Post-traumatic Stress, Pandemics and Peace: How Breathwork Healed my Soul After Suffering

people standing by rock

The trauma I experienced throughout my life and military career has turned me into a student and teacher of stoicism.  In my own search for meaning, I learned through Viktor Frankl that “between stimulus and response, there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.” What if, in that space, we chose to take one last breath before taking action? We enter this world taking our first breath after exiting out mother’s womb and leave this earth with one last breath. It’s a universal constant that brings our species, and life on Earth, together. The brain and body suffer when it is deprived of oxygen.  Breathe, think, act.  Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.   Why else have special operators and specialists in combat such as Chris Kyle, Mark Divine and Dave Grossman emphasized the breath?  Because it’s a pathway to control during chaotic, fluid environments. The master of modern mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh, once quipped “breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever you mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.”  Over the years, I have learned how to master this in order to get out of the deepest pits of despair.

Like many of you, I’ve tried many modalities to work through my anxiety, depression, grief and moral injuries.  From self-medicating with booze, to combat cocktails and significant amount of talk therapy, Healing however came through a connection of the breath.  About a year after I lost my brother, Lance Corporal Adam Jachimiec, to suicide, a fellow combat veteran introduced me to one artform that would change my life and launch my healing; the Wim Hof Method.

Some of you may have heard of Wim Hof through recent podcasts with Russell Brand and Joe Rogan.  His daring feats of climbing Mount Everest in just a pair of silkies, to submerging himself in ice for hours and injecting neurotoxins in his body without an ounce of illness.  This isn’t magic like David Blane or Chris Angel.  Wim is the real deal.  In fact, he’s a survivor like many of us.  He developed this method of healing after losing his own wife to suicide many years ago.  I’d only come to terms with this connection after I became a master of the method myself.

It was a fateful summer night in the blistering heat of Las Vegas.  We were at a park around 2100 and it was still 100 degrees out. At first, I thought it was crazy and weird but I kept thinking to myself, Chris, this is really the time that you need a growth mindset.  Not much of anything else had worked to this point.  By trusting this fellow combat veteran I’d soon experience the glory of healing.  It was like none other.  After a powerful series of thirty breaths, fear, anxiety and stress was all but cast aside sitting there peacefully without air.   As I continued to practice, this would morph into beautiful, peaceful holotropic visuals.  I’d leave feeling rested, peaceful and restored. As Wim argues “the breath knows how to go deeper than the mind.”  My fear of who was around the corner or who would come through the door dissipated. I had finally found peace with my post-traumatic stress.  This breath was healing.

In the fall of 2019, I was fortunate enough to attend the Mission 22’s Rock Warrior’s Way program here in Las Vegas.  Who knew at the time that my knowledge of breathwork would be critical to this course, especially when it came to overcoming my fear of falling. The masterful Arno Ilgner coaches many warriors through the technique and art of falling.  When you’re in control of your breath, it allows you to be in control of your fall.  That simple breath cycle can prepare you to let go and execute a controlled fall.  After you fall, take another breath, then think, am I resting or am I climbing back up.  Take that moment, breath, and then get back up that rock face or the goal in life again.

In this time of uncertainty and fear, I ask you all to return to the breath.  It’s simple and there are many paths you can follow to find peace.  Even if you just take a breath in through your nose for six seconds, hold for six seconds and then breathe out the mouth for twelve seconds, you’ll find a little bit of peace.

Mission 22, United We Heal (through connected breathing)

Master Sergeant (Retired) Christopher “Jach” Jachimiec served in various leadership capacities in the United States Air Force and was medically retired after 20 years and six months of service.  He is a veteran of Operations SOUTHERN WATCH, IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM.  He is a Mission 22 Ambassador in Nevada and alumni of the Rock Warrior’s Way Program.  Chris is the surviving brother of Lance Corporal Adam Jachimiec, United States Marine Corps. 

Wim Hof Method:

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