“Be Free. Be Well. Be Whole.” That is the message Gail Soffer hopes to get across during a three-day retreat for Imperial Valley veterans as well as active duty service members and members of the National Guard and the Reserve forces, along with their families and service providers or caregivers.
Scheduled Nov. 3, 4 and 5, the free retreat is being brought to the Valley by Imperial County Behavioral Health Services in collaboration with Imperial County Veterans Service Office and directly presented by the Mindful Warrior Project, which Soffer founded.
“We teach veterans and active duty Guard and reserve members, their families and children, service providers and caregivers simple, secular mindfulness,” Soffer said. “Using just the essence of mindfulness, we show how to pay attention to present moment experiences with openness and curiosity, exploring without judgment, to observe, notice, and pay attention to what’s going on inside us – physically, mentally, emotionally – as well as around us.”
The Mindful Warrior Project, based in the Los Angeles area, serves Southern California through special events such the upcoming one 5 at Ricochet Rec Center, 450 W. Aten Road, Imperial.
“This upcoming retreat will benefit our clients in learning other ways to cope with stressors and improve quality of life for those who deal with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” said Mary Esquer, Behavioral Health Manager. “By using mindfulness and tools provided through the Mindful Warrior Project, veterans and their families can learn together ways to maintain wellness and give them hope.”
The Nov. 3 event is open to the general public and will begin at 5:30 p.m. with registration and an introduction and overview. A pizza buffet will be available, and a commercial film, suitable for all ages, that will illustrate what will be discussed during the retreat.
The Nov. 4 and 5 activities will begin at 9 a.m. and conclude by 6 p.m. and are geared for veterans and service members, as well as their families.
“This retreat is not only for clients at Behavioral Health, but other individuals in our community who are somehow military connected as a parent, spouse, child, relative, caretaker, and in other ways” said Esquer. “The Imperial County Veteran Services Office is also spreading the word about this great free event. I am hoping our community takes advantage of this simple way to empower themselves.”
The Mindful Warrior Project mission statement defines the term “be free” as being able to “discover the tools and resources to move out of ‘surviving’ mode and into ‘thriving mode.'” Being well is to “courageously see yourself through your potential rather than through the problem or pain,” while to “be whole” is defined as to “empower yourself by learning to fully participate in your own healing process.”
“This work is very powerful, very simple,” Soffer said. On its web page, mindfulwarriorproject.org, mindfulness is defined as “the practice of paying attention to present moment experiences with openness, curiosity, acceptance, non-judgment, and compassion – a willingness to be with what is.”
“This is absolutely not a New Age spiritual activity,” Soffer said. “We don’t meditate, we don’t do chants. This has nothing to do with any spiritual practices or religion.”