there. Since that time, my world has continually been an exciting exploration of life, one discovery after another.

I met Jo and her two kids, Alex (8) and Natalie (4). Jo and I talked about living sustainably, about simplifying our lives, about living and sharing in a healthy manner. We traveled. We explored. We got married. We raised two wonderful kids. We took care of our homestead. I got involved in the ski business and was a resort leader in a new strengths-based teaching program. I got involved in adventure-based programming and team-building activities. I learned about timber framing and sustainable home design. I even taught math and health courses at a private middle-high school one year where both kids were students. I became more and more accustomed to change as the priorities of our kids became our priorities, and as I lived the Vermont can-do independent and interdependent lifestyle.

When the kids were in high school, we endured some very dark years. The effects of tragedy that had occurred in my wife’s previous life, before I met her, began to show their ugliness. For me, day-to-day life was more about survival and working hard to get through each day, focusing on my survival and the survival of my wife and my step-kids. I learned about post-traumatic stress through direct experience, both as a caregiver and also as an indirect sufferer of its ugly symptoms. Our years of learning, practicing, and teaching yoga became instrumental in our day-to-day practice of coping and just existing.

I became more and more spiritual as I grasped for meaning. I was alone from a human perspective, but as we reached out for spiritual support, I felt more and more connected. Things started to turn around. From this suffering came learning. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was being prepared for my life’s work.

When the economy was hurting and my timber-frame design work was slow, I received a call to help facilitate a new program in New York for veterans with post-traumatic stress (PTSD). The person calling me had no idea of our past experiences other than that I could do team-building activities well. One program (and one person named Joel) led to 3 years of work with veterans with PTSD and other disabilities, and work with amazing civilians, some with disabilities and some without. I met some inspiring veterans. Joel. Mike. Michael. Michael. Ed. Peter. Jeanette. Joan. Will. Brian. Linda. Matt. Jonah. Bill. Leslie. The list goes on. I have met some inspiring disabled athletes and volunteer coaches. John. TC.  Andrew. Ty. Andrew. Carson. Robin. Betsy. Paul. Hannah. We have become friends. We have dreamed about life, connecting with others, being in nature, learning to accept ourselves and practice living on a day-by-day basis. No judging. No attaching ourselves to outcomes. Just being compassionate and well-intended human beings.

Winter 2012

Skiing and Riding with Friends.

One of the veterans Jo and I shared much time with was Eva, who came to some of our events as both a therapist and as a participant. We had some amazing experiences in New York, at our home in Vermont, and then travelling abroad. We talked about our sufferings. We talked about our paths of healing. We shared heart-felt experiences of spiritual connection and miracles and healing. We shared our lives and practiced healthy daily living…local organic food, meditation, yoga, exercise, discussion…

Since the time of our experiences with Eva one year ago, more and more magical experiences have unfolded… and at what seems to be an accelerating pace! We have learned to trust our intuitions. The heartfelt, spiritual, and healing experiences we shared together have become the guiding lights in each of our lives.

The three of us have struggled with the thought of building something together in one location. Eva’s home is on the West Coast. Our home is in the East. We learned to let things unfold. We knew that simple daily practices of healthy living would be at the core of any comprehensive program we initiated to help others heal and live better.

And unfold they have! All in the last year! A new nonprofit organization has been birthed by Eva on the West Coast- Warriors Live On, Inc. A new nonprofit organization has been birthed by Jo and me on the East Coast- Wild Mountain U, Inc.  Eva continues to expand her work in the areas of mindfulness-based therapies in the San Diego area as she works to launch WLO programming. Jo and I have had door after door open for us at Stratton Mountain, Vermont, through our work to provide mindfulness-based yoga programs, outdoor education experiences, and health and wellness education and leadership at Stratton and with WMU. Stratton and WMU will partner for veteran-supporting and other programs. We will enlist the support of our many friends, many of whom have been our guiding lights. WLO and WMU will do some joint programs together or in support of one another. I plan to be intimately involved in the WLO mentoring programming. Jo and I are excited in the meantime as new and exciting opportunities unfold at Stratton Mountain.

And yes, I am a ski school manager again… at Stratton… my 40th season as a ski instructor / clinician or ski school manager / director.

I have also recently started this blog. It has been a way for me to reflect. It has been a way for me to share. It has been a way for me to move on from an identity as an architectural engineer to a health and wellness mentor. It has been a vehicle for me to share what I learn as I experience new things each day in my life and as I look back at how my path has brought me to this place… with new understanding… and with new perspectives. It has helped me realize my role at my age as a mentor.

So, 2012, to me, has been a year of miracles.

Summer 2011

This path started when I met one special person.

In my last decade and a half in Vermont, I have learned much. I have learned to let go of things I can’t control and to accept responsibility for things I can impact. I have learned to keep my eyes open to new discoveries and miracles. I have learned to keep my heart open to all… and accept all people as they are with dignity. Or at least try. I have learned what it feels like to love deeply, to be spiritual, and to trust my intuition. I have learned that even in tragedy, there are opportunities to learn and to see light. I have learned that it is through experiences with others that new insights are possible. I have learned the challenges of parenthood; I have experienced the magic and beauty of parenthood. I have learned that my path in life is sharing what I have learned with others, and learning to live in a manner that is to the benefit of all others. I have learned that we will all thrive in our collective lives and in our individual lives when we support each other, learn from each other, and work from a place of common ground. For me, that place of common ground starts with feelings of love and compassion for all, and a deep sense of belonging and connection.

Rockport 2011

My Family. Where my feelings of love and support begin.