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Gazette Premium Content Battle-stressed warriors try meditation to ease anxiety

LANCE BENZEL Updated: November 7, 2010 at 12:00 am

At the Warrior Relaxation Response Center, the road to recovery is paved with creature comforts.

Plush couches, soothing green walls and dimmed lights create a welcoming environment. Fountains and top-of-the-line massage chairs further set the conditions for solitary reflection.

In an unconventional approach to the demons of war, the newly established center at 2535 Airport Road encourages combat veterans to confront their battle stress with self-guided meditation and prayer.

“You cannot be relaxed and anxious at the same time,” said Antoine Johnson, summarizing the center’s benefits.

Johnson, a former Fort Carson staff sergeant and public school teacher, opened the center with his wife, Wilma, in October.

They do not pretend to be therapists or physicians, but Johnson said they do draw from an established alternative-medicine program.

Johnson said the center follows the principles of physician Herbert Benson, who began extolling the physical benefits of meditation in his 1975 work “Relaxation Response.” Benson later helped found the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The idea, Johnson said, is to use meditation to reprogram the body’s response to sources of stress and anxiety.

“A lot of soldiers, like myself, we never seek help until it’s too late,” he said. “They walk around that whole day with the adrenaline flowing. They’re trigger-happy, over-impulsive and sleep-deprived.”

He said he wants the center to serve as a refuge for those who do not want to seek help from the Army or family members.

Johnson, who does not accept military insurance, offers a month-long training program for $150. Soldiers may also pay $15 an hour to reflect in the center’s relaxation rooms.

The center is scheduled to host an open house from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Nov. 11.

The center may be reached at 339-6313.

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