The US Marine Corps, known for turning out some of the military's toughest warriors, is studying how to make its troops even tougher through meditative practices, yoga-type stretching, and exercises based on mindfulness. Marine Corps officials say they will build a curriculum that would integrate mindfulness-based techniques into their training if they see positive results from a pilot project. Mindfulness is a Buddhist-inspired concept that emphasizes active attention on the moment to keep the mind in the present.
Facing a record suicide rate and thousands of veterans seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress, the military has been searching for ways to reduce strains on service members burdened with more than a decade of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Some people might say these are Eastern-based religious practices but this goes way beyond that," said a Marine Corps trainer. "This is not tied to any religious practice. This is about mental preparation to better handle stress." The experiment builds on a 2011 study involving 160 Marines who were taught to focus their attention by concentrating on their body's sensations, including breathing, in a period of silence. (Read more Marines stories.)