Continuing the theme this month, this week’s T.I. is an excerpt from a forthcoming module of my Frontier Rough & Tumble martial arts program on animal teachers.
We learned from Frog that there is a great lesson in sitting still, and we received the gift of contemplation which literally means to watch something — from the Latin contemplārī meaning “to observe.”
From Dog we learned that there is great utility — and an evolutionary imperative — for not just hiding our suffering but learning to be happy and loving even when we are suffering.
From Hawk we learned that the ability to assume the thousand-foot view, and to keep our eye on the grand scheme, is essential to success.
And from the cave paintings of our ancestors we learned that what is truly unique to the human animal is our ability to visualize and to mythologize — to examine past failures, pre-test schemes and plans, and rehearse our strategies in the flesh-and-blood virtual reality environment of the brain.
From these four animal teachers we can distill four powerful tactics for fighting stress that you can use every day — not just during a self-defense situation, but at work, at home, or any time. The problem is that when you’re stressed your tendency is going to be toward panic. So you’ll need to practice this sequence often enough that it becomes second nature.
When you find yourself extremely stressed:
- Be like Dog. Pretend to be perfectly calm and relaxed even when your thoughts are in disarray. In the same way that water assumes the shape of the vessel in which it is placed, your mind will begin to conform to the attitude of your body if you buy it some time.
- Be like Hawk. Breathe, soar, and gain some distance. Take slow, deep breaths making sure that your airways remain open at all times. Make a conscious effort to hesitate for a few beats between inhaling and exhaling phases, but never hold or clamp down on your breath.
- Be like your ancestors and go to the cave — the cave of your mind. Regain your comfort zone by calling up a mental picture of either of a familiar and related training simulation or of an actual previous success during similar circumstances. You’ve been here before and you’re going to be fine.
- Be like Frog. Go on auto-pilot. Just be in the present moment.
Creature Teacher: Martial Arts Training Involution #176
These weekly T.I.s can be very physically demanding — especially if you’re doing them on the weekend in addition to another training program. This week we’re going to take it a little break and do some head work. Practice the above drill. Run through all the steps one by one. Then make a note in your planner, or set a reminder on your phone, to run through them every day for the next week or so until you have them memorized. Then take a nice long sit, at least ten minutes. Try to practice your contemplation for double your usual daily length (but not more than an hour). Daily internal work — contemplation, meditation and prayer — are essential to the health of the human body, mind and spirit. If you’re not doing daily internal work there’s no way you’re maximizing your health and potential. So get started!
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