Wednesday, December 18, 2019
Monday, June 3, 2019
Even after Mindful Memorial Day was over I continued to use the flag to bring people together and reinforce the basic message that we are all responsible for our freedoms.
Sunday, January 20, 2019
Thursday, May 22, 2014
This blog represents a complete Art of Peace, Practice.
For the last 114 weeks I have studied each of the stanzas by making it and a picture the wallpaper of my iPad. Reading and re-reading each stanza influenced my thoughts and each Thursday I wrote whatever showed up.
I choose not to plan, outline, fret over, or worry about any format or proper presentation. That does not mean I wasn't respectful of sharper topics, it just means that I didn't worry about perfect grammatical presentation. For me this was a big deal.
I encourage you to create your own 114 week practice. Do it however you want. Create 114 poems, words, phrases, whatever.
My life has fundamentally evolved in ways that were unimaginable to me 114 weeks ago.
Here is the PDF of the ART OF PEACE.
Thank you, O'Sensei.
Thank You, Reader.
Thursday, May 15, 2014
One hundred and fourteen Thursdays ago I wrote THIS my first Art of Peace, Blog Post.
My idea was simple. Since I studied the Art of War before I went to war I studied the Art of Peace at home.
Here are the most popular posts.
Negative Ghost Rider the Pattern in Full
Shoulder and Neck Pain
Taming the Hyper Vigilant Mind
Don't Do Anything Stupid like get yourself killed.
A Flashlight for The Valley of The Shadow of Death
Do You Know What Yoga Is?
How to Slow Play Death
Para-Sympathetic side of the a modern Warrior Ethos
Machine Guns Breathing and Mantra
Crossfit a Spiritual Practice described as Hooah
It took me a while to grapple with my experience with PTS. Yet it was the process of grappling with these experiences that led me to try different things and look for wisdom from different people.
That's really how Armor Down started to grow. Not with a business plan as much as a clear desire to improve my life experience.
I didn't know what to do so I took different classes, worked with different teachers, went to retreats and conferences and before you know it there were people in a community that cared about me. Not in the sense of my buddies or family but in the sense that I was a colleague. Someone contributing to the conversation.
This feeling of being seen as a contributor was a similar feeling to the one I had down range. Not the same, but similar. I belonged.
As I began to experience life beyond the suffering of my situation I started to experience what many ancient and current teachers claim is part of the motivation for a yogic, meditative, soft practice.
Beneath the doubt, worry, and fear, there is a divine stream that runs through all things. With practice you can connect with this 'holy spirit'. You will have some idea of this energy when you feel patience, love, compassion and understanding more often than not.
I started to see this and felt a real sense of connection.
This feeling lasted a while but seemed to get corrupted whenever shadow creeped into my thoughts.....shame, rage, anger, doubt, worry, fear.
Took me a long time to realize that I had to find a way to accept the existence of these things too.
Not in the sense that I would not fight against injustice but in the sense that life can not be what it is without shadow.
Here's a better example.
Early in my PTS experience rage would erupt and I would lash out violently or with shame filled crying.
In the middle months I would experience rage and it wouldn't erupt.
Later rage would show up and I would feel ashamed that it was there to begin with, that I was failing to evolve.
Later still rage would show up and I would watch it with less shame and more a sense of curiosity like " how did that get there".
In my present experience, I experience rage as signal of tension in parts of my body. The rage expresses itself sensationally and I use that expression to guide my awareness to those ares of sensation and do what I can to settle them. If they don't settle I never mind, and go through my many tools to mitigate the consequences. Sometimes I even have to sit and just wait for the rage to pass.
The difference now is that not only do I not feel shame for feeling rage, I feel appreciative. I recognize it as an expression of intelligence, one that is affording me an opportunity to evolve.
This was an exciting revelation because it meant that I didn't have to live in a sanitized environment scared that something would set me off, on the contrary there was no environment that I couldn't enter because it didn't netter whether I was feeling good or bad because I know how to work with either.
This experience has empowered me beyond my former limits. I'm not afraid to evolve because I'm not afraid to be afraid. I'm not afraid to mess up because I'm not afraid to feel shadow.
Without any planning, this end to my blogging commit comes 1 week before this years Mindful Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery.
The ups and down of planning this event has facilitated the creation of a community around a shared purpose. Watching how the pieces have fallen together has humbled me.
There is an ancient understanding of the Path of a Warrior.
In the beginning a warrior is just strength and courage. In the middle the warrior is a student. After that, the Warrior becomes a teacher.
I have been a student of the AOP for 114 weeks. I now understand my responsibility to share my knowledge with others.
I accept this responsibility with humility and honor. I understand that learning never stops, but that my learning now comes with a new emphasis on teaching.
It has been my great honor to write this blog. Thank you to everyone who has put up with my poor grammar and terrible spelling. Thank you for reading, thank you for commenting. Thank you for helping me understand that I am a valuable member of our global community.
With my Deepest Gratitude.
At birth, babies were tested for strength and were killed if they failed.
Boys were taken from their mothers at 7 and received battle buddies at 12.
They had to kill to prove manhood.
Trained day and night in arguably the most vicious type of warfare imaginable.
"Come home with your shield or on it". Never surrender.
Well, even the mighty Spartans surrendered at the Battle of Sphacteria in 425 B.C.
Why did they surrender if their entire culture was designed to keep such a thing from happening?
They became depleted. They got stuck on an Island with no hope of victory, and the Athenians wore'em down.
Little problems can get pretty friggin huge when you are depleted.
It was a bathroom remodel that screwed me. I was getting my bathroom renovated and I was without a toilet for two weeks.
Not a problem I told myself at the time, I pissed in bottles for months in Iraq, nothing to it. Not this time.
I couldn't handle it. I was dating my wife at the time and things that didn't seem like a big deal would unhinge me.
I think back and laugh now because I must have been a sight. Crying and hyperventilating on the floor of the kitchen after a bad moment.
I remember there being a point when things would just spiral out of control. I couldn't hold.
They are describing PTSD as this or that, promising miracle cures and deciding whether one joe has it or another.
I'll tell you, I don't pay to much attention to that stuff anymore because I kinda get it.
In war you got your battle buddies. Your pissing in a bottle or dealing with mud butt from the water, who cares, you got your team.
You are seeing bodies in alleys, guys are dying from invisible IEDS.....but you got your unit. You can hold.
But what about when you get home. You got your family and people who love you, but they don't know about this stuff.
You are cut off from your support. You are on an island....and your enemy....
for me it was my thoughts and emotions,
for the Spartans it was the Athenians....... are closing in.
Your warrior training tells you to hold, to be strong, that you can handle it......but then a moment......then you can't.
You gotta face your demons your shame and your weakness and ahhhhhhh can you feel it.....can you feel the shame well up......
No you scream....I AM SUPPOSED TO BE ABLE TO HANDLE THIS.....I LASTED THE WAR. I GOT BLOWN UP. I SURVIVED.
WHY IS THE GOD DAMN BATHROOM KICKING MY ASS?
Hahaha. Hey civilian Doctor--what do you know about that?
It wasn't yoga, but the breathing that yoga emphasized that helped.
Now anyone who has been listening knows that I have been going to a class at the VA in Washington D.C.
The class is called mindfulness meditation and it's free for vets every Thursday.
Now how do you think the ability to focus and guide your mind with your breath could impact that moment....
...you know that moment right before you lose your shit?
Well for me it helps me see it coming...
...and in the mean time the practice fortifies me with the knowledge that I am creating an internal resource.
A resource that is easily practiced and always relaxing.
But there were two moments that stand out.
The one where I felt like I was losing it
And the one where I caught my thoughts and pulled it together.
Now, I'm not so infatuated. They didn't evolve as a culture and all their training wasn't worth a shit on that island.
I think the hardest part about being a warrior is recognizing when your training no longer helps you.
Fortunately, courage is our strong suit, so if you got the guts....
And want some training that will help you....
Thursday, May 8, 2014
The following was written on January 1, 2007.
This is going to sound really weird but bear with me. This new years was one I will not soon forget. At midnight I was laying on a surgical table at FOB Rusty having my left testicle looked at under an ultra sound machine.
"Ben why in Gods name were you having you testicle looked at with an ultra sound machine" You may be asking
Well, because last night at around 10pm voodoo 1143 was hit by a road side IED. I Sgt Benjamin H King sustained a shrapnel wound to the left pinkie finger and blunt force trauma with lacerations to the left testicle"
OH MY GOD" you are probably saying "are you OK" is going to be your first question
"Yes i am perfectly fine" I respond with a smile because for me getting hit by an IED to end the year of 2006 will always be a very fond memory.
"Did anyone else in your truck get hurt"?
"One other guy got a pretty good cut above his left eye, other than that, nothing"
I wish I had the picture I took from inside the vehicle to show you what happened and how Bec truly saved my life, alas I am at the Rusty med station with borrowed everything so the picture will come later.
Here's the story of how I ended my year with a Bang
Just like every other patrol. Driving around the mahallahs handing out leaflets, driving slow, looking out for IEDs, shooting the shit and making jokes. I was telling the story of what I was doing last year at this time to the people in my truck. Golf is in the states so his replacement Buckeye was in the turret. We also had LT W riding with us, he just wanted to come out because he was bored. He was sitting behind me.
We stopped inside a neighborhood called military city. Our goal was to pick up an informant. When we couldn't find him we started to leave and as we were rolling out the guy runs up to us. We tell him to get in the truck. He tells us to wait one second because he wanted to get something to wear against the cold. After a minute he came back out hopped into the first truck and off we went.
Following his instructions we took a right off the main road and started going down a road I have traveled on a thousand times. On the left is a husania, a smaller mosques, the first trucks goes by, the second, the third, I remember smiling about something them BOOOM.
There is a bright flash of light, I don't hear it as much as see it, I have my ear plugs in, I see a massive amout of grit and tiny pieces of glass fly at my face, I close my eyes, it would have been too late had it not been for my safety glasses. They took the entire shower of glass and whatever else, sparing my eyes completely and leaving my browns unharmed. The truck stops dead in its tracks. I am thrown forward and immediately I feel a throbbing in my stomach and a burning sensation in my right thigh. The burning gets pretty intense so I disconnect my side arm holster and the burning stops immediately. As the smoke and dust clear I look down and see a descent amount of blood. I look down at my feet, my legs my stomach, I take the flashlight out and see more clearly that there is blood on my clothes and weapons but its not from any major cut on my lower extremities, its blood from my pinky finger on my left hand. I look at my left hand and my pinky finger is a little cut up but nothing serious I have full range of motion and I remember wondering
"Am I going to get a purple heart for this"
At this point I look around the rest of the truck. Buckeye is sitting calmly in his turret strap blood streaming down his face. We talk to him and find out that he has got a pretty good gash but he's conscious and feeling alright. I still have comms with the other trucks so I respond on my radio to the other trucks that we have been hit and I start giving to status of the other guys in the truck.
At this point the intense pain in my stomach and groin gets pretty bad. I am having trouble breathing and I can only talk in spurts. As the third vehicle backs up to pull us out of the kill area, I look down again at my body and then look at what was left of the driver side door window.
I can't help but laugh and pull out my camera. When I show you guys this picture you are all going to shit. There is a bubble were the bullet proof window stopped the blast that's aiming straight at my head. Everyone I showed the picture too couldn't believe it and kept calling me one lucky SOB.
I told them luck had nothing to do with it, it wasn't my time.
We were pulled out of the kill zone to a safer location, the Doc got in our vehicle and took a look at Buckeye. After getting Buckeye squared away he gives me a pat down looking for wounds, bleeding, etc. I'm still pretty surprised that he doesn't find anything. Since I can't open my door I crawl out of Bec for the last time.
I know all this is being video tapped by the Bad guys. They use the videos of IED strikes as recruitment tools. Well those fuckers aren't using this one. When I got out of the vehicle I screamed towards the evils that lurk in the night
"YOU CAN'T KILL ME YOU COWARDS"
My groin was killing me so I sat back down in the recovery vehicle, that didn't help either so I stood outside the door. Someone asked me if I wanted a smoke. I asked if they had any Marborollo lights. Doc handed me a smoke.
Holding it in my hand looking at it and smelling it I thought of my mom, handed back to the DOC and said "You know what Bro, I don't smoke cigarettes anymore"
I did however pull out the cigar I now keep with me in my armor and lit that bad boy up.
They got us back to the AID station on Loyalty. There were 30 people waiting outside the aid station ready to help. Buckeye and myself both got out of the vehicle under our own steam and walked into the aid station. My groin was still killing me. The pain was coming in waves. After stripping down to my boxers they inspected my groin.
It was all I could do to keep from laughing, actually all I did was laugh and make jokes. I was surrounded by stern and worried faces, I had a guy inspecting my left testicle and it was 45 min until the new year. The doc was worried about my nut, so he decided to have me medivaced to a level 2 trauma center to get it checked out. There are several levels of trauma for the aid station, urgent surgical being the worse, I told the Doc that even though everything was intact down there I thought that this injury was definitely urgent surgical. Thats when the jokes started.
I have now heard many more vasectomy jokes than I ever thought I would. I now know that you can still do your thing and make babies with only one nut but that around 50 my sex drive would fall off. LOL
I had everyone from the Colonel to the Chaplain come in and look after me. There I was half naked on the stretcher holding an ice pack to my nuts laughing it up with the old man and who ever else happened to stop by.
I told Private C, the beautiful nurse with big brown doe eyes how I turned down a cigarette. I remembered her from when I came to the aid station exactly one month ago to get help quiting.
They sent me off on a helicopter to Rusty to get my nuts looked at. Still 20 minutes to go until midnight.
When I got to the trauma center at Rusty I was rushed into the same room as the guy that died from FOB Loyalty the night before.....another IED strike.
From the looks of the room it would have seemed that it had never been used before. Perfectly clean, bright and full of doctors and nurses ready to work. To my chagrin, they stripped me naked and went to work getting my vitals, etc, etc. With the room still half full of men and woman medical staff, I was told to bring the soles of my feet together and relax. I don't know about relax, but I did laugh my ass off. Whenever I moved or they touched my guy, the pain was pretty excruciating. However I didn't feel it much through the laughter. One doc asked if it hurt and I said hell yeah it did. He then asked why was I laughing?
"You see what I look like right know on this table, Doc, wouldn't you be laughing."
At about 5 minutes to midnight the doctor said that he.............
"I'm sorry joe, I'm going to have to make sure your not bleeding out of your rectum"
"Jesus doc, you could have just asked", I said tears of laughter streaming down my face 3 minutes left.
A doc with a pretty good mustache came in with a portable ultra sound machine and two other doctors. They were going to check out my testicle and teach a class at the same time.
!0, 9, 8, ...........
Going into the new year I was butt naked with three doctors poking and prodding my left testicle with an ultra sound machine. They did however take the time to put a happy new year hat on my head and take a picture, I should be getting that in the email pretty soon, I don't know if I'm going to send ya'lll that one.
Anyway the rest is pretty much history. Turns out my nut is fine and I'm still going to be 'strong like bull' well into my fifties.
I do however feel that I will forever have a special bond with the Rusty medical staff. I may not have been making out with a beautiful girl going into the the new year but I did just have my rectum probed and three men at the stroke of midnight were staring at the ultrasound images of my testicle. Hmmmmm.....yeah what the hell.....for a second there I thought about deleting that last sentence but nahhhhhh, we are all pals.
So yeah I'm good. It may be a couple of days before I get home because I wasn't sent with my armor but other than that I feel great. I'm in good spirits and I think getting hit by the IED was one of the coolest things that has happened to me. I should be dead....BUT I"M NOT....does it get any better than that.
Nothing happens for nothing, there are no coincidences and we are all a spark from the fire.
I wonder what 2007 holds for me.
I write this as a challenge to all who wonder about their place or their impact. May Fear and Love be your guide.
ARMOR DOWN UPDATES
This post was guided by the 113th stanza of the Art of Peace, a book written by Morihei Ueshiba
Armor Down is backing Legislation "H.R. 3516" AKA "The Veterans and Armed Forces’ Health Promotion Act of 2013".
This bill will
• Expand the scope of holistic care education and research for signature wounds such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
• Establish complementary and alternative medicine pilot programs for mental health and pain management treatment for veterans.
• Create a grant pilot program to upgrade Veteran Service Organization facilities, expanding the reach of wellness services directly into economically strained communities.
Show your support for this legislation by signing this petition.
A new comedy on Fox, called Enlisted is really funny. Check it out.
Folk singer Big Cat Wilson created this song which was inspired by Armor Down.
Mindful Memorial Day is coming in May.
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