Tag Archives: awareness

Awareness of Intention

I love blueberries. My mother used to make me a blueberry pie for my birthday instead of cake, but nothing exceeds wild blueberries plucked from the bush.

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. January reflects upon simplicity.

My Army Advanced Infantry training was at Fort Dix, NJ, and the machine gun training was at a range camp in the Pine Barrens. I found wild blueberries which I ate in joy to the dismay of some of my brothers who thought I was crazy for risking eating wild berries. Years later I spent time at Tom Brown’s Tracking, Nature, and Wilderness survival school and found the high bush blueberries standing ten to fifteen feet high, but I still preferred the wilder flavor of the smaller low bush species. But I ate both and some Huckleberries besides.

In 1998, we bought our acres of open forest in Florence County, WI, and I was intent on preparing an area for our camp. After selecting a beaver-cleared spot overlooking the stream valley, I set about plotting a path for a roadway connecting to the logging road that would be our driveway. I contacted a local man to come out and look at the job and I told him I hoped to find some blueberries, which are common in that neck of the woods.

He looked at me and said, “I think there are some right over there.”

Yes, right along a game trail from my camp to the stream was a patch of short blueberry bushes I had walked by dozens of times. Why had I not seen them?

Well, they had no blueberries—and they still haven’t. Oh, I have a patch elsewhere in the woods that produces berries, but this patch seems to drop the flowers or berries most of the time.

No, that is no excuse. I had not seen them because I had not been looking for them. The focus of my intention at that time was to get this road installed. To be fair, an eyeball to eyeball encounter with a large black bear earlier that season right in my camp spot had convinced me a road to get my truck back there was a priority. Yes, that’s my excuse.

“Our intention creates our reality.” (Wayne Dyer)

Any of us can Google this or other quotes on intention and find volumes written about their meanings. I prefer to keep it simple. I tend to attend to what I intend. When I set my intention to focus my attention on an object or phenomenon, I am looking for it. I am then more likely to see it, to become aware of its presence, even what it is doing.

How does that work?

I have a friend who quotes one of his teachers: “Prayer is the sincere desire of the heart.”

I have no person to whom I may ascribe this quote, but we can find similar sentiments. Whether we investigate philosophies of the East, the Native West, or the Middle East, we are sure to find something very similar expressed. I find credibility in that universality.

Meditation is safer and more effective when we are sentient of our intention before we begin. We live in a big world, an immense universe, too big to find what we may seek—unless we choose deliberate awareness of our intention to find. But don’t take my word for it. Try some significant research.

The effectiveness of our meditation is directly proportional to the sincerity of our intention, and the less selfish that intention, the safer our journey in meditation.

If you sincerely desire blueberries, look for blueberries; but, don’t hesitate to build your road to safety, first.

Seek the goodness at your center, and Happy Tracking.

Royal Ballet

Each afternoon of late, among the fragrant blooms of the Willow Acacia trees on our little campus, a wonder of Nature dances across our day. Orange and black butterflies flit and fly, casting subtle shadows on the students sitting in the sun, below. I wonder if they know the complexity of the ballet, the theme of the art form above them. I wonder, “Do I?”

Awareness is the key to survival. Are you aware of shadows crossing your path, shadows of birds of prey high in the sky or of delicate butterflies only a few feet overhead? Does the gentle movement in your peripheral vision penetrate your perception? Or, like me, are you sometimes too engrossed in thought?

It is a simple concept, really, Nature as art. If I invented it, I am certainly not the first. Aboriginal cultures always look to their natural world to inform their own lives—a set of metaphors for the rules of human existence. Nature teaches us how the world works.

I have stopped trying to define God. It is not because I am no longer curious or interested. I have just accepted the limitations of my understanding. Instead, I try to learn something of God the artist by studying the art, and that would be Nature.

Birds live in those Willow Acacia trees, the Lantana bushes the butterflies also frequent, and the fruitless mulberry trees, small-fruited fig trees, and both date and fan palms. But, the birds don’t eat the butterflies, the large, bright-orange and black adults flying with apparent disregard for the danger of predation, as though they sense no vulnerability.

Such freedom. How do they get away with that? Are they special? Somehow immune?

They are noble. I actually do not know the species, for they are not all the same and I have not classified them with a reliable key. But, I am close.

There are at least four common types of orange and black butterflies that frequent Yuma: Princess, Viceroy, Queen, and Monarch. Princess is a rather generic term for various species. Most of these butterflies avoid getting eaten, and all of them are orange and black. That is a clue.

We now have a project at Arizona Western College to propagate native milkweed plants to support migrating Monarch butterflies. They actually fly hundreds of miles seasonally—well, not individually, but as a species, for it takes multiple generations to complete one cycle. They must reproduce.

Milkweed is required. Monarch females only lay eggs on milkweed plants, and it doesn’t seem to matter much which species of milkweed. The babies eat the milkweed which contains toxins, but the caterpillars store the poison rather than succumbing to it. Birds that eat the caterpillars are not so fortunate. They get sick. They learn to not eat Monarch caterpillars or butterflies.

I suppose PTSD can be compared to Monarchs. If I am filled with enough poison, people learn to leave me alone. It’s hard on families, though, and I am not immune to my own poison. I am no Monarch, although I may take some lessons from their migration habits.

Remember me telling you that I didn’t know if these butterflies were Monarchs? That’s because Nature has other tricks, and one is mimicry. Other butterfly species that look like Monarchs are also spared by the birds. No, they do not eat milkweed and are not poisonous, but they look toxic.

Hmmm. Maybe I only need to imitate mean, scary people to be left alone.

Somehow, I think the lessons are deeper than that. Whether these butterflies are Viceroys or Monarchs, for I have it narrowed down to those two, they are teaching me something. They are being butterflies—the best butterflies they know how to be—and that is all they are doing.

Being myself, both humble and noble. That is my lesson, today. That is what Nature is teaching me. Be myself, and enjoy the being.

B.R.E.A.T.H.E.

Pain and damage from the Wild Ride (or, Dinosaur Dump) of combat PTSD can be averted. Responses of our primitive brain to some triggers of stimuli can be stopped. The physiological, psychological, and behavioral changes caused by adrenalin can be mitigated.  If action is taken in the first twenty seconds, there is no response. If action is effective in the first twenty minutes, the prolonged pain of 3-4 days can be avoided. All you have to do is breathe.

Caution: I invented this acronym as a way of remembering some of the necessary tools. You will probably need more research and some guidance to learn these techniques well.

Breathing – Take a deep breath, inhaling slowly through your nose and exhaling even more slowly through your mouth. Repeat once or twice. The process helps you to relax and remember your other tools. Oxygen also helps your smart brain to process information rather than surrendering to the primitive brain.

Relaxation – With cleansing breaths bringing oxygen to you brain and muscles, you can begin to relax. Concentrate on the positions of your body parts and think about relaxing each one of them. Visualize your position and environment.

EMDR – This stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and much has been written about it. I simply concentrate on peripheral vision and notice (with eyes straight ahead) movement to my right and left. If there is none, I extend my hands to my sides and wiggle my fingers. One theory is that this requires both sides of our smart brains because the right hand vision is processed only in the left hemisphere and vice versa. It seems to help the language hemisphere and the emotion hemisphere to communicate with each other.

Awareness – Expand your awareness from your breathing to your body position, your peripheral vision, and your surroundings. Accept awareness of this moment—that in this moment, there is no threat like those you faced in the past or fear in the future. See and feel that you are safe.

Thought stopping – Left brain, talk to right brain. Sometimes, a simple command can help your emotional hemisphere to believe that the threat is not real. The poor right hemisphere (in most people) seems to have difficulty recognizing time—even past, present, and future. Talking to yourself, telling yourself that all is well, can help.

Hope – The feeling of dread triggered by all sorts of stimuli (including dreams or intrusive thoughts) is depressing. Remembering that Dinosaur Dumps can be prevented is important. The more it works for you, the more hope you have for next time; but, it does take practice remembering to breathe.

Escape – When all else fails, get the hell out of there—if only in your mind. Go to your clear space. That is, find some place inside your mind where you can go in meditation, a place where you are powerful and free, where you feel like god (with a little “g”). I am very fortunate to have found mine many years ago with the help of Tom Brown, Jr. and The Tracker School.

There you have it. These simple techniques can prevent three or four days of pain. More than that, they can prevent trouble and tragedy. One question a psychologist asked me in an interview was, “Have you assaulted anyone in the past year?” Wild Rides are always uncomfortable, but sometimes they cost jobs, marriages, friendships, or lives. It is not necessary if you remember to breathe.

Feel better? Welcome to Recovery.

Next week we will take a deeper look at thoughts and awareness.