NewYears IED

Thursday, May 22, 2014

114 Weeks of The Art of Peace

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.

Ben King,

Thursday, May 15, 2014

My Post Traumatic Stress Experience. Final Post

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

My experience with post traumatic stress is best described by these old posts:

PTS not a disorder, a depletion.

I often referred to the experience as the Edge

The Edge of No Thing

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.



PTS--Not a Disorder, a Depletion.

You'd be hard pressed to find a fighting culture more badass than the Spartans.

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.

What killed me when I came home was the lack of sleep and constant pain, which sucked the life outa me.

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.

There are a lot of people who have never been to war, but have MDs who are trying to help us vets.

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......



Hahaha. Hey civilian Doctor--what do you know about that?
Initially, it was yoga that gave me better control. Now don't get all "I'm not fucking taking Yoga" on me and listen..

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.... 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.
I had a bit of a break down last night, nothing like before...

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.

I loved reading about the Spartans before the war....

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....

Follow Me.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Beginning, The Explosion. Part 5

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


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.


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.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

In between action. Part 4

“That’s the thing, I didn’t really feel anything. And still now I don’t feel anything, There are just memories, images of death. Like when I saw the shell of my brother or Peter G. They were just innate pieces of matter.”
Images in my past, just part of the scenes my real life video game has taken me through.”
“So by telling everyone about it you showed them it was as meaning less as a video game?” He questioned more leading than asking.

“No not meaning less to those who cared about them, their deaths will shape how their friends and relatives see existence but for me nothing has changed. You control how the world moves around you by how you think and feel about it. I guess what I was trying to show my friends and family back home is that just because I saw something universally perceived terrible things, it doesn’t mean that my mind or my perception has to change.”
“With a twinkle in his eye Mars said. “Everyone chooses a suffing that will change him or her into a well baked loaf.”
“ I wanted them to understand that suffering doesn’t mean to hurt or feel pain, it means that we don’t have too.”

After our little chat I left Mars to his meditations and walked the hundred or so yard back up the the house.

Walking barefoot I let the memories flood back into my mind. To my right the outdoor BBQ pit, also at one time the parking spot for the now infamous yellow tractor. To my left the little beach where my only memories of my mom in a bikini are from.

Getting closer to the house I had to choose my steps more carefully. There were more rocks and tree branches to watch out for closer to the house. Reaching the cabin I walked the hard packed mound of soft earth up to the entrance. This little stretch of earth, the size and shape of a speed bump ran vertically from the front door to the edge of the house. As far back as I can remember the dark grey almost black dirt has always been cool and smooth. Once you got to that point you didn’t have to worry about rocks anymore and could run the last few yards if you wanted.

Like a welcoming voice only in cabin language the screen door made the same creek bang bang sound as I walked though it towards the 1960s Coca Cola water cooler near the kitchen. Old as the cabin itself the cooler and the refrigerator were in the running for the longest lasting appliance until the fridge finally gave out after something like 50 years.

This cooler is the only one I’ve see that keep things cold with water. Each time you reach in for a beer it’s like reaching into a cold mountain stream.


This post was guided by the 112th 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.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Searching for Meaning: Part 3

Walking between them I let the sights and sounds of the night lull me into a state of emptiness. Aphrodite had her arm through mine. That feeling of mutual support was unparalleled by anything. Walking arm and arm with someone you don’t have to think about is a wonderful sensation. I knew that there was nothing she needed to ask me for yet I would have given her anything. She made me feel secure because I made her feel safe. I cherished her presence. I felt my whole existence in that few square inches where our skin met.
“More than anything I want to be in love.” I said not so much to her or Mars just out loud hopping from some kid of assurance.
“ what do you think love is” Aphrodite said.
“I see it as a circle.” I responded looking at a cat starring at me from under a bush.
“Its when a person finds happiness in making another person happy. That person in turn feels the same way. Thus their lives are spent together in a circle of respect and self sacrifice.”
“What if I told you that love wasn’t an emotion?” She had stoppend and was leaning with her back against the waist high wall separating us from the marina. She crossed her left leg over her right and continued. What you described in your circle theory was not an emotion but a state of being. Love has many forms but it is more of a way of life than a way of feeling. Many a person goes through life as though they aren’t whole. They are half a person looking for someone to complete them. When they find that so called love of their life imagine the underlying pressure being placed upon one another.”
Without missing a beat Mars continued her statement.
“You wanna talk about fear, imagine feeling whole only when you are with someone else. Imagine the fear of being alone again. The belief that love can only be created with the love of another is a farce.”
After handing me a lit cigarette Aphrodite took over.
“Love is a way of being. Love is the ultimate foundation. Your parents for example, tell us about them”
Well” I said, “they seem to be as in love as the day they met. They compliment each other in every way.”
“For example” Mars encouraged.
“ Ok for example, my mom went to a European table china warehouse and bought a bunch of plates. Before she got hom my dad calls me up and says, Son your mother is coming home tomorrow, make sure you ask her about the plates she bought.” I say “pops I don’t know shit about plates what the hell am I supposed to say.” Doesn’t matter son, just ask about them and she will do the rest.”
Aphrodite smiled a knowing smile and said “smart man”
“Anyway the next day I call and after the normal pleasantries I say “so mom tell me about these new plates.” Well she tells me all about the plates, how much money she saved on them, who she got them for, what they looked like etc etc. I didn’t really care, you know plates not being my thing and all, but I could hear the happiness in her voice, so regardless, I felt good to be sharing in her joy.”
Aphrodite came over and sat next to us on the bench, she smelled like the way the sun feels.
“What you did was share in her life. Her love of life. A life she created and she is sharing with a son she and your father created. Your mother and father didn’t need each other to become whole. They realized that together their love of life would become stronger.”
It was Mars turn to take center stage.
“You grasp the concept of a shared love of life. You know what harmony and love look like. You were raised by it. You see it and hear it every time you have contact with your parents” He stopped and looked me right in the eye. “Your time will come but at this moment you are not ready. You are cought up in the notion that some outside force will change you or fix you. That by going away to Iraq you will all of a sudden be the self confident smart whitty person that you dream about when watching James Bond movies. This time in your life will be just like any other time in your life……it will be entirely up to you.”
The three of us started wakling back up to the house. My high was fading into a peaceful fog which left me tired and a little hungry.
“So Mars" I said looking back at the two of them walking side by side. “I’m going to need you help with something.”
“Shoot” He said looking up at me.
“I wanna be knighted” They both laughed “No seriously I wanna be a knight of the Realm. I’ll have a business card that says, Sir Benjamin H. King Knight of the Realm.” I gestured the order of the writing with my hands.
“How do you plan on doing that, pray tell” Mars said. I did not fail to hear sarcasm in his voice.
“Mars, I scoff at your lack of confidence” I proclaimed.
“He likes to show off his massive vocabulary when he’s trying to impress.” Aphrodite chided me.
“My dear god and goddess, its elementary” I gave them a pronounced bow and almost fell over a tree root. As though my stubble never happened I continued.
“I will in spectacular fashion and with remarkable courage save prince William from certain death at the hands of the terrorists.” To add emphasis to my proclamation I stood in a most regal fashion with my chin held high, my hand balled in a fist at my hip and the other raised in a gesture of heavenly acceptance.
“Here, Here” said Mars.
“You may both accompany me to Winsor Palace as my Guests of honor” I said
“What ever shall I wear?” Aphrodite said with a smirk.
“Come on young Knight lets go back to the house.” Mars said continuing up the drive.
Back in the living room both of them still chuckling at my forced bravado I said in a more serious tone.
“The powers that be expect a lot from me. I was told the other night that every deployment has their potential successes.” I paused lighting a cigarette. “this year so it seems, its me.”
“Does that surprise you” Mars asked.
“I don’t know…..not really, I’m pretty good at al this stuff. The military has always fascinated me. As a kid I played guns with friends, had mock battles in my neighborhood. I remember the first package I ever got was from the US calvary catalog. I ordered a fake grenade, a Gator survival knife, with a sling shot built into the sheath and a diamond knife sharpener…you know that thing never did work very well”
I reached into the green box and pulled out some herb and started rolling another joint. “you know what I remember most is the anticipation. After the first week I started asking my parents every day if a package had come for me. I’m not sure what I thought was so life changing about my order but I believed it was something very special.”
As I lit the splif and passed it around I described how I waited day after day until finally it came.
“Opening the box was like finally finding buried treasure. There was my connection to the soldiers, my fake grenade. My survival knife that made all the daydreams of being stranded on my own that much more real”
Looking at both of them, all be it figments of my reality, I felt a great since of comfort. There they sat as attentive as students in a favorite class, listening without judgment only with compassion. I had truly found an outlet for my thoughts.
Aphrodite sat forward passing me the L. “there’s melancholy in your voice, why?” she asked
“Because as with all things that don’t become an integral part of your life, only your imagination they lost their luster.”
"Strangely enough I know I am going to have real grenades and a beautiful knife which will become an integral part of my reality. Funny how shit works out.”
“I leave for war tomorrow.” I said shaking my head and smiling. “this is all real. No more imagination and stories of future victories. Its now the future the past all the same right here in the present.”

Sitting in the most Spartan of rooms hovered over a desk held together by two upturned trash cans I closed the discussion. I am dreading the call home to say good bye to my parents. I don’t want to imagine their fears. They have already lost one son.


I find it very fitting that its rainy outside. The sky is grey, the rain is falling just hard enough to make you wanna start thinking about going inside.
I feel very serious, intensely lonely. I have felt creation going on in my heart all day. In spurts and jumps my soul has been running around getting things ready for my body to follow.
I finished my transformation earlier today in a conversation about democracy. Later I found the reference to Oedipus I was thinking about constantly the other day. Later the song by Sting and the Police, that was stuck in my head was the next song I heard on my Ipod. Later still the only song playing on the Bus’s radio was Black Velvet. Finally the grand finally; I have seen this guy before never once noticing his name until today. Facing me while he waits to take a seat on the bus I see his name tape. Fate.

Long wooden Benches,
In formation like the rest.
A soldier sits across from me
With Fate across his chest.

I broke myself down during this month and a half. Now it seems just right. I’m on the way up, all pistons firing as I get ready to leave. If I could have planned this this would have been exactly how I would have wanted it. Funny how shit works out.

Mars is sitting across from me. I find it funny that he is wearing red galoshes. Aphrodite is sitting to my left wearing red rain boots. You know the ones you see in a commercial for Tide or some other family based product were a kid is jumping up and down in a puddle with big red rubber boots accentuating the smallness of the child. Only on Aphrodite it just makes her all the more mesmerizing.
“Are those boots prada” I asked smiling
Mars laughed
“Look whos talking” she says to him. Looking at me she smiles and says. “we stoped at Walmart on the way here, we weren’t sure you needed us, but we were glad you called.”
“I can’t offer you much, there is a soda and coffee machine on the left” I gestured to the opening by the front of the bay. “and I have dollars if you need them.”
“Give me a dollar Ben” Mars said standing up.
I reached into my bag and gave him two. “Aphrodite, do you want anything”? I asked
“Get me a pepsi.” She says then to me sliding a little closer. “what did you dream last night.”
“I remember seeing a Fox in a cage. It was for lack of a better word….regal. It was glowing, I remember it was amazing to look at. It started out small then got bigger . I wanted to touch it. I remember reaching for it then…..bam.” I slapped my hands together. “it took off.”
Mars joined us again and handed Aphrodite her soda then sat to my right.
“Anyway I started chasing after it but I kept having trouble with small obstacles and the fox was incredibly fast. Each time I got close it never tried to bit me it just wanted to be free. During the chase I remember” I closed my eyes bringing back the images in my mind. “I ran past a man singing opera. I heard a woman talking. The chase ran me into what looked like the side entrance of a church. Again I had a hard time getting over a small wall. Climbing the wall I remember my fingers starting to bleed from the rocks. I then heard an all girls French class being taught by an old man. I never caught the fox, then I woke up.”
Mars said after a moments thought, “It sounds like you are chasing a part of yourself, only that you are chasing it through your past. Which would explain the trouble dealing with small obstacles and being too slow.”
“Aphrodite said. “Yeah, the French, the old church, it all seems very European”. She looked at me with soft eyes.
“All that makes since, but what does the fox stand for.” I asked
“The fox is your potential for growing as a result of your past but is only attainable by looking towards your future and not being so bogged down with emotional baggage from your past” Mars said
Aphrodite continued. “You are who you are because of your life, your pearls.” She tapped my right shoulder. “The fox is you trying to be free, but for some reason you are still, sometimes, not all the time, stuck emotionally in your past.”
“You are heading to war” Mars said putting his hand on my shoulder “My territory.” He jestured to my right. “That 2 Pam Cloride isen’t a training prop.” He looked directly at me and sad in the softess most terrifying voice I have ever heard, “Ben, you are ready.”


This post was guided by the 111th 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.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tactics and Compassion: Part 2

I wasn’t wearing any socks when I heard an all to familiar knocking at the door. At least that’s what I thought about as I reached for the door knob. Ah, but perception, perception is everything. C’est la vie, I said to my reflection in the window pane as I opened the door. What stood before me was my imagination. The actual physical description of this for your sake I will call him man, is of no consequence. He was what ever I choose him to be.

At my door stood a man no taller than I with black hair and eyes that have seen the others. The others being that which can not be described by mere words, therefore I will not try to give light to that which cannot be explained. But again for your sake I will liken them to fire which as you know changes color based on the temperature of the heat at its core.
“good to see you kid” he quipped as he casually walked through the door.
“feelings mutual” I responded . “we are waiting for one more guest” I said guiding him to my library. “they should be here shortly, may I interest you in something to drink?”

Water with a lemon” he said while gazing around the room.
I walked to the bar thinking only of my bare feet. I had realized while running only hours before that this whole meeting was completely under my control. I could be standing completely naked and not feel the least bit anxious. True power comes only in the form of interpersonal thoughts.
“do you smoke?” I asked my new guest.
“yes” he replied as I brought over a green felt box to the coffee table.
“I have several different types of cigarettes and cigars, as well as hasish from morocco and marijuana from” I paused, “somewhere from the northeast, I can’t remember exactly where but I assure you its good.”
He leaned forward glancing in the box. He was about to say something through a smile when again there was a knock at the door.
“excuse me” I said heading for the door.

I knew what she was going to look like, although the mind has a wonderful capacity for facts and images the first sight of the possible is always a jolt.
Through the window pane in the door I could see the outline of her. When I opened the door she was for the briefest of moments standing with only her profile to me. That image alone makes my heart become the most noticeable aspect of my being. Helen may have had the face that sailed a thousand ships but this creation of mine, this figment of my ideal was stunning.
“I have been waiting in rapt anticipation for your arrival”. I beamed.
“I’m glad to be here” she said looking directly at me, her dark long hair glistening in the moon light. “ But, rapt anticipation” she came closer, lightly touching my should with her left hand. “Your going to have a little trouble saying what ever it is you have to say using words like that just to impress.” She twirled her finger “whom ever it is you feel you need to impress.”
“Perfect” I said more to myself than her.
“ I assume he’s in the library”, she said without looking back at me. All to well knowing that I was admiring the other side of her profile.
I caught up to her and was about to lead her into the library when she stopped me.
“lets go outside” she said sliding her arm under mine.

Arm and arm stride for stride we walked out onto the veranda. Looking out over the bay all the lights a reflection of the universe, the universe a reflection of the bay.
“ how is your mother doing” she said light two cigarettes, Marlboro lights, and handing me one. She had taken her hand away but was now leaning in close, our arms touching.
“ I had a chance to see them for a day last Saturday. I could have told them to stay longer but in truth I didn’t want to deal with it.”
“why” she asked tilting her head and exhaling away from me.
I watched the smoke, thick and puffy dissipate into nothing as though it was never even there to begin with and said
“I’m not entirely sure.” I continued “as trite as this may sound part of it had to do with smoking.”
“They know you smoke” she asked
“Yes, but they don’t approve”
“so when your with them you try not to smoke” she said more knowing than questioning.
So your mind in trying not to think about smoking means that your thinking about it even more thus taking you away from the present and into the future when your away from you parent and free to feed your addiction.”
She seemed to have said it all in one breath.
“Not surprising that you hit that dead on the nose, but its not just that.” I said taking her hand and leading her to the swing on the side of the house.
She sat crossing her legs towards me revealing through the part in her white chiffon perfect skin and beautiful feet in blue sandals.
In that instant I remembered watching my parents on the couch. Each laying at opposite ends. My mom reading the latest people magazine, my dad napping, all the while unconsciously rubbing her feet.
“I have incredible parents I said, shifting my gaze to my hands. “they have done a wonderful job in helping me become the young man I am today. You see they never told me I had to do anything, they simply set boundaries and led by example, they are the ideal. She smiled, reaching out and touching my cheek. ”When I am around them I don’t have to worry about anything….which is wonderful, don’t get me wrong….but I’m embarking on this journey by myself, for myself and sad as it is to say they would have been a burden” In a voice full of self loathing I continued. “All morning I have likened leaving my mothers embrace to being born. Leaving the safety of the familiar. This time not to school or summer camp or college but to War. This time alone, of my own estimate I must survive in the most hostile environment I have ever encountered. One where through no malleable fault of my own other people will find God in my destruction.”
Even though I felt out of breath I reached for my pack of smokes. She already had one lit and handed it to me.

She guided my face to hers stared deeply into my eyes and kissed me on the mouth. There was nothing sexual about it but I felt my whole being swell. Our lips parted but she held my gaze.
Lets go inside.” She said softly. Taking my arm again she let me lead her into the house.
We walked the 15 or so yards into the house. I asked her if she needed anything she didn’t so we entered the library
With my hand in the small of her back I said. “Aphrodite, this is Mars, Mars, this is Aphrodite.
In the blink of an eye I found myself standing next to Mars and Aphrodite sitting on the couch. I looked at both of them confused.
Mars slapped me on the shoulder and with a laugh said. “We know each other.” They smiled at each other and Aphrodite winked at me.
Mars walked over to the couch , gave Aphrodite a playful pat on the knee and reached for what looked like a huge cigar.
“now” he said with a heavy sigh. “ lets get fucking stoned
A shared escape from the structural confines of the standard day to day is above all else a bonding experience. Being bracketed by the north and south poles of motivations, My mind was having a difficult time accounting for all the possibilities.
As the weed came back around to me I smiled thinking about the possible conversations we could have. Being the ring leader of this reality imagined I myself felt humbled at the infinite possibilities.
I exhaled and was then racked by a fit of coughing. I heard Mars laugh.
Aphrodite swatted his leg, smiling she handed me some water.
“Oh man” I said trying to relax “Mars what did you just do to me.” I felt the room expand and contract as though I was the center of the universe. I relaxed back into the chair and watched Aphrodite take several hits and pass the smoke to Mars. I felt completely calm, clear headed and safe.
Mars tapped the blunt on the astray sighed and chuckled to himself.

“You Know” he said while staring up at the ceiling, “there is a huge difference between this stuff and all other forms of escape. Perception is reality however fragile its still all there really is. You can never really know anything, other than what you believe and I believe this to be the perfect drug. It takes away the many different parallels of thought and focuses your mind on one thing. In that time you are free to truly grasp the power of your mind.”
Aphrodite took the flower from her hair and set it on the table in front of her. The pink and white of the petals accentuated by the black reflective surface of the table top.
I stared at it trying to imagine the infinite wisdom it possessed. People seem to be driven by two things beauty and destruction. All emotions seem to reside in-between those parameters.
“Mars” I said “ what is your take on the notion of fear?”
“what are you scared of?” he asked resting his chin between his thumb and forefinger.
“I remember sitting in my condo about a month ago talking with my sister about my up and coming deployment. I told her that the only think I was really scared of was being in a situation and not reacting. Freezing up as it where.”
“what did she say” Aphrodite asked.
“ Without hesitation she looked right at me and said, you can’t freeze up, it will be way to hot over there.”
I closed my eyes reliving the moment. She was sitting to my left on the couch playing that new numbers game soduku.
“ I remember being rendered speechless by her statement, as though she knew it was coming and had prepared the perfect response.”
“Fear is a biological defense mechanism that has evolved over millions of years to give your body that extra edge when the mind feels threatened.” Mars added “ the fear you have known up to this point in your life has been necessary in preparing you to go to war. However” he paused “you have yet to experience true fear of death. Within this next year you will find yourself in situations were you will feel and know the massive scope and debilitating capacities of fear. Let us discuss it more down the road.”
“OK, that makes sense,” I said “but what about this. Earlier, one of the guys I’m with brother was on leave from Iraq. He stopped by in the barracks and gave us a brief rundown on the situation over there as he sees it.”
I went on to describe how my buddies brother described how the guys over there simply wanted to do there time without getting blown up. He sat on the end of a cot smiling as only a man who has seen the others can. In-between his statement of sarcasm and cynicism I wondered what we all must look like to him. Guys with silly hopes and ideas about a foreign land. Full of hopes and dreams of making a difference. Trained in tactics that have long become obsolete.
He told us that the standard SOPs for responding to an IED have been scrapped. “no one stops anymore and pulls security because the insurgents have learned our tactics and set daisy chain IEDs where they know we are going to dismount. One convoy lost 6 guys by IEDs placed in all the places they knew we were going to be after the initial explosion.”
Even though we were all discussing the deaths of fellow soldiers we all laughed. Each of us thinking: I hope that doesn’t happen to me.

He continued. “Did ya’ll hear about the apache helicopter that went down? We saw it happen from our AO and called it in. We told higher we could go in and secure the area but army regs didn’t allow it. Even though we were the closest units to the site by far it wasn’t our sector. Regs must be followed so a unit an hour away was called. By the time they got there all they found was two blood trails and tire tracks. Shit, we all new that the next time we would hear about them was on Al Jazera and sure as shit two days later there's a video of two pilots being dragged down the streets burning.”
There was no laughter this time. He seemed to since to lull and added. “The army of course said the video couldn’t be confirmed. Yeah like the two burning white guys might not be the pilots from two days ago.”
As to why that quip was funny I’m not sure. Something about suffering as long as it is at someone else’s expense is usually funny.
“You think the army is gong to tell the families of those guys that the reason they debuted on Iraqi TV is because some officer worrying about his possible promotion didn’t want to break regs and do his fucking job.
Again, although we all laughed, I saw the frustration. Who knows whether or not it’s a good or bad thing to mask human frailty with laughter….I guess it’s better than crying.
As attentive as I wanted them to be Mars and Aphrodite listened. I hadn’t stopped talking for several minutes so I recommended that we go outside and take a walk down to the bay.


This post was guided by the 110th 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.