I'm writing this down. I have to remember this. I need to bring it to my troops. We're about to redeploy and we're all going to need this.
Active Duty Commanding Officer
I just want to thank you for the wonderful Mindfulness Training that you gave our staff today. I really found it useful to use in my own daily life, but also with clients to assist in reducing trauma symptoms and aid in the healing process.
I particularly want to thank you for the authentic compassion you showed towards me in regards to a recent traumatic event that I shared in the group training session.
The Mindful Warrior Project trainers made all of us trainees feel safe in the space you created. This made it possible for me to be vulnerable and open up about something that was still painfully raw. You not only trained us in mindfulness practices but also modeled mindful behavior. That was inspiring.
Mary Kay, MS, LCSW
I have to tell you guys - this is the first time in my life that I've ever had hope.
Veteran early into 10-session course
You're the one who finally made it possible for me to pay attention inside! I'd been trying, and trying, and trying for 2 years and just got frustrated. I couldn't do it. Then when you said to me in the class, "Why don't you try this?" - and I'm not going to tell what that was; people need to come to your class and learn for themselves - it was so easy. I've been doing it myself ever since.
I can choose to drink, or use, or to do my mindfulness. I can be present through my pain. I can do that now. And it works. You have made a very, very big difference in my life! Thank you so much.
Veteran towards end of 10-session course
I finally had a decent night's sleep after one of your classes. I hope it's ok to say this, but I fell asleep when you did that guided practice. Maybe it wasn't facing all the pain like you talk about it, but it sure was better than being kept awake and tortured by it. I can start with that, no problem.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for saving me from being the parent I swore I would never be. I promised myself I would NEVER treat my kids the way I was treated. And then it was like a nightmare watching myself take out all my rage and frustration on these poor little ones. You know the heartbreak of seeing fear for you in your own babies' eyes? And then of hating yourself for what you do? That's all over now. Thanks to MWP I have plenty of tools to use to make sure that ugly family tradition is dead and gone.
Veteran completing ongoing series
MWP's mindfulness training has helped, in many ways, to bring me back from the brink of insanity. It has facilitated me in focusing on the details of my present life rather than the future or the past. I often had doubts as to whether I had imagined I did something or actually did something. I felt like I was living in a dream world. A fear of losing my mind was always at the back of my mind. Thankfully now I have tools to escape this fog and I am grateful to the Mindful Warrior Project for aiding me in my recovery from the murky, doubtful world of "maybe."
Joseph Cooper - U.S. Army Veteran
I didn't think it was possible to feel so unstressed and not keyed up after what I been through. I feel my healing beginning already and we just started.
Veteran in early part of program
If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't be here - not here in this housing facility, here on this earth. That's no exaggeration. I mean it. I had been so far down so many times and was giving myself one last chance. And you did it. You showed me my warrior's journey back home. Now my roommate says he doesn't even know who I am, says I'm not the same guy he used to share the room with. He keeps asking me what I'm using or what I'm doing because he wants it, too.
Veteran in ongoing classes
Thank you so very very much for your participation and presentation at our Women Veteran Center. The exercise you presented was excellent and it practically put me to sleep! I was able to do it on my own before I went to bed and actually had a great night's rest! I look forward to having you back for more upcoming sessions for our beloved veterans.
Director of Women Veterans' Center
I was chemically changed by my pain. I self-medicated and isolated. I had no chance and could have taken myself out easily. You can't change that on your own, without help; you need support. With your help, I've found lessons and blessings in the pain and darkness. There's freedom in that. I have promise in my future.
I want you to know that all the mindfulness training has inspired me to begin walking every day before work which I now do religiously. It is a quick power walk, but I also use mindfulness when I am walking - now more than a mile. It has been inspirational for me to do this for myself for both body and soul, and I owe you a big thank you.
Veteran service provider
I was so ****ing resistant to this when I started and kept telling you it was pure B.S. Whatever kept me showing up... that was... so I have to apologize. Every time I went to this place for services, I felt like killing people there. I could barely hold myself back and stormed out most of the times without what I came for. This time I made it all the way through, got what I needed; I didn't kill or even shout at anybody. I can come back to this class instead of you visiting me in jail. That's proof that this isn't B.S.
Recently separated Navy Veteran
I leave these meetings a new person. Every time. I can dig myself into some pretty deep, dark holes and start thinking about some pretty nasty things to ease the pain. But you guys never judge me for that. You somehow see the "good" me and I get turned around and see that me, too. I always leave knowing I can make it and have a brotherhood - sorry... and sisterhood - who's got my back.
Veteran in monthly classes
I like what we did in your mindfulness class. It was fun to go through my body and notice all the things you told us to notice. I could hear my tummy gurgling and my breath going in and out. After being quiet it was fun to make lots of noise in the drum circle. Oh, and I really like your voice.
Military Child at special kids' event
I can't thank you enough for what you're doing. I keep saying, "Thank you," again and again but I mean it every time. I was so resistant but you were so kind and patient. It wasn't condescending or know-it-all-ness and you never said, "I told you mindfulness works." You were just steady in what you taught and I finally started getting it and feeling it. These days I have light bulbs going off in every class. I see how important this is. It goes really deep. Thank you. (See. I did it again!)
No one is doing what you're doing. I've been to must be all of the veteran service places and nobody's talked to me the way you do and NOBODY'S listened to me even half the way you do. And this isn't even in an office or a class. You out here in this booth in the heat of the day, giving me more respect than I've got in a long time. I feel like I got a chance with your program. Why haven't I heard of you before? Can I come to your office on Monday? How about your next mindful class?
Veteran's first encounter with MWP at Resource Fair
You turn me around every time. I come in here and "check in" as something like depressed and sad or exhausted and given-up and always "check out" as calm and peaceful or energized and hopeful. This isn't a pep talk; it's a real turn around of what I'm feeling. Each time it sticks more and I can do it more on my own between your classes. Thanks for not being discouraged by me. I'm a slow learner but you're awesome teachers.
Veteran in ongoing classes
I think you people get through to me because you're living what you're talking about. You're not preaching down some theory or book learning. I see when you say, "Been there; done that; made it here," it's for real and you know. You have real care and patience. You don't throw meds at me to make things convenient. You sit with me - with all of us - and are ok with like what's-his-name called it "our inconvenient truths."
Veteran at 3rd MWP event
I didn't have no clue about what I was walking into when I came in this room. I never tried anything like this before. And I NEVER felt anything like this before. Man, I can't ever remember being this peaceful in my whole life. You told my story when you was talking about what it can be like growing up with a veteran dad and then joining the military yourself. That was freaky. You nailed my stuff and then showed me a way out of it. I don't have to be trapped no more. Was all this really only one hour?
Veteran who "accidentally" attended an MWP class
Bless you for what you're doing. The veteran I connected you with was a different person after you spoke with them. They were pretty out of control and desperate and that made it really hard to provide the services even that I could. After just that phone conversation with you - not a bunch of classes or anything - they were calmed down and we could deal with their situation. Thank you for helping other VSOs help our veterans. I hope this person follows up with you.
Veteran Service Organization staff member
This is like reading a whole big fat old book with like an encyclopedia's worth of information in it, condensed like Reader's Digest into something I can digest in an hour and a half. I think I'm pretty hard-headed and slow but I get this. You're the best teachers I've ever met.
Vietnam Veteran after 1st class
I wish my limited vocabulary could encompass the enormity of the gift bestowed upon me from the selfless and dedicated woman who one day said she could and would make a difference. With the tireless determination to touch lives, she went to the task at hand, and following no lead, created a healing environment within the location of my circumstance - the Skid Row of downtown L. A. California - having just spent 3 years on the streets.
As a requirement of my commitment here I am required to participate in several meetings a week, and the first one I remember attending was the one that would change my life forever.
I didn't know then that the lady who was the head of the Mindful Warrior Project would speak words that would touch my spirit and lead me to a place safe and comfortable inside my twisted self. Gail and Charlie taught me how to be mindful and gave me un-judgmental care and respect that is a cold drink to a man parched from the desert sun. And after what seemed a lifetime of waiting, they came back again and again, and we went through the mindful practices that are a part of my daily life.
That is the magical part. I have my life back. Thank you so much.
Marine Veteran in ongoing series
I didn't know it was mindfulness, but this is what saved me when I got back from war. Someone taught it to me and just said "Do it" so I did. It helped me sleep and not jump off a bridge or drink myself to death. You explained it so well - what's going on and how it works - and now I get why it saved me. I agree; if I can watch 2 hours of garbage on TV every night, I can find time to do mindfulness for 10 minutes, or more, every day. Thanks for making sense of this and encouraging me to invest in myself.
Combat Veteran in 1st MWP class
My situation is pretty bad right now. I don't think I've ever been so depressed for so long. So you guys came along at just the right time. Every time I feel so bad that all I want to do is go back out onto the streets and let whatever happens to me happen, I do my mindfulness and all that despair and giving up goes away. It would be good to have you here every week.
Veteran in ongoing series
You know what my biggest take-away from my time in transitional housing is going to be? What the Mindful Warrior Project has given me. I was in bad shape when I got here and a lot has happened, but you are the biggest one.
Veteran transitioning back into the community
Do you see how I'm sitting? Do you see the difference? No, it's not my posture or anything like that. I'm sitting with my back to the door. You know how I could never do that! I always had to face the door and be hyperalert for danger and, honestly, living in fear. Since I've been taking these classes and practicing mindfulness on my own, I can do this now. My off-the-charts anxiety is gone. I pay attention ~ I'm no fool ~ but I pay attention in a healthy way. And I'm not exhausted from that kind of attention. This is such good stuff!
Veteran attending monthly workshops
Greetings fellow sisters and brothers in arms. It was not all that long ago that I thought peace in the moment - when it is needed most instead of allowing fear and anger to control me - would forever elude me. I have been enslaved by my feelings for most of my life and had to numb myself from too much inner and outer chaos.
The Mindful Warrior Project has changed my life. They gave me more than hope. They gave me tools, simple techniques to bring some manageability to my life.
If you are out there wishing you could get out of the rut of a reactionary existence, you owe it to yourself to give it a try, attend the groups, and practice the simple methods. I am deeply grateful for these people and sincerely believe that what they offer will also serve you well. Semper Fi!
S.K. Thomas - Veteran
No one ever told me I wasn't broken. I never heard that before you said that to me. You let me know it was ok to feel what I felt and accept me as me.
Veteran part-way through 10-session course
Because of you I'm not in jail. All those anger management classes they made me take wasn't doing nothing for me. I got angry and I exploded and I got locked up. This time, a guy got me plenty angry and I had my fist balled up and ready, but I paused. It was just for long enough to think about what we been working on in our classes. The look I gave that dude could have decked him. But I put my fist down, turned around, and I walked and I breathed, and I walked and I breathed, and I walked and I breathed. And I'm not in jail this time. That's new.
Veteran in ongoing classes
You guys are awesome! You are one of the main reasons why I took action. I heard you talk about the Mindful Warrior Project on the CalVet statewide phone conference a few months ago. I was super inspired by your story and how you help our veterans and their families. This fueled my passion for helping my fellow veterans. Thank you for what you do and for being great role models for others.
Jorge Betito - U.S. Air Force Veteran - Founder & Executive Director IHO (In Helping Others)
What's happening here is crazy! Here we are in the middle of Skid Row and when you're here doing this with us there's peace on earth, right here. Right in the middle of all this.
Veteran in Skid Row program
What a blessing you were to the launch event of our program! I witnessed what took place for 2 of the veterans specifically. That was enough to make all our planning work worthwhile. Your calling is a gift to all of us.
Director of Veterans Program
You make this so easy that even a child can do it. Literally. After my daughter was in one of your workshops this is what happened: I got triggered and started spinning out of control. I started yelling at my little girl and losing it. She calmly walked right up to me, put her hand on my arm, looked me in the eyes, and said, "Mom. Just breathe." I immediately settled down and we both felt better. She gets it. It works. Wow. Thank you. Veteran & single mom
I want to thank you for last night's event and also for directing the organization. You are truly an amazing person and hold a high place in my heart. I share this with as many veteran friends as I can. What I've found is truly rare. I cannot measure the gains of being that I experienced last night. You've done some amazing work. I too am engaged in a similar quest as the one you've already accomplished. I want so much in this life and getting it has finally become a true possibility.
I don't think you know what a giant thing you did for me. People have all kinds of fancy titles and important job descriptions but, me, I'm just a wife and mother. Of course I take care of my family. You made me understand how I need to give myself credit for being a caregiver to a disabled veteran. I see how you honor and support me in that very important job. And you showed me other resources that do that, too. You do so much more than people think!
Family caregiver to Disabled Veteran
My child has never been able to identify her emotions before. She'd end up freaked out about being freaked out and then get freaked out about that. Hearing her tell you the name of a feeling and where she felt it in her body and how it changed while she paid attention to it was unreal!
Do you know how important this is, what you're doing? This is the first time I've felt welcomed home. And I got back from Nam in 1969!
Vietnam Veteran at his first MWP Event
There is a huge explosive ripple effect to this work. Just the people I don't hurt - all their families, and children, and children's children... I can't change my past - all the betrayal and pain and rage. But I'm breaking the cycle.
Veteran in ongoing classes
Thank you for the love and support you share with all of us Vets! You are awesome and your program is the best!!! We need you in our life and for that I am forever grateful!!
They should make your program mandatory here. Too many of the guys just shuffle off to their rooms and isolate and numb out after dinner. Your classes are awesome and everyone should be taking them. They just don't know until they try it. Can't they make them mandatory? This is the best thing happening here. It's the only thing that isn't nonsense. We need you here more than once a month, too.
Air Force Veteran in monthly classes
Can I share that I'm learning not to react to things on the outside but still feel my feelings? I don't need to beat up someone who wronged me and I also don't need to beat myself up as if I'm a jerk who deserves bad treatment. I can feel my own hurt without needing to hurt the guy that hurt me. He's probably in enough pain anyway. It's not being a wuss - just having some of the dignity you've been talking about. I'm learning that.
Veteran in monthly classes
Thank you with all my heart for what you have taught me. It has been super important as I finally deal with my TBI. It hasn't been easy. I see how mindfulness enhances my thinking process and helps me work through some very heavy stuff.
Veteran attending various ongoing classes
It pains me to know how much this is needed. I can't help nobody else when I'm running on empty. If I'm stressed out, I'm not going to be able to serve my veterans. I'll probably get testy with them and then neither of us are going to get anywhere. Your Mindful Warrior program makes complete sense to me and you are very tuned in to how military folks are. No one's getting anything past you. When can you come up to our agency?
Veteran & veteran service provider after introductory session
My brother has never gotten the help he needs. He tried but was so poorly treated that he gave up. It was bad enough to be spit on when he came home, at the airport and another time. But then to be given the runaround and humiliated at the place he was told to go for services... He's suffering but he's too proud to go back and get more abuse. I'm sorry for crying. Bless your hearts for doing this. Maybe he'd trust you. I do.
Sister of Vietnam Era Veteran
I get why you get us all to agree that "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" and I know that you keep your word about confidentiality. There's safety and trust in this room like almost nowhere else. It's made things come out of me that I wouldn't trust saying otherwise. And no one judged me, just like you said. So I want to break my confidentiality and let you tell people what's happened to me here so they can benefit from it too. You are honorable people and your program works.
I want to say that I'm leaving here a changed person. Because of you. I was always really anxious about when I'd have to leave this program. I didn't trust that I wouldn't fall back into my old patterns. You gave me something I could take out there with me to use instead of the other things I've used in the past. These tools are legal and won't get me in trouble. I'm tired of ending up a mess. I think I don't have to any more because of my mindfulness and your support.
Female Veteran leaving program hosting MWP classes
Even after all those Anger Management classes they made me take, I was never any good at managing my anger. It managed me. This class makes me feel like maybe I don't have to be out of control and, like you said, a victim of my emotions so much. I hate the shame I feel when I go off like that and see what damage I've done. I see a light at the end of what's been a long, dark tunnel. Thank you.
Veteran in ongoing series
I want to do this more than only when I wake up and before I go to sleep - ha ha - I mean try to fall asleep. I want to do this as many times as I can remember in my day. This can save me from doing more stupid **** than you can imagine someone could get into. I want to tell everyone about it. It's so easy; I can even teach them what to do - and I just learned it.
Veteran after 1st class
Whoa! What a release of energy! Without trying to get all this angry, negative crap out of me - just paying attention like you guided us to do through our bodies - I felt it all rushing out my arms and hands. That was like a purification, like a strong shower. Boy, do I ever feel ready to go and able to handle whatever comes at me.
Active duty servicemember at MWP Resiliency Training
I thought you had to sit cross-legged on a mat on the floor to do mindfulness. And to close your eyes and listen to a gong. This isn't weird like that. This is cool. And you know what? It doesn't make me feel embarrassed. I feel powerful!
Military child after 1st MWP class
~ Does it help when we send an email or two with articles and reminders between the class sessions?
~ Every day.
~ You mean you'd like us to send an email every day?
~ No. I mean I want you to hold this class every day. It's the best thing ever! It's the highlight of my whole week!
Veteran attending weekly classes in 10-session training
It was such a blessing to be able to participate and gain the true wealth of mindfulness.
Veteran Service Provider at completion of course
I feel proud of myself for doing this mindfulness training and proud of myself in general. You respected me as a veteran even though I don't really think of myself that way. Yeah, I served, but I thought I put that all behind me and that it didn't have such a big effect on me that I needed to see it as a big part of my identity. You honored all of me and I'm not sure what that's done, but it feels significant.
Female Veteran at end of training
I can't remember the last time I slept a full 8 hours. I tried that practice you taught us and the next thing I knew, I woke up in almost exactly the same spot and position I was in when I lay down 8 hours earlier. I was kind of open to this but had no idea... Getting away from my racing thoughts and physical pain and be out cold for 8 hours - without a hangover or fog when I wake up - that gives me a mega jump on dealing with all kinds of stuff.
Veteran after 1st MWP training
You guys should be really big - bigger than the VA - because all veterans need to have your kind of understanding and services. Nothing has helped me even half as much as the mindfulness you taught me. And you're really there for us veterans. I mean REALLY there. You make me feel like crying from your sincerity.
Veteran in ongoing series
Your understanding of mindfulness is awesome - it's deep and profound. Other people teach it - or think they teach it - but it's such a lame version. I even thought I was a hot shot and knew how to practice mindfulness. I didn't have a clue. I use what you teach every day in so many situations it's crazy. It saves my *** again and again. If people only knew!
Veteran in ongoing workshops
I love you. My momma says she likes me much better after I come be with you. She tells me I don't act so wild and stupid and I'm a calm little human being. I like it, too. I don't mean to be crazy and now I know how to stop myself when I start going there.
Youngster participating in special military child events
This is the best thing that's ever happened to me. I'm dead serious.
Veteran after 1st special event with MWP
I'm so happy I get to be a Mindful Warrior, too! My Dad stopped yelling at us and being angry all the time when he became a Mindful Warrior. It's cool you do this for us kids. And I didn't have to be in the Army first. Did my Dad do arts & crafts like us?
Veteran child in special Mindful Arts & Crafts workshop