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The Secrets of Survival
Awakening the Hero Within

By Brian Germain

It has been said that danger is forced enlightenment. This is because when we are at risk, we must be our highest selves in order to survive.  The specific methods that get us through danger are no different from the skills that we need in our daily lives. Rarely, however, do we make the connection between our heroic selves and the person that walks our apparently mundane existence. In truth, nothing in life is mundane.  All our actions have consequences, and our future is shaped entirely in the present moment. There is risk in everything we do.

Making the connection between our heroic self and our mundane lives is the key to enhancing our persona, and improving the way in which we cope with all of life’s challenges. When we begin to apply the principles by which we cope with physical danger, we begin to dissolve the imaginary barrier between our two personas. When we utilize the simple way of being that is the mind of the hero, we begin to expand who we are as a human being, and realize our true potential in the world.

Here are the essential components of the hero’s mindset. These are things that we already know, but often forget to implement. As pilots have preflight checklists, we all need to reflect on these aspects of our experience to ensure our safety in all situations.

Breathe slowly, smoothly and completely.
Remembering to continue breathing while under stress is the most important part of survival. Without the breath, there is no sustainability. Our bodies require the gifts that aerobic inspiration brings. New air provides more than just oxygen to the mind and body. It offers a new perspective, enlivened with possibility.

Take a deep breath in. Open your lungs to their fullest capacity. Hold the breath for a second so that you may control the momentum of the exhale. Restrict the throat to ease the rate of the expiration, slowly releasing the energy back into the world. Once the breath is back under control, and the cycle respiration is fluid, we can flow with the moment, whatever it is.

Relax whenever possible.
If you carry tension in your mind or body you will loose touch with the flow of the moment. Relaxing is as important as correct action, because all well-conceived actions are born from the calm state. From this place in ourselves, all answers are created.

We must store energy when we are not in motion, otherwise we will run out. By resting whenever we can, we are prepared to act when action is necessary. The metabolism is not a bottomless pit of energetic resources, but a short-burst machine that requires recapitulation in order to act with optimum efficiency. Likewise, the mind also needs to store focus, sobering up to absolute clarity so that we may see the world as it is.

Pay attention to your surroundings.
We have it within us to sharpen our attention when danger is near. When we let go of distraction and point our awareness to the world around us, we have the ability to perceive even the minutest of details even in a split second of appraisal. This level of awareness is exhausting, however, and requires constant re-focusing of the attention. When we become mentally fatigued, our consciousness begins to fade.

If we train ourselves to focus through regular centering practices such as yoga and mediation, we develop the ability to refocus our minds quickly and efficiently. When we find ourselves becoming ungrounded and fearful, we can take a deep breath and refocus our minds on the present moment, and our eyes on the situation in front of us. In circumstances involving real danger, seizing the moment to calm down and sharpen our awareness can be the difference between living any dying.

Remember that you are always in danger.
When we are under prolonged stress, it is easy to slip into the belief that we are no longer in immediate danger. This is a function of the body’s urge to calm down and rest, a task of the parasympathetic systems that heal our bodies.  It is these times that we find ourselves in the most danger. Lulled into a false sense of security, we allow our sharp focus to become soft, and we become complacent. This is how accidents happen. When we are in dangerous situations, we must remember that we are always walking on the razor’s edge.

Enjoy the flow of motion.
Although dangerous circumstances require our respect and complete attention, this does not mean that we cannot enjoy the experience. In fact, in order to be in the “Flow State”, it is essential that we act with a sense of intense joy. Only in a positive frame of mind can we completely surrender to the experience.  The secret key to surviving danger is joy, not fear.

Trepidation disguises itself as prudence, but it is not. It is resistance to a flowing situation that requires the elimination of all friction if it is to function at all. Flow is disrupted by fear, as it causes us to freeze when we need to act; and act when we need to stop. The only way to glide through real danger is to surrender to the experience, and simply love it. Love and fear are opposites, and cannot exist in the same moment in consciousness. 

Although the contextual nature of stress is incredibly varied, the core solutions are always the same. By remembering how we perform in the face of physical threats, we can awaken the part of ourselves that knows how to negotiate our reality. Rather than falling victim to habitual patterns of coping, we can begin to step out of the part of ourselves that sees problems, into the perspective that sees only solutions. When we walk the path in balance, we can rise to any challenge presented to us, and become the hero we were meant to be.

Brian Germain a Professional Skydiving Instructor with over 12,000 jumps, a parachute designer and test pilot, a rock climber, ski racer, mountaineer, and the author of several books including Transcending Fear, The Doorway to Freedom. Brian is available for keynote speaking.

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