There's a famous scene at the end of the first Rambo movie.
Rambo is in the police station.
He is tired and frustrated.
Colonel Troutman comes in to talk him down.
Rambo laments that in the military he controlled men and million dollar pieces of equipment, but back home he can't even get a job at a gas station.
As a kid, the number one thing I took from that movie was the need for a good survival knife.
Now I understand not just pieces of what that experience is like, but also how to do something about it.
To go from Iraq or Afganistan, back to the US is going from one extreme to the next. Down Range there is an intensity associated with the fact that at any moment you could be killed. It's ever present and in your face.
This intensity gave me a sense of purpose and resolve to do my job to the best of my ability.
Back home that intensity was gone and so too was my motivation.
Most of the time I was ok. But there were times when I had meltdowns.
I had a hard time trying to explain to myself why I was one way then and totally different now.
I think about it like a wave. One experience is at the peak, the other is at the trough.
One way to understand this is to look at the distance between the two extremes as slack.
The problem with slack is that it's not secure, you can't hold onto it, you can't use it to move you forward.
What to do about it?
For me, my biggest problem was my thoughts. As ya'll know my favorite was how can I possibly be the soldier that my medals proclaim if I'm sobbing and hyperventilating in the corner of the kitchen.
What took me forever to figure out was that I couldn't stop myself from having those thoughts, but I could tighten up the slack between the extreme of the thoughts I was having.
Each time I meditate I practice being neither extremely high nor extremely low. This took practice, but I watch my thoughts without getting attached to them whether they are good or bad.
It's similar to the way the military taught me to ignore my body and drive on, only mindfulness meditation taught me how to be aware of my thoughts before they stick to me or I stick to them.
This doesn't mean that my life is without extremes. It just means that there is less slack between how my mind handles what I experience.
The less slack, the more time I have to create a satisfying lifestyle moving forward.
This post was guided by the 43th stanza of the Art of Peace, a book written by Morihei Ueshiba
Armor Down now has a website. Check it out.
If you like the AD Facebook page and I'll email you the PDF of a book called "Mindfulness in Practical English".
Lisa Wimberger's meditations:
Grounding Your Armor
Riding the Sun
Thrive as a civilian.