Combat is exciting. We can say a lot of other things about it, but it certainly is an adrenaline rush, and it leaves a big, empty space when it is over—a hole inside us we cannot understand.
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. February is a meditation on harmony.
Football is exciting, too. And teaching. And trading stocks. We find meaningful ways to fill our days, ways that stimulate and excite us. Then, we stop. Whether in retirement of career or for the day, stopping the activity may leave us feeling drained of thrill, empty.
We find ways to fill the void. Many of us find unhealthy ways that fail to fill the emptiness, offering only illusion.
Still, the emptiness is real and growing, for even the activities that thrill us gradually diminish efficacy. They don’t work anymore.
In some ways, this is the message of The Hurt Locker and, I suppose, American Sniper. It might be one reason Nancy’s brother went back to Vietnam for a second tour even though he was not making a career out of the U. S. Marine Corps.
There is good news to the emptiness. The void provides an opportunity to be fulfilled. The Relaxation Response offers a way to find peace of harmony through body and mind relaxation. Progressive body relaxation following mindful breathing in relative comfort has the power to open us to light.
Sweat helps. A good workout prepares our muscles for relaxation. Purposeful sweat works best for me. A bit of time gardening, clearing brush, moving trees, or throwing hay bales gets my mind and body ready for relaxation. Being physically tired helps, but it is not necessary.
The process is simple although I suggest finding a teacher or partner to talk you through it a time or two. Once you are in relative comfort and aware of your restful body position, and once you have cleansed with deep, deliberate breathing, slowly tense and release body muscles in progression. I usually start with toes and up the legs in steps, then fingers and up the arms in steps, on to the abdomen and chest, and up to neck, face, and scalp. Tensing slightly may be sufficient. Cramps are not required.
Combining deep breaths with body tension followed by sudden release of both air and tension is very effective. I usually suggest one progression from toes and fingers through the body to head followed by a second, slow progression combined with breaths also held and released.
You will know when you have achieved some significant relaxation because your desire to do another thing, even to breathe, will lose urgency. The logical mind will likely search for something to do at this point. After all, we have trained it to take charge.
Yes, our logical minds will begin to dream, to speak to us, to ramble. We might even hear things, see things, feel things. Yes, Hamlet, there is the rub.
We will perceive tracks through our minds, but fear not. We have ways of dealing with that, also—simple ways that are rather enjoyable, even amusing.
Next week we will talk about “Hair.” In the meantime, Happy Tracking!