Battling PTSD through Meditation: An Interview with Vetitation’s Erik Younger
PTSD is a problem. I think everyone, across all sides of the aisle and walks of life, can recognize that. Perhaps we are too quick to force pills down our veteran’s throats or they self medicate at the bottom of a bottle. Regardless, the problem is not going away, so it’s up to everyday heroes to find a solution. A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to “sit down” (via email) and get some answers from an emerging bastion of hope for veteran’s battling PTSD: Erik Younger. And Vetitation is his answer.
Erik founded and currently runs Vetitation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization “Dedicated to helping veterans find peace from PTSD by learning and practicing meditation.” Vetitation provides veterans with an opportunity to attend the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, California, where they learn all about treating their anxieties through meditation. Vetitation picks up the full tab (transportation and lodging!) while the recipients participate in weekend long seminars for “Meditation Weekend” and “Weekend Within.”
Check out the interview below:
Me: What inspired you to try meditation? Why did you create this foundation?
Erik: I found meditation by accident, it was part of a Ayurvedic health seminar I attended seeing if ancient Indian medicine could help heal my body from the constant Shingles (17 times now), chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and autoimmune issues. I was grasping at any hope of help and while yoga and meditation didn’t seem to be my cup of tea, I told myself I would try my hardest and really immerse myself into the various parts of the program. And after my first guided meditation session, I sobbed at what had just happened, I was able to close down my racing thoughts and memories, found the space between thoughts which was peaceful, my body has never felt so relaxed it was amazing and the clarity of thought was shocking. That night I meditated before bed, simply because I wanted those feelings back again, I wanted to relax and calm my mind down and I ended up falling asleep during the meditation and to my shock slept until 6am the next morning feeling rested which was such a cheerful experience after all these years.
I continued to meditate and noticed my hyper-vigilance easing, I was no longer slightly paranoid, I was sleeping better, if I woke due to a nightmare, I’d meditate and fall back asleep. My moods and productivity levels improved at work and at home, I had an inner peace that was allowing me to think about my past and process these memories, I wanted to hang out with neighbors and I was more talkative and engaging.
I thought, this was fantastic, has any research been done on meditation and ptsd? And sure enough I found medical studies indicating that this does work for veterans or those suffering from ptsd.
I felt strongly enough about this that in February of 2017 I started all the paperwork to start a 501c3 because I wanted to help other vets who are suffering and not caring if they live or die, like I did.
The Number Of Vets Being Helped
Me: How many veterans are attending the Deepak Chopra seminar? You said 5 in your email, but have you found funding for more since?
Erik: As of this moment, we have 5 veterans [2 infantry marines, 2 army infantry, and 1 Navy Seal] booked and ready to go [in october], funding for about 10 more and we are in the process of finding other facilities with certified meditation instructors to be able to ramp up sending more and more veterans that need this training. Long term goal for the charity would be to build a treatment center in the mountains near a major airport and be able to run small group sessions on learning meditation and trauma counseling on a much larger scale. Most veterans love the outdoors as long as they have a nice warm bed, but a peaceful setting dedicated to PTSD support through meditation where they can learn to relax, deal with their memories and truly learn to enjoy their life again is all we hope for. Big dream I know, but the funding is out there.
How Donations Are Spent
Me: Can I get a break down of how the funds/donations are spent?
Erik: Absolutely. First, we are a non-compensated board so no one takes any money for the work we are doing, this is too important to not spend it all on the veterans that need help. Besides, the supply of veterans with PTSD far surpasses our funding ability. The only expense paid for out of the donations is the cost of the CPA for filing the state and federal yearly returns, and he is a friend and it was reasonable.
We have received discounted services from the Chopra Center and reduced lodging from the Omni La Costa on site so a breakdown of costs:
- Meditation Seminar which includes 2 nights hotel and meals: $910
- Additional hotel night due to seminar ending at 4:30pm and not forcing these guys to fly red-eyes: $99
- Transportation from SAN to Carlsbad each way: $200
- Flights for each (averaged) of 5 tickets: $650
- Total cost for 4 day averaged $1900
How YOU Can Help
Me: Aside from your website, do you have any other way people can donate?
Erik: Yes, we have received checks made out to Vetitation mailed to the address on the website, along with Paypal and the credit card processing on the website.
If you’re interested in seeing what academic research is saying regarding meditation and PTSD, feel free to check out Vetitation’s medical research links here.
If you want to know more about Erik’s dedication, he’s giving a TedX talk on November 2nd in Wilmington, Delaware, called “Operation PTSD: veterans using meditation to heal their bodies and minds.”
I think it’s high time we sought alternative ways to treat PTSD in our veterans, and heroes like Erik Younger are making that all the more possible. Keep up the amazing work!
Disclaimer: At the time of publication, Vetitation was considered a Public Charity by the IRS. Consult your tax accountant regarding any, and all, tax deductions involving charitable donations. This is not an endorsement and you should conduct your own research before donating money to any organization.