Stand With Beirut

On Tuesday August 4th, Beirut witnessed a massive explosion. Beirut’s iconic business district was destroyed. The explosion was so big and wide it reached cities nearby. Many of those cities around Beirut are destroyed. Buildings collapsed, windows and doors of most homes came out. As per official figures, 157 are dead, hundreds still missing, at least 4000 injured while 400,000 have been displaced and became homeless. The tragedy is so big people are in complete shock.

IAHV Lebanon will be providing the much needed trauma relief workshops to help people ease the weight of the tragedy, in addition to immediate supplies.

 

Freedom From Within

presents

FREEDOM FROM WITHIN


Incarcerated Women Photo & Video Premier |
Special Online Event

Thursday, August 13  | 4:00pm – 5:00pm ET

Please join us for an incredible hour of experiences from
incarcerated women and breathing meditation techniques.

 

 

To improve students’ mental health, Yale study finds, teach them to breathe

When college students learn specific techniques for managing stress and anxiety, their well-being improves across a range of measures and leads to better mental health, a new Yale study finds.

The research team evaluated three classroom-based wellness training programs that incorporate breathing and emotional intelligence strategies, finding that two led to improvements in aspects of well-being. The most effective program led to improvements in six areas, including depression and social connectedness.

The researchers, who reported findings in the July 15 edition of Frontiers in Psychiatry, said such resiliency training programs could be a valuable tool for addressing the mental health crisis on university campuses.

In addition to academic skills, we need to teach students how to live a balanced life,” said Emma Seppälä, lead author and faculty director of the Women’s Leadership Program at Yale School of Management. “Student mental health has been on the decline over the last 10 years, and with the pandemic and racial tensions, things have only gotten worse.”

Researchers at the Yale Child Study Center and the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence (YCEI) conducted the study, which tested three skill-building training programs on 135 undergraduate subjects for eight weeks (30 hours total), and measured results against those of a non-intervention control group.

They found that a training program called SKY Campus Happiness, developed by the Art of Living Foundation, which relies on a breathing technique called SKY Breath Meditation, yoga postures, social connection, and service activities, was most beneficial. Following the SKY sessions, students reported improvements in six areas of well-being: depression, stress, mental health, mindfulness, positive affect, and social connectedness.

A second program called Foundations of Emotional Intelligence, developed by the YCEI, resulted in one improvement: greater mindfulness — the ability for students to be present and enjoy the moment.

A third program called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, which relies heavily on mindfulness techniques, resulted in no reported improvements.

In all, 135 Yale undergraduate students participated in the study.

Across college campuses, there has been a significant rise in student depression, anxiety, and demand for mental health services. From 2009 to 2014, students seeking treatment from campus counseling centers rose by 30%, though enrollment increased by just 6% on average. Fifty-seven percent of counseling center directors indicated that their resources are insufficient to meet students’ needs.

The researchers say resiliency training tools can address the overburdening of campus counseling centers directly. In the sessions. “Students learn tools they can use for the rest of their lives to continue to improve and maintain their mental health,” said co-first author Christina Bradley ’16 B.S., currently a Ph.D. student at University of Michigan.

Researchers administered the training sessions in person, but the courses can also be taken remotely.

Continually adding staff to counseling and psychiatric services to meet demand is not financially sustainable — and universities are realizing this,” Seppälä said. “Evidence-based resiliency programs can help students help themselves.”

Davornne Lindo ’22 B.A., a member of the Yale track team who participated in the SKY Campus Happiness program, said practicing breathing techniques helped her to manage stress from both academics and athletics. “Now that I have these techniques to help me, I would say that my mentality is a lot healthier,” Lindo said. “I can devote time to studying and not melting down. Races have gone better. Times are dropping.”

Another participant in the SKY program, Anna Wilkinson ’22 B.A., said she was not familiar with the positive benefits of breathing exercises before the training, but now uses the technique regularly. “I didn’t realize how much of it was physiology, how you control the things inside you with breathing,” Wilkinson said. “I come out of breathing and meditation as a happier, more balanced person, which is something I did not expect at all.”

The research was funded in part by an anonymous donor to the YCEI and with the support of Yale Well, a group of students, faculty, and staff convened by Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews to increase student wellness at Yale. Additional researchers include Dhruv Nandamudi, Julia Moeller, Leilah Harouni, and Marc A. Brackett, founder and director of the YCEI.

IAHV Statement on Mental Health Awareness Month

MAY 2020 WASHINGTON DC:

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the International Association for Human Values (IAHV) and the Art of Living Foundation are  committed to joining communities and organizations across the country to raise awareness about the millions of Americans affected with mental ailments. It is not only important to raise awareness on mental health but also proactively work towards mental well-being of individuals and communities.

Roughly 1 in 5 U.S. adults, nearly 47.6 million people, experience serious mental illness each year. [1] Added to that, more than 50 percent of Americans will manage a mental health condition at some point in their lives. These statistics were gathered pre-COVID-19. Given the nature of the pandemic the importance of addressing mental health is more significant than ever before.

A poll just released in April by the Kaiser Foundation shows that about half of adults feel the pandemic is impacting their mental health. Almost one in five says it’s been a major impact. With social distancing and increased levels of isolation it becomes paramount to address ways to mitigate the negative impacts of stress and anxiety.

IAHV works around the world with the most vulnerable sections of society to build community resilience by offering breath-based workshops to reduce mental stress, anxiety and trauma. The courses have benefitted refugees, survivors of violence, war veterans and those navigating stresses of everyday life. In fact, the founder of the organization, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is hosting daily online meditation sessions https://www.youtube.com/srisri  across social media channels to help reduce stress of people around the globe. Millions around the world join these sessions every day to help navigate the uncertainties in the world outside by finding peace within.

If this crisis has taught us one thing it is that we are all connected. We are in this together and we will get through this together. By caring and working together, we can bring about a positive wave. We can shift the social stigma that prohibit people from getting appropriate care. We can work towards a nation and world where people prioritize mental health well-being to fulfil their highest potential.

Daily online meditations can be accessed across:
YouTube: youtube.com/srisri
Instagram: @srisriravishankar
Facebook: @SriSriRaviShankar

Inaugural Mental Health and Fitness Summit Aims to Disrupt America’s Mental Health Crisis by Bringing Together Innovative Experts : July 22-25, 2019, Denver, CO

Summit will feature change makers from the healthcare, government and humanitarian fields in an effort to adopt concrete solutions to improve early intervention, treatment and stigmatization of mental health

 

Denver, CO — (May 8, 2019)

 

More than 46 million Americans (1 in 5) suffer from mental illness every given year – causing tremendous suffering to those impacted and their families and costing the US almost 200 billion dollars a year. 

 

The International Association of Human Values (IAHV) and its founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar will host its Inaugural National Summit on Mental Health and Fitness in Denver, CO on July 22-25, 2019. The event aims to disrupt outdated approaches to Mental Health by bringing in experts and change makers to share their unique vision and expertise with the goal of producing an integrated mental health model that focuses on the whole person.

American Author, Writer, and Activist and the Presidential candidate for 2020, Marianne Williamson will be opening the conference. Expert speakers at the Summit include Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, celebrated humanitarian and peacemaker; Tim Ryan, Congressman and Presidential candidate OH-13; Dr Nata Menabde, Executive Director, World Health Organization Office at the United Nations; Bill Milliken, Founder & Vice Chairman, Communities in Schools; Barbara Van Dahlen, Founder & President of Give an Hour Psychologist; and Emma Seppala, Science Director, Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.

The Summit aims to bring together experts with varied expertise from diverse fields to build a holistic approach for faster interventions, lower cost treatments and efficient ways to curb violence and crimes through mental health prevention. Experts will discuss and present integrated strategies that enhance positive emotions, life satisfaction and spirituality while addressing biological, cultural and economic approaches to treating mental health.

“Not being in touch with your inner being is one of the main reasons for mental health instability. When one is not able to effectively manage their emotions and thoughts, then they are also inhibited in their communication. Lack of proper communication causes all sorts of problems – for individuals and societies alike – leading to stress and trauma that impacts mental health. This summit will bring people together to learn meditation, calm their minds, and make one feel happy from within.” says Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Attendees at this year’s Summit will hail from multiple professions, backgrounds and parts of the world, providing for unique networking opportunities to be a part of a founding movement that changes the way we think about and manage mental illness in our communities.

 

The Summit will conclude on July 24th with the largest meditation event in U.S. history America Meditates, in Denver’s City Park, will bring together community, raising awareness and inspiring the public to stand together for better mental well-being. On July 25th there will be a policy making lunch and round table by application for the changemakers in their organizations. Sam Beard and Bill Milliken will be putting the collective wisdom into new policy initiatives.

Corporate sponsorships are also available for this unique event. For those interested, please contact Sajni at 720-722-2653. Tickets for the event can be purchased here.

PR Contact: KristinAnn Janishefski, The Vanguard PR on Behalf of IAHV 310-560-6258

About IAHV:

IAHV offers programs to reduce stress and develop leaders so that human values can flourish in people and communities. We foster the daily practice of human values – a sense of connectedness and respect for all people and the natural environment, an attitude of non-violence, and an ethic of social service. Our programs enhance clarity of mind, shift attitudes and behaviors, and develop leaders and communities that are resilient, responsible, and inspired.

 

About Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Sri Sri is a humanitarian, teacher and peacemaker. He founded global non-profits the Art of Living and the International Association for Human Values – two of the largest volunteer-run non-profits in the world – to help relieve stress and trauma, teach human values, and increase happiness. He has created trauma-relief and meditation programs for at-risk youth, war veterans, prisoners and survivors of disaster. He is also engaged in peace-making efforts internationally and in war-torn areas like Colombia and Iraq. 18 universities have awarded him with honorary doctorates for his peace-keeping efforts. In addition, he has also received 38 governmental awards. In the United States, he has received the International Humanitarian Award from the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the award for Inspiring Humanity from the Foundation for California. He has been an invited speaker at institutions like the United Nations, the European Parliament, the World Economic Forum, and the Israeli Presidential Conference, as well as top universities like Stanford University, The Wharton School, and the University of Southern California. In addition, he has spoken at conferences like TED. He has been featured on CNN and The New York Times, has written over 40 books and contributes to The Huffington Post. Scientific research on his programs has shown that they significantly decrease anxiety, stress and depression while making people feel happier and more optimistic.

Kerala Flood Rescue, Relief and Rehabilitation Efforts

While those on ground zero strive on, you can lend them a helping hand, no matter where you are…
RESCUE  |  RELIEF  |   REHABILITATION  

Relief material from IAHV/Art of Living headquarters in Bangalore, heading to Kerala


The Extent of damage…

IAHV and The Art of Living Foundation volunteers have been on the ground helping with relief efforts in Kerala this past month. We have been receiving updates from them on progress being made. As you know more than 50% of the Kerala map has been affected by floods. With heavy rainfall this monsoon season, flooding and landslides are a continuous threat. Transportation and communication is yet to be streamlined. More than 200,000 families have taken refuge at relief camps across the state. The Government states the damage is more than $2 billion.
Thousands of Art of Living volunteers have come to the respite of the flood victims, saving them from the mishap systematically with Rescue, Relief and Rehabilitation efforts.
 
We are grateful to our donors for their support to IAHV’s flood relief efforts.  We seek your continued support in reaching our target to raise $500,000. Many employers match your contributions to IAHV, please contact your employer. 
 
Please donate generously!

Handling Rescue operations…
More than 1,650 flood victims across the state have been rescued by the volunteers of the Art of Living.
 
The HAM radio support system setup via the collectorate offices operated by our volunteers had received more than 15,000 rescue calls that had been routed to the support stations across the state.

Offering timely Relief …
Relief materials of about 520+ tons have been sent via container trucks and other modes of transportation to several of the afflicted zones in Kerala. More on the way.  Additionally continued free medical care, distribution of home kits, clearing transportation pathways, cleaning of homes and institutions are in progress. 
Here is a short summary on supporting relief materials amounting to roughly about $1.35 million. 
Kerala Flood Relief facts and figures


Executing planned Rehabilitation… 

When it comes to disaster relief, it is equally important to bring back life to normalcy and setting up a system of sustenance for the evacuated victims and sheltered families in Kerala.

Activities in-progress are
  • More than 45 medical camps have been held. Free medical check ups and treatment in relief camps.
  • More than 120 trauma relief workshops have been conducted by trained Art of Living instructors for victims to overcome stress and trauma.
  • Skills and leadership training are being provided to the youth to boost self-reliance and enable them to rebuild / sustain their communities.


Pictures from our ground volunteers…
 
While Kerala is battling its unprecedented crisis in its own way, it is heartening to see the IAHV & Art of Living volunteers from across the country come together and provide relentless support.

Here are few pictures they have shared with us. We are grateful for their selfless service. You can find more updates and pictures on our IAHV twitter feed.

Huge containers with relief material on bound to Kerala
Sending relief materials to Kerala

Volunteers distributing relief materials 

Our volunteers with rescued flood victims

Cleaning flooded homes

Cleaning in progress

Clearing of debris

 Setting up much needed electricity

Clearing pathways

Team work…

Offering Trauma relief

Evacuated victims taking a few moments to meditate

Trauma relief to evacuated victims

Trauma relief to evacuated victims

Medical care in camps
 
We thank you for your continued support,
 
IAHV Team

Appeal for Kerala Flood Relief

Dear Friend,

This August, the South Indian state of Kerala has witnessed the most disastrous monsoon in over 100 years. More than 200,000 people have been rendered homeless and more than 300 left dead, with no means of access – roads, electricity, mobile phone networks, and transport. Cochin airport lies dilapidated and closed until August 26. 41 of Kerala’s 44 rivers are overflowing. Kerala’s residents need your help!

IAHV in partnership with Art of Living Foundation is responding to this situation. Over the past few days, hundreds of volunteers were deployed in relief work across several districts of Kerala. They have been distributing food, water, essential supplies and providing shelter to people in the hardest-hit districts.

IAHV and Art of Living Foundation’s staff and volunteers are trained to handle high disaster areas. With experience in disaster relief of over three decades and a wide partner network, we follow a proven three-pronged approach:

  • Immediate Relief, through supplies – food, water, medicines, clothes, and other basic amenities;
  • Post-Trauma Relief, through trauma relief counseling, meditation, and breathing programs; and
  • Long-Term Rehabilitation, through assistance with rebuilding shelters, vocational training,

This approach has helped thousands in multiple situations (including the recent disasters in Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Assam) recuperate quickly and get back to the main stream of their lives.

With your support, IAHV & Art of Living Foundation is working relentlessly to help alleviate the suffering of those severely affected. At times of crisis, collective resolution can go a long way to help those who need it most.

Your donation can mean the difference between life and death for people caught in the aftermath of this natural disaster. Your financial support would go towards offering food, clean water, hygiene & shelter kit, medical aid and help rehabilitate flood-affected survivors.

Donate now to IAHV KERALA FLOOD RELIEF and make a difference. IAHV is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All contributions are fully tax-deductible.

Donate Now

We thank you for your generosity.

IAHV Team in partnership with The Art of Living Foundation

On World Environment Day, Unesco-IAHV Side Event Focused On ‘Biodiversity And Water: Source Of Our Present And Our Future’

 

 

June 5, 2018 New York, NY

Clean, accessible water for all is an essential part of the world we want to live in. There is sufficient fresh water on the planet to achieve this. In the context of the Science, Technology and Innovation Forum for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this side event highlighted the contributions of the International Association for Human Values and of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme and its World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) in the implementation of these global goals. Biodiversity and water cut across all dimensions of sustainable development. Collective efforts to achieve SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) and SDG 15 (life on land) would directly contribute towards the achievement of all other SDGs. UNESCO’s Lima Action Plan of the MAB Programme highlights the key role of biosphere reserves in implementing the Agenda 2030.

The event offered a platform for experts and audiences to discuss ways to share and learn from successful experiences in implementing SDG 6 and in reaching the most marginalized groups, often excluded from the benefits of development. The conversation also delved into MAB programme and its WNBR to contribute to formulate an overarching and compelling narrative to communicate effectively on the SDGs. Going forward, the MAB program would focus on the role of local and indigenous knowledge in biodiversity management to identify trends among local good practices.

The panel was chaired by Dr. Flavia Schlegel, Assistant Director–General for Natural Sciences, UNESCO. Panelists included, Dr. Ajay Tejasvi Narasimhan, Director for Leadership and Governance, Art of Living and the International Association for Human Values; Mr. Vongani Maringa, MAB South Africa, Department of Environmental Affairs; Mr. Jean Philippe Messier, Canadian Association for Biosphere Reserves Canada; Mr. Leonard Kenny, Tsa Tue Biosphere Reserve, Canada; and Dr. Didier Babin, Chair of the MAB International Cocoordinating Council (ICC). The discussions were moderated by Professor Inger Maren, from the University of Bergen, Norway.

Dr. Ajay Tejasvi set the tone of the conversation by stating, “The Art of Living and International Association for Human Values seek to strengthen society by strengthening individuals. Our programs build resilient communities that are capable of dealing with the effects of climate change. One major initiative is about involving local communities in the process of integrated river basin rejuvenation. Till date, we have worked across 4 states in India, working on rejuvenating 37 rivers and tributaries across 9 river basins. From the scientifically rigorous initial preparation to planning and implementation, local communities are involved in every step of the way. This ensures that capacity remains in the community, even after the experts leave. The involvement of communities means more citizen engagement thus strengthening grassroots democracy and reduces risks of conflicts.”

It was evident that multi-sectoral efforts are required to realize the promise of SDG6 and SDG15. Dr Flavia Schlegel rounded off the discussion by reaffirming that UNESCO has unique tools to support Member states in implementing the SDG’s in a holistic way: the UNESCO sites such as the 669 biosphere reserves, belonging to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves located in 120 countries, including 20 transboundary sites. This World Network is dedicated to share positive solutions and to inspire and engage other stakeholders to its vision. Experiences and stories shared by all speakers highlighted the central role of local communities, and particularly indigenous peoples, in the implementation and sustainability of the projects. Strengthening partnerships and meaningful participation is essential to achieve the implementation of the SDGs 6 and guaranteeing access to water for all. The World Network has produced one-minute videos #ProudToShare for people to understand how they can contribute to solutions and to changing the world by 2030, when the SDGs are fully achieved.

 

SKY Schools Benefit Event with Marianne Williamson (Feb 8, NY)

A SKY Schools Benefit Event

To Improve the Lives of At-Risk Youth of NY & NJ

With Special Guest, MARIANNE WILLIAMSON,

Internationally Acclaimed Author and Lecturer

February 8th, 2018

5:30 – 9:00 PM, at one of NY’s top vegetarian restaurants of 2017

DIVYA’S KITCHEN

Evening Program:

Mixer with Eilxers and Mocktails

4 Course Ayurvedic Dinner by Chef Divya Adler|  Marianne’s Insight and Inspiration in an Intimate Setting | Live Music | Silent Auction

When you purchase a ticket, the entire cost will support 5 NY/NJ youth to receive the SKY Schools Program for an entire year.

Purchase Tickets

Purchase Tickets

____________________

YOU can make a difference. You can help heal our world.

ABOUT SKY SCHOOLS

SKY Schools is a program that teaches stress reduction, mindfulness and meditation skills that empower youth to rise above hardship and realize their full potential.

In the United States, nearly 1 out of every 3 students reports being a victim of bullying.

In 2017, Eastside High School in Newark, NJ, saw a 90% reduction in disciplinary actions, including bullying, with their at-risk youth students after learning YES! For Schools.

SKY Schools has shared life-changing skills to more than 70,000 young people in the US, in 22 states, in over 200 schools across the country, through uniquely bridging Social Emotional Learning, Restorative Practices & Mindfulness.

The goal is to reach 1 million youth by 2022.

Let’s come together for a night of connection and radical change. Help us raise awareness and $90,000 for SKY Schools.

After suffering in ‘own private hell’ vet gets relief from unlikely source

Nara SchoenbergContact Reporter
Chicago Tribune

 

Standing shoulder to shoulder with six of his fellow veterans, Fred Moffatt was honoring the dead at a military funeral, just as he’d done a hundred times before.

But that day last spring at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, something was different. The air was hot and wet: jungle air. The rain hitting Moffatt’s raincoat made exactly the sound the rain used to make when it fell on his metal combat helmet in Vietnam. Ordinary leaves took on vivid tropical hues, and distant trees lined up in the neat rows of Southeast Asian rubber plantations.

 

Featured Video: http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/95012795-132.html

 

Moffatt’s face turned ghost-white, and his body shook as time and space contracted, catapulting him back to 1967. It was all he could do not to shout out a warning when the wind sent a ripple through a bank of tall grasses: “Movement to the front!”

 

That kind of acute flashback could once have hounded Moffatt for hours, but the 71-year-old former Army medic from Joliet is one of a growing number of combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who are getting relief from an unlikely source: a yoga-based breathing and meditation workshop offered by Project Welcome Home Troops, an initiative at the nonprofit International Association for Human Values.

 

Almost 2,000 people, most of them veterans and active-duty service members suffering from the flashbacks, nightmares and anxiety of PTSD, have taken the workshop, according to Project Welcome Home Troops national director Leslye Moore.

 

Buoyed by a favorable 2014 pilot study at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a positive portrayal in the 2016 documentary “Almost Sunrise,” which can be seen Nov. 13 on PBS, Project Welcome Home Troops expects to enroll 1,000 people in workshops in 2018, up from 277 in 2016.

 

“Five years ago, people rolled their eyes at us,” said Moore.

 

“Now I have VA hospitals chasing me down, saying we need your program. I’m going to Manhattan to meet with the Manhattan VA, among other things. We’re showing ‘Almost Sunrise’ at Lincoln Center.”

 

For Moffatt, who took the workshop twice and attends monthly follow-up meetings, the breathing techniques have been very effective.

 

Counseling, which he started before the workshop, had already helped him, he said. But before learning the Project Welcome Home Troops breathing techniques, he couldn’t walk through the woods before dawn to prepare for deer hunting. The memories of the darkened underbrush in Vietnam, with its constant threat of ambush, were just too strong.

 

After taking the workshop for the first time two years ago, he still struggled with feelings of panic, but he was able to make it to the hunting site.

 

He could drive by visual reminders of Vietnam (a particular paving material on the road, a stretch of cleared brush) without having to pull off the road and collect himself. And that day at the cemetery when he had a flashback, he was able to complete his duties at the funeral, retreat to a quiet place for 20 minutes of breathing exercises and then continue calmly with his day.

“It amazed me,” said Moffatt, a retired mechanic with a steady blue-eyed gaze, wire-framed aviator glasses and a neatly trimmed gray mustache.

 

“I hadn’t had that bad a flashback for years, and instead of it lasting for hours, it only lasted for 30 minutes at most, and then everything was cool.” He clapped his hands to indicate the speed of the change: “I was back up, doing ceremonies. I went back to see (if the flashback would start again), and everything was fine.”

 

Also a graduate of the Project Welcome Home Troops workshop, Vietnam veteran Orlander Richardson remains, at 70, an imposing figure: tall and broad-shouldered, like a paratrooper from central casting. Two months ago, he tried skydiving for the first time — and loved it. But during an interview in a bright, spacious conference room at the Levy Senior Center in Evanston, he started to freeze up; memories of his time with the Army’s elite 101st Airborne Division were causing a flashback.

 

Richardson paused to close his eyes and to take the raspy Victory Breaths — sometimes called Darth Vader breaths — he learned a year ago in the Project Welcome Home Troops workshop.

 

The Victory Breath is part of the yoga tradition, said Pam Brockman, Illinois director of Project Welcome Home Troops. The breath stimulates the vagus nerve, which is linked to emotional resiliency and control. When you stimulate it, you calm down, the rush of energy and emotion that comes with acute stress recedes and you’re able to think clearly again.

 

That was the case with Richardson, who emerged from less than two minutes of Victory Breaths able to laugh and joke.

 

“I’m a skeptic,” he said. “If somebody could have told me years ago about trying this stuff years ago, I would have said, ‘You’re out of your mind. How is breathing going to control my emotions?’”

 

But Richardson, a retired mail carrier from Chicago, said that since he took the workshop a year ago, his blood pressure is down, he’s sleeping much better, he hasn’t had a traumatic combat nightmare and he’s able to slow down and react more constructively to the heightened sense of threat that can make ordinary situations terrifying or infuriating.

 

“What do you have to lose?” he tells fellow veterans. “Everyone I know has had positive effects, so there’s something to it.”

 

Moffatt flipped through an album of blurry black and white photos from his time in Vietnam. There was a black mountain rising like a pyramid over flat plains, a broad swath of rice paddies and a makeshift camp where a bespectacled teenager in a dusty uniform gazed, unsmiling, into the camera.

 

Moffatt examined the photo of his younger self: “Look at my eyes,” he said. “They look dead.”

 

During one battle, he said, he was knocked down with a concussion and taken for dead. A lieutenant had actually bent over him, ready to attach a “Killed in Action” tag, when Moffatt sat up.

 

But the worst, he said, taking a deep breath, was what happened at the 1967 Battle of Loc Ninh. He’d been assigned to a mortar crew, which, in turn, was targeted by a Viet Cong soldier. Moffatt would spot the man in the moonlight, raising his head to look around, then ducking back into the underbrush. Finally, after maybe 45 minutes, Moffatt spotted the man making his way toward him.

 

“He stood up, and he was just getting ready to shoot the mortar crew that was probably 25, 30 feet away,” Moffatt said.

 

“Well, I was quicker on the trigger than he was, and I keep on living that time and time again because it went totally against my nature (to shoot someone). I was brought up that you don’t point a gun at anything that you’re not going to shoot and eat. But it was them or him, so I just did it.”

 

He was awarded the Bronze Star, in part, he suspects, because of that incident. A few years ago at a military reunion, a member of the mortar crew came up to him and hugged him: “I never got to thank you for savin’ our (butt).” Still, Moffatt said, the memory haunts him.

 

When he returned to civilian life, he had multiple symptoms of PTSD, including hyper-viligance, in which you’re on high alert for danger. For years, there were embarrassing incidents, such as the time he instinctively ducked under the dashboard of the car his friend was driving, because the brush was pushed back from the sides of the road in a way that would have signaled the threat of snipers in Vietnam. There were sweaty, thrashing nightmares. In the course of a bad one, he said, he could push his wife, Sue, right out of bed. He didn’t even have a word for what he was going through, he said: “It was my own private hell.”

 

At work, co-workers knew not to surprise him by entering his workspace without warning. Once, taken by surprise while he was thinking about Vietnam, he instinctively moved to protect himself, elbowing the co-worker who had come up behind him.

 

Still, he did his best to suppress his feelings, and in some ways, he succeeded: “I was like a lot of guys my age,” he said. “We were working. We had families, houses, cars, jobs. Our minds were constantly busy. We were working for the weekend.”

 

It was when he retired and had time to think, he said, that all the terrible things that happened in Vietnam came flooding back: “I would wake up every 45 minutes or so and scan the room. I couldn’t sleep without facing a door or a window.”

 

After he went to the Veterans Assistance Commission in Joliet to check on his medical benefits, he was diagnosed with PTSD and offered free counseling. A counselor also suggested the Project Welcome Home Troops workshop.

 

His PTSD isn’t gone, he said; it never will be, but now he has effective ways to control it. He’s sleeping better. He’s so happy, he said, just to wake up in the night and be able to stare at a blank wall without immediately turning to check for intruders.

 

During a recent fall morning at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, the maples glowed lemon yellow and cherry red. Moffatt joined in the seven-gun salute at his first funeral of the day, chatted with friends and then walked up a small hill for an interview at an open-air pavilion lined by tall grasses and fluttering flags.

 

This is where he’d had that flashback last spring, he said, almost casually. During an earlier interview, he was sometimes tense or hesitant to revisit a bad moment, but now he had found his stride. He wasn’t relaxed, exactly, but he was engaged and confident. He still cares deeply about his fellow soldiers, he had said earlier, and he knows many of them are struggling.

 

“If this helps just one veteran, then it’s worth it,” he said.

 

nschoenberg@chicagotribune.com

Copyright © 2017, Chicago Tribune