Description of Organization
Veteran’s Path was established in 2008 when two mindfulness and meditation teachers came together to share a mutual concern about what was happening to returning veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2010 women veterans came to Veteran’s Path and requested that they hold women-specific events because they did not feel safe in groups dominated by men, and did not feel that their unique experiences as veterans would be understood or valued. These women also did not feel safe even with other women due to competition and trying to survive in a hostile environment. Veteran’s Path now offers programs at no cost to veterans throughout the year - One-Day events, 5-Day Retreats, and 9-Week Practice Periods. Their programs combine nature and engaging physical activities, meditation, sensory awareness and mindfulness practices. An example of one retreat took place in May of 2017 for 24 women veterans at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, inland from Monterey, California. The curriculum included meditation and mindfulness practice, self-compassion, emotional intelligence, hiking, being in nature, writing, art, dialogue, rituals, sharing of stories and being witnessed and recognized by each other. A deep connection is formed, and people continue to stay in touch with each other after the retreat through a private Facebook page, a buddy system, and ongoing participation in one-day Veteran PATH events. Women describe this retreat as life-changing. Of the 21 women who came the previous year, 11 had been deployed into combat, and 10 reported being sexually assaulted in the military.
In 2021, a COVID-19 Operational Grant of $10,000 was awarded to Veteran’s PATH to adapt their in-person programs to an online platform that retains engagement and intimacy while connecting veterans virtually and piloting various formats to test engagement and effectiveness with various veteran groups. To maintain the effectiveness of their methods, staff is on call 24 hours a day to support participants. The COVID-19 Impact: The pivot from in person to an online platform roughly doubled development costs while donor fundraising decreased. Since veterans experience high rates of mental illness and substance abuse along with the extra stress brought on by COVID-19, Veteran’s PATH experienced an increased demand for their programs.
In 2018, a grant in the amount of $25,000 was awarded in support of the implementation of their five, four-month Gender Specific Anchor Programs including Five-day Retreats and 15-Week Practice Period. The Five-day Retreat gave people the opportunity to enter more deeply into practice, opening new insights and possibilities. The program included: mindfulness and meditation practices; sharing of significant stories which are witnessed and honored by other veterans as they all begin "rewriting" their own narratives; journaling; learning emotional literacy and communication skills; rituals; self-compassion practice; gratitude and appreciation practice; and physical activity. The program offered a combination of in-person retreats with on line resources, video conference calls and peer support.
In 2017, a Women in Buddhism grant in the amount of $2,500 was awarded to supplement the budget for the women’s 5-day retreat that took place in May 2017.