Connecting Warrior Hearts and Minds

Developing and deepening warrior wellness and self-awareness though curriculum, mobile apps and online media

Executive Summary:

At Dynamic Human Solutions (DHS), we aim first and foremost to serve those that serve us: warriors in the military services, police departments, fire departments and in other first responder units on the front lines.

DHS partners with The IMPACT Foundation to deliver meditation-based training programs for this unique demographic – largely male, kinesthetic oriented, with a single-minded focus on “gettin’ ‘er done.” They’re not going to the classes at Whole Foods or buying the CDs from Gaiam, so we serve it up by combining centuries-old meditation technology with operational military experience to create a mind training program designed specifically for individuals in high-stress professions.

Our hook is the teaching of self-awareness for peak performance – we do this in a way that integrates seamlessly into warrior culture, organization and training, and in a way that changes their relationship to self, family, and others by making authenticity, trust and empathy more manifest. Feedback from our training with fighter pilots, special operators, fire fighters and cops tells us we impact job performance, wellness and lifestyle in this very way.

With this grant we aim to address the next critical question: “How do you make the training stick and become daily practice?” To this end, we’ll leverage digital technology and our open source vision to support education, connection and community-building through mobile apps and online media that provide:

• Simple, daily mind training workouts/routines
• Ongoing reminders to reinforce mind training habits
• Digital capturing, tracking and reporting of daily mind training practice
• High-energy, compact videos for training inspiration
• Social media sharing of educational and inspirational videos

Technology: How Our Curriculum Cultivates the Four Basic Relationship Skills

The DHS curriculum begins by teaching how to recalibrate nervous system stress through yoga and Qi-Gong breathing techniques. Having re-regulated the nervous system out of “fight or flight” and re-connected warriors to their personal well-being, the foundational work with self-awareness begins. Using techniques based on the Tibetan Buddhist meditation practices of shamatha (concentration) and vipashyana (awareness), students are pointed to self-awareness and then taught practices to stabilize and enhance it. With these two steps, habitual actions and reactions are shaken loose and new possibilities emerge.

Students are initially motivated by performance and wellness improvements, but mind training aligns the lodestone of compassion and trust, authenticity and empathy in relationship to self and other become possible. As reported by over 90% of trainees, when self-awareness loosens the chains of internal bondage, relationships at work and home begin to change. So too with strangers – cops tell us that with these newfound skills, they’re less compelled to violence. This is trust, authenticity and empathy made manifest.

Didactic instruction using sports and operational metaphors provides the conceptual foundation; classroom practice teaches the hands-on skills. Real-world applications are then drilled through close combat or other mission simulations and the benefits of self-awareness become available no matter the place. Warrior’s buy-in for performance but the impact of self-awareness practice spreads the life skills of authenticity, empathy and trust to every dimension of day-to-day living.

Technology: How Mobile Apps Accelerate Adoption and Proliferation

Digital technology anchors and accelerates change. The DHS mind training program changes “channels,” it connects people to self-awareness. That’s the feedback we get. But as longtime meditation practitioners we know how hard it is to make self-awareness a daily practice. How then, to nurture the seed? Content and connection: keep the educational content flowing and nurture the connection to like-minded individuals and communities.

The grant allows us a two-fold focus on content: first, simplified versions of our curriculum didactic and exercises are created and posted online, a la Khan Academy. This supports open source dissemination of our material and message through short, simple building-block videos accessible to anyone. Then the material is integrated into a mobile app for usage and feedback, keeping users engaged through the following functionality:

• Quantified Self: Digitally captures, tracks and reports mental training like a physical fitness program (e.g., digital stopwatch/timer, training logbook, etc.)
• Viral Videos: High-energy, brief videos connecting mental conditioning to mission and life success for training and performance inspiration
• Virtual Trainer: Simple, daily workout routines to maintain mental conditioning; each includes contextual examples showing different exercise applications
• Daily Reminders: Simulates personal trainer encouragement and reinforces daily training; personalized by the user and their activity levels to highlight changes in awareness, focus and well-being
• Social Media: Reinforces community-building through easy sharing of instructive videos to teammates and loved ones

Over and over our students ask if they can share their training with friends and family. Through digital technology anyone can go online, buy the app, get the instruction and join the discussion. Now every student’s network can join our virtual network to experience the practice of self-awareness and the fruits of authentic relationship. From there, the ripples emanate…

How Our Technologies Promote Authentic Connections Everywhere

Wellness is foundational for excellence and performance; it requires authentic relationship with all the elements – the internal and external landscapes, the human and non-human factors. You have to be well-regulated and aware to see clearly, or in warrior parlance, to have situational awareness. This is the compelling proposition for self-awareness and authentic relationship at work. Our students quickly connect the dots and realize that wellness itself is also the compelling proposition for excellence outside the workplace; digital technology will support them in extending self-awareness, authenticity, trust, and empathy across every aspect of life.

Where We Aim to Apply the Technologies

Our curriculum generally begins in the workplace with a focus on wellness and performance – we’re currently training law enforcement and fire fighters and have a validation program scheduled with United Airlines. But DHS is also reaching out to educators and currently has proposals to major universities in Colorado to assist with the military-to-civilian transition for veterans on the GI Bill. What better way to support veterans coming to college than to teach them stress management, cognitive improvement and relationship skills?

What Sets Us Apart from Similar Efforts

• First mind training curriculum developed by USMC infantry and USAF fighter combatants and designed specifically for high-intensity environments
• First secular meditation curriculum available based on the traditional samatha and vipashyana practices of Tibetan Buddhism
• First meditation-based curriculum available to warriors actively integrating QiGong practices
• First meditation-based curriculum to actively integrate close-combat simulations into the pedagogy for highlighting and accessing state-specific training
• “Open source” model curriculum that organically encourages adoption into the organizational culture through a focus on “train-the-trainer” programs

Mobile App
• Tight integration of Quantified Self, Viral Videos, Virtual Trainer, Daily Reminders and Social Media in a “no nonsense,” intuitive way that fits the demographic culture
• Automatically logs mental training through use, reducing barriers to practice and tracking
• Simple yet explicit integration of exciting mission content (text, images and video) with daily mental conditioning routines

Budget and Timeline

– Content Translations to online/mobile: $5k
(Sept 1st – 15th; 2 weeks)

– Video Creation (3-9 30-90 sec videos): $5k
(Sept 15th-22nd 1 week)

– App Creation and 1 year maintenance: $15k
(Sept 15th – October 15th; 4 weeks)

Bios and URLs

Mark J. Williams (Dynamic Human Solutions, CEO): (USAFR, Retired) has more than 24 years of operations and intelligence experience with the U.S. Air Force and other U.S. government agencies. His operational experience includes more than 200 combat hours in the F-15C as a veteran of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Mark is a graduate of Naropa University’s M.A. Religious Studies program. His long-time experience in the martial arts led him to mental fitness and mindfulness training. []

Ulco Visser (President, The IMPACT Foundation): In 2004, Ulco retired from a successful business career to launch and run The Impact Foundation. Ulco’s goal is to introduce proven inner practices into the educational mainstream. By working at the systems-level, Ulco architects collaborations between schoolteachers, research scientists and other stakeholders. [] Builds, provides and maintains a mobile application platform []

External Validation

• Assistant Fire Chief at Denver International Airport: “…the techniques can be used in virtually every aspect of our workplace. Regardless of what you are doing, inevitably at some point during a task, duty, project, etc. your mind “wanders” to the past and/or future. This is typically unproductive, inefficient, and in some cases, dangerous…by, first, recognizing this drift and then applying a couple of belly breaths and/or riding breaths, it resets you to the present. That is a simple practical/personal use…other techniques can be used in so many other ways including, but not limited to, expanding and stretching the mind to allow for more effective strategic planning, conflict resolution, incident management, team building, performance enhancement…”

• Army Special Forces Feedback: “There is a lot of performance, resiliency and self-regulation info, some of it dated, untested and basically “snake oil” [that is being] marketed to performance-oriented organizations. This is organized, well presented and exercised/hands on material. I will recommend to my leadership for both support personnel and special operators.”