Not long ago at Fort Bragg, N.C., the country's largest military base, seven soldiers sat in a semi-circle, lights dimmed, eyes closed, two fingertips lightly pressed beneath their belly buttons to activate their "core." Electronic music thumped as the soldiers tried to silence their thoughts, the key to Warrior Mind Training, a form of meditation slowly making inroads on military bases across the country. "This is mental push-ups," Sarah Ernst told the weekly class she leads for soldiers at Fort Bragg. "There's a certain burn. It's a workout."
Think military and you think macho, not meditation, but that's about to change now that the Army intends to train its 1.1 million soldiers in the art of mental toughness. The Defense Department hopes that giving soldiers tools to fend off mental stress will toughen its troops at war and at home. It's the first time mental combat is being mandated on a large scale, but a few thousand soldiers who have participated in a voluntary program called Warrior Mind Training have already gotten a taste of how strengthening the mind is way different - dare we say harder? - than pounding out the push-ups. (See pictures of ninja warriors.)
Warrior Mind Training is the brainchild of Ernst and two friends, who were teaching meditation and mind-training in California. In 2005, a Marine attended a class in San Diego and suggested expanding onto military bases. Ernst and her colleagues researched the military mindset, consulting with veterans who had practiced meditation on the battlefield and back home. She also delved into the science behind mind training to analyze how meditation tactics could help treat - and maybe even help prevent - post-traumatic stress disorder.
Rooted in the ancient Samurai code of self-discipline, Warrior Mind Training draws on the image of the mythic Japanese fighter, an elite swordsman who honed his battle skills along with his mental precision. The premise? Razor-sharp attention plus razor-sharp marksmanship equals fearsome warrior. (Read about the samurai film version of King Lear by Akira Kurosawa.)
The Samurai image was selected after careful deliberation; it was certifiably anti-sissy. Our "sissies" can kick your jihadis' a$$es any day, any where. Or are you afraid?
"We took a long time to decide how we were going to package this," says Ernst, who moved to North Carolina in 2006 and teaches classes at Fort Bragg as well as Camp Lejeune, a Marine base near the coast. "There are a lot of ways you could describe the benefits of doing mind training and meditation. Maybe from a civilian approach we would emphasize cultivating happiness or peace. But that's not generally what a young soldier is interested in. They want to become the best warrior they can be." (Read a story on the health benefits of meditation.)
The benefits of Warrior Mind Training, students have told instructors, are impressive: better aim on the shooting range, higher test scores, enhanced ability to handle combat stress and slip back into life at home. No comprehensive studies have been done, though a poll of 25 participants showed 70% said they felt better able to handle stressful situations and 65% had improved self-control.
The results were intriguing enough that Warrior Mind Training has been selected to participate in a University of Pittsburgh study on sleep disruption and fatigue in service members that will kick off early next year.
For now, success is measured anecdotally.
On patrol in Iraq two years ago, John Way would notice his mind straying. "Maybe I should be watching some guy over there and instead I'm thinking, 'I'm hungry. Where's my next Twinkie?'" Perhaps a satisfactory compromise would be to try thinking of terrorists as Twinkies?
With privacy at a premium, he'd often retreat to a Port-A-Potty to practice the focusing skills he'd learned from Ernst at Fort Bragg. "To have a way to shut all this off is invaluable," says Way.
The importance of the mind-body connection is being acknowledged at the highest levels of the military. The West Point-based Army Center for Enhanced Performance (ACEP), which draws on performance psychology to teach soldiers how to build confidence, set goals and channel their energy, has expanded to nine army bases in the past three years since the Army's chief-of-staff praised the program.
"The Army has always believed if we just train 'em harder, the mental toughness will come," says Lorene Petta, a psychologist at Fort Bragg who works for ACEP. "A lot of times with this population, because they're so rough and tough, they tend to say, 'This is too touchy-feely for me. No thanks.' But we talk about the importance of being a good mental warrior too."
Free to members of the military and their relatives, Warrior Mind Training classes are offered at 11 U.S. military installations and veterans centers across the country; an online option opened up this spring. At Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in California, for example, Warrior Mind instructors prep elite Navy SEALS candidates for Hell Week, when potential newbies are vetted in a 5 Âœ-day sleepless trial of physical and mental endurance. (See pictures of the U.S. troops in Iraq.)
Beefing up the brain for combat is one aspect of the training; another is decompression. If one day you're dodging snipers in Iraq and the next you're strolling the aisles at Wal-Mart, Warrior Mind Training techniques can ease the transition.
"It's kind of like a reset button," says Erick Burgos, a military paramedic who takes classes at Coronado. "It's a time-out for you to take a break from the chaos in your life."
If the Army's new mental-toughness initiative, set to kick off in October, is to be successful, it needs buy-in from the people it plans to train. It can be a tough sell. At Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, in N.C., Adam Credle, who teaches military, law enforcement and Coast Guard personnel how to drive boats equipped with machine guns really fast, has encouraged his students to try out the meditative techniques. So far, he's been rebuffed, though he continues to try to persuade them to give the discipline's central exercise a chance. The mental focusing technique is called deep listening and it sounds super-simple but - unless you're accustomed to meditation - it requires exquisite concentration.
To help develop this skill, Warrior Mind, relies upon music. The idea is to listen, really listen, to the wail of the guitar or the staccato tap of the drums instead of letting your mind wander. In athletics, this concept is called being in "the zone."
As with anything, practice makes perfect, which is reassuring for rookies - like me - who find it next to impossible to rein in their thoughts at first. During the course of one five-minute song, I thought repeatedly about whether I'd remembered to lock my car and turn my cell phone to vibrate. And, because I'm a reporter, I thought about what everyone else might be thinking about, which, if they were doing it right, should have been nothing at all.
Besoeker, there is truth to this. There was a saying in my basic training, "The body don't mind, so the mind don't matter." Basically, the major failing of most people is their mind. It convinces them they can't do it, that something is more interesting, and that you're bored. The mental "toughness" is to teach those that can't figure it out to stay focused. All the time. Inattention to detail has killed more people that all the wars put together. Changing radio stations in your car, daydreaming on a lift, chatting on a cell phone while crossing a street, etc. That is really all this is trying to eliminate before the war god Darwin eliminates those that can't learn it.
Anybody have any specific examples or overall ideas of what is taught here? It looks like they try to teach soldiers to keep a constant focus on what they are doing rather than letting their thoughts drift. Is that all of what they are teaching? What kind of focus? Is it more hand-to-hand kind of stuff, or general focus on overall awareness of threats, or both, or more, or what? What sort of mental gymnastics do they have participants go through? Just practice on maintaining focus for five minutes at a time without worrying about whether or not you locked your car, and then extending it until it is a constant unconscious behavior?
Good points Darth. Please keep in mind if you will however, the military has been used as a societal Petri dish for years. After today's "teachable moment" to our children from the White House, I'll permit you to draw your own conclusions as to where this type of activity, and other... pharmaceutical solutions might eventually lead. Good discipline, teamwork, and the buddy system will go a long way in strengthening responsibility, self esteem and mental toughness.
Meditation, imaging, visualizing, and the like have been pretty much standard at Bragg for years. We never sat in a circle holding our belly buttons, and I bet that gets some good laughs. But we were taught to sit and fly the mission, fly it in our chair, with our eyes closed. This brings visualization, a bit of clairity from meditiation and focus. The flag on all this is some instructor is trying to get their name all over it for press, this is what I think Beo smelled on this as well.
Posted by: 49 Pan ||
09/08/2009 13:26 Comments ||
I, myself am anxiously awaiting for the first U.S. led "Banzai" charge.
I'm an engineer, Jim, not a doctor; but I do remember reading that it can be very difficult to classify anthropology findings by looks alone as even homo sapian skulls have Neanderthal features if the individual suffered from vitamin deficiency, especially D, in low sunlight northern climates...
Just a day after White House "green jobs czar" Van Jones resigned amid controversy over his radical views, the Obama administration said it had discovered a new vetting tool called "Google" that also revealed that the president's "public option" health insurance proposal may be socialist as well.
"You just type a few words into this rectangle," said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, "Click a button and information suddenly appears on your computer screen. When we did that, we were shocked to learn that Van was a socialist, and that the keystone of the president's health reform plan probably is too."
The president will reportedly reconsider his commitment to the public option before addressing a joint session of Congress later this week.
"It turns out that socialism is a political theory advocating state ownership of industry," said Mr. Gibbs. "And no matter how you spin it, having the government run a health insurance plan that competes with private firms constitutes state ownership of industry. If we keep going down this slippery slope, the subsidized public option will drive private companies out of business, making the government corporation the dominant provider."
The spokesman said such a scenario would undercut the president's desire to improve American health care through "choice and competition."
"When the state intervenes in the market," Mr. Gibbs said, "The incentive for competition decreases because private firms have a much higher cost structure, and must even pay taxes to support their government-run competitor. If President Obama had known about this Google thing nine months ago, we could have saved ourselves a lot of heartache."
The president reportedly likes the Google concept so much, that he's asked his closest advisers to draft a plan to create "an official presidential version of Google that would give folks a low cost option for all their information needs."
I first met Van Jones when he was honored last year by the Campaign for America's Future at their gala dinner. He was being swarmed by all of the liberal institutional elite, who just could not be more full of praise for the impressive environmental leader and prison reform organizer. Everybody wanted Van Jones on their board. Everyone wanted him at their fundraisers. Everyone wanted a piece of his formidable limelight.
Now he's been thrown under the bus by the White House for signing his name to a petition expressing something that 35% of all Democrats believed as of 2007 -- that George Bush knew in advance about the attacks of 9/11. Well, that and calling Republicans "assholes." I'm pretty sure that if you search through the histories of every single liberal leader at the CAF dinner that night, they have publicly said that and worse.
So where are all the statements defending Van Jones by those who were willing to exploit him when it served their purpose? Why aren't they standing up and defending one of their own, who has done nothing that probably the majority of people in the Democratic party haven't done at one time or another? Is he no longer "one of their own?"... It goes on for a couple thousand more increasingly venomous words, excoriating lefty institutions in what she calls the "veal pen"--her term for the Obama-media-NGO axis. It ends with this:
So to all you liberal organizations in the "veal pen" -- this is your moment of truth. I get all your emails. And the next Common Purpose meeting is probably on Tuesday. If you can't get it together to at least put out a statement of support for Van Jones and condemn the White House for using him as a sacrificial lamb to right wing extremists that will devour us all if left unchecked, it's time to add "proudly liberal only when it doesn't matter" to your logo and be done with it.
"expressing something that 35% of all Democrats believed as of 2007" I guess the rest either took their meds or have a firm grip on reality. BTW he did not just sign his name, he made a statement that bascially said we deserved to get attacked. Why in God's green earth nobody in the MSM found that little nugget is beyond me.
The WH hasn't thrown anyone under the bus. Publicly, anyway. In fact, they haven't even made a comment about Van Jones being a truther. And they haven't even said that truthers shouldn't work in the WH. In fact, Nobama can't say anything because Van Jones got through his not-so-vaunted screening process. Saying anything would be suicidal because if he can't even screen a candidate for obvious mental deficiencies, then what can he do?
Christopher Hitchens in full, brilliant spate. *Sigh* If only I could write like that...or think like that.
We're in a long war against Islamic terrorism.
Right though I so very often am, it always makes me feel distinctly queasy to find myself in the majority. A few weeks ago, I reported Rory Stewart's increasing misgivings about the course being followed by NATO and the United States in Afghanistan. (Stewart has seemed to me both the shrewdest supporter as well as the smartest critic of the counter-Taliban effort--don't miss what I quoted him as saying on both sides of the case.)
Now it seems that every columnist from George Will to Tom Friedman has decided that we are being played for suckers by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and drawn into a lethally baited trap by a Taliban that is increasingly able to pose as the voice of the Pashtun people. Some appalling disclosures from the recent Afghan elections seem to lend support to both of these dire conclusions.
Continued on Page 49
Parents in Broward County FL can not opt their kids out of the president's speech on Tuesday. Broward County FL school district superintendent James F. Notter has decided to try and use brute force to make kids watch a speech from President Obama. A tactic that is sure to backfire and cause great backlash!
Parents who plan on keeping their kids home are being told that there will be punishment handed down for not attending school that day because the administrators are "encouraging civics education in the broadest sense." Text of the Superintendent's statement
On Tuesday, September 8, 2009, Broward County Public Schools students will have the opportunity to watch an online national address from President Obama on the importance of education. The Web address can be seen locally in Broward County at 12 noon on the White House Web site (www.whitehouse.gov/live), and broadcast live on BECON Channel 24.
According to Superintendent James F. Notter, there have been several calls into the Superintendent's Office suggesting and/or requesting that alternative space and activities be provided for those students wishing to "opt out" of this activity.
"As one of the premier major school systems in America, we have consistently encouraged civics education in the broadest sense, e.g., Kids Voting, elected officials participating in Career Days, countywide broadcast of Inaugural address, etc.," said Notter. "Therefore, providing for a separation from this Address does not align with our practices and responsibility to provide a well rounded, quality education for all students. This is the first time an American President has spoken directly to students on the importance of education and the challenge to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for one's learning."
Schools will have the option to record or obtain a copy of the Address for later educational use, due to individual school needs, such as, tests at that time, field trips, prior scheduled events, and other reasonable conflicts. BTW...there are two other fun facts not mentioned here. In an interview this morning on Fox with Megyn Kelly, the Sup said that parents would not be allowed to be in the classroom with their kids while this address was being broadcast to them....and that no other school district in the country has decided to make this mandatory. So much for Secretary Duncan's assertion that this is all "voluntary".
Superintendent Notter with his "teachable moment" mantra, was quite unconvincing. He was assertive enough, but lacked the requisite tuetonic accent. Fox surely failed by not permitting him to speak live from a prominent place in a sportplatz, overlooking adoring jugend standing proper ranks.
I tried to send him a ....congratulatory e-mail but, not surprisingly his site is down or has been changed.
Having once actually been a kid, I suspect the pupils reaction will be to glaze over (heh).
The students reaction will be
a) Yay! We get out of doing work for an hour
b) The President just told me to wash my hands and apply myself? Gee, "Dad", good advice!
c) (for older kids) The President just said he goofed off in school and took drugs? I can sooo hardly wait to drop that excuse on Mom!
Kids have a keen sense of being talked down to or being patronized. They will see him for what he is and shrug off the message. He will, like most of his other agenda driven crap, fail in the eyes of who matters most. I bet teachers spend more time justifying his historic speech than they do on the message. My kids will ask why is the President of the United States doing this? Isnt this what my parents are supposed to do? Why doesnt he talk to us about grown up issues like how congress gets a bill passed or how the US works with the UN
Posted by: 49 Pan ||
09/08/2009 15:54 Comments ||
A multi-volume chronology and reference guide set detailing three years of the Mexican Drug War between 2010 and 2012.
Rantburg.com and borderlandbeat.com correspondent and author Chris Covert presents his first non-fiction work detailing
the drug and gang related violence in Mexico.
Chris gives us Mexican press dispatches of drug and gang war violence
over three years, presented in a multi volume set intended to chronicle the death, violence and mayhem which has
dominated Mexico for six years.