SYF2019 Healing Village

SYF2019 Healing Village

Unstoppable Healing proudly sponsors the Healing Village at SYF2019
by Les Finkel

The Gives Back Program extends into a whole new platform of hands-on healing and trauma relief for first responders, fire and police. Our Seva!

If you’ve been to Sedona Yoga Festival in previous years, you know Founder and co-creator Marc Titus. A former Wildland Firefighter and Aviation Manager on SW Area Type 1 Incident Management Team 2 who he-himself crashed hard after being among the first rescuers to witness the aftermath of possibly the worst non-military helicopter crash in U.S. history. A broken hero who’s world went dark. Pitch black, indeed. His soul found salvation on the yoga mat, fighting to survive, one sobbing breath at a time.

First responders live every day knowing that their day may end in their untimely death or horrific debilitation, paralysis or disfigurement. But being a first responder survivor is a life-long critical emotional sentence – if not you, then maybe your buddy who was watching your back.

First Responder Suicides Is A Fact

Firefighters

Sadly, for those in first responder roles, suicide is nothing new. In fact, the Journal of Emergency Medical Services reports in a 2015 survey of more than 4,000 first responders, that 37% had contemplated suicide and almost 7% had attempted it. That is more than 10 times the rate of the general population.

Nevertheless, the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance (FFBHA) says that despite that staggering number, they estimate only 40% of firefighter suicides are voluntarily reported. Another study concluded that at least 143 firefighters had taken their own lives in 2015, while far fewer had died in the line of duty. This same report also highlighted that firefighters commit suicide at a higher rate than even their police officer peers. And if the FFBHA is correct, that means more than twice the number died at their own hand than in the line of duty.At the time of publication, FFBHA had confirmed 43 firefighter suicides in 2018.1

Law Enforcement

The estimated number of law enforcement officers who died by suicide outnumbered those who died in the line of duty for the third straight year in 2018, a newly released study shows. According to the organization, at least 159 officers took their own lives in 2018 — the same number of suicide fatalities it tracked in 2017 and 19 more than in 2016.

Military Veterans

Today the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released findings from its most recent analysis of Veteran suicide data for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This report yields several important insights:

  • Suicide rates increased for both Veterans and non-Veterans, underscoring the fact that suicide is a national public health concern that affects people everywhere.
  • The average number of Veterans who died by suicide each day remained unchanged at 20.
  • The suicide rate increased faster among Veterans who had not recently used Veterans Health Administration health care than among those who had.

The report, known as “VA National Suicide Data Report 2005–2015,” is available at https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/Suicide-Prevention-Data.asp.

The analysis is part of VA’s ongoing examination of more than 55 million civilian and Veteran death records that is being used to evaluate and improve VA’s Suicide Prevention Program.

Data from this report were obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s National Death Index and then linked to both VA and Department of Defense (DoD) data.3

Meditate on that for a moment.

For the most part, you and I are shown the romantic side of being a firefighter, police officer, soldier or emergency medical responder. We all take it for granted that when we call 911 brave folks appear out of nowhere seemingly miraculously. Maybe, one day you too may need to make that 911-call and a woman or a man will bravely show up to save your life, pull you out of a car wreck or a burning home. Did you ever really stop to think what their day may have been like?

Let’s Come Back to Reality

The only reason we all come together is that one man – with the infinite and incredibly wise support of his soul mate wife Heather Titus – kept fighting to survive, day by day.

That’s the only reason you and I are here. Marc and Heather’s tenacity allows us to celebrate life, and what a beautiful and sacred thing this is!

What if we pay it forward?

Stephen Lam | Reuters

What if today we all pull together and rescue a rescuer?

That’s the desire out of which the Healing Village was born. Let’s not just celebrate Yoga at the Sedona Yoga Festival. Let’s all celebrate the heroes too!

Hi, my name is Leslie Finkel, and I’m so proud to say that Marc is not only my friend but my brother. We are bonded by a code of honor. While I have not been a first responder myself, I have served first responders and my community most of my adult life at the Phoenix Police Department where I served in IT for almost 30 years. Where I kept the computer systems of law enforcement and public safety running 24×7.

Protecting the protectors was and will always be my mission.

Marc and I envisioned a white tent village where first responders can come to heal themselves, to get out of the fight and fight response with more than just a pat on the back and a thank you. Let’s help them to breathe more easily. To laugh freely and to find a community that shows them first hand that we care about them. And we made it happen.

We have countless helpers and volunteers.

But we really need your help to spread the word. If you know local First Responders, Military and Emergency Medical Personnel please spread the word!

If you have any TV, PR or media connections, help us spread the word.

Please stop by at the Healing Village.  I look forward to seeing you there!

Oh, and if you want to receive trauma and emotional healing but you’re not a first responder, don’t worry! We got you. I’ve designed Unstoppable Healing session at SYF just for you at a  special low cost.

All you need to do is find me at the Healing Village and sign up for a session at my Unstoppable Healing tent.

Namaste,

Leslie Finkel

Leslie Finkel is on a mission to free people from their traumas, pains, and everyday stresses so that they can thrive in their body and enjoy their life to the fullest. Leslie is especially dedicated to assist military veterans, and police, fire, and emergency first responders who deal with extreme daily stresses and responsibilities. Using an ancient Taoist healing science called Chi Nei Tsang, Leslie use gentle but direct touch to your abdomen to guide you to process and release heavy and debilitating emotions,  untangle knots in your nerves and tissues and promote wellness and longevity. He’s helped hundreds of people of all ages, from all walks of life.

Jane Tyska | Digital First Media | Getty Images

3 Tools for Easing Life with Trauma – Today

3 Tools for Easing Life with Trauma – Today

Photo by Miguel Guzman at the 2018 Sedona Yoga Festival’s “Yoga for PTSD Training”

By Erin Byron

To large or small degrees, each of us lives with some form of trauma. In the past week, I’ve heard people identify trauma from common (though painful) life events such as parenting sleepless children, euthanizing a pet, or the illness of a loved one. 

It is traumatic to go through a shock or profound loss in life. Are there ways to lessen the impacts or prepare ourselves? Research on PTSD and trauma say YES! 

It is noteworthy that, while there may be a clinical difference between PTSD and trauma, the ways to ease their impact are the same. At the SYF Yoga for PTSD Training, numerous voices offer countless strategies, and the science behind them, to support you and your loved ones in healing trauma.

While we wait for March 14-17 to arrive, pick one of the following 3 ideas and start doing it today and let us know what happens when we see you at SYF2019. Betcha there’s a difference!

Do this first one anytime, anywhere to prevent or shift this…

1. Adapt your breath. 

Notice I did not say, “Take a deep breath.” While a 5-count-in, 5-count-out is an adaptation away from shallow breathing, it is not the only option. 

Instead, you can see what happens if you move only the abdomen instead of only the chest. Maybe you could sound the exhale or inhale with an ujjayi breath. I sometimes breathe out a merry “Ahhhhhh”, beginning on a high note and ending low. 

There are infinite combinations of breathwork. Throughout the day, simply change how you are breathing and notice what happens.

The next idea arises from a yoga for PTSD study. Yoga is continually proven to help reduce traumatic symptoms. What I love about this study is the awareness and self-reliance.

2. Listen to your body and make your own choices in yoga class. 

A study by Bessel van der Kolk, Laura Stone, and other researchers (2014) showed that when yoga students were invited to have curiosity about their bodily sensations and make their own choices about how long to stay in a pose, their PTSD improved. 

In fact, by the end of the study, 52% of the yoga participants no longer met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD! The yoga and their self-reliant practice had a dramatic improvement on their quality of life.

The final tool is simple. It is gentle, takes very little time, and can bring huge benefits to the mind, nervous system, and body.

“That’s me, at the Yoga for PTSD Training at the 2018 Sedona Yoga Festival.” Photo by Miguel Guzman

3.  Use firm pressure to rub in foot lotion before bed. 

That’s it?! Yes, it could change your life. Do this for 5 days and wait for revelations. (Bonus points for using sesame or coconut oil with a few drops of an appealing essential oil. I like orange and rosemary oils with a soupcon of ginger.)

Whichever of these 3 options you choose, I hope you have fun applying the new tool. Once it feels secure or habitual, begin to apply the next tool. You can return to this list or inspire yourself with other ideas.

For a wealth of ideas, research, and direct experience with effective practice, please join me and my friends and colleagues March 14 – 17 at the Sedona Yoga Festival, Yoga for PTSD Training. I can’t wait to learn, teach, and commune with you!

 

  • Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD; Laura Stone, MA; Jennifer West, PhD; Alison Rhodes, MWS Med; David Emerson, MA; Michale Suvak, PhD; and Joseph Spinazzola, PhD. Yoga as an Adjunctive Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2014; 75(6): e559-65.

About the Author: Erin Byron

 

 

Erin’s Master of Arts research studied the benefits of Yoga practices in coping with Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and the literary review of the study equipped her for helping people with a range of physical and mental health concerns.

Erin is grateful for the opportunity to support others on their personal growth paths.

Yoga for PTSD Training and Healing Village at SYF2019

Yoga for PTSD Training and Healing Village at SYF2019

Yoga for PTSD Training, a Trauma-Informed Yoga training for everyone

  • Are you or someone you know living with PTSD
  • Do you work or want to work with this population?
  • Are you interested in trauma-aware tools, techniques & practices with proven efficacy in managing PTSD?
  • Each year, the Sedona Yoga Festival hosts an annual Yoga for PTSD training.  Click here to learn more about it…  

Please share this page with someone who may benefit… 

  • PTSD is fast becoming a concern in the First Responder Community, yet how will this ‘can do against all odds’ culture adopt methods to address this emerging health and safety issue? Especially when those methods are often viewed as antithetical to the traditional community norms.  
  • Ancient Science and Technology (i.e Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Gong, Meditation and other down-regulating practices) are fast becoming recognized by present-day medical science as key implementations needed to facilitate healing in the First Responder Community, as they have been adopted recently by the Military, Dept of Defense with tremendous success.
  • Sedona Yoga Festival serves as a bridge between the first responder community and the touchy-feely world of the metaphysical healing arts.  Made possible this year by SYF Founder and ex-Wildland Firefighter Marc Titus and Retired Phoenix PD and Unstoppable Healing Founder, Les Finkel, SYF Gives Back offers resources for First Responders to dip their toes into the healing waters of the sublime and nurturing world of Yoga and Meditation.

SYF GIVES BACK offering FREE Trauma and Stress Relief to Fire, Police and First Responders at inaugural Healing Village in addition to Yoga for PTSD training!

Firefighter Yogini, Essie Titus | Robert Sturman

March 14-17th, 2019 Sedona Yoga Festival unrolls the proverbial mat in Sedona for the 7th year running.  Held at the Red Rock High School and Sedona Performing Arts Center (SPAC), SYF2019 features world-class teachers and students alike presenting and soaking in the high vibes these practices are known for. Sedona, a powerful place, amplifies the experience. 200+ curated workshops, classes and experiences provide ample opportunity for the experienced yogi all the way to a complete beginner unfamiliar with downward dogs to experience Yoga. SYF is a platform that attracts thousands from near and far, an international conference recognized the world over. “SYF Gives Back is our way of supporting service, or Seva in yogic terms, and exists to do just that, be in service and since the start, this program has provided trauma-informed training to over 500 teachers, practitioners, service providers and trauma survivors. Focusing on service providers has amplified our effectiveness, “ says Festival Founder, Marc Titus, “We share proven efficacious tools, techniques and practices, that ameliorate the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress. These folks return to their communities and begin helping those who suffer; by training 100’s we have helped thousands.”  This year Marc aims to train over 200 and will personally ask them to return to their communities to support the Local First Responder Community.

First Responders in this country are here to ‘protect and serve’, and consist of a wide range of professionals who when the call comes, drop everything to manage crisis, and bring order to chaos. As natural disasters and the like, continue to present greater and greater challenges for First Responders, the scope and emotional weight of the work required of them has become more intense than ever.  Serving the very communities affected by natural disasters, these brave men & women push their bodies and minds to the limit, sometimes in the face of their own familial tragedies unfolding.

Stephen Lam | Reuters

In times of catastrophic events, such as the extreme urban interface wildland fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods we have witnessed these past several years, these responses can last for weeks and months at a time.  In the daily battles to save lives and to protect many First Responders can lose the most precious thing a human being can lose. Their will to live. This doesn’t happen overnight, seemingly unforeseen and often long ignored, trauma builds and is stored in the body. Severe depression, PTSD and other high-stress symptoms stemming from chronic endurance environments are still not completely understood, nor properly addressed within the responder communities.

SYF Founder Marc Titus on Assignment circa 2005 | Mount Rainier NP

The solution is not always to run to a therapist who has never worn a bulletproof vest or nomex jacket for years on end. That’s why there is such a gap in treatment as well as a resistance in the community.  SYF wants to help raise awareness around and eventually overcome this bias as it takes its toll on personnel; people… just like you or me. Often they can be the last to know there is a problem lurking within.   “When I finally broke,” Marc shares gazing off into the distance, “I had no clue what was happening… I was completely, ya know, f’ed.  Suffice to say, I was unable to function. I was in a constant state of hyper-arousal and having flashbacks daily. It was ugly. Period. Dark, cold, nasty and alone. Mean and callous; cold and calculating. Did I say it sucked!”

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO ON TRAUMA-INFORMED TRAINING AT SYF2019!

Not only is SYF hosting its 6th official training, this year presented by the Mindful Yoga Therapy team from Newington, CT, they are creating a Healing Village that will provide a place for First Responders to explore and experience various healing modalities and educate First Responders by providing  an array of services, providers and educators in an mini- expo type setting for free. Healing sessions are also offered on a limited basis to First Responders at no charge. “SYF intends to ‘bridge the gap’ between the first responder community and an oft confusing world, known as yoga and meditation. We want to make it easy and safe to explore what scientists are now proving incredibly effective at combating the symptoms of PTSD, trauma and the stress of high performance work teams, “ says Festival Director Heather Titus, “by offering a trauma-informed track in the main festival program, we are sure to provide many opportunities to learn and experience the effects these practices provide. They’ve worked for us; we want others to benefit as we have.”

Marc Titus & Les Finkel on a motorcycle adventure

The 2019 Healing Village is the brain child of Marc and retired Phoenix Police IT System Specialist and Founder of Unstoppable Healing, Leslie Finkel, himself, offering healing sessions to First Responders.  With a bond they share in service, both have dedicated themselves to finding alternative solutions to their high-stress careers and are now bringing these healing technologies to their brothers and sisters in the trenches. “We know what it’s like. We’ve been there, healed and come back with the good news. You don’t have to suffer anymore.” Les says. “You wouldn’t walk around all day with a 50 pound dumbell strapped to your thigh, right? The stuff we’ve experienced becomes just that; these practices and techniques facilitate dropping the dumbell, and that feels real nice!” Nothing at all to be ashamed of they both share, in fact at times these practices can be challenging both physically and mentally, no different than other training regimes. “Yoga requires discipline,” says Heather, “So, with all the warrior poses and such, it’s actually an effective and approachable healing modality for First Responders.

SYF2019 provides a unique opportunity for area First Responders to ‘get away’ for the weekend or in the middle of a shift; the village will be open daily during festival hours and the training available to yoga teachers, practitioners, service providers, first responders and more.

Jane Tyska | Digital First Media | Getty Images

Leslie Finkel aka Unstoppable Healing is a proud sponsor of the Healing Village at SYF2019.

Equally passionate and devoted to this mission, Leslie Finkel has joined forces with Marc to launch the inaugural Healing Village at SYF2019 for the sole purpose of providing a fully honoring and dedicated healing space – for First Responders.

Whereas Marc is looking to create change on a larger organizational scale, Leslie specializes in compassionate, individualized hands-on healing, one person, one story, at a time.

During his 26-year law enforcement career, he saw first hand the hardships, sacrifices and suffering many police officers and firefighters endure from complex OTJ hardships, tragic accidents and events. He also saw how their psychological and physical wellbeing was overly stressed and detrimentally affected, often slowly disintegrating their families and relationships.

That’s why Leslie is a proud sponsor of the Healing Village at the SYF2019, making the support staff and village infrastructure possible. Beyond the event, he is a personal key supporter of Marc Titus and his team to make this a lasting and ongoing success. They both ride adventure touring motorcycles and when they tour together… the adventures are, well, unstoppable!  

Who is Leslie Finkel?

For 26 years, Leslie Finkel was in charge of managing mission-critical infrastructure/information technology systems for the City of Phoenix Police Department, the 5th largest city in America. He has now dedicated himself to helping people in their physical and emotional healing journeys.   Before Leslie became a full-time emphathic healer, he studied and trained in the ancient Tibetan healing modality of Chi Nei Tsang in addition to his full-time IT career at the Phoenix Police. He brings 35 years of direct experience in military, law enforcement and corporate worlds to the Healing Village.

What is Unstoppable Healing?

Leslie Finkel founded his healing business called Unstoppable Healing™ because of his belief that the human body always strives to come into a healthy and harmonious way of being. He uses an ancient healing science along with his empathy and intuition to help free people from their traumas, pains, and everyday stresses so they can thrive in their body and enjoy their life to the fullest.

“We are all team members in our community, so it’s imperative that we all help each other. Let us not leave anyone behind, First Responders and Veterans included!” – says Leslie Finkel, Founder of Unstoppable Healing

Keep calm and do some Yoga

Keep calm and do some Yoga

In a world of extremes, it is high time for a mindful time-out.

How Yoga & Meditation reduces stress in the body.

The current state of affairs in our country is such that the population is constantly bombarded with stress-inducing stimuli, from the harried morning commute to the evening news.  We very rarely, truly relax and it is taking its toll on families, communities, businesses… all relationships. Our lifestyles create tension in the body and without a conscious means of releasing that tension the body begins to falter; the mind and mental health can soon follow with anxiety and depression becoming the new norm. We find ourselves in the sympathetic nervous system, or fight/flight, the place where we can fight off the saber-toothed tiger or lift a car off a baby or run fast enough to catch our dinner.  Spend enough time here and things get worse, i.e. in the case of trauma survivors and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

How do we release this tension? How do we balance it out? We must relax, truly relax which means engage the parasympathetic nervous system; the body’s antidote to fight/flight and the reliever of tension. Relaxing isn’t easy in this day and age; it’s hard to take the break our body’s need so much, but we must or things will eventually break.

Practices that bring awareness to the moment, also known as mindfulness, such as yoga and meditation have now been proven by modern science to ameliorate the effects of stress and tension.  Science also shows that by controlling or shaping the breath, we can consciously engage the parasympathetic nervous system and down regulate at will.  For some this can be a game-changer, providing enormous relief from the anxiety an over reactive nervous system can produce.

Yoga and meditation provide an easy access point for those interested in, or needing to relax and down regulate.  Yoga primarily we see as physical postures, or asanas, shapes the body makes that are often linked together in a flow of movement.  Anybody can do them, especially when we use the breath as our guide, regulating and shaping our breathing patterns and timings to achieve the desired result of entering the parasympathetic nervous system.  Each posture ‘does something different’ for the body; different breathing patterns have the same phenomena!  So, one could design a asana class to support energizing the body, helpful in the case of depression, or down-regulate for anxiety.  Ideally, the practice leaves us in a balanced, or parasympathetic state, so that we can meditation

Here, too, we use the breath and when we combine breath awareness with a seated or supine meditation we are in true relaxation mode!  This is the ‘place’ we must go to truly relax and when we do, we receive the benefits in greater health and vitality, peace and tranquility.  Our lives get easier, the more we practice, not because things out there change, rather because we have conditioned our nervous systems to be less reactive and more resilient. We become more calm and peaceful; wouldn’t it be nice to provide calm and peace in your family’s and relationships, businesses and communities? We think it is… 

Learn more at the 2019 Sedona Yoga Festival, March 14-17, 2019 (sedonayogafestival.com) or try a class at Aumbase Sedona Yoga in West Sedona (AumbaseSedona.com).

9 Insights from Living with PTSD by Marc Titus @cedarmesa

9 Insights from Living with PTSD by Marc Titus @cedarmesa

Traumatic Stress: Resiliency & Healing with Yoga

  • Are you or someone you know living with PTSD
  • Do you work or want to work with this population?
  • Are you interested in trauma-aware tools, techniques & practices with proven efficacy in managing PTSD?
  • Each year, the Sedona Yoga Festival hosts an annual Yoga for PTSD training.  Click here to learn more about it…  

Please share this page with someone who may benefit… 

I continue to humbly accept this day as it is… and was.  Living with PTSD; It no long rules me now.  Sometimes, and I know this will always be the case, I will feel sadness for those guys, but the truth is they aren’t suffering…This is the first time I have spoken publicly about those ill-fated days and much has burbled up in inspiration that is being documented.  Something is happening; I am along for the ride.  Thank you everyone for your support. (Added 8/22/2018) Marc Titus

SYF Founder, Aumbase, Inc.

August 5th, 2018

Today marks the 10 year anniversary of the Iron 44 Incident, August 5th, 2008.  Heralded as the worst aviation incident in Wildland Firefighting history, 9 men lost their lives that day in a horrible way. (Looking back, I had no idea I would be Living with PTSD for the next 10 years…)

The Aftermath
as told by SYF Founder Marc Titus

I was on the phone that day, nearing the end of shift… 100+ Helibase personnel gathered outside for the debriefing in a few minutes. Nothing was amiss, all of my aircraft safely on the ground, I was looking forward to my end of shift responsibilities so I could grab a bite and get some rest. The Type 1 team I was assigned to, and subsequently would become a member of, was timed out, and transitioning, as I recall… they were leaving the next day or two. I was just completing my final training assignment to be a fully qualified Type 1 Helibase Manager during the California Firestorms of 2008. That was a bad season, the two previous days 2 fatalities on 2 other fires… All was well, under my watch, though I remember thinking… that was my job.

I was speaking to a New Zealander, over as part of the assistance that comes when wildfire season is epic, he, too winding down the shift… there was a crew shuttle happening… last mission of the day on the Iron Complex, the Incident to the north of mine, we discussing our overlapping areas of responsibility for next shift… I remember commenting on the crew shuttle… “cutting close to pumpkin time, or something to that effect.”

“Fuck…” came from the earpiece of the old fashioned phone receiver.

“What,” I asked.

“AFF went black…” referring to the Automated Flight Following GPS system we used to track aircraft.

The system, back then, still glitchy… this not necessarily a cause for concern, as it had happened many times before and all was good, I asked our ABRO, Air Base Radio Operator, to zoom our screen out and take a look…

No more than 15 seconds passed.

“Helicopter down…. We have an aircraft down.” The New Zealander on the other end of that old school phone receiver breathed.

Even, today… recalling this experience for you now, I am transported back… and am reliving it in all its technicolor glory… however, today… there is NO Emotional CHARGE, well, it still saddens me, but ultimately I am now at peace with it…. That has been transmogrified, perhaps still a #transmogrificationinprogress,, but nevertheless, today is different…

Than the last 10 years…

My mind raced… as he told me what little he knew and over the next 10 minutes (or less) I was on the phone with him AND my supervisors…. This was a horrible time for this to happen, my mind raced, it would be dark soon, pumpkin time being my original concern regarding the mission they were completing… shit… incoming or outbound, my mind screamed…

“Outbound… Full Load.” He said, as if hearing my silent cries for some form of help, but from where…, this was on me!

My heart sank…. There could have been as many as 15 Souls on Board, as pilots often would report on takeoff…

In that 10 minutes… 15 max, as I listened to the phone in one hand, repeating relevant information to my supervisors on the phone in the other… I finally realized the entire helibase was still gathered outside for debriefing. UNAWARE of what was going down. What had gone down… with as many as 15 souls on board…

I got off the phones… told the ABRO, aircraft base radio operator to continue to monitor the situation… Fought back the tears… gritted my teeth… stood in front of the door…

It opened, and one of the Local Volunteer Fire Department Personnel whom over the past 14 days I had become good friends with, peered in. His gaze met mine… and he knew. He stepped in and whisper… “I’ve tried to keep it quiet,” he said, “but, don’t know how much longer I can… Is it true?”, he asked, showing me his pager. “Dispatch is calling for a multi-jurisdictional response, mass-casualty incident, helicopter crash.”

“Yes… I will be right out.” He closed the door and I steeled myself….  my mind raced… what was I gonna do… how was I gonna be… how were we going to get through this… how could I help… what was I going to say to those men and woman outside…

I took deep breath… opened the door…. Calmly walked out,

By now, ALL the local pagers were going off… ALL OF THEM… people were starting to look confused, concerned, helpless…

I heard… “mass casualty” come from one pager…. “All available resources respond…” from another….

I looked out at these men and woman… whose job it was to protect, my duty… and I spoke.

“Roughly 15 minutes ago, during a crew shuttle November 612 Alpha Zulu crashed outbound at helispot 44 on the Iron Complex,” (the Complex burning immediately to the north of our incident.) “I don’t know anymore than that… Please let’s take a moment to pray for those on board.”

Pagers were going off still, although that was dying down…. As something else picked up. A Local Volunteer FireFighter had handed me a local radio… as I turned the volume up… we could now, hear the local radio traffic…

MASS CASUALTY INCIDENT, IRON COMPLEX… HELICOPTER CRASH… MULTI-JURISDICTIONAL RESPONSE…

Another Agency firefighter, who had the Iron Complex Air Frequencies programmed into a radio handed me his radio it was filled with traffic… Dead Silence… but for the radio traffic, I turned the volume up to hear a familiar voice… a pilot, from Carson Helicopters I had managed many times as a Helicopter Manager…

9 insights from living with ptsd

Iron 44 Crash Site

AIRCRAFT IS ON ITS SIDE… BURNING… ATTEMPTING BUCKETS… WE NEED HELP UP HERE… SEND HELP.

We were already in a rough circle for the briefing… I stepped to the center and set the two radios down… volume up…. Lit a cigarette…

And thus, my whole life changed… indelibly, I was marked.

For the next 2 hours… we listened as the reality unfolded…

For the next 7 days… I managed the aftermath…

For the rest of the season… I did my job and was promoted… I kicked ass. and took names.  saved lives… ALL went home on my watch. EVERYONE.

For the next 4 years, I rolled with that team and peaked in my career.

Until one day, I began to falter…

Today, after 10 years… I finally feel whole again. I have struggled with PTSD, come to find out since that season… it finally taking me out completely some 6 years later… I have learned a lot… and oh, boy have I suffered.

But, this experience I recount… and more, well… they’ve been transmogrified.  (you’ll learn more about this if you want, too! keep reading…)  I am now at peace, and come to see how these experiences have allowed me to become who I am today… they have become my guide and I have become grateful for them.

Why, you might ask…?

Well, I am ready to share… and it begins with this.

9 things I have learned Living with PTSD

1. Educate yourself.

I had no actual clue what was going on; those around me thought I had turned into a complete jerk (actually way worse… and not funny), my relationships at this point suffering to the point of breaking and many did. Looking back, now, I realize my departure from the Incident Management Teams was a result of the slow, but sure degradation of the abilities that once had allowed me to excel in this world of bringing order to chaos. I faltered, amidst my brothers and sisters; yet none of us knew what was happening to me, on the inside. Least of all me.

The life you save, it could be your own; it could be your brother or sister in service. Get educated. Admittedly, the resources have improved and the awareness has increased, yet we still have a long ways to go in removing the stigma attached to mental health in the world today. Living with PTSD is a very real problem. More and more research is coming out these days alerting us to a huge crisis of Spirit looming on the horizon.

Living with PTSD will become absolutely unbearable and people are killing themselves everyday because of this affliction; the numbers don’t lie. It is a problem. I am part of the solution. And you are, too.

2. Speaking of the above; elephant in the room. It’s real.

I know that feeling; that deep, intrinsic, inescapable sense of dread; dis-ease. 24-7 non-stop. I don’t care who you are… how strong you think you are; this shit is different. It haunts from the inside in insidious, dark and demented ways. It erodes the faith you once had in yourself… Living with PTSD goes beyond the regular dialogue of self- doubt and deprecation.

Eventually, it becomes completely unbearable and we will often do anything to get relief. At first, relief will come in more work, exercise, eating, drinking, sexing, drugging, you name it, there are innumerable unhealthy ways for us to try to fix this problem we are unaware of.(See #1) Ultimately all we are doing is masking and making matters worse. After months or years of this unconscious behavior aimed at easing our internal suffering, only one destination awaits; misery, a complete and utter miserable shitshow for you and those whose lives you touch. And trust me, up to this point has been miserable, you just didn’t know it, cuz of all the self- medicating.

Look, a person doesn’t just wake up one day and say, “ya know… <thinking face>, I think the best thing for me to do today, is jump off a cliff. Yah, that doesn’t happen; it’s not normal. So, if that’s you… right now. ***stop everything and call someone right now, get help. Worst case scenario 911***.

Yes, this is what happened to me. I was still un #1ed, so I still had no clue I was living with PTSD, neither did my wife… I was scared. I got help.

3. Life is Worth Living, I am worthy of Life.

I spent 40 days in a mental hospital. Guess what? No-one has ever said to me, “hey that sounds like fun!” And while it likely saved my life, it was far from fun. I was ready to stop suffering, tho and for a few weeks, I did. During that stay, I made peace with the voices of #2… and met others like me who had the same insidious inspirations inside their wounded minds. You mean… I wasn’t alone…! nice. Well, not, as that meant others were suffering, too. But, yes, nice; you are not alone, either.

So, what did I learn from my stay? Life is worth Living; I am worthy of Life.

I was clearly able to see and establish that those voices, intending my demise, were NOT real and as such, I made a deep commitment that if they ever came back, I would be much better equipped to manage them. And I am. Let me clarify, they are not real, but they do exist. And they seem to be rooted in something much deeper, to a place that I was unaware of; an inner landscape devoid of Self-Love and Self-Worth.

It turns out there’s this thing called the sub-conscious and we all have it. (Remember #1) It is filled with all kinds of stuff that form the basis of who we are, how we perceive the world and stuff. Much of what is in the sub-conscious is helpful in the sense that we don’t have to think about it… driving is a good example. We learned to do it and now for most of us ( I’ve been driving for 30+ years) we don’t even remember the actions of driving; they are completely second nature. Ok.

Other stuff gets in there, too… Belief systems get tucked away down there, outta sight, outta awareness. Habit. Samskaras. Patterns. Behaviors. Fears, insecurities, and something called self-worth. Well, guess what, after long bouts of PTSD, anxiety and depression one’s self-worth can hit an all-time low and if it get’s reinforced, like by me bemoaning my very existence, well then it gets sent straight to the sub-conscious after awhile as a belief. Whether we realize it or not, this belief now begins to influence all of everything in our lives. And I mean everything.

So, we need to not only be aware of this and how it works, but actually take steps to remedy this as quickly as possible. This is where affirmations and mantra come in; repetition being the key, we want to start reclaiming our self-worth and courage from our sub-conscious beliefs. We start small and build, as gain momentum. I suggest starting with I am Worthy and Courageous. Or… I meet life with Calm, Clarity and Conviction. (if your feeling really good, string them together!) There is a whole science to this and one can get quite sophisticated with it from many different perspectives, but for now… start small. I am worthy of life… and so are you! (Remember #1? Go ask the Oracle (Google) about Mantra or Japa, or affirmations. And roll with your findings. Spoiler alert… #5)

Trauma shatters your most basic assumptions about yourself and your world — “Life is good,” “I’m safe,” “People are kind,” “I can trust others,” “The future is likely to be good” — and replaces them with feelings like “The world is a dangerous place,” “I can’t win,” “I can’t trust other people…” Dr. Mark Goulston

Psychiatrist

5. You need to Heal!

What you are gonna find out if you continue on this path of recovery, is that PTSD is a nervous system injury and as such, you are gonna need to heal. Trust me, this is part of the stigma attached to mental illness. Sometimes, I thought, even said to those around me, ‘it would be easier if it was a broken bone or something; something others could see.” Ha… Bullshit, more victim language, so be on the lookout for this. People who do #4 don’t talk like this. They take responsibility, and as such will focus on their healing.

Make healing your #1 priority.

When I finally made healing my priority, things began to move in a positive direction. I began to gain traction and eventually momentum. It still wasn’t easy, there were setbacks and breakdowns, but all were now framed within the context of healing my nervous system; reclaiming my life, and life force. Finally, and just recently, making healing my #1 priority I have been able to consistently create positive experiences in my life, amidst the inevitable chaos! Now, we’re talking! Booyah!  Living with PTSD is no joke… take care of yourself!

6. Relax.

Guess what… and you may not like it, because it is likely to go against everything you have ever been taught in this life! But, get ready… sit down. Take a deep breath. Relax…

that’s right, RELAX…

Remember #5? Well, your nervous system is made up of the sympathetic (fight/flight/freeze) and parasympathetic (#1). We’ve been stuck in the sympathetic side and that is NOT a good thing! The sympathetic is for outrunning tonights dinner so you may eat or outrunning the saber-toothed tiger so you may eat breakfast tomorrow. It’s for heroics and life saving deeds, quick thinking, even quicker reactions and actions; put bluntly it is there to keep us alive in the world we live in.

It is designed to come online without thought or consideration to insure our very survival, then go offline after the threat has passed. <Face Palm.> They told me when I was admitted to hospital that I was in what’s called “always on” and likely had been there most of my adult life.

Let’s look at this another way for some perspective. Orgasms are nice and they play a large role in our human experience; for the reason of procreation, for one. Biologically without orgasm, likely human beings wouldn’t have come this far. But, could you imagine orgasming 24/7 for decades… <thinking face>… yeah, me neither.

What’s the antidote?

that’s right, RELAX…

The parasympathetic nervous system is also known as rest and digest, or feed and breed, being associated with things like digestion, defecation, urination, tears, salivation and sexual arousal. It is the compliment to fight/flight, returning the organism (not orgasm) to a state of balance, homeostasis. It is imperative for our health, vitality, wellness and Spirit to live in balance. PTSD is an affliction that takes the body out of balance and the way back is…

that’s right, RELAX…

(#1 some Yoga Nidra, and give this slam-dunk healing tool a try! It was a key to my healing.)

7. Be Grateful.

While you are getting your groove on, ya know, so relaxing, let’s implement a key learning that, for me, was actually quite difficult. It’s called Gratitude. Yup, giving thanks! For some reason, my ability to do that had come to a complete halt. Can you imagine? lol… Maybe you don’t have to, maybe you are in the thick of it now. Either way… Do, do this… (he said doodoo…)

Start a gratitude journal…

Gratitude is a muscle, that if not flexed withers away to almost nothing. (A lot like #3) Trust me, I know as this was, and sometimes still is very difficult for me. But I DO IT, NOW!!! why, because it has helped. And continues to help. I have been doing it consistently and momentum is building. The muscle needs exercise.

There is something about FEELING grateful, deeply grateful that makes a difference, deep inside. Remember do do ( :-0 )your #1 and find out why.

Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves. Dr. Bessel A. van der Kolk

Author, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

8. Bad Days.

Im gonna be honest with you, as you know it has sucked and/or witnessed the suckage in a friend, spouse, family member, community member, etc.

Bad days come… and bad days go.

You’re gonna have bad days.  That’s what happens when you are Living with PTSD. (but there’s hope!)

But, you are still here and are committed to still moving forward. (If not, see #2 and call for help!) May I remind you (reminding myself, too) you have come this far and those bad days are in the past. Gone! You can’t do anything about them, but you can do something about NOW (see #4). Do you work. (still #4) and the bad days of yore, will begin to diminish. The absolutely crushing despair I used to feel has been replaced with Hope, with Trust and Faith in something bigger than me; a higher power of the Source within me, within us all.

Where I was and where I am are light years apart; I can tell you I have my share of stories, nightmares more appropriately, but I AM STILL HERE. A bad day actually hasn’t existed for me in a while now. :-D. Tough moments, yes. Challenges, of course. Crushing/debilitating despair… yup! Those thoughts we don’t like to think about…. Hmhmmm. But, I haven’t had a bad day in quite awhile.

What used to crush me for days, weeks, even months, has subsided in intensity; the work, its been working. Now, I have moments as described above, moments, not lasting debilitation. I receive relief during the day, not a week later, because of all these things I have shared with you… and more. In short, living with PTSD has become easier…

9. Higher Power.

The best for last? Shoulder shrug… but it is important, very important it turns out. And I am not gonna belabor it, cuz its up to you to sort out, for yourself. Its personal; between you and the Creator. If you do your #1, you will find it is the ingredient necessary to facilitate massive transformation in your life. What is it? Belief in something greater than you… Bigger. I call it God… Source. Creator, the great mystery, Prana, Chi, Energy, Universal Energy, the Lord… did I say, God… Love, it has been monikered by all cultures throughout time, and pointed to by the masters and great traditions as the Source of All that Is. It has been called Love. And I have experienced its benevolence; its grace. In fact, it could be said… that is why I am here today.

By Grace… By God.

The same goes for you…

Namaste.

Well… that got a bit in-depth, I gotta say!  It has been a wild ride home, but today, August 5th, 2018… as I write this, I can say I am free.  I’m back, or perhaps better said… I’ve been reborn, forged from the fires of my own making I emerge in service and on purpose.  No one ought suffer like I have… No one should have to endure that pain.  But, we do… until it becomes unbearable… and then we find our road… HOME.

Drop me your email address below, and I will send you the entire article, 9 Insights from Living with PTSD… AND a Yoga Nidra Guided Meditation Recording. These two resources alone can help you! help yourself… or someone you know.  Don’t make the same mistakes I did… Get on this list.  You will also receive emails from me (and can unsubscribe anytime.)  They will be inspiring and filled with real-life insights, in real-time. Stories from my career as a Wildland Firefighter, tools & practices, guided meditations, movement & exercise, spiritual & material practical solutions that worked for me ( and many, many others). It all begins today, with 9 INSIGHTS FROM LIVING WITH PTSD. I have been relatively vocal about these challenges, in the past… told my story each year, charting my progress, as the Host and Facilitator of the annual SYF Trauma Training, as I call it… but never have I really shared, deeply what has worked for me.  And how it may work for you, or help someone you know.  I will also keep ya posted on the 2018 SYF Yoga for PTSD Training, and perhaps some behind the scenes look into the world of the Sedona Yoga Festival.  I do still have some pull… *wink*

It’s time… I am ready and blessed to share what I have received.

Marc
Sedona Yoga Festival Founder
@cedarmesa
#transmogrifythatshit
#transmogrificationinprogress

Living with PTSD

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