My guest today is Retired Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel, Jamie Alden. He is the quintessential American warrior and combat veteran in the truest sense of that term. A Green Beret, His 24 years of military service, include four years as a Cadet at West Point, the United States Military Academy. He served as a Special Forces leader during four combat tours in support of Operation Enduring Freedom Afghanistan (OEF-A) from 2003-2013. He is married to another quintessential American warrior, and fellow West Point graduate, Susan Alden, who now serves as the Executive Director of Warriors at Ease, whose mission it is to promote the practice of yoga and meditation among service members and retirees.
Green Berets and Yoga—two words not often see in the same sentence! I’m really excited about this particular episode for a number of reasons. The depth and breadth of the mental and physical health is killing people in record numbers. There is a global epidemic of stress. The reported deaths from combat zones, hurricanes, fires, school shootings, all horrific in their own right, are dwarfed by the casualties from opioids, alcohol and suicides. The “false wizards” of pills, alcohol and binge-eating are all being used by those unable to cope with the pace of life today without “self-medication”.
As I say in my new book, there is an exit ramp out of the A.S.A.P. Lane (anxious, stressed, addicted and pressured). Mindfulness, an umbrella term for yoga and meditation is being used by an increasing number, yet, the stereotype held by many, that “no one like me does yoga” persists especially among men, seniors, kids/teens, African-Americans and Hispanics. This view is particularly acute among men, who feel it’s not macho enough, not vigorous enough, not as challenging as other more traditional gym workouts. This springs partially from the mantra we’ve all grown up with in America, that “bigger, better, faster, stronger” is the true path to success.
This mantra has served us well as a country, as it has led to dominance in many areas and a level of prosperity not enjoyed in most other parts of the world. It has also, been the mantra of the U.S. Military. The dark side of this for the country, our civilian population and our fighting men and women is that it has led to an unprecedented level of mental and emotional damage. It may come as a surprise to many of our listeners that the U.S. Military, the world’s finest fighting force, including our elite Special Operations Forces have discovered that “bigger, better, faster, stronger” isn’t enough in today’s environment and that yoga and meditation has been added to the training regimen, and is being used widely to better equip our commanders and our soldiers with the mental and emotional skills to deal with the rigors of battle and life afterward.
Welcome Jamie, and many thanks for taking the time to be our guest.
In today’s episode you will learn:
- About the Fog of War, a term heard a lot, and the mental and emotional challenges this presents to the combatant and the commanders trying to make rational decisions among the smoke, noise and chaos that a battle involves.
- How the horrors of war, and the trauma from both physical injuries and PTSD are afflicting an increasing number.
- About the additional mental and emotional challenges that go with being a leader in a combat situation?
- How mindfulness is being employed today in the military
- About the findings of the Walter Reed Research Institute regarding the effectiveness of mindfulness in the military?
- About the important, high-profile roles being played by both Jamie and Susan in their post-active duty lives.
- About the resistance that many men have to yoga, in particular, and how it is being used in both the military and professional sports, including recent Super Bowl winning teams and by individual players like LeBron James, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and others.