I am fascinated by this group and frequently read about them. Former SEALs share how they keep their cool and how we can better navigate our own minefields. Much of the info below comes from Lu Lastra, director of mentorship for Naval Special Warfare and a former SEAL command master chief.
Prep for Battle
Instead of wasting energy by catastrophizing about stressful situations, SEALs spend hours in mental dress rehearsals before springing into action. He calls it mental loading. So, we can do this, too, like when your boss calls you into her office. Take a few minutes to first run through a handful of likely scenarios and envision yourself navigating each one in the best possible way. The extra prep can ease anxiety and give you the confidence to react calmly to whatever situation arises.
Talk Yourself Up
Positive self-talk is quite possibly the most important skill these warriors learn during their 15-month training. The most successful SEALs may not have the biggest biceps or the fastest mile, but they know how to turn their negative thoughts around. I’m a big believer in mantras so come up with your own, reminding yourself that you have the grit and talent to persevere during tough times.
Embrace the Suck
I had to chuckle when I read this comment from Lastra. “When the weather is foul and nothing is going right, that’s when I think, now we’re getting someplace!” Lastra encourages recruits to power through the times when they’re freezing, exhausted or discouraged. Why? He says the suckiest moments are when most people give up; the resilient ones spot a golden opportunity to surpass their competitors. “It’s one thing to be an excellent athlete when the conditions are perfect. But when the circumstances aren’t so favorable, those who have stronger wills are more likely to rise to victory.”
Take a Deep Breath
This next part was an interesting read on retired SEAL commander Mark Divine. He developed SEALFit, a demanding training program for civilians, incorporating yoga mindfulness and breathing techniques. “Meditation and deep breathing help slow the cognitive process and open us up to our more intuitive thoughts.” He says some of his fellow SEALs became so tuned in, they were able to sense the presence of nearby roadside bombs. Now I call this Jedi mind power!
So, here’s a good place to start. Practice what the SEALs call 4 x 4 x 4 breathing. Inhale deeply for four counts, then exhale for four counts and repeat the cycle for four minutes several times a day. You’re guaranteed to feel calmer on any battleground.
Cool Mona Note: They’re here for us and I’m here for you. http://bit.ly/1kbYF54
Having a sense of purpose will carry you through some tough parts of life. Having a direction and an overarching meaning in life helps you live longer, buffer against setbacks and is linked with wellbeing.
Most of us are clueless in this area of our life, but it’s an inner conversation almost every adult has. What do I want to do with my life? What am I passionate about? We hear gurus referring to the idea of life purpose but most of us don’t even understand the concept. What it is is the idea that we were each born for some higher purpose and it’s now our cosmic mission to find it.
I recently read an article by author Mark Manson who reframes the question – What do I want to do with my life? – and thinks about purpose in a more manageable way. The real question that cuts to the chase is what can I do with my time that is important? And so following is a series of questions to help you figure it out for yourself.
What Are You Willing to Struggle for?
Fulfillment involves effort, trial-and-error, failure and learning.
What Did Your 8-Year-Old Self Love Doing?
Remember the joy of doing things for the fun of it? No rewards, no impressing anyone, just for yourself.
What Makes You Forget to Eat?
When are you are so immersed in an activity that time passes without you realizing? Psychologists call this flow.
How Are You Going to Save the World?
You may not end world hunger, but you can make a difference. Instead of focusing too much on finding yourself, lose yourself in something larger.
If You Knew You Were Going to Die One Year from Today, What Would You Do and How Would You Want to be remembered?
How do you really want to spend your time? What do you want your legacy to be?
Manson concludes: Discovering one’s purpose in life essentially boils down to finding those one or two things that are bigger than yourself and bigger than those around you. And to find them you must get off your sofa and act, and take the time to think beyond yourself, to think greater than yourself and paradoxically, to imagine a world without yourself.
Purpose is not something we are born with. It’s cultivated.
So you’re off the sofa now, right?
Cool Mona Note: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
They are as human as the humans. They follow instructions, they go the extra mile, they are loyal to the bone. These are the unsung heroes of this long war in Afghanistan. The War Dogs.
Thousands of military working dogs have kept coalition troops safe and alive. They work the front lines: detecting explosives, finding illegal drugs, searching for missing comrades or targeting enemy combatants. They work just as hard behind the lines, serving as loyal companions at the end of some really tough days. The risks are the same, injury and sometimes death. Medevac rushes them to the nearest hospital for surgery and recovery.
These animals are so very loved and respected. They wear desert goggles to protect their eyes. They drink from the same bottle of water as their handler. Soldiers carry them out of battlefields, if not on stretchers then lovingly draped around their shoulders. Talk to any of the combat canine officers who serve in Afghanistan and they will all say the same thing: Leave no buddy behind. Attend a working dog’s funeral and you’ll think a general is being honored.
In fact, this bond between dog and soldier is so tight that several groups now work on reuniting them after the soldier returns home. The American Humane Association is pushing for a bill to mandate that the dogs are returned to U.S. soil before they are retired.
To the War Dogs. I turn away from the bbq grill on this Memorial Day and lift my margarita as high as I can. http://bit.ly/1eWhq5K
AJR is hot. This nyc-based indie pop band is a family scene – brothers Adam, Jack and Ryan Met. The group writes, produces and mixes their own material in their Chelsea apartment’s living room. Their style has been described as eclectic, combining elements of pop, doo-wop, electronic, and dubstep. AJR began performing around 2006, busking in Central Park and Washington Square Park. Perhaps you saw them.
Check out their recent performance on The Today Show, but you’ll have to pardon the ad that precedes it. http://on.today.com/1F29dKf
I stay busy, I reach out to others, but the root of loneliness isn’t the absence of other people. It’s an inner absence like you don’t have a centered awareness of your true self.
So, what’s your true self? It’s your spirit. Its qualities include love, compassion, equanimity, joy, creativity, intuition, pure potentiality and bliss. When you’re established in the awareness of your true self, you feel lovable and connected, whether you’re in a packed stadium or spending a quiet afternoon by yourself. At the most basic level, the company you enjoy the most is your own. On the other hand, loneliness is the condition of feeling negative about your own company, requiring other people to fill that inner lack.
Practices for Healing Loneliness
1) Offer yourself compassion and begin to cultivate an acceptance of all your emotions. Emotions are commonly categorized as positive or negative, but really, every emotion is valid. When you add self-judgment, any emotion can be damaging.
2) Every time you feel lonely or anxious, rather than heaping judgment and shame on yourself, practice self-compassion. It can help to think of how you would treat a scared child or pet. You wouldn’t snap or speak harshly, tell them to buck up and stop being ridiculous. You’d offer them affection, loving attention and gentle understanding.
Cool Mona Note: Hang out with us! The Cool Mona Community is a vibrant group of seekers and strugglers. We agree that not every day is a great one, sometimes we just aim for a 50 per center. But we show up, sometimes lonely, sometimes sad, maybe a little off balance for the day. But we gather here and read and learn and laugh. Hang out with us.
Artist Natalie Fletcher is like none other. She creates amazing body paintings that become one with the landscape. Do what? Right, she literally paints people’s bodies as they stand in front of beautiful scenery and the body becomes part of the natural scene. The figures merge with the background creating an incredible transparency. I wonder if you need a permit for this kind of stuff.
Natalie is trained as a classical painter and lives and works in Oregon. Recent winner of GSN’s “Skin Wars”, Natalie is currently planning a cross – country road trip/body art project, “100 Bodies Across America“. Starting in March 2015 she’ll be painting 2 paintings in each state. If you would like to be a part of this project, go to http://bit.ly/1HbjHaE and message Natalie your ideas.
Sometimes I need only to stand where I am to be blessed. Mart Oliver
Your life will be a great and continuous unfolding. Cheryl Strayed
A self that goes on changing is a self that goes on living. Virginia Woolf
There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient. Marilynne Robinson
I think this is how we are supposed to be in the world – present and in awe. Anne Lamott
Doing small things with love is the atom of bravery. Mark Nepo
The soul is here for its own joy. Rumi
Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. Maya Angelou
Every moment is an invitation to live out of your weakness or to live out of your strength. Marianne Williamson
It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. Wendell Berry
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. Thomas A. Edison
I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game – winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. Michael Jordan
Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success. Dale Carnegie
The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. Ralph Waldo Emerson
One who fears failure limits his activities. Failure is only the opportunity to more intelligently begin again. Henry Ford
Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. Winston Churchill
Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. Robert F. Kennedy
The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one. Elbert Hubbard
Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable. Coco Chanel
When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel. Eloise Ristad
Euphoria by Lily King, published in 2014. Written as historical fiction, it’s a good intro to anthropology in general and the revolutionary life of Margaret Mead in particular. The storyline is entertaining with the three main characters – young, gifted anthropologists Nell Stone, Fenwick Schuyler and Andrew Bankson representing the real lives of Mead and her husbands – second (Reo Fortune) and third (Gregory Bateson). Initially sticking to the facts, the author takes a big detour as an ending. The plot is a passionate love triangle in New Guinea, 1933, that threatens their careers and ultimately their lives.
British anthropologist Bankson has been alone in the field for several years, studying a tribe on the Sepik River with little success. When he meets the couple, he’s on the verge of suicide. Nell Stone is famous and controversial, jaundiced and limping with open sores on her hands. Aussie hubby Fen bitterly hangs on to her coattails since it’s her grant money and book sales that keep them afloat.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the read is when they plot all of their known tribes into a grid of 4 parts, North/West/East/South. Each grid represents the qualities of the tribes and then the threesome adds their personal friends to the grid as well as themselves. Throughout the rest of the read, they refer to themselves and others as a North/West/East/South, not always in a complimentary tone. The grid represents a life-defining moment in their anthropology work and they are exuberant about it. Well, 2 out of 3 are exuberant.
Lily King is the author of Father of the Rain, a New York Times Editors’ Choice and winner of the New England Book Award for Fiction. She also wrote The Pleasing Hour and The English Teacher. Euphoria is an easy read and I found myself longing for a continuation of the story. In the Cool Mona rating system, I give it 4 margaritas.
Place 2 – 3 dashes of orange bitters in each of 6 champagne flutes or glasses.
Add 1 Tbsp. of lemon liqueur to each and stir.
Top each glass with champagne or sparkling wine.
Garnish with lemon rind twist to make a beautiful presentation.
Tip: No lemon liqueur? Whisk together 1/3 cup of fresh lemon juice and 1/4 cup powdered sugar instead.
Calories per serving is not bad – 147.