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.

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