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Veteran’s PATH: Peace, Acceptance, Transformation, Honor
Veteran’s PATH is an organization that I co-founded in 2008, to support returning veterans in their transition home. With so many things I could not impact, I wanted to do what I was capable of doing. The deepest contribution I had to offer was the practice of Sensory Awareness. Veteran’s PATH assists veterans in making a positive transition from military to civilian life. It is eligible to veterans who have served since 1990, with priority going to OIF, OEF and OND veterans when spaces are limited. There is no fee and all events are non-denominational.
We received our official status from the IRS as an independent non-profit 501c3 organization in July 2016. We are very grateful to the San Francisco Zen Center for being our fiscal sponsor from 2008 to 2016. On September 1, 2016 we hired James Pond as the new Executive Director of Veteran’s PATH. He is a U.S. Marine veteran and a profoundly inspirational leader. We are thrilled to have him take the helm at Veteran’s PATH as we engage in the pivotal work of these next few years. We are formalizing the programs we have developed intuitively over the last 8 years, and creating models and training programs to replicate nationwide, and reach so many more veterans.
Learn more below and at VeteransPATH.org.
Veteran Leadership Program
In the Winter of 2014, Veteran’s PATH initiated its first 2-year Veteran Leadership program. Ten veterans, 5 men and 5 women were mentored to deepen their own practice and to facilitate Veteran’s PATH events. Veteran Leaders are instrumental in inspiring and supporting fellow veterans. The program has continued in 2016 and 2017 and will be expanding in 2018.
We offer 6 – 8 one-day events each year, combining rock climbing, hiking, boating with Sensory Awareness, mindfulness and meditation practices.
To register or for more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Four Month Anchor Programs
The Anchor Programs are gender specific, with separate men’s and women’s programs. The Anchor Programs include a 5-day retreat, two weekend retreats, weekly practices, video conferencing, peer support and individual coaching sessions. They support veterans to integrate meditation and mindfulness practice into their daily lives.
This annual adventure creates healing and connection in the midst of beautiful wilderness and wild, adrenaline-producing rivers. Veterans meet themselves and each other in vital, renewing ways.
More About These Programs
Veteran’s PATH creates an opportunity for veterans to come together and connect with each other. It creates a community of refuge where veterans can deeply witness each other and find safety to face some of the challenging and soul-wrenching situations they have experienced.
These two quotations by Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron hold the intention and promise of what Veteran’s PATH has to offer:
Thich Nhat Hanh: “Veterans are the light at the tip of the candle, illuminating the way for the whole nation. If veterans can achieve awareness, transformation, understanding and peace, they can share with the rest of society the realities of war. And they can teach us how to make peace with ourselves and each other, so we never have to use violence to resolve conflicts again.”
Pema Chodron: “We have to take responsibility when our own hearts and minds harden and close. We have to be brave enough to soften what is rigid, to find the soft spot and stay with it. We have to have that kind of courage and take that kind of responsibility. That’s true spiritual warriorship.”
During events that include rock climbing, hiking, gardening, writing, white water river rafting and camping, we provide research-based mindfulness tools that are both practical and accessible. Sensory Awareness is the deepest gift I have to offer. It helps to develop:
- the ability to meet whatever arises from a clear, responsive state
This process helps veterans honor their own strength and build a bridge for the journey home.
The project began in the Spring of 2008, when my colleague Chris Fortin and I began to explore what we could do to support veterans in their transition home. When the Vietnam War took place, I was the age of many of the current returning veterans, the age of my own son and daughter. I want to contribute what I can to create a more welcoming and healing transition home for this new generation. The weight of what happens in war needs to be carried by all of us.
Chris and I met over 30 years ago, when we were both Zen students at Green Gulch Farm. It is an honor to collaborate with her in developing this project. Chris is a dharma transmitted Buddhist priest, teacher, psychotherapist and spiritual counselor. To learn more about Chris, visit her website, dharmaheartzen.com. Chris says:
“My father served in World War II in forward advanced reconnaissance behind enemy lines, spent one hundred and twenty-eight days in active combat, was in three major battles, and earned the bronze star. He never talked about this, but these events permeated his life. The vets that I have met through the Warriors’ Project, who are the same age of my grown son, have helped me to connect with this history and allow me to bring my skills and training as a long time meditator, zen priest and psychotherapist to be of services to those who have served. I believe this work helps us all remember and honor our direct and immediate interconnection and that it also extends across time.”
Veterans are helping to shape and guide this project as it develops. Chris and I continue to learn from, and with, them. What we have to offer are the tools that sustain and guide us in our own lives: Sensory Awareness, mindfulness and meditation practice.
In 2008, we began talking to various veterans’ organizations such as Swords to Plowshares, Vet Centers, Campus Vet clubs and the VA to see if there was any interest in what we could offer. There has been. Since our first event in 2008 when only one U.S. Marine veteran particpated, we have had over 900 participants consisting of 450 unique veterans who have returned for multiple events.
We have also been offering trainings to VA and community therapists to support them in practicing mindfulness for themselves and to share with the veterans they are serving.
Here is what some Veterans and colleagues are saying about their experiences:
“As a therapist who is well acquainted with the challenges facing our veterans, I have been very impressed by the work of “Honoring the Path of the Warrior.” I have seen first hand the positive results of their week-end retreats. The veterans I have referred have given enthusiastic reports and expressed appreciation for these opportunities to experience learning, healing, and personal growth in the company of other veterans.”
-Leo Joslin, Clinical Director, Swords to Plowshares
“I came to these workshops isolated, dealing with addiction, and spiritually empty. Through participating in these retreats I rediscovered my integrity, recognized a growing awareness, guided compassion and a sense of place, and found serenity by utilizing the tools cultivated through participation in these retreats.
– Jeremy Lopez, United States marine Corps
“Being a combat soldier, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, I found myself experiencing a plethora of negative emotions and energies post-deployment. Like some combat soldiers, i was afraid to be perceived as a weakling if I were to seek help. We are trained to be warriors. When I heard about the mindfulness/meditation event, I was enthusiastic about getting together with other veterans who experienced similar hardships as I had. I was initially nervous and apprehensive about being in a group, but I felt instantly at home. The physical event before the meditation brings us closer together as a team. The experience of the mindfulness/meditation events afterward have inspired me to practice taking a small respite every day. I encourage any veteran to participate in these events that give a battered mind a place to heal.”
-Mike Smith, US Army, OIF Vet
“[At Veteran’s PATH] you learn Sensory Awareness and how to be still and how to respect yourself. You learn to love yourself again and that’s huge with Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which is what I have…
What I learned is whenever I feel myself getting stressed out, or antsy, even if I’m at school or at work, I can literally take one minute and I go to a quiet area – whether it’s the walk-in refrigerator, or the bathroom at school or the hallway – I just put one hand on my chest and take deep breaths in, slowly breathing and I feel my heart beat and it re-grounds me. It’s huge for me to be able to do that everyday, and to know what it means.”
– Megan Pinasco, Marine Veteran and former Security Guard in the Presidential Helicopter Squadron
Please contact email@example.com for more information about these retreats or to offer your support.