“You must win the first battle—in your mind—to win every other battle in life.”
These words are not just another quote. This is the standard operating procedure (SOP) of SEALs. SEALs or United States Sea, Air, and Land unit are among the most formidable fighting and operational field forces. Their training techniques, SEALFIT, are legendary. Only a small percentage of aspirants succeed to become SEALs.
According to Mark Divine, a lead coach of SEALFIT says, “SEALFIT is more than training the body. You must embrace the whole person and see yourself as a body-mind-spirit. You’ll train these simultaneously, leading to optimal performance and greater success in all your endeavors.”
And how do we do that?
Being Present and Now!
In 1997, Ekhart Tolle hit the stressed-out western world like a storm to calm their nerves with his book, “The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment.” Many consider it as a watershed moment for the corporate world waiting to take a giant leap from industrialization to the information age. As the new millennium and fictitious Y2k menace approached, the legendary performers were bracing for the unknown. And Tolle’s classic came as an excellent respite for many.
Tolle’s book is an excellent repurposing of the spirituality of ancient philosophies. It proposes “a belief system based on living in the present moment. People’s emotional problems are rooted in their identification with their minds. We should avoid losing ourselves in worry and anxiety about the past or future by being aware of the present moment. Only the present moment is real. Only the present moment matters. Our thoughts create our past and future. Having control over our lives is an illusion that only brings pain.”
As a remedy, Tolle describes relaxation and meditation methods to aid readers in anchoring themselves in the present. Slowing down life by avoiding multi-tasking, spending time in nature, and letting go of worries about the future.
Even before that, a great Vietnamese monk and a prolific author of books on meditation Thich Nhat Hanh quoted, “We do so much, we run so quickly, the situation is difficult, and many people say, ‘Don’t just sit there, do something.’ But doing more things may make the situation worse. So you should say, ‘Don’t just do something, sit there.’ Sit there, stop, be yourself first, and begin from there.”
“Present and Now” is not masterly inactivity. It is pausing ourselves every now and then to introspect. Aligning our thoughts with our goals. And begin to move towards our greater purpose of life. The basic essence of these great teachings is to control our minds through spirituality, relaxation, and meditation. Some call it mindfulness. Mindfulness is our ability to be fully present at that moment. Be aware of where we are. What we’re doing. Not being judgemental. Avoid being overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. To move forward, we need to stand still first. Else, we will be crawling.
The turn of the millennium has seen great scientific and technological advances. Though it appears to be a paradox, spirituality and mindfulness are also expanding at the same pace. One thing common we find in most notable achievers is practicing some kind of daily meditation or mindfulness. This phenomenon is irrespective of their profession or fields.
Mindfulness is the path to being present, peace, pointed focus, and peak performance. When Newton discovered gravity, he was relaxing under an apple tree. Archimedes got his ‘Eureka’ moment when he was in a bathtub. One can be mindful when taking a bath also. Most creative ideas originate when we are mindful.
Most often, breathing or Pranayama is exploited to rein in the wandering mind. To get into focus. Or be mindful. Even though Pranayama was described first in Patanjali Yoga Sutra, there is nothing religious about it. Almost every religion emphasizes breathing in one or another way. Now there is a big movement in the western world about the science of breathing. Breathing is also a great tool to overcome fears. SEALFIT coach Mark Divine emphasizes, “The mind can fabricate a lot of fears. And it is vital to be able to distinguish between the real and the fabricated—otherwise, when you only have a split second to react, you can do the wrong thing. Breathing keeps us conscious, present, and in touch with reality.”
Retired Brigadier General, US Army, James Cook says that “Breathwork connects us to a sort of internal GPS. Call it intuition, call it what you like. But it is real. And all of us can learn to access it by practicing Breath Awareness. Everyone has a shield, or a natural ability to avoid danger, by unconscious perception or through intuitive feeling. Breathing meditation awakens and strengthens this ability.” Being aware and awake is conquering our minds.
Several millenniums earlier, Lord Krishna had said, “For those who have conquered the mind, it is their friend. For those who have failed to do so, the mind works as an enemy. Control Your Mind, Control Your Life.” After a few millenniums, Budha said, “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” This is the basic truth of the present and now. If you can control your mind, you can dictate the course of your life. Our mind is a powerful tool. It can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. What we think is what we become.
Napoleon Hill, who wrote a pioneering book on personal transformation, “Think and Grow Rich,” said that “whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” A mind is a powerful tool when it comes to aspiring to success. My Guru, Swami Vivekananda, says, “We are responsible for what we are, and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves. If what we are now has been the result of our own past actions, it certainly follows that whatever we wish to be in future can be produced by our present actions; so we have to know how to act.”
Nobody has emphasized better than Swami Vivekananda about being focused, “Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life; dream of it; think of it; live on that idea. Let the brain, the body, muscles, nerves, every part of your body be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success, and this is the way great spiritual giants are produced.”
One question raises in mind to us, lesser mortals, what is the role of God in this scheme of things? Of God, Ekhart Tolle makes an interesting observation. “Man made God in his own image. The eternal, the infinite, and the unnameable reduced to a mental idol that you had to believe in and worship as my God or your God.”
I have read most religious books. I am not a very religious person. But, I am spiritual. I do believe that one supreme power orchestrates the universe and us. He has a purpose for each one of us. We have to find that purpose. When we serve that purpose, we serve him, God. In the New Testament, John the Gospel states, “In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him, all things were made; without him, nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
I have personally benefited by mindfulness. I have developed my own system of meditation with purposeful breathing. Till today, I have achieved whatever I have conceived in my mind. Even the most challenging task or surgery becomes easy to learn or perform. I call it self-activation or Octavation – an eight-stage meditation. It is not a religious practice. It is a secular but spiritual practice. It is difficult for scientific minds, especially doctors, to believe or accept meditation. However, we all know the benefit of mindful or regulated breathing.
About mindfulness, a breathing expert Dan Brule says, “I learned how quickly I could adjust and adapt to uncomfortable things if I changed my focus if I practiced acceptance. It really is amazing how comfortable we can become over time with almost anything, especially if we are not putting energy into resisting or complaining, as long as we are willing to surrender to what is—as it is. And that’s exactly what I was doing: practicing acceptance, using the experience and the situation to strengthen my spiritual muscles.” All it needs is acceptance.
Is it freely available to all? Is it expensive? Is it beneficial to all? Yes, it is freely available to all. It just takes our decision. It costs little time. However, returns for the time invested is invaluable. It is beneficial to all human beings. Whether it is a boardroom battle or a challenging surgery, we have to work on our minds first. We have to make our minds resilient, focused, and fearless.
SEALFIT coach Mark divine describes, “We don’t do EASY at SEALFIT. Training the body is simple compared to training the mind. One of my favorite mantras is, ‘where the mind leads, the body follows.’ Lead your mind to victory that you can see, feel, and believe, and your body will follow you to hell and back.“
SEALFIT mental preparation has four distinct steps, which will get trained at deeper levels as you progress through the program:
1. Clear your mind. Eliminate distractions and allow thoughts of daily thises and thats to fall away. Develop a deep, positive concentration on the task ahead of you.
2. Know your “why” and your strategy and tactics. Modify them if need be based on changing conditions.
3. See victory in your mind and practice for it. SEALs use processes we call envisioning and the dirt dive.
4. Charge your internal batteries for optimal performance.”
We have to be SEALs of our craft. Period.
With best regards,
Dr. Prahlada N.B