CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) — The U.S. Marine Corps, known for turning out some of the military’s toughest warriors, is studying how to make its troops even tougher through meditative practices, yoga-type stretching and exercises based on mindfulness.
Marine Corps officials say they will build a curriculum that would integrate mindfulness-based techniques into their training if they see positive results from a pilot project. Mindfulness is a Buddhist-inspired concept that emphasizes active attention on the moment to keep the mind in the present.
Facing a record suicide rate and thousands of veterans seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress, the military has been searching for ways to reduce strains on service members burdened with more than a decade of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Marine Corps officials are testing a series of brain calming exercises called “Mindfulness-Based Mind Fitness Training” that they believe could enhance the performance of troops, who are under mounting pressures from long deployments and looming budget cuts expected to slim down forces.
“Some people might say these are Eastern-based religious practices but this goes way beyond that”, said Jeffery Bearor, the executive deputy of the Marine Corps training and education command at its headquarters in Quantico, Va.. “This is not tied to any religious practice. This is about mental preparation to better handle stress.”
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a practice of watching your thoughts and observing the actions and reactions of your mind. Being mindful is using your awareness to observe yourself. Most of our time is spent thinking about things that have occurred in the past or projecting things that may or may not occur in the future. Being mindful brings us into an awareness of what is happening in the present. It allows us to engage and participate in what and how we think instead of being a helpless bystander of our thoughts. When we are mindful we can alter situations and make choices that can strengthen our ability to be resilient and keep us clear.
Being mindful can serve us very well in protecting ourselves, from our negative and deconstructive thoughts, and habitual patterns of perceiving our circumstance
We all have learned patterns of thinking which we have developed over time and life experience. Some are positive and some are negative. It’s the negative chatter that can keep us in a downward spiral. Being aware of these negative thoughts can give us the opportunity to acknowledge them with compassion.
We can practice mindfulness as we move through our day or we can sit and practice mindfulness in stillness with our eyes closed. Doing simple chores and tasks throughout the day like driving, sitting at the computer, washing dishes, riding the elevator, washing the car can be redefined into valuable practice time transforming seemingly mundane activities into moments of mind body connection.
How can we achieve it in our daily lives?
Focus on your breathing; be aware of where your body is in space. Where are your feet? Feel them on the floor. Where are your arms? Open your hands. Is your jaw tight? Is your back tense? Breathe and focus on relaxing areas of tension. Breath away mental tension by focusing on particular conflicts in your mind and visualize then dissipating, fading or being lifted.
Breathing serves as an anchor point for your mind, a point of focus and a quick path to bringing your body oxygen and energy.
So many times throughout the day we are so unaware of our breathing that we are actually holding are breath. Mindfulness is a method and gateway to learning about yourself and the world around you. With practice it can dramatically change your focus and bring you a deeper connection to life.