Veterans’ retreat to promote mindfulness
IMPERIAL — Veterans and active duty members of the military, along with their spouses and children, are invited to a free three-day Mindful Warrior Project retreat where participants can learn about techniques aimed at combating stress related to military service.
The retreat will inform participants about practices that promote self-healing by analyzing one’s feelings and emotions through meditative practices, said Mary Esquer, Imperial County Behavioral Health Services (ICBHS) adult services manager.
“The plan is to explore ways to healing and empowerment,” Esquer said, “and move out of the survival mode and into the thriving mode.”
The retreat, which starts Friday, is being organized by ICBHS and the county Veterans Service Office (VSO), with the participation of facilitators from the nonprofit Mindful Warrior Project.
The retreat will not provide participants with diagnosing, intake, or mental health treatment or reporting.
It instead will highlight the Mindful Warrior Project’s curriculum of self-compassion, self-forgiveness, acceptance, and non-judgmental behavior.
Workshops scheduled for Saturday and Sunday will inform participants about effective practices that individuals can employ to promote mindfulness and learn to better deal with behavioral issues by remaining in the present moment.
“Its purpose is to empower people to be well and live a balanced life,” Esquer said.
As a Vietnam veteran who was subsequently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, Federico Garcia said such mindfulness practices have proven beneficial in his life.
The Valley native and retired corrections officer said that many local veterans may mistakenly downplay the benefit of adopting mindful practices, which do not involve a professional behavioral health professional, and differ from the one-onone or group counseling typically available to those diagnosed with PTSD.
Despite the benefits of mindfulness practices, Garcia, a county VSO representative, said he is concerned that those that may benefit most from the activities may not be aware of their availability, or be too busy to take advantage.
“The population that would benefit the most from this is the population that is most busy right now with doing what they have to do,” Garcia said, referring to the veterans’ work and family responsibilities.
Yet, adopting mindful practices can allow individuals to better respond to instances of guilt, anger, depression on their own initiative, he said.
“It’s something in your tool kit that you can use in your day to day experience,” Garcia said. “It’s a real practical nuts and bolts method to dealing with PTSD.”
The upcoming retreat, which starts Friday with an orientation that is also open to the public and service providers, is a welcome addition to behavioral health services already available to local veterans, said Robert Avila, county VSO veterans service officer.
Currently available services include one-onone in-person counseling offered by the VSO twice a week, as well as telemedicine services offered at the Veterans Administration’s El Centro office, Avila said.
The ICBHS also teaches mindful therapy practices to its patients, although it is only a component of a wider variety of traditional behavioral health therapy that patients receive, Esquer said.
“We use it in the course of therapy sometimes, but not all the time,” she said.
Mindful Warrior Project facilitators are also expected to return to the Valley on Dec. 2 for a follow up meeting, where information will be provided to community members who are interested in assisting the nonprofit with its efforts, as well as becoming trained to become a facilitator, Esquer said.
The three-day retreat gets underway Friday at the Ricochet Rec Center.
Saturday and Sunday’s workshops are available only for veterans, active duty military personnel and their families, organizers said.
Childcare will also be available for participants.
For more information and to register, please contact Patricia Arevalo-Caro at 760-482-2118 or at email@example.com or Robert Avila at 442-265-3200 or firstname.lastname@example.org