DISCLAIMER:This is my first Ten Minutes Well Spent post, so I expect it will take a good (really good!) 1o minutes for you to read about the concept in addition to the Ten Minutes Well Spent taking action and holding space. Thanks for taking the extra time to get up to speed along with me! This post quite intentionally includes plenty of details of how I see the concept working…These musings, explanations and info are in PURPLE… As I get it down to a system and more people are on board, future Ten Minutes Well Spent posts will be ALL about TAKING ACTION and HOLDING SPACE (for this post, that’s the stuff in black type) and less about process… BTW, if you don’t quite know what the term “holding space” means? No worries…You will!
Please give ten minutes of your time (today, this week or this coming month) on behalf of members of our active military lost to suicide & their families ~ 5 busy minutes taking action & 5 quiet minutes holding space for them in your minds and hearts.
Photo I took at the Memorial Day 2011Parade & Ceremonies in Ipswich, Massachusetts, also known as the Birthplace of American Independence. Tears I shed were for all souls who gave their lives in service to our country, including those lost to suicide.
The Major Points
The idea is that I’ll be briefly (for me) sharing the key points of a particular situation that has caused me concern as I strive to live a life of Time Well Spent for myself, those in need & the planet ~ and as I serve my mission to, in short, help others do the same.
“The Major Points” will provide a summary of the details that specifically inspired me to share the given issue as the focus of a Ten Minutes Well Spent post ~ taking considerable time and my own action, researching, blogging and sharing the story with all of those who will read it (that’s you) in the hopes that you will be inspired & empowered to give Ten Minutes Well Spent on the topic ~making all of my time spent infinitely more meaningful in terms of potential to expedite change, having a far greater impact than my one voice could ever create alone.
Realizing, of course, that life is complicated and there are always going to be more facts to the story and details and info to share, for those who wish to learn more on a given topic, there will always be links to more info and relevant organizations at the end of the Ten Minutes Well Spent post (including at the end of this, the first ever Ten Minutes Well Spent post).
So, here are The Major Points on this month’s Ten Minutes Well Spent…
The White House does not mail letters of condolence to the families of active service members lost to suicide. Though more members of our active military died from suicide than in combat in the last two years, the current policy (which has been in existence for several presidencies, so we aren’t going to expend energy on bipartisan issues) does not include a letter of condolence from the President of the United States, the Commander in Chief, to those families whose loved ones in the military died as a result of suicide.
This policy implies a message of shame surrounding our service men and women lost to suicide ~ good people who answered the call to serve and served honorably until the time that their mental health crisis led to their tragic passing at their own hands. The lack of an acknowledgment by the President ~ as contrasted with the fact that families of other fallen active service men and women do receive a letter of acknowledgment and sympathy ~ feeds the negative stigma that shrouds the suicide topic specifically, and the mental health topic, in general, reinforcing the secrecy and adding to the enormous obstacles to appropriate and successful mental health care.
The families of all fallen military who served with honor, including those souls lost as a result of suicide, deserve a letter of condolence from their President at a time of such great heartache and tragedy. I’m happy to share that there’s an effort being spear-headed by several senators to change the policy. As with all matters of policy, citizens with strong feelings on the subject are entitled and encouraged to let their opinions be known.(And, that’s the first suggested action in the 5 Minutes of Action shared below.)
Moreover, your commitment to spending 5 minutes taking action, sharing the facts on this topic, will not only impact policy. The very sharing of the topic with friends and family (aka leading by example) will encourage more open discussion and understanding regarding mental health and wellness, in general, making that topic speakable and leading to better understanding of mental health in terms of both illness and wellness. Mental health issues are a taboo that makes me think of the term, “the elephant in the room.” After all, everyone knows someone who has struggled with his or her mental and/or emotional well-being.
Removing the stigma is the first step in understanding that will lead to more compassion, and open discussions about and a better understanding of all possibilities of treatment options for mental and emotional health challenges (and, I hope, moving the conversation to comprehensive, complementary and whole-person care that does more than start and end with prescribed pharmaceuticals). Ultimately, removing the stigma will lead to a greater chance at improved wellness and quality of life for those who struggle with mental health challenges ~ if not you, then likely someone, or more likely several people, you know when you consider family, friends, neighbors, members of your school, work or community.
Ironically, the very souls lost to suicide for whom I am asking you to speak to the President might possibly have been saved if the topic wasn’t so hush-hush. Perhaps future lives can be spared through more open discussion and information, that those who suffer this deepest of depressions might share their emotional anguish and suicidal ideations with just one person. May those who serve our military currently and in the future receive the appropriate intervention and care for their individual circumstances before they feel such despair as to see no choice but to take their own lives.
It’s time for President Obama to change the White House policy, send letters of condolences to all souls lost during active duty, and otherwise encourage the armed forces to properly and aggressively address the mental health of those who serve and the underlying causes behind the unacceptably high number of suicides by those who are actively serving.
Now that you know…
Give 10 Minutes of Your Time…
Why? To Be a Part of the Change You Wish to See in Our World (catchy…)
Change can, and almost invariably does, start with a few people. Still, for significant and sustainable change to take place, for the proverbial tipping point to be reached to the benefit of all rather than just some, the involvement of more people, including people who haven’t gotten involved in matters beyond their own communities, is critical.
Chances are that those who get involved for the first time with matters beyond their own comfort zone, beyond their existing sense of what is or isn’t relevant to their lives, will start to see themselves increasingly more as a part of the community in broader terms, ultimately leading to the belief, the understanding, that we are all a part of the community that encompasses all of humanity. I’m not merely referring to geographics ~ from local to national to global communities ~ but to all variety of people, whether near or far, that once may have seemed so very different ~ whether by gender, lifestyle choices, socio-economic upbringing, areas of challenge or interests ~ and the realization that we are, after all, more like than unlike one another at the most basic level. Fundamentally, this is a core belief of mine. In fact, I believe a key to inspired action is this sense of human connection at an inspired level of compassion that will lead to the brighter and more hopeful future that we are capable of co-creating with one another and the universe.
Since this is the first Ten Minutes Well Spent post, I hope this helps illustrate why my hope is that everyone reading this will make a commitment to give ten minutes of your time, well spent on this topic, and each future topic that I share (so long as you don’t disagree with it, of course). Whether you’ve been involved in socially conscious activism or not, whether you are spiritually motivated or not, I think this is an incredibly important time and a surprisingly easy way to make a difference, not only in the lives of those in need, but in your own life.
While the impact of your commitment is beyond measure, it would be great if you would leave a comment at the end of this post, voicing your intent to give Ten Minutes Well Spent so that I can have some idea of the number of people who are participating. That being said, spending 10 minutes without adding your name is cool, too.
Bottom line is this ~ IF you are moved by the topic, giving Ten Minutes Well Spent is an easy but meaningful way to do something about it…
Regarding the 10 Minutes ~ No Worries ~ NO Timers Needed
Of course, don’t stress about the exact number of minutes! That’s not the idea… The point is to quite intentionally keep it around ten minutes, rather than going off willy-nilly, spending the entire day posting all over the place, following an emotionally-charged internet surf of best intentions, finding all kinds of worthwhile but overwhelming info, neglecting the rest of your to-do list, forgetting to feed your family…Yes, I know of what I speak ~ In fact, I’ve done it, more than once! In a way, it’s actually part of my self-declared life’s work as a changemaker and conscious living catalyst. I get all “in over my head” on topics that I’m passionate about and then I package it up so that you will feel empowered and uplifted, rather than burdened and overwhelmed. Getting involved with the Ten Minutes Well Spent efforts will help people to be the change, lead by example and walk the talk ~ all important aspects of living a life of Time Well Spent.
In fact, creating Ten Minutes Well Spent (though it takes longer than 10 minutes to create!) is my way of getting my own personal commitment to spiritual and conscious consumer & citizen activism under control at this point in my life when other family and personal obligations take a fair amount of my time (read my hiatus post if you want to know more about my current situation).
But enough about the impact of the Ten Minutes Well Spent concept on you and on me…
Back to these 10 Minutes Well Spent…
If you agree with me and feel that the families mourning the loss of their loved ones to suicide during their military service should receive condolences from the President of the United States, indeed the Commander in Chief of their beloved family member, please put a small but meaningful amount of time in on this topic by spending 10 minutes right now or by setting aside 10 minutes on your schedule this week or in the coming month to take action and to hold space. “Sooner is better than later” as life moves at its too-hectic pace, but “better later than never” certainly applies…
Find 5 Minutes to Take Action:
Choose any or all of the below actions or follow your own inspiration and take action as you see fit. (I’d love to hear about alternate actions and I might even add them to the list, so please feel free to share any alternate actions you take as a comment to this post.)
DIRECT ACTION: Email the President
Not surprisingly, you actually can’t send an email. Instead, you have to fill out a contact form. Here’s the link: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact .
Fill in the info requested (name, email address and zipcode are all that are required) and, under the subject, select “Afghanistan and Iraq” (that’s the only heading for commenting on policy that relates to our military) and then simply copy and paste the following message (or write your own). By using the form letter, you can spend the rest of your 5 minutes sharing the topic with others.
“I support the US Senators who recently wrote to you regarding the White House’s current position on not sending condolence letters to military families who lose loved ones to suicide. Mr. President, please say no to the stigma associated with mental health issues and suicide and share your condolences with the families suffering through the loss of their loved ones to suicide. Please update the policy now to include an appropriately worded letter, showing both respect and compassion, to the families of military lost during active duty to suicide.”
If you prefer to leave a voice message, you can call the White House at 202-456-111. The phone line is open M-F, 9am-5pm (EDT), excluding holidays.
ATTEND THE VIRTUAL EVENT: Strength in Numbers
The American Foundation for the Prevention of Suicide posted about the issue on their facebook page and shared their online “event” ~ Signing on to the virtual event (which runs through June 3rd) simply and publicly shares that you’ve contacted the president regarding the policy. It’s a great way to show your commitment to the support of those in our military lost to suicide.
Visit the event page, sign on and share the link with fb friends.
MULTIPLY YOUR IMPACT: Spread the Word
As is often the case when it comes to social media and socially conscious choices, SHARING really is CARING and can multiply the impact of your time spent exponentially… Share however you choose. Email friends and family, or share on facebook, twitter, or whichever social media platforms you are tapped into. When you post to FB or twitter, provide a link and encourage folks to “hit the share button” or “retweet.” Truly that’s how messages go viral, (which goes way beyond just being cool as in the case of cute little videos of wedding dances and such that go viral) as it results in the maximum impact on topics of concern. No doubt, in the case of the TEN Minutes Well Spent topic, sharing is caring. Instead of just one letter to White House, share with your internet world and you will never know how many letters are sent to President Obama on the topic because you, and others like you, had the courage to share.
Share from your own heart & with your own words or cut/paste/adapt these suggested posts. (Remember, the idea isn’t to spend so much time that it becomes a heavy burden…It’s part of your day, just 10 minutes well spent on this important & timely issue that you have the power to do something about, so you can focus the rest of the day on your own ongoing self-care, family, work and life-balance issues.)
Post to your FB PAGE
Here are 2 suggested posts…copy/paste/modify as you choose or write your own:
I am giving 10 Minutes Well Spent on behalf of our active military lost to suicide. 5 minutes to tell President Obama I think he should send condolence letters to the families of those active military lost to suicide and to share the info with my fb friends & 5 minutes to hold space ~ praying/meditating/sending energy to the families for peace/strength/love during such a difficult time.
I just sent a message urging the President to change the “no condolence letter from the White House to active military lost to suicide” policy in place through the last several presidencies. Join me in taking action & holding space for those members of the active military lost to suicide & their families. Click on the link for details & hit the share button to spread the word. Thank you.
Choose a link to include with your post:
The CNN article: http://bit.ly/suicidemilitary
The AFSP event: http://on.fb.me/ASFPpolicyLTR
Or, this blog post: http://bit.ly/10MinsWS
And/Or, Tweet All About It
Twitter is a crazy world. If you are a part of that world, you already know that the twitter stream is very fleeting. Without much effort, if you modify your post just a bit and tweet it at a couple of different times throughout the day, you can reach more people. Also, use hashtags to reach out beyond your followers.
Hashtags that would apply to this Ten Minutes Well Spent: #suicide #whitehouse #Obama #military #mentalhealth #EndTheStigma #MemorialDay
Here are some possible tweets for you to copy/paste/modify:
Remember our #military lost 2 suicide. Email President, share, & #pray #meditate 4 souls lost & family that remains. http://bit.ly/10MinsWS
Urge #Obama 2 update policy & send condolence letters 2 families of active duty #military lost 2 #suicide. http://bit.ly/10MinsWS Pls RT
#BlogPost ~ Give 10 minutes 2 Take Action & Hold Space on behalf of our active #military lost 2 #suicide. http://bit.ly/10MinsWS Pls RT
Next…And, every bit as important…
Take 5 minutes to Hold Space
Hold Space…hmmm… Not sure what that’s all about? No worries. This isn’t about getting it just right. It’s not about a philosophical discussion about just what the term “holding space” means to one person as opposed to the next. I use the term for the vague and broad meaning that it implies…
“Holding Space” is less emotionally charged than the term prayer (I grew up Catholic in Massachusetts. It’s only thanks to A Course in Miracles that I can use the word prayer at age 45). I am happy I’ve reached a place where I see prayer as a wonderful form of putting your trust in the universe regarding your world-weary concerns and hopes for anyone, and everyone, you care about…
“Holding Space” is less about the breathing and relaxation and stereotypically self-focused mantra and attention to nothingness that the term meditation conjures up for many (Also, based on partial understanding and misunderstanding as there’s so much more to meditation that many westerners have yet to learn ~ though I hope they will because I am just tapping into the world of meditation and it’s already helped me to reduce my anxiety and find balance, peach and strength…).
There’s the whole “The Secret” world of energy, vibrations, positive thoughts and intention… Cool stuff, but too often mistaken for only thinking happy thoughts and wishing for good stuff to land in your lap… (not quite the idea but I am glad for the discussion and awakening it has facilitated…).
There’s even a deeper discussion of atonement for past suffering as well as meditations that involve taking on the current suffering that exists…but, that’s a deeper level of consciousness than I think makes sense for Ten Minutes Well Spent, preferring to focus on 5 minutes that will allow many people to feel ready, willing and able to “hold space” on the current topic of our attention, no matter their past experience or lack thereof with the idea of prayer/meditation/focused thoughts and energy.
So, indeed, let’s just stick with Holding Space. There’s a space…We are going to hold it… What next? That’s up to you. No really! A cool thing about spirituality as opposed to religion, defining how you hold space is really just between you and your higher self, the universe, the divine truth, you might even say God… You say potato, I say potAHto…
To me, regardless of your spiritual beliefs, let alone your religious leanings or lack thereof, holding space is about focusing your mind, heart and soul on someone, or many, outside of yourself, but in that moment feeling a connection to those on whom you are focused and to your true or higher “self,” ~ as we are all connected through our humanity ~ with kind, loving and respectful care. It’s not about judgment or even trying to better understand a situation. It’s not about finding solutions. It’s more about being in a state of compassion and authentic love (the spiritual variety as opposed to the mushy, codependent, chick flick, commercially packaged “love”), accepting the emotions and reality of another, with the intent, if one is ready, of sharing the world-weary burdens and also sharing infinite hope, but always from a place of loving-kindness.
Ultimately, holding space will begin to take on its own meaning for you. For now, we are going to focus on spending 5 perfectly imperfect minutes with loving intention to pray, meditate, send positive thoughts, energy, healing (literally or figuratively) to those who have lost their lives to suicide in the military and/or to their families. For starters, here are some suggestions:
Depending on your background and where you are currently on your life’s journey, be that a spiritual journey or not (until now), begin your 5 minutes as you would a prayer or a meditation, or simply in contemplative and sincere thought…
Minimize distractions by turning off electronics and assuming a comfortable position. Take a few deep but natural breaths and open your heart and mind to the topic at hand.
You may choose to focus on those members of our active military lost from this earth to suicide or the families left behind, or, perhaps most appropriately, both ~ as the impact of suicide is certainly a terrible and shared reality for those lost and those left behind. Focus from a place of shared emotion, rather than analytical thought, on the hope & healing process for the survivors. Say a silent or spoken prayer or send loving intent, your positive thoughts and energy that the souls lost and those left behind find peace, forgiveness, and acceptance that they can move on. Prayers and thoughts of hope, that society will come to acknowledge mental health issues as a part of overall wellness and that the stigma of mental illness and suicide become a thing of the past, would also certainly be appropriate.
A gentle reminder that the idea during these 5 minutes spent “holding space” is not to get the mind cranking on problem solving (a habit of mine, to be sure), but to be in the more spiritually-centered space of unconditional love, connectedness and caring emotion rather than a brain-storming session of how to move the topic forward (after all, you covered that in the first 5 minutes).
Thank you for taking ten minutes of your time to join my effort to take action and hold space for members of the active military lost to suicide and, of course, for their families. I hope you agree it was Time Well Spent…Your feedback, impressions and suggestions are always welcome.
Like my life’s journey, this effort is a work in progress that I’m diving into with an action-while-planning approach so that I can make a difference sooner rather than later. By getting started rather than trying to make it perfect, I can attend to current topics of timely concern NOW and tweak the process as I go along, based on actual experience versus some imagined version of how it might or might not proceed. (So, thanks for joining me and putting up with a messy blog created with the best intentions and a vision for a more organized space down the road.)
If you are moved to give more time…
If you want to spend more time on this important topic, of course, that’s up to you. Just be sure that you are coming from a place that nourishes your own soul and doesn’t add undue stress or pressure. My goal is to help people help others in a way that helps improve the quality of all lives involved, including yours!
That being said, certainly each topic I share will have a more significant impact on some people than on others, because of their own life’s circumstances and experiences or simply because their intuition, their higher self, their inner guide nudges them to do more. Not surprisingly, a few suggestions come to mind…
More Ways to Give Time to this Topic:
Contact your political representatives & share your concerns.
The following signed the letter: Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Barbara Boxer of California, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Richard Durbin of Illinois, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Mark Pryor of Arkansas; Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Jon Tester of Montana, Mark Udall of Colorado, and Ron Wyden of Oregon; and Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina.. Beyond this list, I’m not aware which legislators support a change in the current policy. Sounds like a good reason to reach out to your representatives to be sure they are representin’.
Learn More on the Topic of Mental Health and Our Military.
Here are some links to head you in the right direction, and hopefully save you some time.
Facebook Event where I learned about the topic:
CNN post specifically about the condolence letter policy:
News Video on Military Suicide Rates:
Celebrities Speak Out in Support of Military & Mental Health:
TIME article on Silent Wounds: Mental Health & the Military:
Follow the efforts of organizations working on the areas of concern.
Help to shine a light on the topic and on the work being done by following the pages listed below and by sharing their efforts from time to time. Take a moment to hold space on the topic, for example, when a post on the topic shows up in your facebook news stream. Here are just a couple of organizations. Feel free to share additional resources by commenting on this post.
MILITARY: Support the Troops Facebook Page
MENTAL HEALTH: National Alliance on Mental Illness
(While I prefer the term mental health, NAMI does very important work on removing the stigma of mental health issues.)
SUICIDE PREVENTION: American Society for Suicide Prevention