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ABC7 Salutes: Free mindfulness class that helps veterans deal with trauma

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Anxiety, depression, trauma are just a few of the things many veterans return with when they come home. But a local non-profit is giving vets the tools they need to help them deal with the aftereffects of combat. (KABC)

Anxiety, depression, trauma are just a few of the things many veterans return with when they come home. But a local non-profit is giving vets the tools they need to help them deal with the aftereffects of combat.

Army Veteran Pete Serrano was through an exercise in mindfulness and he made a mental checklist of how he's doing.

"It keeps me grounded. It keeps me focused," he said.

Airforce Veteran Terri Mulero said it can be immediate relief.

"It helps me not to concentrate on the negative things," she said.

The mindfulness session promotes openness and curiosity. There is no judging or agenda for change, according to Mindful Warrior Project Founder Gail Soffer.

She carefully tailored the classes to both recognize military culture and address the specific needs of veterans.

"We honor injuries. We're not sitting cross-legged on the floor with no back support. So we're just learning present moment awareness," Soffer said.

The practice helps Serrano understand the intense feelings he has about his time in Vietnam.

"I'm able to push bad memories out and live a better life," he said.

The course explores themes such as self-forgiveness, self-compassion, acceptance and non-judgement.

"You're with people who know what you're talking about, who get it and are practicing not judging," Soffer said.

The goal is to teach veterans how to recognize and control their emotional reactions.

While many guided-imagery classes may ask participants to picture walking through a forest or beach, Soffer understands that may not work for vets.

"To you that might be a beautiful scene, but to someone else that might be the scene of their trauma," she said.

The Mindful Warrior Project offers free classes at various places, including the American Legion Hall in Pasadena.

Soffer, the daughter of a veteran, finds the simple practice has the power to heal.

"The results that I've seen (are) heartbreakingly beautiful," she said.
Related Topics:
healthABC7 Salutesveteransmental healthPasadenaLos Angeles County
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