Find Joy When You Can

ZachSobiechCloudsSometimes we get so wrapped in war and the aftermath, we forget that our purpose in life is to be the best person we are, and to find the joy in it whenever we can. Sometimes, someone comes along unexpectedly to remind us.

A young man died on May 20. He wasn’t a veteran, he’d never been to war. He was a young man who had spent the last four years battling Osteo Sarcoma. Zach Sobiech  touched millions with an incredible song he wrote about his own eminent journey into the clouds.  But his journey is one for all of us to remember… “You don’t have to find out you’re dying to start living.”  You can also find a moving account produced by Soul Pancake (a project by Rainn Wilson) in a mini-documentary on My Last Days.

To Zach. We at WarRetreat will always be grateful to you. We are so glad that music and creativity filled your days. A great song from a generous heart.

Veterans: Unplug and Get Back To Nature

“The data across age groups —regular folks from age 18 into their 60s — showed an almost 50 percent increase in creativity.”

Remember: your yoga mat can double as a sleeping mat in the great outdoors.

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This week, a great study published by the University of Kansas shows that a few days in the wilderness on outdoor adventures significantly increases creativity. The study was done in partnership with Outward Bound Colorado, and tested four backpacking groups that made up a study group of 120 participants. Some were tested prior to taking off, others were tested four days into the trip. The result showed a 50 percent increase in creativity, insight and problem solving.

While electronics have become second nature to us, all this plugging-in can also increase a sense of obligation to either maintain levels of connectedness, which can come at the expense of maintaining connections to our surroundings, and those around us. As much as I like practicing yoga on the mat, many people roll it up once class is done and get back to their smart phones. In other words, they go back to what they were doing before. Outdoor excursions though, especially ones that take a person away for a few days, allow them to completely decompress from the obligations of social networking and see their lives without (what I call) the static noise.

So unplug, move, breathe, get outside –even if it’s just a one hour walk each day. As one of the researchers stated:

“There’s growing advantage over time to being in nature,” said Ruth Ann Atchley. “We think that it peaks after about three days of really getting away, turning off the cell phone, not hauling the iPad and not looking for internet coverage. It’s when you have an extended period of time surrounded by that softly fascinating environment that you start seeing all kinds of positive effects in how your mind works.”

One outlet is the Outward Bound for Veterans program. Several of my friends have been on one, and friend Sebastian Junger is an active proponent for these experiences.

“I think the course I went on was very helpful and it allowed me to grow as a person. I was also allowed to talk about things in a calm, accepting environment with open-minded people. It felt good to let out some things I have held on to for a long time.”  -A veteran, Outward Bound for Veterans

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Sunday Life Advice: Make Creative Choices

When you’re part of a larger organization –business, work, a family, a community with a common interest or vocation, or the military,  there can be a tendency to be pigeon-holed into a specific role. If you can, try to work beyond those boundaries in order to discover yourself. Do something you really enjoy, have always wanted to do but shelved because it didn’t seem possible or others dissuaded you from pursuing it. Make creative choices. Learn from sources new and those that are unexpected. Allow yourself the chance to change, and while you’re working with an eye to the future –be flexible, and present. Keep in mind those who are watching you work through your change may feel a bit mystified, so remember –be kind to them too.

Sunday Life Advice is a weekly series of the WarRetreat blog. If you have a tidbit that you can summarise in 300 words or less, send it to us. Photos welcome. Send it to us at WarRetreat at gmail dot com