Rick is an easy going, six foot four affable man, who doesn’t get flustered or upset easily. He always has a smile on his face much like his wife Susan. The difference is that Susan is much shorter but then who isn’t when you’re six four!
They are a military couple that I met a few years ago when we lived just outside of Washington, DC. Susan suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and she had asked me for Reiki to see if that would help. While it was relaxing and enjoyable it didn’t help in the way she had hoped. However, we had many talks about meditation and building peace in her life and then her doctor at the time suggested she try meditation. His thinking was that there was a mind/stomach connection and if she could relax the mind perhaps she could reduce her anxiety around food and eating and thus her stomach pain.
Susan found an app called Headspace and for two years she faithfully followed the program. For two years Rick watched her, listened to many of the guided meditations in the background, and scoffed at it all. Susan is also very conscious of her fitness and apart from a consistent gym routine she also does a lot of yoga stretches, often at home. Again, Rick watched because while he is also fit, that stretching stuff is for other people.
This summer Rick and Susan are being transferred to Senegal, West Africa for three years. It is not the most glamorous posting but it will be an adventure, something they love. With the posting comes weeks of training for both spouses including defensive driving if being pursued and how to escape if tied up and bound.
For Rick’s training he was detained for eight hours, in a small room, and through the day made to sit in a variety of positions. At first he didn’t take it all too seriously but as time wore on he started to get nervous and was very conscious of his panic rising, the sweating, and the shallow breath. At some point he asked himself, “What would Susan do?”
With that thought came all the evenings he had watched her meditate, listening as she was guided to slow her breath and allow her thoughts to float through. He did the same and the calm descended.
Then he started to get stiff. It’s not easy to sit in one position for an extended time. He wondered again about what Susan would do and he knew it would be all those stretches he’d seen a million times. Slowly, and as he was able, each limb was extended and stretched. He became quite the contortionist – remember he is a big guy at six feet four inches tall - but it kept him busy, his mind occupied and the nerves at bay.
At the end of the day the group met to talk about what happened and what worked, or not, in their training. All in all everything he had done had worked and what both Rick and Susan learned from that training is that within the military deep breathing is considered the number one way to calm yourself in a stressful situation. And they know it works even better when you practice it on a regular basis so that it comes naturally in the stressful times. Rick has a whole new view on meditation now.
I hope none of us ever have the type of situation that Rick and Susan were training for but in your day to day life when you can calm yourself and think from a place of peace you will make better decisions. All you need is five minutes a day in meditation, every day. What will you do today to improve your tomorrow?