In 2005, our office received an email from National Guardsman Sgt. Paul Kendel, stationed outside of Baghdad. He was searching for some way to deal with the intensity of his thoughts and emotions as he faced roadside bombs, ambush, and potential suicide bombers while patrolling the “Triangle of Death.” As his friends started dying and soldiers grew embittered toward the Iraqis, he struggled to maintain his humanity. Feelings of anger constantly threatened.
We corresponded with him, providing materials on the practice and teachings of meditation and mindfulness, which resonated strongly with him. Literally, he contemplated compassion while holding a machine gun in his hands, as he made his way through the blood-soaked, cratered landscape of a war zone. These teachings became a guide for him in split second decisions on when to pull the trigger. Sgt. Kendel took to visiting Iraqis at their homes, setting down his gun, taking off his bullet-proof vest, and asking for tea and bread, much to the initial chagrin of his fellow soldiers who were required to go with him. However, after visiting with the families and holding smiling children on their laps, they stated that they were no longer going to find it so easy to shoot at cars. The fact that these teachings could be applied even in a dangerous and hellish environment is true testament to their power. SSG Paul M. Kendel (ret.) published an award winning book about his experience, Walking the Tiger's Path, a Soldier's Spiritual Journey in Iraq. He is now an adjunct professor of history in Jacksonville, and visits incarcerated veterans in Florida.
Our experience with Sgt. Kendel was only one of the inspirations to our development of the Veterans Peace of Mind program.
Veterans Peace of Mind, a Project of Mindfulness Peace Project has several programs:
- Presenting mindfulness training to veterans suffering from trauma;
- Teaching mindfulness to incarcerated veterans, our most forgotten wounded warriors; www.VeteransPeaceofMind.org
- Combining mindfulness practice, with mindfulness-based equine therapy in collaboration with local non-profit, Medicine Horse Program, using rescued mustangs; www.FearlessVictory.org
Ratna Peace Initiative, providing meditation training and materials to prisoners, including prison visits and correspondence courses; www.RatnaPeaceInitiative.org
Solitary Confinement is a secular adaptation of our mindfulness work being developed at the request of the Colorado Department of Corrections to help inmates cope with the extreme challenges of being alone for long periods. www.MindfulnessPeaceProject.org
Thank You from a Retired Assassin: I doubt that I need to even tell you the change that has taken place inside of myself, …. I have gotten over so much of what I was holding inside of myself: rage, anger, hatred, all of what you would think about a prisoner. I really couldn’t even name these things as what they were because they didn’t manifest themselves in the traditional ways…they just sort of oozed out of me at all times… Until I started to meditate…