January 25, 2009

Some Insights From Ilona Meagher on Presence of Mind

The more I write here, the more blessings God gives me. Lately I have been talking with people on the national scene, some of the leading PTSD advocates. A high profile PTSD lawyer, some of the leading proponents in the veterans court movement, and authors. Such as the veteran blogger of PTSD: Winning the War Within, Ilona Meagher, who had commented on one of my latest articles. Additionally, Ilona has authored Moving a Nation to Care: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and America's Returning Troops. I do not think that she will mind me dropping her name (I hope).

Scott, this is a remarkable piece.

You're on the leading edge of something magnificent, using new media to add your insightful observations to the mix. To me, that is the power of the era we are living in today. The immediacy of the exchange of these thoughts and observations is going far to change the way we view these grand issues we all grapple with, veterans and civilians alike.

So, I do believe that your work here...to help raise awareness and advance a higher consciousness forged out of your experiences is a great gift to the rest of society -- and humanity as well. It is one of the positive aspects of the dichotomy of war, that its participants often struggle yet often rise out of those struggles to become even better leaders and providers of truth and knowledge. Thank you for your continued service to us.

Wanted to let you know that I'm going to include some of your words and insights here in my Honors Capstone paper (which I hope to present at Purdue University and get published in a peer-reviewed journal afterward). They are directly on target for what I'm researching and will help to move my thesis forward.

Thank you for what you're doing!


P.S. I have talked about this facet of feeling so 'alive' combat that you point to here. I have a certain theory on this, culled from a lot of reading and researching the issue of consciousness and presence, etc. over the past years.

One of the reasons why I believe you feel so 'alive' at those moments is not merely because you're faced with your own mortality. But rather, imho, it's because your situation demands that your mind be fully present in the moment. Your mind knows that the only way it can survive is if your physical body survives, and so it shuts itself down for a change and becomes clear and present in the moment.

The mind tamps down all of its usual destructive 'mind chatter' (that most people usually have going on in their heads all the time) in those times of danger. It pushes out the usual stuff that takes us away from being in the moment every moment: those endless loops of thoughts on resentments or hang-ups over past situations (like how your parents or friend or girlfriend did this or that to you last week or last year or last decade and you can't forgive them or you are damaged because of them, etc.).

And your mind in those 'alive' moments also for a change gives up its power and control over your peace of mind, allowing streams of anxiety or worry over the future dissipate.

In those moments, where your mind melts away and you become alert and present to where you are at that very moment, you have clarity and an awesome and powerful feeling and knowledge of your aliveness because you're present in the moment liked you've never been before. When I mentioned this recently to an Iraq veteran who I am friendly with, he looked at me with a kind of 'ah-ah' look on his face and said that definitely makes a lot of sense.

Now, the reason why I think this is important to consider if you're a former combat veteran grieving a bit over the 'loss' of that feeling of aliveness, is that knowing why you felt alive actually opens up a pathway to returning to that state -- but without having to have fear or having to be in mortal danger be the fuel for it.

There are a lot of ways to presence.

While today's moments may not 'live up' to the exciting moments of your days in combat, they are the only moments you really have. The past is gone (and it's not coming back), and the future is never guaranteed. All we as humans should focus on is bringing our full attention and energy into experiencing the present moments that we live in.

Our minds play funny tricks on us, have you noticed? Our mind devalues the present. It actively places a higher value on the past (that's why memories are usually more rose-colored than not), and it also places a higher value on the future (life will be better when I get to x,y,z...).

But 'aliveness' is not experienced in the past or the future -- no matter how much the mind would like you to think that it does. The present is the only vehicle to feeling alive, because it's the only time we really are. I know this is long and maybe a bit difficult to get a handle on (I'm still working on understanding it all as well), but your incredible post here drove me to wish to share these musings with you.

Again, keep up the great work, (((((Scott))))).

You are an important element in the progress we see today in our treatment and understanding of the issues that surround war and the search for meaning and peace with ourselves and the environment that envelops us.


  1. Scott, I just left the following at Ilona's post about your post:

    Once again Ilona Thanks for bringing another's writings/thoughts on this to the forefront, Great Job!

    I came to leave a comment, after reading most of yours but taking a Visit to Scott's site and reading his, only to find as well his Post about Your Comment.

    As I'm writhing this I'm putting together a Post on Both and including links to some more of Scott's posts as well.

    Than when coming back to yours to comment I see that Scott beat me to it.

    Scott you also do a Great Job writing, wish I was as able in the writing department.

    As Ilona knows I'm a 'Nam Vet, one who really doesn't suffer the traumatic effects of PTS, but an Advocate of my brothers and sisters from than till now, who do, as well as to your time, Gulf War Syndrome. My belief is we, who are sent into invasions and occupations, All have a degree of PTS, for it's the complete opposite of our upbringing, and even if not directly in Combat we know what is going on and often see the results, just as the civilian populations of. The same goes for those in the civilian population that suffer from, depending on the degree of the trauma and how it effects each individually.

    I hope by spreading your link others will visit and understand better!

  2. James, thank you so much for being an advocate for our veterans and for cross posting my article and links to my blog. It is perplexing to realize that we keep having to do the same thing over and over again with our veterans. To educate the public of the plight that our veterans face on a daily basis. For our WWII and WWI vets it was to suffer in silence, for our Korean and Vietnam vets the denial of such suffering, and for my generation of Desert Storm vets the myth of the "Jarhead" movie as a common experience and of the denial of the Gulf War Syndrome (which was recently acknowledged by the US government) and now with our modern veterans, the rates of PTSD have reached 15% already (with a 15-40% lifetime rate after combat [2nd para]). With multiple tours our modern veterans become exponentially more vulnerable to become one of the walking wounded.


Please share your comments, stories and information. Thank you. ~ Scott Lee