FORT GORDON, Ga. -- Staff Sgt. Todd Knauber used to believe it would sound ridiculous to recommend something like transcendental meditation classes to fellow combat veterans but the results have changed his views.
Knauber states that, "it is our greatest weapon in helping to combat the scars of conflict. This program provides [veterans] the grounds to reestablish hope; and begin to truly heal."
Knauber served nine months as a U.S. Army turret gunner in the far west region of
Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom before he was injured.
"Together we have seen both the best and worst humanity has had to offer and we have learned to endure the scars we have been left with."
He was told that the longer you are out of the fight, the better things are supposed to get but he found his reality was much different.
"Every day that hill gets a little steeper. The life back there versus the life here seem worlds apart; one feels like the sole place I belong, or where anything makes some modicum of sense. Some days it's hard to stay out of that dark place."
Without a dependable support system at home, he was having trouble doing his job and maintaining any kind of relationship with his friends and loved ones.
"I got to a tipping point. Things were bad, but then I was given the greatest gift I have ever received from a stranger."
Knauber was offered an opportunity to participate in transcendental meditation as part of his treatment at Eisenhower Army Medical Center.
Transcendental meditation was something he had never heard of but it offered him the possibility of dealing with the medications, the nightmares, and the physical and emotional pain.
"It was not a branch for me to grab hold of but rather a taproot under my feet. A stable platform which gives me a moments respite so I can put my pain into perspective enough that I can reattempt the climb."
Since he began meditating, there has been a change in his life. He meditates twice a day for 20 minutes and over the course of four months, he has been able to entirely discontinue two medications, Prazosin and Trazadone, and has reduced his Zoloft by half.
In addition to the calm he says he experiences through transcendental meditation, Knauber says it has made it easier to manage his physical pain from his injuries.
"I typically have a regimen of several pain medications to manage my physical injuries. Rather than taking a handful of pills seven days a week, I can manage my pain regularly with a few tablets, two to three times a week."
Others have even told him that he looks like an entirely different person after starting to meditate.
"I am vibrant, I smile, and I look much more grounded. The truth is you can't practice transcendental meditation without it positively affecting you."
Doctors promised him through medication and hard work he could potentially heal over the course of years, but since transcendental meditation he has moved much closer to achieving his recovery in months.
"At times the troubling thoughts and nightmares come back, but as a whole, the progress is palatable."
"I feel more in control of my life now, and I'm becoming hopeful about rebuilding and getting better."