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Every Friday afternoon, I go to a friend’s house to sleep with the troops.*

You know…to relax.

We practice yoga nidra, a sort of yogic meditation and we often fall asleep. This is not frowned upon, it’s actually a sign that you are in the proper state of relaxation. Even the snoring is O.K.

This particular meditation is based on the iRest program which is making great strides in assisting returning war vets with post-traumatic stress disorder. It also helps with chronic pain, insomnia and chemical dependency. Nicholas Kristof recently shed light on the high rate of suicide of veterans and the iRest program is devoted to helping vets deal with trauma and pain. It is now being implemented in VA hospitals, homeless shelters, hospice and military bases.

I should take a moment to clarify that I am not a vet. I am a Canadian and pacifist, the sight of a gun makes me burst into tears, and there are all kinds of other reasons why I am absolutely unfit for service. But the teacher of my recent yoga philosophy class teaches yoga nidra, and so I have joined in with the lovely men and women in uniform.

There are many reasons that I love this class.

First, we pile ourselves up with a million pillows, blankets and bolsters and get as comfy as possible. The whole point is to get into a neutral position, so that you forget you even have a body. It’s a little different from my Bikram class!

Second, I am thrilled to pieces that meditation and the military are coming together. I get giddy at the idea that meditation practices are becoming more mainstream and accessible. There is no reason that this ancient wisdom can’t be used by anyone, regardless of any religious or political affiliation. This is not woo-woo, out-there hippie stuff. It’s legit and scientifically proven.

Third, I am learning some really awesome varieties of meditation. I have a pretty simple home meditation practice of watching my breath. Yoga nidra involves some visualization, a little chanting, body scans and lots of different kinds of pramayama breathing. It’s all great stuff to have in my meditation tool box for when my Monkey Mind gets particularly cagey.

When I come out of class the feeling is impossible to fully explain. It’s a renewal. It’s a reconnection with something that’s always been there.  It’s a lightness like I’ve never felt before. It’s the kind of relaxation that stays with me. It feels like it’s changing me, on some deep, structural level.

It’s easy to skip my meditation at home and think it’s no big deal. It’s easy to get distracted and allow other things to take priority. It’s easy to think I should be productive and not just sit there for half an hour.

I’m reminded as I go every Friday to sleep with my new friends, that it’s all much deeper than that.

*Husband does not find this line to be nearly as entertaining as I do.

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