Weaponizing Mindfulness

Mindfulness, aka intentional control of attention, has long been accepted as an effective way to diminish depression, anxiety and stress. There are many highly skilled practitioners of mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR), one of whom is my old friend Lisa Pinsker in Kansas City (https://www.mindfulness-matters.com/)

There are times though when the stress, anxiety or even addiction is so overwhelming, so compelling, that traditional approaches just don’t cut it. Enter weaponized mindfulness. This is a concept I learned from my dear cousin John Culbertson, a decorated Vietnam veteran. We often talked about what combat is and how to survive it, with the primary idea being to accept that you will probably die and fight like hell anyway. The objective is to eliminate the threat. Period. By any means necessary. I also learned this from my martial arts teacher Tom Perrin, also a decorated combat vet. These are the most serious men I have ever known and I take their words just as seriously.

With addiction (especially) and anxiety, the enemy is your mind, the pattern of your thoughts and behaviors. Something is broken, and no medication, prison term or “educational program” is going to really change that. What must be done is to learn to control your attention (see previous posts.) And in these types of cases it is literally a war for your life.

There are a minimum of 3 stages to learning to use the weapon. And you MUST learn to use it, so I will not post the other two stages right now. First things first (people have such a nasty tendency to be in a hurry)

This is one breath at a time, one experience at a time.

Sit comfortably, in a posture that allows you to take a full breath without discomfort. Take one breath, noticing with all your attention everything about the one breath. Start with your belly (diaphragm) and slowly inhale, noticing that as your lower lungs fill up your shoulders start to rise as you finish inhaling. There is a slight pause at the top. Then slowly exhale, sinking down into the space between breaths. Now just sit there, noticing your heart beating. Don’t hold your breath but also notice that you just don’t need to breathe yet. Attend to your heartbeat then begin the next breath.

That’s 1. Do this for a count of 25.

Notice the thoughts, body sensations and emotions that may present themselves from your conscious mind. Take note of their “voice” and turn your attention back to the one breath and the count. Over time you will become aware of the pattern your thoughts, body sensations and emotions take. This is critical, as the next step is to “think” these thoughts before you start a 25 count experience. Get them out of the way so to speak. Now, as you progress through the count you may be aware of those thoughts forming, but now out of the corner of your eye – just in your peripheral vision. They don’t fully form, as your attention is not turned towards them.

When you have done this successfully, and have a pretty “quiet” experience in the 25 breath count, again notice other, more subtle patterns of thoughts. Repeat the same process, thinking them in advance. Now you should experience an almost silent mind experience for 25 breaths.

Do this 2 times a day until your mind is quiet for 25 breaths. It is not necessary to experience perfect silence of your mind – that expectation will set you up for failure. Be patient! This takes time, often a couple of weeks, maybe more. If you are diligent though you’ll get there!

I will post stage 2 in a couple of weeks. Start fighting back! Attack! Attack! This is WAR.

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