A Veteran’s Thought and Warriors Live On
A Veteran’s Day post by Eva Belanger, Executive Director and Founder of Warriors Live On. A nonprofit helping Combat Veterans with PTSD returning to a meaningful life, WLO is rooted in Organic Intelligence®, and engaged in research around the effectiveness of their approach.
Additional materials: download the Free Guide “How to Work With Vets.” And watch the recording of our 2016 Veteran’s Day Family Room with Eva Belanger, MA, MFT, and Andrew Barone.
It’s Sunday evening, and I am driving home from getting groceries at Trader Joes. Going East on Hwy 52 I looked up into the hills at all the houses sitting atop the canyon, families home, lights on in their backyards, televisions flickering through the windows with Sunday Football broadcasting, and the sun had just set on San Diego. It struck me how each house was its own separate entity, each family divided from the next, everyone having their own house, yard, TV, and car; one for each of them. I began to think about more distant and ancient times when humans did not know that level of individuality or separateness. Tribes of families, supporting each other and providing for the needs of the young and elderly was the norm. Each person had a job to support the betterment and lives of the whole community. We, all together, once knew what living in a community meant. Presently, it is rare if we know our neighbors at all.
Today, the divided nature of our tribe is evident, and at the end of the day, not sustainable, especially when the resources run dry. My awareness flashed in this moment that living the way we live now is not something we will be able to do forever. We need the power of the tribe to re-unite and to be able to support each other in ways that this society has not done in many years. There are strong overtones and connections to what it is like living in a tribe within the Veteran community. Military men and women are initially stripped of their personal individuality and made to be a team. Active duty military are taught that one is only as strong as the man or woman standing next to you. We are not strong as individuals, but together we can defeat teams of insurgents and people that would do us harm.
The tribe as a path towards health and well-being
This belief is strongly embedded in the spirit of the military person. The Veteran population is deeply rooted in the ideal that we are a tribe. PTSD and the symptoms that present cause a major disruption in the ability of the tribe to come together and tend to wounds, both physical and psychological. The isolation of someone suffering is one of our deepest rivals. Re-establishing a safe place within a tribe is a necessary element of treating Combat Veterans with PTSD. Warriors Live On aims to be that place.
Warriors Live On nonprofit is based off the deeply understood yet neglected fact that we need each other to gain health and well-being. We also know how difficult it is to actually pull traumatized individuals out of their homes to engage in community once again. WLO is acutely aware that healing will take family and community — but not just on a psychological level.
Organic Intelligence-based approach
WLO understands the biology and relevant science behind how human beings function and how we function best. The establishment of a new tribe is necessary to obtain long term health for Veterans transitioning back to civilian life. Warriors Live On depends on our human nature — with the help of Organic Intelligence — as the foundation of healing in that we can trust our bodies to help us recover. Sounds easy? Not if we can’t get the mind to take a back seat! Veterans have been taught to cut off body pain and suffering in order to carry out whatever mission came their way. Veterans have been taught to “suck up the pain,” and keep on moving regardless of bodily needs or desires. Ask any ex military and they are familiar with sayings like, “Pain is weakness leaving the body!” Too bad so many of us believed that and became addicted to the pain and suffering. Like so many, this in turn thwarted so many young men and women into deeper levels of numbness, disconnectedness and being cut off overall. Delving into the body is an adventure many cannot fathom. It’s too dark and unfamiliar.
Combat veterans finding happiness, peace and balance
Warriors Live On nonprofit was created to get Veterans back into their bodies in order to perceive the world through all the senses with which the body has gifted them. It was created to usher a new community of Vets healing together and for them to share their training and health with other Veterans that need it. WLO was created to prove that happiness, balance, peace and wholeness can be achieved, even by someone who has experienced the atrocity of War, no matter how despairing. We are not wounded forever, and there is healing available. Many have resigned themselves to a life of complete misery often times ending in taking their own life. But Warriors do live on, and they can live on well. Warriors Live On was created so that War fighters returning home could attain rest and find happiness, peace and balance once again.
So what does WLO do? We deliver holistic wellness through nature trips, regular yoga sessions, community acupuncture and Somatic health and healing called Organic Intelligence. Warriors Live On functions out of a Somatic Education and Wellness Institute called Eight Elements West.
Some highlights of WLO up to date are:
- Over six highly successful Backpacking trips on the Pacific Crest Trail. Veteran participants have come out and participated in hiking, yoga, mindfulness, meditation and Organic Intelligence sessions in the beauty of the wild and underneath the night sky. Nature is a true reflection of who we really are and helps us get back to our true nature. Providing access to the natural environment has been one of the most successful methods of treatment according to our Veterans. A connection occurs out there in the natural world that cannot be duplicated elsewhere. This has proven to be the most transforming experience. November 16-20th, 2016 we will be on a trip out to Joshua Tree. Financial support is needed to continue to fund these excursions.
- “Tribes” are created through the Nature excursions. Veterans participate in group activities that range from preparing meals on the trail, meditating together, stargazing, hiking, sitting together and being community incarnate. The tribe mentality does not end when the Trek ends. Each Veteran has the opportunity to mentor another Veteran and engage in other positive growth experiences for themselves and others. Additionally, it is our hope at WLO that more of our Veterans become trained in Organic Intelligence.
- Combat Veterans are participating in Organic Intelligence wellness sessions that WLO calls Korps Sessions. These opportunities to teach Organic Intelligence occur every 2nd and 4th Fridays. Vets are learning how to orient, sense into their bodies, sense into blue and/or positive sensation, and overall, are learning how to moderate high levels of personal stress response. Vets are learning about how enticing the “red addiction” can be and how to combat it, instead of combating their given experience. Most of all, they are gently approaching, albeit cautiously, what having compassion for themselves and their experience means.
- WLO has been ushering Combat Veterans into Eight Elements West in La Jolla conducting a full body, mind and heart centered myriad of care that includes community acupuncture, yoga, Organic Intelligence Korps sessions, hikes and eventually the nature excursions.
- WLO has engaged in a research project with Pacific Pearl in La Jolla, measuring how effective our holistic wellness program is through the use of Organic Intelligence (OI). Each of our Veterans have agreed to simply engage in our assessments that measure how well they are responding to WLO services and OI. Five assessments are recorded throughout the year of treatment which includes acupuncture, yoga, OI sessions and the nature excursions. Pacific Pearl in La Jolla was co-founded by Medical Director Mimi Guarneri, MD, FACC. Dr. Guarneri is President of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM), past President of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine (ABIHM) and serves as Senior Advisor to the Atlantic Health System for the Chambers Center for Well Being and Integrative Medicine. Dr. Guarneri currently serves on the Founding Board of the American Board Physician Specialties in Integrative Medicine, and is a Clinical Associate Professor at University of California, San Diego (UCSD). She founded the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine and served as Medical Director for 15 years.
Eva M. Belanger, MA, MFT, Executive Director and Founder of WLO, is a Combat Veteran and a Marriage & Family Therapist with a private practice in San Diego. Eva is a Decorated Captain of the U.S. Air Force, with over nine years of service and wartime deployment. She is in the second year of the OI HEARTraining, the leading edge professional training designed to enhance the skills of Mental Health Professionals in working with c-PTSD, trauma, stress, and syndromes, based on Organic Intelligence.