Sunday 10 June 2018

2018 The practice of Meditation among War Veterans

The practice of Meditation among War Veterans
                                                         Eduardo C. Gerding

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. Thích Nht Hnh-Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist-Nobel lauréate Martin Luther King Jr. Nominated Thich Nht Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. (True Love: A practice for awakening the heart)

The term meditation refers to the action and effect of meditating, or attentively focusing thought to the consideration of something. The concept is associated with concentration and deep reflection.
We understand now much better the mechanisms that cause diseases through psychological distress. (Cohen 2007, Rosengren 2004). A study carried out in London in 10,000 public employees over 14 years revealed that 5-10% of cardiovascular diseases were linked to work-related stress (Chandola 2008).
There is a widespread dissemination worldwide of the so-called Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) for military personnel.10
They have come to posit multiple benefits of meditation .13
There are several books dedicated to this topic. 1, 34,42,47,58

Types of meditation 34, 57

The Mayo Clinic (Rochester, USA) book describes the following types of meditation:
1. Guided or visualization meditation
2. Meditation with mantra (a word is repeated)
3. Mindfulness (Vipassana)
4. Qigong: Traditional part of Chinese medicine that combines meditation, relaxation, physical movements and breathing exercises.45
5. Tai chi: A form of Chinese martial arts.
6. Transcendental Meditation® 40,43
7. Kundalini Yoga 53
8. Zen meditation
9. Progressive Relaxation (Body scan)
10.Meditation Mettā (of love and kindness)


Vipassana meditation means seeing things as they are. It is one of the oldest meditation techniques taught in India for more tan 2500 years;a universal cure for universal problems: The Art of Living.
The qigong or chi kung refers to a variety of techniques usually related to traditional Chinese medicine, which include mind, breathing and physical exercise.
Tai chi is an internal martial art for hand-to-hand fighting, wether armed or disarmed. In more recent times it is increasingly considered as a physical-spiritual practice to improve the quality of life both physically and mentally. On one hand it is very benefitial for health, while on the other constitutes a meditation technique (Meditation in movement).
Trascendental Meditation (MT)is a meditation technique base don the repetition of mantras. Both the technique of  meditation and movement were created in India in the mid-fifties by Majarishi Majesh Yogi(1917-2008)and reached worldwide extensión in the sixties.
Kundalini yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual discipline on various yogic paths such as ray yoga, shakti yoga, kriva yoga and nada yoga that are base don the pillars of the Sanskrit text Yoga Sutra (Patanyali, 3rd century BC) with aggregates of bhakti (devotion to God)and tantra.
Yoga Nidra (yoga of sleep in Sanskrit)is a powerful technique of the Yoga Tantra tradition.
Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism.
Mettā or maitrī (Sanskrit)meditation has been translated as kindness with affection, sympathy, benevolence, friendship, good will, love or active interest in others.

Components of meditation 34

1. Focused attention on an object, mantra image or on breathing. Even prayer.49
2. Relaxed breathing.
3. Serene atmosphere : No distractions.
4. Comfortable body position .: Standing, walking, lying down.
5. Open attitude: thoughts are allowed to flow without judging.

Benefits of meditation 46
·         Increases immunity. Relaxation exercises boost natural killer cells in the elderly, giving them a greater resistance to tumours and to viruses 37,60
·         Reduces physical and emotional pain. Mindfulness meditation activates brain regions (orbitofrontal and anterior cingulate cortex) associated with the self-control of pain. Another brain region, the thalamus, was deactivated during mindfulness meditation.2
·         Increases fertility. Stress reduces sperm count and motility, suggesting relaxation may also boost male fertility.19
·         Relieves Irritable Bowel Syndrome.31
·         Eases symtoms of arthritis 35,44
·         Increases the rate of resolution of psoriatic lesions 
(Psychosom Med. 1998 Sep-Oct;60(5):625-32.)
·         Provides a better control of allergic asthma 3
·         Lowers blood pressure 22
·         Reduces alcohol Consumption in at-Risk Drinkers 25
·         Reduces anxiety and stress and relieves depression 6,46,52
·         Promotes a state of well-being 21,39
·         Increases resilience and emotional intelligence 1,23
·         Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) provide cost-effective treatment for chronic low-back pain.

( National Center for  Complementary and Integrative Health)

·         Helps people with chronic insomnia ( Sleep. 2014;37(9):1553–1563 )
·         Helps diabetes self-management education. (

Meditation and brain 29

The neurobiological effects of meditation and mindfulness are translated as functional and structural alterations of the gray and white matter that are found in fMRI or EEG. This is seen especially in the areas related to attention, memory interoception and sensory processing.
In the EEG, the presence of Delta waves between 0.5 and 4 Hz is observed. At this level the meditators enter what is called unified consciousness. (See also: Fenwick, PB, Donaldson, S., Gillis, L., Bushman, J., Fenton, GW, Perry, I., et al. (1977) Metabolic and EEG changes during transcendental meditation: An explanation. Biological Psychology, 5, 101-118.)
At the molecular level, an increase in dopamine and melatonin, a modulation of serotonin and a reduction in cortisol and norepinephrine are observed.15
In meditation and prayer, the prefrontal cortex is activated as the activity of the parietal lobes becomes quiet.12,29

Meditation, aging and Telomeres 33

The telomeres are the ends of the arms of a chromosome that prevents it from attaching to other chromosomes. They protect the ends of our chromosomes each time the cells divide and the DNA is copied but with each cell division they shorten and lose some DNA. Telomerase is an enzyme that helps protect and rebuild telomeres.
 When telomeres shorten too much, the cell loses its ability to divide and then we age. This discovery earned Elizabeth Blackburn the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology.
Subsequent studies found that shortened telomeres presented to women under stress, staff caring for Alzheimer's patients, victims of family violence, patients with post-traumatic stress, diabetics, obese patients with osteoarthritis, heart disease or who had suffered a stroke.
The cortisol present in the stress tables reduced the action of telomerase and eroded the telomeres.


(Science Photo Library)

Later it was found that patients who practiced meditation had 30% higher levels of telomerase.  Therefore, it was suggested that meditation in a certain way could prevent aging.

Meditation and yoga in prisons

A study carried out by the Crisis agency that runs day care centers in central London revealed that 41% of veterans had been in prison. 55. That is why it is so important to know that in the inmates a sense of well-being and improvement of behavior is achieved through meditation and yoga.4

Mindfulness (MfM)

The Mindfulness technique has been defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center (USA), as "To intentionally attend to the present moment.  Without judgment. In meditation, a person learns to focus his attention and suspend the torrent of thoughts that normally occupy his mind. 38. In 2014, 700 scientific papers on Mindfulness 56 were published; a technique whose costs are minimal.7
Mindfulness is a 2500 year old Buddhist practice. According to Buddhists, people tend to ruminate about their past or go towards the unattainable future that never materializes. This distorts the perception of reality and reduces the ability to participate consciously in the present moment (Dalai Lama 2001).
Those who do not practice mindfulness are like dead people walking, they go through life on automatic pilot, never stop to consciously breathe or be fully present in themselves.50
The so-called Cognitive Therapy based on Mindfulness (MBI) is endorsed by the National Institute for Health and Excellence in Care (NICE) and by the American Psychiatric Association for the treatment of recurrent depressive disorders in adults. Its efficacy has also been proven in anxiety, addiction, eating disorders, behavioral disorders (addiction to gambling or work, schizophrenia, sexual dysfunction, diabetes, coronary heart disease, HIV, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, brain injuries and cancer. (Arias et al., 2006; Baer, ​​2003; Chiesa & Serretti, 2011; Shonin et al., 2013c) 50

There is also a meditation practice known as Stress Reduction based on Mindfulness (Grossman 2004) 11
Mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques (MBSR) would reduce anxiety levels by 58% and stress by 40%. 27
There are individual variations in responses to mindfulness 18. Kreplin et al have noted possible but limited influences of meditation on prosocial behaviors (empathy, compassion, aggression, etc.).
The benefits of meditation and mindfulness have been observed in students with learning difficulties, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and conditions within the spectrum of autism.32,41

Meditation and American Veterans of War

Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) cases among US veterans increased from 0.2% in 2001 to 21.8% in 2009. A study carried out with more than 100,000 veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIF) revealed that a third part of them received assistance for at least one mental illness and 13% presented PTSD.8
The techniques most commonly used by the US Department of War Veterans are meditation, imagery, acupuncture and yoga.14. The techniques called Mind-Body  have been effective for depression, anxiety and quality of sleep.8

Meditation and British War Veterans 28

On May 14, 2013 the British Ministry of Defense published the official figures of the casualties during the 1982 conflict. The study was carried out by the Defense and Advisory Analysts (DASA) 16
• 25,948 members of the Armed Forces. British participated in Malvinas.
• 237 soldiers died in that campaign.
• Since 1982, 1335 war veterans have died.
• 95 of these deaths (veterans and active personnel) were attributed to suicide and awaiting a verdict.
The British Ministry of Defense says that the suicide rate of veterans is equal to the rest of the population. 17. However, the British war veteran Tony McNally (56) who participated in the 1982 conflict (joining the Army at age 16 and sent to Malvinas at 19.), resident of Ulverston, did not hesitate to say: 255 British died in Malvinas but since then more than 300 have committed suicide. So there are more who died for this cause than for the conflict and we are talking about tough guys like the SAS and the paratroopers. 5
According to SAMA, there are 329 confirmed suicides. (South Atlantic Medals Association (Sunday 13 January 2002) Falklands Veterans claim suicide toll BBC Online See bbc.co.uk
Michael GL and colleagues in their article on referrals for the British Military Mental Health Team of the Falklands couldn´t reach any conclusion due to the lack of information regarding the total population sent to Malvinas (Michael, GL, Fear NT, Hacker Hughes J.- Mental health referrals to the Falkland Islands British Military Mental Health Team, 1986-96.- JR Med Med Serv. 2007; 93 (1): 12-6.)

According to a report, the British Ministry of Defense and the National Health System (NHS) current mental assistance of war veterans would not be fully effective. 55
In Great Britain there is the Combat Stress center .This last  is an entity dedicated to the mental health of war veterans and that has a telephone line open 24 hours a day (0800 138 1619). Malvinas war veteran Brian Jones said about his treatment at this center: I was able to talk about the guilt, the shame and the anger I suffered from having survived and being able to return home.59
In Argentina, there is the of the Armed Forces´ Health Center Malvinas War Veterans (Av Cabildo 381-CABA), where both former combatants and their families are served. It was founded in 2004 and is composed of psychologists and psychiatrists specialists in the PTSD. There is also a multidisciplinary team that conducts meditation and resilience workshops. 30,51,54
The Health Assistance Department of the Army Health Command has the telephone 0800-555-8642 to evacuate queries.

London Meditation Project

I had the opportunity to speak with Catherine Powell who has 15 years of experience in Buddhist meditation and is the Director and co-founder of the London Meditation Project 28 for war veterans and their families. This entity has residential centers for the retirement of war veterans (cost approximately 120 pounds per person). It has no religious connotation. No alcoholic beverages or drugs are allowed in the centers. Smoking is allowed outside the facilities.
The main instructor is John Wilson (Paramananda) who has taught meditation for 25 years and is director of the San Francisco Buddhist Center. The team is joined by former Royal Marine Rex Gower who suffered from PTSD, Mindfulness trainer Marianne Brady (Vimalachitta) who has taught meditation for 24 years, psychotherapist Tam Martin, Yoga teacher Nidra Dhiramati Miller ordained a Buddhist in 1992, Anna Finlayson a communicator for the Center for Nonviolent Communication and  counselor and social worker Jan Jenkins.
Max Curtis is a former Royal Marine of the 42nd Command Battalion who lost a foot stepping on an anti-personnel mine at Mount Harriet (June 11, 1982). In 1984 Curtis met the Argentine conscript Oscar Ismael Poltronieri in Paris and they became friends.20

Curtis took part in the London Meditation Project and said:
Meditation is helping me in profound ways to manage my combat related mental health problems. I would argue that working with buddhists has been far more effective treatment than any of the conventionally available treatments I have been offered in the past. More than that I am exploring a philosophy of life that helps me to think about life in new ways. The type of meditation I have been introduced to is called 'calm abiding'. This is a process of sitting where the focus is on the breath and relaxing the body. Allowing the mind to drift from time to time as it does but gently bringing the focus back to the breath. Teaching is always conducted with what the instructors call gentle kindness.
This type of meditation can be practiced by very disabled veterans like myself. I have a 100% disability assessment by the Veterans Agency. I meditate sitting in a chair with my hands resting on my knees. The process helps in the management of pain by what is called breathing through the pain. This helps to manage discomfort and pain without drugs, helping to reduce the use of painkillers. I have learned to use meditation to bring myself into a calmer state at least for a while. It requires some time, training, support and encouragement, commitment and hard work but it can be done.
It should be noted that buddhists have been developing meditation practices for almost 2500 years. They have developed a whole range of techniques to help develop inner peace, wisdom and awareness in practitioners. I find the conversations I have with buddhist meditation instructors helps me to reduce my anger and increase inner peace. They have given me what I describe as profound insights into my thinking. One example of this is the management of my anger. For many years I had asked myself and those around me how to deal with the anger of injustice from which I suffer. Many people told me they don't know, or use alcohol or stiff up a lip etc. However when I discussed the matter with a buddhist meditation instructor he told me I was lucky because the pain I carry can help me to understand other people's pain and help me to become a more compassionate and beautiful person. The burden of injustice is still there but the way I feel about that burden has changed in me. I now realise I have a way of tapping into compassion because of my burdens. This gives me hope of becoming a more beautiful and understanding person. These changes in perception help me to feel more positive about myself.
I would strongly encourage other traumatised and disabled veterans to explore the possibilities of buddhist meditation practices.20,28

Meditation Centers in UK 36

·         Amaravati Buddhist Monastery (Cheshire)
·         Be Mindful
·        Dhamma Dipa Vipassana Meditation Centre(Hereford)
·        Dhanakosa Centre(Scotland Highlands)
·        Gaia House(Newton Abbot,Devon)
·        Headspace
·        London Insight Meditation
·        London Meditation(Camden Town)
·        Maenllwyld Retreat Centre(rural area in Wales)
·        Meditation Foundation(Wales)
·        Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction(Convent   Garden,London)
·        Samye Ling(rural area Scotland)
·        Sharpham Trust(Devon)
·         Transcendental Meditation

Meditation Centers in Argentina

Centro de Meditación Kadampa Argentina

Serrano 1316-CABA
011 4778-1219
Brahma Kumaris Argentina
Echeverría 2972-CABA
011 4784-4082

Meditación Colegiales

1212 Zapiola-CABA
011 4554-0064

Asociación Argentina de Meditación Trascendental

Av. Corrientes 848-CABA
011 4393-1552
Instituto Ráshuah de Argentina

San Lorenzo 908, B1637BNJ Vicente López, Buenos Aires
011 6703-7492

El Arte de Vivir

Av. Maipú 881, B1638AAI Vicente López, Buenos Aires
011 5254-3543

Centro de Budismo Kadampa Bodhisatva

27 de Abril 929, 5000 Córdoba

0351 15-250-8888

Dojo Valle Escondido

Manzana 81 - Casa 4 - Los Arboles, Valle Escondido, 5000 Córdoba

0351 352-6315

Centro Sai Baba Alta Córdoba

José Baigorri 174, Alta Córdoba, X5001AJD Córdoba

0351 473-3490


Av. Rafael Núñez 4618, Córdoba

0351 221-2323
Mindfulness (Programm MBSR)-Adults and children
Lic.Cecilia Figueiras-San Isidro-Pcia BsAs



Meg Gers -Periodicals Department-Enoch Pratt Free Library –(Baltimore,MD)USA
Catherine Powel (London Meditation Project) UK.
Dr. Enrique Stein-Centro de Salud de las FF.AA. Islas Malvinas-Argentina.

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