By Mikal Vega
“We cannot extinguish the fires of hell and escape the odium of the ash that darkens us.”
-Mikal A. Vega on Combat Related Stress
People think that SEALs are automatons, impervious to the stressors of combat. Unfortunately, no human is impervious to the physiological effects of war.
The most elite of all war fighters have an innate ability to withstand extraordinary amounts of stress. We can readily adapt to any situation presented. This attribute is one of the key factors that make us so formidable upon the field of battle yet even then, given the correct combination of circumstances, we can falter--mentally and physically.
Through personal experiences in "treating" my own combat related stress (commonly described as PTSD) and mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), I entered a space that had afforded me the clarity to transform post-traumatic stress into a strength—a strength that I never would have developed were it not for these very experiences that led me to Kundalini Yoga.
At one time, I saw my life as one negative event after another but today I see these life events as blessings, a series of necessary occurrences that have prepared me for my greatest mission—to broadcast this energy across the globe and inspire others to embark upon their own spiritual quest.
My name is Mikal Vega, a combat veteran that served 22 years within the Naval Special Warfare (Navy SEAL Team) and EOD (bomb squad) communities. While deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and while manning the turret of a HMMWV, an IED detonated dangerously close while returning from an otherwise non eventful mission.
The injuries sustained included severe cervical trauma, ulnar nerve damage and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI). It was trauma that could take months, if not years, to recover and eventually led to my discharge. After 22 years of honorable service, I was medically retired.
Leaving the teams was just as, if not more, painful than the physical injuries I suffered. I had the fortune of fighting alongside, and leading, some of the finest warriors of our time—men, some of which, died while fighting for what they believed in.
I'm confident there are countless reasons amongst our ranks as to why individuals volunteer for combat, the point where life becomes a currency for purchasing an end-state for the greater good.
Mine was to find peace.
I did not want to leave the battlefield. It was a place where I felt most comfortable. It was a place where I felt invigorated. It was a place where I felt most needed.
Despite the environment, I could go out and do my job then return and sleep like a baby. I assume, in retrospect, it was because I had the combination of purpose and the support of two nations who believed that what we were doing was right. That, coupled with the satisfaction in the eyes of a liberated Iraqi citizen after an operation, gave me an undeniable internal conviction that what we were engaged in overseas was well worth the cost.
I wanted to stay, more than I knew, at the time.
It was not until I returned back to the United States did full realization sink in as to the degree I was entrenched. It was as if there was no right or wrong anymore. Like everything was on an even field.
I remember feeling so hollow. Nothing filled that empty space. Not women, alcohol, video games, violence, nothing. For me, life was like living in an abyss.
There were times where I would go four days without sleep. I could feel the silence. I couldn't stop my mind from racing. I couldn't concentrate. It was as if I had become a zombie. Nothing mattered to me, except of course trying to get back to what I was once doing. Knowing I wasn't ever going to get back to where I was brought a sense of self-loathing and lack of self-worth. I became even more reclusive and detached.
The true spiral began when psychiatrists started writing prescriptions.
Psychiatry wants to profile post-traumatic stress as a disorder when, in actuality, it is a normal physiological response to abnormal conditions. Through my own experience I have learned that medical professionals seem to have an understanding of the physiology but the community as a whole has failed miserably in successful treatment of the root causes.
I feel my ability to heal was actually inhibited by the pills prescribed. It wasn't until the cocktail of psychiatric drugs almost took my life did I seek my own path to recovery through non pharmaceutical means.
Twenty-two veterans and one active duty service member commit suicide daily. Tally the numbers and that’s more than 80,000 veterans taking their own lives annually. This is an epidemic.
I believe I have been given the answer to help resolve this calamity.
What I have discovered is that successful treatment for Post Traumatic Stress comes from shutting that cortisol valve and balancing the hormonal system, naturally—not by putting a pharmaceutical band-aid on symptoms and ignoring the root causes.
Through my journey in dealing with years of combat related stress, I have developed a combination of methodologies that assist in restoring natural sleep cycles, and increase stress resiliency, physical ability, and mental acuity.
I call it Vital Warrior.
Vital Warrior is the product of my efforts to replicate my journey from the edge of a drug induced death to a life filled with joyful blessings and “miracles” that are common when one wholly commits to a spiritual quest.
Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan has been, and continues to be, the most difficult and rewarding thing I have done in my life. Naturally, it is the core of Vital Warrior and allows our clients to develop the awareness to learn the subconscious landscape, remove obstacles and choose a positive projection in their day to day thought patterns. It repairs and increases cognitive function and mitigates the stress response. This clears the psyche to receive the blessings that we are meant to enjoy and share.
Vital Warrior, with the implementation of Kundalini Yoga, eliminates the mindset that primarily views the cultivation of divine creativity as a “soft or feminine” technique that has little place in the warrior mindset, when in actuality it balances the destructive forces developed over a decade of war.
Mikal Vega teaches donation based Kundalini Yoga classes to the veteran community at the RA MA Yogic Institute of Applied Science on Lincoln Blvd. in Venice California (www.ramayogainstitute.com). Vital Warrior (www.vitalwarrior.org) is currently serving veterans and their families in Southern California from San Diego to Los Angeles.
SAG-AFTRA Actor www.imdb.me/mikalvega
Kundalini Yoga Teacher www.ramayogainstitute.com
Vital Warrior Founder www.vitalwarrior.org