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Mindfulness for Military Vets

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Maxine Hong Kingston, author of “The Woman Warrior”

On a day when the New York Times headline story is  “Suicides Outpacing War Deaths for Troops,” I wanted to call your attention to some good work going on with returning combat veterans.

To be clear — I want to see the day when military action becomes entirely replaced by skillful and persistent diplomatic efforts, and when the U.S. as a whole (government and citizens) is able to look deeply at the root causes and conditions of war and understand our place in that karma. Until that day comes, we have vets coming home who are wounded physically and emotionally.

Here are a few contemplative and mindfulness-based initiatives that I’m aware of that are serving this community (one of which is time-sensitive, with a retreat coming up this July). If you know of more, please share them in the comments below.

  • “The Coming Home Project” is a non-profit organization founded by Dr. Joseph Bobrow, Roshi, a Zen teacher. The project, begun in 2006, is devoted to providing expert, compassionate care, support, education, and stress management tools for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, service members, their families, and their service providers. Visit their website to find out more about their services.
  • The Buddhist Military Sangha is a nonpolitical and nonsectarian forum for Buddhists serving in the US Armed Forces. This website includes quite an extensive collection of links on pastoral care, mental health, and re-entry/readjustment websites.

Veterans’ Day

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Today is Veterans’ Day in the U.S., Remembrance Day in Australia — a day to honor soldiers of wars past.

There are some who believe that it’s wrong for people who practice Buddhism to have anything to do with the military. In moving toward a socially engaged Buddhism beyond labels, I would suggest that it’s not useful to label any person or institution as inherently “bad,” “evil,” or “violent.” Everything has both wholesome and unwholesome seeds, including the military.

There’s much more to be said about this which I’ll write about another time, but for now I join with others in remembering all those in the Armed Forces who gave their lives in the service of protecting others.

And a few links:

First, a couple of Buddhist-oriented programs and projects that offer support to military vets. I’m sure there are more, and would love to hear from you if you have resources to add to this list.

  • The Coming Home Project, founded by Zen teacher Joseph Bobrow, is devoted to providing compassionate expert care, support, education, and stress management tools for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, service members, their families, and their service providers.
  • The website for Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace, based on a book by Maxine Hong Kingston. For many years, Kingston has led writing retreats for veterans to help them find their voices as part of the process of healing from the wounds of war. This page has some wonderful resources on how to start a veterans’ writing group.


And — collection of today’s relevant writings on this topic from Buddhist bloggers:

Buddhist Military Sangha Blog entry by Lt Jeanette Shin, CHC USN

One City Buddhist Blog “A Minute of Silence”

Rev Danny Fisher’s Blog “5 Facts about Veterans and How You Can Help”





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