Seminar helps Soldiers, families deal with deployment-related stress

By Andrea Hauser Chapman, Northwest Guardian
Published: August 30th, 2007 01:38 PM

A Saturday morning at the Fort Lewis Stone Education Center is busy with classrooms full of students taking advantage of weekend classes.

But one classroom is surprisingly quiet — and it’s on purpose.

Welcome to the Stress Reduction and Meditation Seminar, a free opportunity for Fort Lewis Soldiers, family members and civilians to learn about managing stress naturally.

“That moment of rest, that’s what we’re looking for,” said Alfred LaMotte, the course instructor and a professor from Central Texas College at the education center. “We have tremendous awareness built in. Any practice or technique is just a way to get the mind to slip back into that core of silence.”

As Soldiers and family members deal with the stress of multiple deployments abroad and accelerated operation tempo at home, LaMotte said he wanted to offer his experience teaching meditation and world religious traditions to the Fort Lewis community.

“People feel like the military are carrying a heavy load,” he said. “They’re realizing they’re not carrying a load and want to help.”

During the first class, LaMotte and the small group of students talked about different kinds of stress, the way it affects the body and the importance of rest in daily life.

“Everything in the universe is made out of waves of rest and activity,” LaMotte said during the class. “We participate in this culture that has a huge prejudice against our own rest.”

LaMotte led the class through several tai chi exercises and yoga techniques to relax the muscles, body and mind.

An hour later the group had noticeably relaxed.

“We have built into our bodies programs for stress management,” LaMotte said after the students had left, “but our culture has forgotten them. The technology we most need is the technology of healing ourselves.”

Upcoming classes will include instruction on meditation, breathing techniques to combat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and hypnotherapy, with certified instructors leading the sessions.

If enough people are interested, LaMotte said he would like to have another seminar begin during the education center’s winter term.

“I would just love to make it a regular thing,” he said.