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Thoughts on Meditation and Mindfulness

man meditating

We recently connected with Commander Jon Macaskill, US Navy SEAL, and had the chance to interview him about the ways in which he supports his own health and healing through practices like yoga and meditation. We’re hoping his interview will inspire you to go deeper in your practice or start a mental/physical well-being practice! 

WAE: Give us a little background on you. Where are you from? What drove you to serve?

Commander Macaskill: I grew up in Ruston, Louisiana.  I knew I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself so the military appealed to me — specifically the tight-knit brotherhood of the special operations community along with the missions they conducted. I enlisted in the Navy in 1996 and served as a parachute rigger for just shy of a year before receiving an appointment to the Naval Academy. I graduated with the class of 2001 and went on to training. Since then I have served all over the world alongside some of this country’s finest.  It has truly been a wild ride but I look back on it and ask, “Where did the time go?” I’ve truly been blessed and I am thankful for my time in the service.

WAE: What health and wellness practices do you incorporate into your daily/weekly schedule?

Commander Macaskill: I wake up early so I can have some quiet time before the day starts.  From 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. I spend time journaling, reading, meditating, doing light yoga, doing a quick heart rate variance check and heart coherence check, and then slowly jogging to the gym, which is about 1.5 miles away, doing a light workout. I’ve seen and felt the benefits of eating right, but honestly, I don’t eat as well as I should. I’ve done all raw, vegan, paleo, ketogenic and I’ve found benefits from them all – definitely! I could absolutely stand to eat better in addition to my other practices as I know that’s a key component to overall physical and mental health and well-being!

WAE: What initially brought you to the practices of yoga and meditation/mindfulness?

Commander Macaskill: Not sure if you noticed earlier but I said “jog” not “run” and  I definitely do not do the same workouts I used to do – my body can’t handle those. I’ve been using mindfulness to manage pain and yoga to try to mitigate it. On days where I skip my morning routine I feel it both physically and mentally. What brought me to it?  Several psychologists recommended yoga and meditation to me early on and I was skeptical. After hearing more and more about it over the years, I figured I should give it a shot… and boom, it WORKED. The only thing is I wish I had started using it earlier! 

WAE: What benefits have you seen in your experience from incorporating such practices into your wellness routine?

Commander Macaskill: From the mindfulness practices (meditation, mindfulness-based stress reduction, focusing on the moment) I can tell you I’m happier and I feel much more content in my day-to-day life. I’m far less anxious throughout my day and I don’t find myself battling with depression anymore. Additionally, I’ve found that these same mindfulness practices have truly helped in managing physical pain. My knees, back, and neck are not what they used to be but combining yoga with mindfulness routines has helped the physical pain tremendously!

 WAE: Do you have any recommendations for how other service members can get started with such practices?

Commander Macaskill: Yes. Just start…but start easy. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get it “right” the first time…or the fiftieth time. Yoga and mindfulness aren’t about doing things “right,” they’re about doing your best and trying to do better the next time. Start easy with your journaling. That’s what kept me doing it. Once I started noticing significant differences in my journaling attitude I knew I was onto something. (My journal entries used to be filled with anxiety and almost dread. Not anymore. Now they’re filled with excitement for the day/week/month ahead!) 

WAE: Any parting thoughts or other things you’d like to share?

Commander Macaskill: I would encourage other service members, or anyone for that matter, to be less skeptical about “alternative” pain management techniques. Obviously, doctors have a huge part in keeping us healthy, but I believe there is another part of the equation that is missing for a lot of us. Try yoga, meditation, and mindfulness-based stress reduction – I’m sure in one way or another you’ll experience both mental and physical benefits! Thanks for the interview. This was fun and I hope it’s helpful to someone!

The above statements are not an official endorsement by the US Navy.  Everything Commander Jon Macaskill, US Navy SEAL shares his opinion and thoughts alone and does not in any way imply endorsement by the Navy.

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