By Eric Beach
It never ceases to amaze me how much hope can be in my face, how many relationships can grow/develop, how many puzzle pieces can fall into place, and still, I have mornings like these.
Awhile ago, I wrote a post about hope. About loving yourself, and here I sit, not taking my own advice. But I’m no hypocrite, I’m wounded. PTS (Post Traumatic Stress) is a formidable foe. Its an ever changing companion. This is why I believe any single plan of treatment is grossly ineffective by itself. We need therapy, community, a cause to fight for, a race to train for. We need a voice and we need to use it. We need to create and not be afraid of our emotions. We need to honor them.
I had a rough morning after a good start. Thats PTS. Its guerrilla warfare and if you're trained in tradition combat, you're done. PTS requires a modern fighting approach. If the Red Coats fought the modern US soldiers, the battles would be quite a bit shorter right?!?
Its time we get creative in this fight. The old way wasn't working so I reached out and went the non-traditional route. I kept my therapy appointments and they are still very important. It just can't be the only thing we do in our pursuit of healing. Because I reached out I received non-traditional building blocks. I was then able to build a healthy structure on top of my traditional foundation. Because of this, I am writing and stopping my downward spiral.
Lets get tactical!
For me, that means adding to my therapy visits additional healing measures. Its getting a service dog, attending Save a Warrior, Getting to know Magnus at Mission 22 and Elder Heart, Its training for triathlon, Its creating an opportunity to lead others as they train as well, and Its being courageously VULNERABLE.
In this moment, I feel better. From the moment my pen hit paper to now, I feel like a different person.
I challenge you all to write! Force yourself to write when you're scared or hurting! If you'd be brave, secure, and ready to, share it somewhere, and with someone! We struggle greatest when we struggle alone, trying to keep up appearances. We keep ourselves sick believing the fallacy that showing emotions, good or "bad", somehow makes us weak.
In truth, understanding, showing, and utilizing emotion in a healthy way means we are strong and close to the heart of true humanity.
I say again. Write.
By Eric Beach
I read this journal entry I made a while ago, and I think it comes at a proper time. In this moment, I can't remember the last time I meditated. I've been feeling the desire to get meditation back into my routine on some level. So as you read this, realize I am also reading this looking for a few answers.
I try to meditate for 20 minutes right before I go to bed every night. I fail with consistency and lately, the nights of failure, far outnumber the nights of success. Its funny how the things we know are best for us, can quickly become the things we forgo most often!
In meditation, there is an element of self-discipline that is required and developed. Sitting still and keeping your mind clear for 20 minutes is far harder than it sounds!
As thoughts sneak in, and they do all the time, we acknowledge them and let them float away like clouds across the sky. Intrusive thoughts like, man my nose itches! I would tell myself, "We are not the itch, we experience the itch." I had to repeat that so many times last night it became a mantra! I had so many itches that desperately wanted me to scratch them! I focused, breathed, and watched them and their dagger like edges float by only to be replaced by another group!
Just when I thought I had claimed total victory, and believed I could finish the session without scratching the itch, a barrage of fresh itch breeched my walls and sought to usurp the throne of self-control. It reminded me of something I read in the book "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho.
In the book, a Shepard boy ventures out in search of a treasure that has appeared to him in his dreams. On his journey, he has a chance encounter with a king who tells him about a mans "personal legend." According to the king, the only responsibility a man has in his life, is to find and live out his personal legend. This concept is one I liken to finding your "core purpose."
The king explained, on the way to fulfilling your personal legend, the universe would at first seek to show you favor (call it beginners luck) in an effort to affirm you and motivate you to continue on your path. things magically fall into place, people are responding to you, you are making a difference! Oh my gosh! This is going to work!
The king further explains that a time comes when the journeyman would be tested before the fulfillment of their personal legend. He or she would need to use all the lessons they had learned through various trials in order to not quit or turn away. In that moment, they must prove their dedication to purpose, their personal legend. If they fail, they prove they are not ready for life after their personal legend is lived out. My meditation became a microcosm of that journey!
At first, I was doing well. The first 6 minutes I was still, clear of mind. Beginners luck. Keep going. Then came the itch , the trials. I won, I overcame. But when the final barrage overtook me, I wanted to itch, I wanted to quit, I wanted to turn away from my "personal legend." I wanted to once again be comfortable. But, I resisted and am stronger for it.
My life has mirrored this journey, and without introspection, it would continue in failures. The phrase "strength through pain" has been important to me recently. Strength is required to go through and grow through pain. Pain is required to grow in strength.
Running is painful, it isn't comfortable. Forgoing pleasure is painful. But we fail to grow stronger if we trade the pain for comfort.
Psychologist Carl Jung said "Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens." To realize our purpose we must look inside ourselves and find out who we really are. Not who we were told to be, not who we strive to be because society calls your path honorable. Jiddu Krishnamurti said, "It is no measure of good health to be adjusted to a profoundly sick society."
I'm not comfortable. I'm not trying to please anyone. I'm not trying to see how many likes or shares I can get on Facebook. I'm finding my purpose. I'm accepting the obstacles, limping over them and not looking in the crowd to see whose laughing at me. It's my journey and I'm doing the bucket work.
By Eric Beach
Since my friend shared this concept with me, it has become one of my mantras. Holding the space has become the root grounding me in my sobriety. The more I hold the space the more I come to understand it and the more I believe it may be the single most important thing we can do for our veterans. It may well be the most important thing we do in ANY relationship.
In truth, holding the space is the hardest, easy thing you can do. Being, and staying present is the key. Our hearing is the muscle we flex to "hold that space". Space is heavy, so holding it requires strengthen a muscle we need to actively work often.
Understand this... Veterans have seen behind the curtain. We've seen the dirt and grime in the wheels and cogs of government. We've seen the best and worst of society and culture. We have been manipulated and when our guards were down, when we were most vulnerable, people died while others took advantage of us. Then, we were asked to stuff down the embers of grief. When we couldn't swallow it, it was forced down our throats, "Suck it up and drive on." When that didn't work, we tried to wash down the bitter pill with alcohol. Once swallowed, we self-medicated, desperately trying to counteract the uncomfortable effects of "feeling." But, the only way to heal is to first feel... Once we feel, we must then speak out loud, in a safe environment, our deepest pains and darkness.
We can’t give voice to the our deep dark secrets unless we trust someone to hold the space with their whole heart and their whole being. For us to feel safe, to trust again, we are in a sense risking death.
We have been fed a lie that it is other than honorable to share our burdens carried home from war, or the ones put in our ruck sack before our military service. The fallacy “A real combat veteran doesn’t share their combat experiences. Those that do are imposters. They’ve probably never seen combat, because had they, they wouldn’t talk about it.” Has driven many to the dark, lonely caves of depression, shame, and secrecy.
The veterans that don’t share, the ones that don’t have a safe held space, that live with a false sense of “honor” laid out by a pseudo-initiated warrior tradition, are the unhealthy ones. They are the lost ones.
We don’t need to share the graphic details. We don’t need to be understood. We don’t need to talk about it all the time. We need a safe, held space. We need it so when the feelings creep in, and they will, we have a place to purge the poison we’ve allowed to sit deep in our soul. We need a training ground where we can "sit with the emotion" where we can feel it, process it, and FINALLY grieve it.
Hold the space. If you’re a veteran, or someone with PTS (Post Traumatic Stress) hold the space and get rid of anything that keeps you from doing so. For me, that means no alcohol.
If you know someone with PTS, hold the space. Don’t “fix” anything. Don’t force anything. Love them and be present. If they don’t share their burden, love them and stay present. Accept the reality you may never be the person they share with. In time they may share with you, but what I’m suggesting is your motivation to hold the space can not be that someday they’ll bare their whole soul to you. We need to know we are supported and loved. We need to feel this way until, and after we are able to receive those truth that we are supported and loved.
The path to healing is built on the foundation of holding the space.
Hold the space.
By Eric Beach
In middle school and high school, I was depressed. I was really only happy when I was able to make someone laugh. It's not uncommon for person to find an area where they fit into a group and live there, and there only. We plant our flag and declare, "This is my place! This is how I shall serve the group!" Unfortunately, when we perceive or experience a failure in that area (our role in the group), the hit can be pretty hard and further throw us away from our identity, our authentic self, and deeper into depression.
When depression (or more appropriately despair) hit, I had a routine.
Step one: Self loathe
Step two: Isolate
Step three: listen to music
I had my go to "despair: greatest hits" playlist. Music that kept me in the state of despair, and provided no threat to pulling me out of it. So why do I bring this up? One of those songs came up on Pandora and coincided with the end of today's workout.
It has been 15 years since I let this song carry me through the emotional waves of whatever boulder was dropped into my pond of Self confidence. But today, it moved me in a different way.
15 years ago, I would envision this song playing on my car stereo as someone came upon my wrecked car and found my dead body. I envisioned my funeral and saw all the sad faces. They did love me, I'd tell myself. Perhaps I'll only matter to them in death... In all reality, this song was the soundtrack to my desire to be dead... And Seen. At the time, I wasn't able to see I unconsciously was desperate to be seen.
The song was Epiphany by the band Staind. Take a listen, and when you do, try to put yourself in the mindset of a teenage boy (or girl) who had no clue who the hell he or she was but was desperate for someone the tell them.
Today I heard the song and its lyrics with different ears. I was empowered, no longer powerless. I advocated for that little boy today. These lyrics in particular broke my heart as I pedaled on my trainer and thought about the boy I used to be. "I am nothing more than, a little boy inside, that cries out for attention yet I always try to hide."
Those words speak of something very deep and diverse. Behind the screams of many angry adults can be found a little child that just wants to be seen. I wanted someone to see me, but to be seen is to be vulnerable and to be vulnerable is to open up to the possibility of being hurt. When I was hurt, I felt powerless so I hid as my heart cried out, "PLEASE SOMEBODY, SEE ME!"
Today in my workout, I let that little boy hop on my shoulders and we flew. I closed my eyes and saw him and I swear he smiled. God that felt good.
Thats the power and beauty of sport! When we push ourselves we can safely connect with the pieces of us that have long lain dormant. We can feel the full spectrum of emotion during one session, and inevitably if we're doing battle with our own inner "demons" we'll come to a place where we see behind the scary and find a sad, scared, lonely, and hurting little boy or girl.
When you find them, please hold them. Love them. Let their voice be heard. They've been silenced long enough. Feel their emotion, let them be seen. After you're done, thank them and assure them you'll see them the next time you push yourself to the place where your mind can be no other place than right here, right now.
By Eric Beach
I wrote this Blog about 2 years ago. Several things have changed in my life since writing this, but when I rediscovered it, I wanted to share it because its a snap shot of where my healing journey began. I'm sharing it in case it resonates with a new audience. If this resonates with you, know there is hope, and you can grow into a life of joy and purpose. I'm dedicating my life to understanding how, and offering up what I find to you, our Echelon.
I said it wouldn't always be pretty... Today... Yesterday... They weren't pretty.
Part of this journey I'm taking you on, a huge part, is a healing journey. I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It comes in many forms, from many different points of origin. In my case its from my time over seas in combat in Iraq 2003 and growing up with wounds and no sense of Self.
It rears its head at random sometimes. The last couple of days have seemed random. I've scratched my head trying to figure out why I've had intense depression and rage. We're on vacation and I've been so angry, at times to the point I don't feel safe. I don't feel I'll be able to keep my emotions in check. I've secretly been hoping to get into a fight so I could give this rage purpose.
I was at the mechanic and saw a guy staring at me for what seemed like 5 minutes. I wanted to scream at him "Can I help you?" "Is there a problem?" But I held back. PTSD can make you look for fights that aren't there. Everyone becomes the enemy to include my children and my wife. The baby cries, my 4 year old doesn't listen at times and my wife isn't perfect... How dare they be human... But, in these moments it's all I see. There humanity becomes a negative.
I've made great progress with my PTSD and so have many others, but we still have our days. They have become fewer in number, but it wasn't that long ago I had at least 3 days a week like this. Horrible way to live. Its one of the reasons the veteran suicide rate is so high. 22 a day. ABSOLUTELY HEART BREAKING. I won't be part of that number. I hope to eradicate that number.
So what to do in my state... It was getting late and there was about 30 minutes before sunset. I decided I needed to get out and run. Burn off this adrenaline that had been dumping into my system the past 2 days. I ended up running 3.84 miles at a 9 minute mile pace. Its a good pace for me at this point. In the last 1/2 mile I started to have a conversation with myself.
I was heading home and decided to keep a faster pace and not quit if it got tough. It got tough... Life always gets tough. Before it got tough I realized how bad a father, husband, son and friend I am when I get like this. My mantra became my wife deserves better, my daughter deserves better etc... I said it over and over. I asked myself is my body in charge or am I in charge? If my body says I'm tired, I can't do this, do I listen or do I tell it the race isn't over?
It hit me. I deserve better.
I realized in that moment, I deserve a better quality of life. It's not just for everybody else. Do I let the relationships in my life, as important as they may be, determine if I'm doing a good enough job, or do I get to weigh in and tell myself how I'm doing?
I deserve better because when I'm a better man I feel better and my family gets better from me as well. When I tell my body I know its tough, I know you're tired, I know you want to quit but we're not going to. I fight forward. I get stronger.
On this race of life, there are setbacks. Our days won't always be something we want to write about or share with others. Its not a success only journey (Thank God). I'm not always going to be the best family man, my event times won't always get faster but I'm not going to quit. On any of it. When set backs come I'll take a deep breath, really think about things and when I get that moment of clarity, I'll tell myself your're done quiting. If we don't quit, theres still a chance we'll get better.
Its not a success only life. We aren't perfect. We never will be. Obstacles will come... a lot. It will get difficult. We will fall short. There will be tears. There will be anger. We will feel like we suck. But if we don't give up and we work, the bad times become the exceptions.
I have been in therapy, I have a service dog and the teachings from the trauma resiliency program, writing, Video work, and now I have swimming, biking, running and a literal race to run. If we can find outlets, we can we can do battle with our "demons". We can learn a lot about ourselves in those moments when it gets hard, when we fight instead of giving up. Some call it the pain cave. Its a place we put ourselves on purpose in a healthy way (like exercise) where we must give it our all even when it gets hard.
Maybe your pain cave is getting out in public for a while because your afraid of crowds. Maybe its going to the fireworks wearing headphones and during the show, taking them off a listening to the booms. Maybe its picking up the phone and talking to that broken relationship you've been avoiding for years. Maybe it's telling your spouse you love them. Maybe it's planning a date. Maybe its playing with your kids. It takes effort. It takes love and dedication. But when the thing you try gets tough and you enter the pain cave will you quit? or will you address the reality of your situation and really think about it. Will you push forward?
I'm not perfect, but I'm pushing forward. It may take a day or two, or longer to get back on track but I'm always working to find the trail.
What trail do you need to get back on?
By Eric Beach
Have you ever started something new, or been doing something for a long time and still felt like you were achieving nothing? Have you ever felt as if you weren't good enough and never would be, so much so you feel anger. Anger followed by resentment and doubt? If so, hi my name is Eric, welcome to the club. This has been a pattern of mine and over the years, it's something I've been working on.
Why do I feel this way?
My response to an emotion may be severe or irrational, but I believe the emotion is trying to tell me, tell us something.
It's telling ME, comparison is the robber of joy. A good friend of mine shared that pearl with me and its become a life changing reality.
More often than not, we don't begin something and compare ourselves against the beginners. We measure ourselves against the best of the best. We want to know how do we stack up. I start making short films and immediately compare my work to that of the greatest hollywood directors in the history of cinema! When I do that, I don't stack up very well... I don't think I ever will and I lose the drive to try. The drive to get better, to grow.
I train for a triathlon and look up times from last years racers to see the averages. I find the average time for each event is far faster than I am currently capable of completing individually, let alone back to back to back! So, do I quit because I most likely won't place well in the race? Who's holding me to these unrealistic standards on which my success is determined?
Why do we, or at least I, compare myself to top level industry professionals and elite athletes who have been working, improving, and getting or honing their craft better for years?
Perfectionism mixed with impatience. I want to be the best... NOW.
I don't want to work for it. I want to be great without doing the work because doing the work is hard and involves failure. It involves adversity and I just want to fly.
I can't fly and its unreasonable to think I can. I can't run an IRONMAN Triathlon in 9 hours, so it's unreasonable to compare myself to someone who can. But, it is reasonable to aspire to that end. To learn from the established and work towards a goal... Over time.
It's not always reaching the goal thats important. Most often, its what we learn on the journey thats the real victory. Thats the real benefit of a goal.
To what end do you strive?
and Tom Voss, who were living with in darkness with the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Moral Injury casting a shadow on their true selves and preventing them from being the men they wanted to be for themselves and for their loved ones. These two veterans, who were diagnosed and treated for PTSD, were done waiting for their sun to rise, for their therapy and medications to "cure" them and they yearned for something more, they yearned for an inner peace that they had control over. Ultimately, Anthony and Tom embarked on a 150 day pilgrimage walk from Wisconsin to California in an effort to better understand themselves, their fears, their anger, their anxieties, and ultimately find peace with the world around them.
Project Echelon is almost one year old, founded April 1, 2017. Our journey, our story is our own version of "the walk." We started out with more questions than we had answers, and believe when I say there are still A LOT of questions, but those questions are starting to have more clarity and our path to the sunrise is becoming more distinct. As a civilian, non-veteran it can sometimes be hard to identify with the questions asked or the struggles shared, it can be difficult to find an entry point and provide "the right words." But in my journey, I have learned that my role is more about empathy, listening, and supporting than it is about providing, fixing, or curing. My role is to support the Echelon, help break the wind, and make the sunrise easier to see.
After having the opportunity to meet and speak with Anthony and Tom, it was clear our work with Project Echelon is good work and that we are on the right path. We are excited for the new opportunities and relationships that are presenting themselves as we expand our Echelon of support and share our story with more veterans, their families, and the community. We invite you to join us in our journey by following us on social media or connecting with us through our Contact Page.
We are walking the good walk, the sun is rising... and its beautiful!
Take-aways and insights from last night's event:
By Eric Beach
We've all heard it before, "This is just the way I am so deal with it!" or "This is just the way God made me, so get use to it!" These phrases are typically uttered with great passion, anger, and rage. They are conversation enders, not starters. Most often, these phrases are heard only after a fight or a challenge to change.
My dad use to say this a lot. He would blame his "French hot blooded nature" or blame his short temper on a character trait God had given him. I remember thinking, was anyone really meant to be that angry? Would a God really design someone to have such a short fuse and to be such a slave to emotion? If so, what purpose could it possibly serve the created being?
For me, I believe we weren't made, designed, or evolved to have volatile responses to conflict or challenge. I think we develop those intense responses when we are in survival mode. Much like a cornered animal, we react as if in a matter of life and death.
Passionate emotional response serves no purpose if viewed as a quirk or a personality trait. So if thats not the case, and these responses weren't hard wired into our personality, and we aren't animals fighting against the forces of imminent death with one last show of bluster, what purpose do they serve us?
I believe they are "spiritual" teaching tools using a simple biological process to alert our conscious mind that class is in session. That may be a tough or odd pill to swallow, I understand. Even the mere suggestion of this as a possible truth might be enough to illicit a scoff or some other form of emotional retching! But stick with me.
In theory, if we are perfectly healthy, if we are perfectly healed from all the wounds and scars left from life experience, and If we know who we are and truly understand love, nothing can come our way that we can't emotionally transcend and walk through in a clear, couscous mental state. Our emotions would be manageable, free from emotional hijacking. Is this attainable? I believe so. Will we all get to that level of consciousness? Perhaps not. But even falling short of this level of consciousness will allow you to live a far happier and more fulfilling life.
I believe anytime we are emotionally hijacked, or can't transcend the situation, the intense emotion is in fact trying to highlight an area that needs our attention. There is something bubbling beneath the surface, there is information we need to look at and integrate. Through the process of sitting with emotion and not judging it as good or bad, I have learned so much about myself and have even begun to start loving who I am.
Its hard to love that which you do not know...
Allow me to illustrate this concept with some personal examples.
A while ago, when women were first allowed into Ranger school, I was furious. My rage swirled around thoughts like, "Terrible idea!", and "Women can't do it and if they are allowed to try, people will die! What a disgrace Army!" I assure you this is the family friendly version of the thoughts that were in my head...
Now to be clear, its ok to disagree with an idea like integrating women into combat arms specialties in the military, or any other political issue... Its ok to disagree and have a civil discussion. Civility, I assure you, was not part of my emotional response to this issue!
I sat with those feelings for at least a year before I understood what they were trying to teach me. Ultimately they were protecting this definition of masculinity I had constructed in my mind, and failed to achieve. I gave the Army the power to define my masculinity. My logic was thus, "If I'm a Ranger, people can never question wether I am a real man or not!"
I never became a Ranger. When woman were allowed to go to Ranger school my worldview was challenged. If a woman graduated Ranger school, what would that say about my masculinity considering I never even tried to go through the school! My worldview was threatened so I raged in effort to discredit the threat and avoid the painful work of Self discovery.
One more example. This is one I'ver recently been made aware of and am still working through.
When someone misunderstands me, makes a character judgment against me, or in some cases disagrees with me while resorting to name calling, I get angry pretty quick. I've been sitting with it when the emotional response comes and trying to find themes of the same response all the way back to my childhood. I was on a run (being physically active which allowed me to journey inwards) and I made a huge discovery.
To "survive" my childhood was too avoid my father's ire. To do this, I needed to be quiet and unseen. Wether this was an accurate assessment of my situation or a false narrative I created based on bad information, the path I chose took my voice, stuffed down and buried it 6 feet deep in an unmarked grave. Only recently have I found my voice again, and I've been using it. Now, when someone attacks or judges, they touch on a nerve, on an archetypal energy. They become that aspect of my father and I want to finally stand up for the boy with no voice. Problem is, they aren't my dad.
My dad died a few years ago and we said goodbye in a healthy way, in good relationship. For that I am thankful. But, the emotional response of rage was alerting me to the reality I had some more work to do. I had to sit with the hurting, scared little boy and let him yell. I still have work to do in this area and I know life will afford me many opportunities to work on it.
Beneath most intense emotional responses, a valuable piece, or pieces of unintegrated information can be mined from the unconscious if we have the tools and the will to do the hard work. We must open to the process and make that choice for ourselves and no one else. Its a life full of challenge, anxiety, and is not easy. But its also full of love, reward, joy, freedom, servant leadership and is the only life in which we truly live.
By Eric Beach
If you are reading this, and a human being like me, CONGRATULATIONS! You are valuable! You have value! If you can believe it, receive it, and live that truth, you my friend are on the path to living a full, but not easy life.
Personally its taken me many years to accept this to even understand its truth. But, to heal, we must at some point believe this truth.
Our value is not something anyone or anything can give us. Its something we can only give ourselves. Certainly others can help us see it, but its up to us to believe it. No relationship, no title, no accomplishment, no honor can give us value. Certainly we may become valuable to others, but if we don't believe we have value, all these other things and experiences will fade away in time. They are all temporary and fickle.
To invest, I mean really invest in your development... To have the strength to overcome set back after setback, disappointment after disappointment, and failure after failure, you must believe you are worth the continued effort, because the world will be quick to tell you, you are not.
When we don't believe we have intrinsic value, we settle. We believe the lie that we don't deserve better. We then believe we aren't worthy of love but are worthy of abuse. Or, we believe somebody owes us something...
If we don't value ourselves, we can begin to believe its someone else responsibility to save us, and when they don't, bitterness takes root in our hearts. In the event they are rescued, that joy only last for but a moment. All fixes are to the addict, temporary...
To accept yourself as valuable is to first accept where you are. I said accept, not stay. We exist on a continuum. We stay put, we regress, or we move forward. We, at any given time are doing one of these things. Constant forward progress can't be ascribed to equal success, growth, or value. At times we need to rest and at times we back pedal a bit. This is a reality we would do well to accept.
There is nothing about you or your situation that defines you as a person void of value. It's impossible. Nothing outside of yourself can define your value. But, if you believe you are enough, if you accept you have value, your perspective will begin to change.
You'll fight for things and people you value and in doing so, you will fight for yourself. You will make changes for things and people you value and in doing so, you will make changes that lead to your own Self improvement.
One of the greatest things we can do in this life is to find and break down the walls that keep us from valuing ourselves. We must destroy the signs in our mind that fill us with lies saying "You're not worthy because..."
When we do this, we become a positive force in this world. We pour out of ourselves waters from the stream of value running through our being and those closest to us can't help but notice and be touched by it.
Because I see my own value (not my pride) I am a better husband, father, and man. Because I know I have value, I will leave this world a better place even if nobody remembers my name.
By Eric Beach
Our Project Echelon mission statement contains the words Self discovery and physical activity. The AND is very important because to heal, we need both pieces working together in concert. One without the other may be helpful, but I've found, to truly heal, we need both.
I was reading "Emotional Intelligence" by Daniel Goleman this morning. In the portion of the book I was reading, the author was explaining the power of hope and optimism. He explained how studies had shown resiliency requires those two things. In one such study, he explained how professional swimmers were first given a test which categorized the swimmer as a pessimist or optimist. After the test, they began swim practice. As they were swimming laps, the timer was instructed to lie and give the swimmers a false time, a time that was far slower than the swimmer would have liked to hear. Those who were categorized as pessimists swam even slower after they received the "false" bad news. On the other hand, the optimists actually swam faster than their first laps! The optimists saw the setback, met the resistance, and were able to push through where the pessimists couldn't.
Not everyone currently has both hope and optimism. I've been there. Its part of my own journey that I've been reflecting on, but struggling to track the transition from hopeless to hopeful, or from pessimist to optimist. I just know it accidentally happened! Which believe me, when you're trying to help others along the same journey you are on and you can't give them steps and explanations... It can be very frustrating! However, after todays reading, I think I understand how it happened for me a bit better.
I believe fully, that I had to read this book now. I believe I am drawn to specific books at specific times because in that moment, I'm ready to receive the wisdom on those specific pages. Any other time, I may have been in the wrong mental state and glossed over very important content.
Project Echelon, in many ways, is my journey from suicidal to servant leader, packaged in a "neat enough" package, given freely to those willing, and brave enough to open it. Admittedly as I mentioned earlier, sometimes I don't know how to explain parts of my growth. But the further I go, the more I realize there is no formula for this. We are walking parallel paths but aren't walking the same path.
My resiliency has increased and recently my focus has been... How? Goleman says optimism and hope. He also says through Self mastery, we can find hope, optimism, and resilience. People with those three ingredients do not feel an overwhelming sense of failure when rejection, defeat, or setbacks occur. Sounds great right?
So how does he say we can foster those qualities in ourselves. Mastery of something... Anything. To attempt to illustrate this, I'll use my own experience and how I unwittingly did this.
To master something we must commit to the thing or process regardless of the difficulty and setbacks. We must be all-in. We must be dedicated AND have patience.
For me, I was tired of quitting, of hurting, of half-commiting, so I committed to going somewhere. I committed to overcoming the physical demands of training for, and completing a sprint distance triathlon. To build resiliency, you must overcome something. Discomfort and resistance.
In training I had to first overcome pride. I had to fight the urge to quit because I used to be capable of running a 6 minute mile, but was now running a 12 minute mile.
Breathe. You have to start somewhere.
Next, I had to overcome the pain and discomfort of training, which mirrors the same pain as growth. I had to break the mental barriers of "I'm to tired to train" or " I have a little bit of a cold, so I'll start when I'm better." I overcame body image from gaining 35lbs (though I still struggle with body image). There were more mental blocks, but those are the big ones that come to mind.
On race day, I finished my race. I overcame, though I was still left not mentally healthy. But, through the process of training, I had gained enough awareness to start finding and cutting out the negative and unhealthy influences in my life. Not all, but some. When it became really dark, I even asked for help! If you know me, you may know how big a deal it is for me to ask for help! Programs like This Able Veteran and Save A Warrior gave me the tools I needed for further Self mastery, though at the time, I didn't know it.
The following year, I entered a half IRONMAN triathlon. No matter the race or training plan, throughout all of it, I was given the precious gift of insight. As I burned off energy and overcame obstacles, I gained more awareness and resiliency. I also began to understand that through training, I was far more open and able to take the journey inward to Self discovery.
I could ask myself hard questions. I could stop blaming others and take responsibility for my side of the fence. I could work on my own "moral failings." I could stop playing the victim...
Physical activity made Self discovery far more attainable. When we train and reach our physical goals, a level of Self mastery is attained. When we attain this, optimism starts to move in. We slowly begin to take failures with larger openness and less despair. We may be unaware of this process, but I promise you its there if you look.
The area you chose for Self mastery may start small, like making your bed every morning. It may be relational like intentionally and consistently spending quality time with your family. There are many ways we can grow the discipline required for Self mastery, but including a physical outlet exponentially increases this process.
For that reason, I believe in the power of physical activity AND Self discovery. For that very reason, I will be competing in this years IRONMAN Madison triathlon because I know the real growth occurs in the months of training that lead up to the payoff at the finish line.
Find ways to overcome and commit to physical activity. Open the doors to growth and relationship. Be open.
We are all learning as we go. Some of us just aren't listening to the soft whisper of life and some of us are ignoring the bricks life is throwing at our heads! Some of us can't feel the unconscious stirrings of the exiled voices deep within us. But, if we move our bodies and then sit with the exiled voices after, we can discover, one of the greatest teachers in the world lives in each and everyone of us.