Kevin Rose talks to us about a rather unique approach that helps veterans learn to de-stress and be more present in the moment.
The technique involves the use of predatory animals like tigers, bobcats, panthers, bears, and other animals who have the potential for being extremely dangerous. I mention this so that you realize that this is not to be done on your own. This technique needs to be done under the supervision of professionals like our guest Kevin Rose. Do not attempt this technique on your own.
Links & Resources
- Catalyst Refuge Website
- Catalyst Refuge on Facebook
- Catalyst Refuge on Instagram
- Catalyst Refuge on Twitter
- Catalyst Refuge on YouTube
Scott DeLuzio: 00:00:03 Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast, where we talk about issues affecting Veterans after they get out of the military. Before we get started, I'd like to ask a favor if you haven't done so already, please rate and review the show on Apple podcast. If you've already done that, thank you. These ratings help the show get discovered so it can reach a wider audience. And while you're there click the subscribe button so that you get notified of new episodes. As soon as they come out, if you don't use Apple podcasts, you can visit Drive On Podcast.com/subscribe to find other ways of subscribing, including our email lists. I'm your host, Scott DeLuzio and now let's get on with the show. Hi everyone. today, my guest is Kevin Rose, who is the founder of The Catalyst and author of the book, The Catalyst Experience, How Rescued Tigers Heal Trauma Scarred Souls. So, Kevin, welcome to the show. I think I may have gotten some people's attention when I mentioned tigers and the title of your book. So maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background and what it is that you do.
Kevin Rose: 00:01:09 Absolutely. Thanks for having me, Scott. So, I am a manual therapist. I'm licensed as a massage therapist and I've been doing that for about 25 years. And I noticed many years ago that I could help people relax but there was something missing. And I'm going to take you through a really quick rundown. I started a program, started actually right after 9/11 when I felt like I was called to do something for those returning home from war and the program eventually became The Catalyst and The Catalyst is a human-animal interaction experience where we bring people face to face with tigers to help them relax. Now I know that sounds perhaps a little reverse, but it actually works. The way it works is I work with a rescue animal sanctuary in the town where I live and I teach a very simple technique to help people relax.
Kevin Rose: 00:02:17 So when someone shows up, I'll have them think of something stressful, be able to feel it in their bodies. And then what we do is we work through the animal sanctuary and we go from enclosure to enclosure and as the person is feeling whatever they're feeling, whether it's anger, fear, whatever the emotion is, the animal will literally begin to mirror whatever that emotion is. They may start pacing, growling, moving away. Then I teach this really simple technique and as soon as the person begins to ground, which is what this is called a grounding technique, when they begin to ground into the present moment and settle, they watch the animal mirror that as well. So, it's literally a live biofeedback, but we're working with all kinds of animals. And what I found was, I started working with alpha predators, in order to match the dynamic that I experienced working with combat vets.
Kevin Rose: 00:03:22 I had the opportunity clinic where I worked many years ago. The doctor provided free programs for returning Veterans to help reintegrate. And what I noticed, as I mentioned earlier, was I could help people settle down. I could help people calm down, but then when they got up, it was like the stress just shot right back up. So I thought there's gotta be some way to change this dynamic and long story short, it was actually working with tigers working with wolves first that brought me that awareness, but then working with tigers that really helped to change that dynamic in the brain literally.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:04:07 Okay. So, this might just be me but the thought of working with some of these large animals doesn't give off much of a Zen or calming vibe to me. I think my blood pressure was rising as you were talking about working with some of these animals. So how does that work? How does the whole process work? Where are you in the enclosure with the animals? Are you just outside the enclosure or what is that process look like? And how does being with some of these alpha predator type animals help to teach people how to calm themselves down?
Kevin Rose: 00:04:52 So if I can explain a couple things really quickly about why we are in heightened states of alert, and one reason is there is a functional, a structural component in our brains called the reticular activating system. Now what this reticular activating system does is it takes in all the environmental information and it processes it into basically one of two groups. It's either known or unknown. And when that unknown gets signaled, what the reticular activating system does is it throws up a warning called the fight, flight, or freeze response. You're familiar with that, right? So, the fight flight or freeze response now puts you in this place of reaction. You have to be ready for everything. And so, but what happens is if you're in this constant state of alert, basically the fight or freeze response gets stuck. And so even when you're in a calm situation, you're heightened in that fight, flight, or freeze response, because you're always ready for something to happen.
Kevin Rose: 00:06:10 All right. So, what I found was, and I'll tell you a quick story. I had the opportunity to work hands on with wolves and I entered the enclosure with the wolves with other people having been a little training beforehand, but it's a place called Wolf park. And it's an anthology park where they study the wolves in their “natural habitat.” So, there's a main pack of about seven wolves in a 25-30-acre enclosure. And so, they study them. How they hunt, how they mate, how they interact with each other. And so, I'm walking into this enclosure and my role there was to actually work on the wolves with whatever their injuries were. So, I'm walking into this enclosure and I look down this hill and there's this pack of seven wolves flying up the hill at me.
Kevin Rose: 00:07:09 Now, I don't know if you've ever seen a wolf in real life, but they're about 150 pounds and are massive animals. And they're all coming up the hill tongues hanging out focused on me because I'm the new guy, right? So, you can imagine my fight, flight, or freeze response is way high. Okay. So, they approached me and they come around me and because I'm so nervous, they start bumping and grounding because my nervousness is actually heightening their response. And I'm challenging the hierarchical situation by my heightened presence. So, I had to do something. I didn't know what I should do, but the voice of my grandmother comes into my head. She taught me this technique, which I'm going to teach it in a little while, but she taught me this technique, how to use my senses and how to ground into the present moment to settle myself.
Kevin Rose: 00:08:04 So I thought, well, that's all I can do here. I can't run obviously. And so, I start grounding myself. And as I did, the wolves just began moving away. They dissipated, they just oil and water. They just moved away. And I thought, wow, that is amazing. I wonder if I could do it again. So, I got myself all riled up again, and sure enough, they came right back around and started circling being bumping and grounding. And I grounded myself again, as soon as I did, they moved away. And then this time they allow me to work hands on with them one at a time coming up one at a time. And even the alpha submitted himself to me that day to work on, which is pretty amazing because I could keep myself grounded, they felt comfortable. So, the reason I started working with tigers was the availability.
Kevin Rose: 00:08:53 I began volunteering at this animal sanctuary because I was looking for a place to do this. And I spoke to the owner and told her, “I have this idea for this project. I want to offer it free to combat Veterans. It may sound a little weird, but here's what I want to do.” And her father was a combat vet who committed suicide as a result of PTSD. So, the doors were opening as they came. So, I started working with these tigers. And here's what happens when you're around a tiger. You've probably never been close up to any big alpha predator like that. Correct?
Scott DeLuzio: Right.
Kevin Rose: Right. So, what happens is when we step into this enclosure, we are not in the enclosure, we're up next to the fence.
Kevin Rose: 00:09:44 And when we step into this area where we're that close to a tiger, what happens is your fight, flight, or freeze response naturally goes up? I don't have to elicit it. I don't have to tell you to think about anything other than something I always say, bring the stressful thought to mind and that's as far as I have to go. And so that’s just natural excitement, whether it's excitement or fear, it elicits that fight, flight, or freeze. And when you're in that state, I teach this really simple technique that brings you down really quickly. And you begin to see and notice how the tiger reacts and responds to where you are. Does that make sense?
Scott DeLuzio: I think so. Yeah.
Kevin Rose: And so, it's not about creating fear, but what it is about is replicating a feeling. If I can replicate a feeling of stress that you're dealing with constantly, anyway; if I can replicate it really quickly and in a relatively safe and controlled environment, then I can show you how to systematically turn that down.
Kevin Rose: 00:10:56 Every time it comes up, the body choose us, it's got biological cues. So, when you're hungry, what do you do? You eat. Thirsty, drink; when you're tired, you sleep. You don't really think about those things. The body just gives a cue, and then you follow that cue. Well, stress and pain are the exact same. Wait, the body is just trying to get your attention and it gives you a cue. So, it begins to elevate that stress level. But what we've learned in this culture is to immediately go to our brains and try to figure it out. What that does is it just adds to the stress. Because if we ask our brain a question, it'll give us an answer, but it's probably not the most workable answer. So, when you're cued, then the best thing to do with stress and pain is to follow that cue and go back into your body.
Kevin Rose: 00:11:59 That's all your body's asking you to do when you get stressed. So not asking you to do anything else, but to come fully present in the moment and just like hunger, thirst, and fatigue, if you don't listen and respond with eating, drinking, and sleeping, your body will speak louder until you do; it's the same way with stress and pain. But if you hear that cue from stress and pain or feel that cue, and you totally become grounded in your body, the biological cue begins to satiate. Now it may come back, right? Eating, drinking, and sleeping. We don't do that one time in life, and then it's over, right? So, it's a repetitive process, right? And so that's what I teach is this is not a onetime thing. This is a repetitive process that when you begin to identify the cues, you have a way to change that dynamic. Can I teach you this, Scott?
Scott DeLuzio: 00:12:59 Yeah. I think that would actually be very helpful to people who might be listening to this and not necessarily have the ability to, if they don't have access to a tiger or other things like that? So, where they can maybe practice this type of thing on their own.
Kevin Rose: 00:13:18 Absolutely. So, do you have anything there to drink with you?
Scott DeLuzio: 00:13:22 Yeah, I do.
Kevin Rose: Awesome. What is it in the cup? Let me see what you're like a water bottle. Okay, great. I just want to know
Kevin Rose: 00:13:29 to be able to reference it correctly. So here you can just set it down for now, but the way I'd like to start is just feel yourself sitting in the chair, wiggle your toes a little bit. When you wiggle your toes, what that does is it brings your awareness all the way down through your body, right? This is step one. Your body is just calling you inside. Hey, just come in. You wiggle your toes. Now, as you're sitting there feeling the chair against you, bring to mind something that creates stress.
Scott DeLuzio: Okay.
Kevin Rose: You have something.
Scott DeLuzio: Yep.
Kevin Rose: All right. Now, as you're thinking about this stressful thought, begin to notice, where do you feel the stress in your body? Where does it translate for you?
Scott DeLuzio: 00:14:13 In my neck, actually, as soon as I thought of that thing, it was in my neck that I literally had a pain in the neck.
Kevin Rose: 00:14:26 So if I were to ask you to quantify that zero out of 10, zero being not stressful at all, 10 is excruciatingly stressful. Where would you say it is in this moment?
Scott DeLuzio: 00:14:35 Right now, it's a three or four. It's not super stressful.
Kevin Rose: Yeah. Very good. So, pick up the water bottle.
Kevin Rose: 00:14:44 Yup. Hold it in your hand. And I want you to really bring your awareness to your fingertips. Notice the texture of the bottle. Notice temperature.
Scott DeLuzio: Okay.
Kevin Rose: I want you to take a drink. And as you're drinking, tastes the water, smell the water, listen to the sound of the water going down your throat.
Scott DeLuzio: Right.
Kevin Rose: And bring your awareness back to your fingertips. Really notice the texture of the bottle. Now, zero out of 10, measure that again?
Scott DeLuzio: 00:15:13 The stress it's not, I'm focusing more on the water bottle now than the stress.
Kevin Rose: So how is the pain? So yeah, it's like not there.
Kevin Rose: 00:15:28 Here's the thing. This isn't a trick. We're not distracting you away from this stress. This stress actually distracts you out of your body. All I'm doing is bringing you back in.
Scott DeLuzio: Right. Okay.
Kevin Rose: So, using all five senses at once, what that does is it brings you fully present in your body. And so, when you do that, then the body goes just like you've had a good meal, a nice long drink, a nice nap, whatever it is, right; same reaction and same response. And so that's what I teach people. When they come and work with me, I teach people on the phone. I teach people on Zoom. However, the mechanism is just this simple. It's no more complicated than this, but what happens is if you begin replicating it throughout the day; so for example, I wear a necklace, not as a fashion statement, but what happens is I feel that necklace touching my chest. And when I do it reminds me to ground. It reminds me to wiggle my toes, engage all five senses when I'm in the car, start getting heated from the traffic immediately that's my cue, wiggle my toes engage all my senses. What do I see, smell, taste? And as you do that, you drop back down into the body and the distraction in the brain begins to quiet. Okay.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:17:04 So I previously had someone on the show who talked about using horses for a similar form of therapy that because a horse mirrors your behavior the same way that you were talking about here. So, that was, for anyone who might want to go back and listen to that episode. So, that was episode 54 with Jennifer O'Neill. You can go back and listen to that if you want, after listening to this episode. But, for example, if you're being standoffish and the horse will display similar behaviors but if you're being calm and relaxed, the horse will be more approachable and it sounds like, well, I'm sure there's more to it than that. There's a lot more to it, but it is pretty simple. Yeah. In a nutshell, that's sort of what we're talking about here. It seems like that's kind of the same situation that you're talking about with the tigers and the wolves and other animals that you've worked with.
Kevin Rose: 00:18:03 I've worked with horses and dogs and it works with all animals, right? We're not limited because at the sanctuary we have monkeys and fox and birds and there are all kinds of animals and the difference is with the predator animals, they don't back away. And so, with a horse if you're upset, a horse will back away from you. A tiger will do just the exact opposite; it'll come towards you. And so, what happens is the reason that I was so focused on doing it with combat Veterans is because in combat it's in your face all the time. Right? I mean, it's a constant thing. So, I'm working with the alpha predators. What it does, is it really kind of elicits that core feeling, whereas with working with prey animals, it seemed to me that you had to actually work harder to access that. Does that make sense?
Scott DeLuzio: 00:19:14 Yeah, it does. I think, in a way too, with combat vets who, like you said in combat, you're always on, it's 24/7 kind of in your face type of thing. If your reaction to being around a tiger or an animal like that is causing that tiger to come towards you and start acting a little bit more aggressively or whatever the case may be towards you. It's definitely going to make you have to rethink what it is that you're doing in your own response. So that negative thing that tiger kind of acting more aggressively towards you is not going to continue happening. You can get that to maybe back away or de-escalate the situation. I'm sure that's very similar to what happens in everyday life, where there aren't these big predators looking around; well, not the furry ones now there may be a semi on the highway that you're passing and that could be even more dangerous.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:20:33 Is there something about you, you mentioned that all animals have some sort of senses like this, but is there something about working with these types of animals specifically that works for people versus maybe some other options, like maybe talk therapy or other animals, like the horses that I mentioned or dogs or anything like that?
Kevin Rose: 00:20:54 Yeah. You know, I always say to people look, do what works for you. Right. Do what works for you. The only thing that I've noticed with this work is that it gives you a really grounded place to start from. So, if I teach you how to ground, right. If I teach you, and if you do talk therapy, you do whatever therapy. If you don't stay in your body and you don't stay grounded, then everything becomes mental. And so, I've witnessed not just in other people, but in my own self, I can create some fire just by the thought process. You know what I mean? And so learning how to ground into your body, learning how to ground in the present moment, when you do that, and you use that as your core functioning place, everything added on to that is going to be so much more effective. So, I don't say that it's a fix all by any means, but it's an excellent place to start.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:22:03 Yeah. That makes sense. And the way you described it, when I had the water bottle in my hand, I was feeling the texture of the water bottle and tasting the water and feeling it going down my throat and all that, that kind of stuff. And literally being present in the moment that feels like a meditation type practice. Is that sort of what you're talking about?
Kevin Rose: 00:22:27 Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I've tried to meditate and I can do it some, but who has time anymore? So that's the downside. I hear people say, I just don't have time and whether you do or not, that's irrelevant. So, my whole approach was what can I share with people that they can do at any time in the day? I'm doing it right now while I'm talking to you, because I'm always trying to ground myself. And I said, my grandmother's voice. So, my grandmother taught me this when I was 12 years old. And she taught me because she saw that I was having challenges in everyday life and at home and at school and all of that. And she just showed me this. She had a 50-acre farm and we used to take all the walks.
Kevin Rose: 00:23:16 And so she showed me this in nature. And I think that's the key to this is nature is always going to be truthful. It may not always be nice and fluffy, but it will always be truthful. And so when you learn the lessons there, I believe it's so much more powerful, but she taught me this and I was doing this for years and didn't even really know what I was doing until I started developing this program. And I needed something quick that people could do right now in the moment. So yes, it is a meditation and yes, that's where people are reaching for when they meditate. At least that's what I believe is to remain grounded. So, having something that's accessible that you can do all the time, I think is super important.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:24:10 It seems like that. And I know that there are people who, especially combat vets who are coming back and early on, when they first get back, people tend to think, “Oh, you should just be able to act normal again, you know?” And just why do you have to be on alert all the time? Well, because for the last six months, nine months to a year, whatever the case may be, you were in a combat zone and you had to be on all the time. And it's hard to just turn that off. So of course, learning a process like this, to be able to de-escalate yourself and ground yourself down to a better baseline level, could be especially helpful for those people who are just returning from overseas where they were constantly on. And quite frankly, even while they are overseas and while they are deployed having this ability is also super helpful so that when they come off of patrol and they're there on their base in a relatively safe and secure area, they're not constantly on high alert and they can allow their brain to take a little vacation for a little while., anyways, not saying that they need to totally turn off, but
Kevin Rose: 00:25:32 Right. And that, you know, and the thing about it is there are a lot of great points there. We, I actually did a program at Lemoore Naval station with the doctor that I worked with him. We were working with guys that were being sent back and, you know, they were saying, look, I, I can't get to call, because I'm going back into this and it left an impression on me. But I remember thinking, I remember even saying to one guy, this isn't about zenning out. It's not about that. how much more effective are you when your call, right? You can be, you can be totally heightened, but calm at the same time. And so, we taught them this, and that's what we said. And even if you can't do it, you know, if you can't do it all the time, at least when you're down, it can give you some way to just create a moment of relief.
Kevin Rose: 00:26:30 And that's the biggest thing too, is you come home and people are like, well, why can't you? Well, because you've been on red line for however long you were deployed. People don't understand that. And it actually was the impetus to create the program because I saw that people didn't understand that. And at the time I didn't want to see anything close to what the Vietnam Vets faced when they came home with the public sentiment. I wanted to be able to create something that could teach how to come back, reintegrate with as much as possible. I think that it's actually a crime that we send people to war and don't do this immediately when they come home. I think that's something we owe as a public, we owe anybody that risks their life for this country.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:27:29 Yeah. And this actually answered my next question that I wanted to segue into, but you did mention earlier in the episode here that you felt like you were called to service after 9/11 to help these people who were coming back from Iraq, Afghanistan, wherever they were deployed to, and that's something I feel like is missing these days. A lot of times people who feel like they have something to offer and provide that service to these people who are sacrificing quite a bit to go and defend us. I certainly thank you for doing that, especially, you offer the service to combat Veterans for free. So, it's not cheap to keep tigers around or anything like that. And I know you're using the sanctuary, but still there's a cost involved there and it's not probably insignificant either.
Kevin Rose: 00:28:45 It's the least that I can do. It is my service to the country. I wasn't in the armed forces. I always felt like that as a citizen that we contribute. I've had really generous benefactors that have helped take care of some of the overhead. I've been able to teach classes and things to keep money coming in to help the sanctuary. They are great people. They take animals from adverse situations and give them forever homes. So, their overhead is high. It's not cheap but it's all done in service. So, it is absolutely our pleasure and yes, it's always free to combat Vets.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:29:37 That's wonderful. So, with that said, it's been a pleasure speaking to you about this today. And I want to give you the opportunity to let people know where they can go to find out more about what you do, about The Catalyst and your book and everything that you do, where they can go and find more information about all of that.
Kevin Rose: 00:29:59 So everything can be found at on my website, www.CatalystRefuge.com. So that's CA T a L Y S T refuge, R E F U G e.com. And there's a link to the book and things like that on the website. I wanted to share one more thing with you.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:30:23 Yeah, absolutely.
Kevin Rose: 00:30:24 So, a lot of times when I talk about this, it seems a little woo for lack of better word. And so, I always want to throw in a little bit of physics.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:30:38 Okay. Yeah, absolutely.
Kevin Rose: 00:30:40 Are you familiar with the phenomenon of resonance?
Scott DeLuzio: 00:30:46 Not intimately, but I know enough about it. Go ahead.
Kevin Rose: 00:30:52 So if I may just really quickly, so there's two objects that are attuned to the same frequency. If one object begins to move or oscillate, the other object will eventually begin moving an oscillating at that same pace. So, this is a physics phenomenon. So, an example of this is when you have two acoustic guitars in a room, you can pluck the string. And if they're tuned to the same key, you can pluck the string on one. And the string on the other guitar will begin to resonate and make that sound without being touched. In an airplane, they attuned the metal to a different frequency of the engine, because if they didn't, it would break apart in midair, right. That's resonance. So, the reason I bring this up is because what we're doing when I'm working with people, I'm actually bringing myself to that person's frequency showing them a different frequency, and then we're both going there together. So, we resonate, right? So, if you think about it this way, when you walk into a room and it feels weird, you've had that before, right? Tense, whatever, you can feel it, you don't even know these people, but you can feel it, that's resonance. But if I walk in this room and I ground myself, what happens is the person outside is already attuned to the same frequency, but they begin to feel my grounding and it invites them to oscillate at that same pace. So, when I teach one person go home,
Kevin Rose: 00:32:40 they oscillate at a different frequency and their family, their friends. Do you know what I mean? So, it's like this passing on of a different way of being. So, I just bring that up because that's really what we're trying to do is not just change and help one person, but when you help one person, it affects everyone.
Scott DeLuzio: That's great. And having that kind of almost infectious result, where it can spread the benefit to other people where that same kind of vibe is being felt by other people that's phenomenal that that can happen. I can assume that only can help family lives and work situations and things like that. So, that's wonderful. So, again, thank you for joining us, sharing about what you do.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:33:41 Again, the website is CatalystRefuge.com. I'll have links to that in the show notes so you don't have to stop your car to write that down, and I'll have links to all your social media, YouTube page and all that type of stuff in the show notes as well. So, people can go check that out and check out your book too. If you're interested in that, I'll have a link to that in the show notes as well. So, thank you again, Kevin. It's been a pleasure speaking with you.
Kevin Rose: Hey, thanks for the time Scott. I appreciate it. Thanks so much.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:34:16 Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website, DriveOnPodcast.com. We're on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @ DriveOnPodcast.