09.11.2017 | Applied Mindfullness

This is the "normal" human physiological response when one, without a trained mind, confronts an imminent threat: the amygdala detects danger; the adrenal glands kick in; catecholamines constrict blood vessels and alter the firing of nerve cells; the adrenal cortex releases cortisol, invading the hippocampus, amping up fear and affecting the memory system; heart rate rises; breathing speeds up; sugar is dumped into the metabolic system; the oxygen and nutrients distribution shifts for immediate strength. You’re on afterburner and all this occurs before you can even “think.” In fact, the hormonal stress release interferes with the functioning of the neo-cortex itself. 

Mark Williams knows all about keeping the amygdala in check. Mark -- a retired F-15 fighter pilot who flew in the first sortie of the Iraq war -- is intimately familiar with the role of mindfulness in aerial combat ("Red Baron Meets the Buddha," Pdf link below). It started with the basics of training, of course. He learned about the basic fighter maneuvers. He learned about radar profiles. He learned about the mechanics behind those graceful, hyper-sonic, weight-defying dances in the sky. He mastered the fusion of mind, body, and jet. But what Mark learned is just part of the story. 

The real story begins as the studied mechanics then evolves into mindfulness, observation into awareness, prose into poetry. This transcendence actually introduces its own vocabulary. Situational Awareness is the consciousness, the knowing, that arises from the synthesis of a barrage of stimuli into the cockpit that would be simply overwhelming were they perceived in linear terms. It's part of the language of the Akido practitioner -- mushin no shin, clarity of mind, freedom from expectations, embracing the yes. 

Such a spiritual warrior worldview  -- this glimpse into a world marked by chaos, impermanence, and death -- may sound oddly foreign to the Western ear yet it suggests a fearlessness that is ironically life-affirming. 

Such is the power of mindfulness. The inwardly trained mind may, indeed, be the key to the truly extraordinary life experience. It marks the point at which the high-performance athlete moves into "the zone" or the concert pianist's performance becomes an evocation of the sublime even as the keys themselves recede and fade.

Join Mark for our Member Monday as we discuss the power of mindfulness and the warrior potential within.

Steve SmithComment