What happens when troops return from the battlefield with no enemy left to fight? According to Navy SEAL Mikal Vega, we bring the enemy home — and it destroys us.
"While in the military, we focus on cultivating a destructive force that we unleash on the battlefield within our respective fields — which we do with great success — but what happens when there's no longer an enemy to release that energy upon is that it still remains. We create an enemy and that can manifest in a myriad of ways," he cautions.
"The only thing we can do to offset it — and warriors throughout history that we model ourselves after understood this — is the cultivation of creative forces. The warrior walks that razor's edge in between the two, drawing strength from both the creative and the destructive side of the spectrum."
Vega, a combat vet himself, uses his creative energies to help guide the veteran community to healing, especially in light of the troubling 22-a-day statistic about veteran suicide. And his methods aren't what you might think:
Vega developed his Vital Warrior Program to help break down the stigma associated around cultivating creativity and healing. Vital Warrior at its core is all about teaching men and women to go inside, discover their creative talents, and use those creative talents in service of the people around them and to uplift and inspire them to do the same for others.
He served 22 years within the Navy SEAL Team and EOD communities. While deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and while manning the turret of an HMMWV, he sustained an injury from an IED detonation that caused severe cervical trauma, ulnar nerve damage, and a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI).
After a medical retirement and VA-prescribed narcotic painkillers and psychoactive drugs, Vega hit his limit. He recognized that the medications were having an adverse affect on his health and he decided to explore his own healing regimen of myofascial release, acupuncture, and yoga.
He takes a discipline-oriented and regimented approach to his yoga practice, which he now teaches in Venice, CA, offering free classes to veterans in a donation-based environment. He empowers his students to reject the victim mindset and take responsibility for their health. In the military community in particular, that often means breaking through pre-conceived notions about yoga, breaking the stigma about practices like meditation, and introducing the modern warrior mindset into peaceful practices.
"Once vets show up and do it — and really try — they're floored," he shared.
Listen to a sample of Vega's latest project:
He talked about that nagging sense of anxiety when you ignore the work you know you should be doing and its adverse effect on the warrior in particular. "If you're not engaged in the fight, you know you're not and you'll be crushed by the energy of it," he observed.
Vega has a steady career in TV and film, with past credits including Colony, Hawaii Five-0, and Transformers: Age of Extinction. He'll also appear in the upcoming second season of Mayans M.C., set to premiere September 3rd.
His entertainment career allows him to serve his non-profit, leading to one of his most exciting endeavors yet: a music album appropriately titled Vital Warrior, available now on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, and more. Featuring deep earthy tones and Vega's rich voice, the album is designed to not only increase performance and creative flow, but, through the use of the mantras selected, to become a transport vehicle to a better place.
Whether you listen to it during strength-training or yoga, the music will hit the right spot.
Vega served as both the Executive Producer on the album, as well as a vocalist and composer, along with Composer, Musician, and Vocalist Jesus Garcia and Latin Grammy winner and Sound Engineer Rubén Salas — both of whom also produced the album.
"This practice is the hardest thing I've ever done. I can see why people might resist it. I'm going up against higher versions of myself, and doing it every day. There is nothing else — it's me up against me," he confessed. "It is our sincere desire that this album and this technology engages people because if it does, their life will become better. It doesn't matter where they are or what they're doing — they're life will become better."
Sign me up.
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