Saturday, April 16, 2011

Some Notes About The Author

I am a warrior at heart and above all else. I am a person of action much more than rhetoric. I tend not to talk too much about myself and my beliefs leaving my writings more open to the readers' interpretation and ability to extract any value from their own perspectives.

However, there comes a time when some amount of revelation seems appropriate. I do not seek to brag. I seek only to grant some minor piece of insight into the derivation of my points of view.

First of all, my philosophy is my own. Yes, it is heavily influenced by a number of things. Philosophy being grounded in the study of life must come from life experiences, studies, and influences. If it is not, then it worthless rhetoric and emotive verbiage. So, if you are seeking my philosophical or theological inspirations and influences, you must read all of my works, this entire article, and know my entire life to create anything close to resembling a full bibliographic enumeration of references. However, this article alone may give you just enough of a glimpse to garner some minor bit of acceptance of the value of my words. That value is dependent, however, on your perspectives and thoughts. I no more control yours than you can control mine.

I have an education. I have studied economics, marketing, literature, philosophy, psychology, and civics. In addition, I studied and achieved a certification in athletic training, sports fitness, and nutrition that allowed me to be a personal trainer as well as an aerobics instructor. So, I am quite well rounded, well-read, and educated. My education is far from complete and may see its completion only shortly after my moment of death. There is so much in the world worth experiencing, investigating, studying, and pondering that wasting a minute without all perceptions wide open is inconceivable.

I joined the military at a young age. I enlisted in the National Guard in an effort to defray the fact my academic scholarship, like most academic scholarships, was not a "full ride". I do find it reprehensible that academic institutions give full scholarships to athletes while not supporting the true purpose for an institute of higher learning. Despite having an education, I found regular employment elusive. I was able to get hired and do jobs easily enough. That was half of the problem:  they didn't challenge me. I was bored. So I'd either drop my performance while chasing more interesting pursuits or I would challenge my employers in some manner that ended with my termination. So, after five years as a reservist, I followed the one job that held my interest -- The Army.

In 1991, I applied to transfer to active military service. I did close to five years as an infantryman in the regular army. I began to find the job not as mentally challenging as I liked. So, I decided to give the Army another three years to convince me to stay for a full career. Part of that meant the Army had to find another job for me. I ended up in the intelligence field. Since then, I have spent the last 15 or so years deployed for at least 90 days in each calender year. So, I have traveled, studied, and experienced places and cultures most people would never imagine. I was able to do a little of the standard tourism bit here and there. Mostly, though, I was immersed at some level in the reality of those societies and cultures. For some examples of the people I have lived and worked with/among:  Cuban refugees in Panama as well as the Panamanian natives; I trained the Hungarian Army after they officially left the Warsaw Pact and joined NATO; I spent time training with the Jordanian forces; and, on my final tour to Iraq, I advised an Iraqi Federal Police special battalion -- living and working with the Iraqi Police as well as spending a lot of time in contact with local civilians. I am not some naive couch jockey whose views are limited only to the rhetoric and narrow views espoused by CNN or MSNBC. I have been there, witnessed, and lived what they report and, more importantly, what they didn't report or are not even privy to know.

I have a bit of perspective on psychology. First, I have what they misnomer as PTSD. I prefer the moniker "Post-Combat Stress Syndrome (PCSS)" to PTSD. While a soldier on patrol who witnesses his buddy blown to bits or was seriously injured himself may have actual PTSD, PCSS comes from the constant immersion into a hyper-vigilant sensory state combined with an prolonged necessity of the "flight or fight" response in a continuous environment of life threatening propensity. In other words, even those stuck on FOBs were forced to constantly look for real threats and be ready to respond to things such as rocket and mortar attacks or suicide bombers infiltrating the post. If you think it near impossible, I refer you to the suicide bomber that detonated in the dining facility on FOB Marez in 2004, as just one of many examples. In four tours, I saw quite a bit. In addition, my skill set made me invaluable out in sector instead of just remaining on a FOB as many believe intelligence personnel do. My first tour was the invasion in 2003. We didn't have FOBs or improved, secure bases. I slept across the front seats of a HMMWV when not doing my job, inspecting perimeter security, driving, or being shot at. As stated, my last tour was spent on a team advising a Federal Police unit. That meant I was daily a potential target for insurgents, organized criminals, street gangs, and terrorists. However, like conventional PTSD sufferers, I did also witness a few traumatic events. So, more than likely, I do have both PCSS and PTSD. 

I also studied a bit of psychology and have a subscription to Psychology Today's e-zine. I have taken numerous stress management courses during my military career. These were not command directed courses but were college classes intended on giving leaders and managers in military and business occupations tools to mitigate stress in the workplace. In other words, I have some amount of education is doing basic level counseling and advice on stress. I know enough to tell somebody they need a break or outlet. I also know enough to tell somebody that they do require professional help. Another way of looking at it is that I know enough to identify stress and stress levels but also know enough to know that I am not equipped to provide any form of treatment. I can just offer some small amounts of routine advice derived from experts. It also means I have a pretty good personal toolbox of coping skills.

Politically I will remain a bit of an enigma to those with myopic views of history. I read the US Constitution regularly. As a Soldier sworn to uphold and defend that document, I find it irresponsible to not know what I am sworn to defend. So, I read it, often -- at least once a week. It is only 26 pages long. I am pro-choice. I am pro-gay-rights (as far as they deserve equal treatment under the law, but no special treatment). I am pro-military. I despise the seeming political belief that "freedom of religion" means repression of ALL religion in public venue. The Second Amendment does not state that any government: state, local, or federal; has the authority to restrict firearm ownership by law-abiding adult citizens. In fact, I believe that cit. amendment implies concealed carry authority without requiring a permit. I support the Tenth Amendment which states that there are no implied powers in the federal government. I believe that the US Constitution was established as protections for the citizens of our country to succeed or FAIL on their own merits, actions, or inactivity. That means that you are entitled only to what you earn, nothing more, and nothing less. So, I am opposed to welfare. On the flip side, I strongly support charity, as long as it is freely given and not stolen at gunpoint by some federal or state agency. Am I a conservative? some would argue that I am while others would say I am not.

I do oppose socialism. I am a veteran of the Cold War. I have witnessed, first hand, the oppression socialism creates and the evils it proliferates under the fraudulent banner of "public good and general welfare". The Ba'ath Party that Saddam Hussayn established as the controlling governance in Iraq was a socialist regime. Economically, I am a capitalist. If you call that evil then you call the discoveries and inventions of electricity, light bulbs, penicillin, Viagra, aspirin, television, radio, the internet, cinema (that means movies), the electric guitar, computers, automobiles, hybrid technology, solar energy, and refrigeration "evil".  I consider them great attestations to the capitalist system. As such, I believe that those in these industries who produce and improve and produce again earned every cent coming to them. That includes the CEOs and CFOs who manage the companies and insure that they do produce. Without them, the nugs on the factory lines wouldn't have jobs or paychecks. Unions are forms of socialism. I would prefer many factories got rid of hourly wages and paid by the unit produced that passed QC/QA. That would provide for better built products and reward workers for actually working. So, yes I am an evil capitalist such as the "liberal progressives" in Hollywood love to vilify. Don't let them fool you. They want you to redistribute the wealth of the upper and middle classes as long as it isn't THEIR money that is being redistributed.

I am also a martial artist. I am not some MMA fighter in some venue of sport competition fighting. I walk a way and a path. I am a knight-protector. I am a defender. I also do whatever I can to avoid physical conflict and to resolve conflicts. I fight first with my mind and spirit long before taking physical actions. I walk away from conflicts that do not threaten life, limb, eyesight, property or livelihood. Even the threat to property is questionable as some property is less important than life and well-being. Other property IS security and livelihood. I am mostly peaceful and laisez-faire.  I do not like conflict as it does tick on my "fight or flight" response. As a warrior, that usually equates to a fight response. My biochemical reactions to that inclination are not healthy. So, I do my best to walk away in most cases. I am developing my own system, my own art. I have had some bit of opportunity to test the basics of it on some kids and parents. I have no aspirations of opening a dojo and teaching for money. So I am not a certified instructor. I do not think I ever will be. However, for a select few students that find themselves ready, I will present myself and offer what I am comfortable in teaching. I am also a constant student and always looking for mentoring and instruction. I know I am far from knowing all I am capable of learning and refuse to consider myself an expert in anything other than my own art and style. And those are constantly evolving.

I love kids. I have wonderful nieces and nephews who I adore. I have a little girl in my life that is also amazing and a great living miracle. Though, like all kids, she can be frustrating at times, I mostly find her a joy to be around and treasure the moments with her. She is not my daughter nor do I have any illusion that she is. My fiancee is a wonderful mother who I love and adore. Family is very important to me. many believe that physical proximity to family is important. From the way my life has been, I can say that concept is false. I am close to my father and my siblings, though we do not live near each other. I know each of them would give everything they have, to include some organs, if they received word I was in need. They know I would do the same for them without hesitation.

I am a very private person. If you think I have opened myself up in this article and revealed all of who I am, you are greatly deluded. I am not an open person. those closest to me know I am not. Through all of this rhetoric, I have not told you much, at all, about who I am. Who I am is ever-changing; always seeking to grow and improve. The person I am at the moment I publish this will cease to be when the sun rises on the next day. I challenge all who read this to seek to do the same. Stagnation is death. I refuse to stagnate.

I am a warrior, philosopher, humanitarian, poet, author, dream-weaver, son, brother, patriot, leader, follower, teacher and student. I am me -- nothing more and nothing less. Who are you?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What's Been Lost: The First Casualty of War

Everybody has suffered some form of loss. It may come in the form of material possessions, security, or loved ones. Everybody knows loss on some level. Infants know loss in the form of losing that time in the womb. They know loss in the form of losing a pacifier or being taken away from mommy and held by somebody else for a few minutes. Everybody has misplaced something or had something break. I am willing to bet that most people have had things stolen from them. I also cannot believe that there is any non-sociopath adult in this world who has not lost love. Yes, everybody gets their heartbroken. It is part of growing up.

Just as breaking up is part of growing up and learning to love; death is part of life. It is unavoidable. Like most people, I have lost those close to me. I stopped counting how many military people I knew who have died at war over the past 7 years. I can honestly say that the first friend I lost cut the deepest. It didn't hurt the worst, but that scar is the one I will always remember. CPT Christopher S. Seifert was taken from us by a traitor named Akbar. Akbar is currently on death row for treason, mutiny, and murder. From Sept 06-Sept 07 I lost 47 brothers-in-arms who were in the same unit as I. The night I lost 10 of them in the same incident still haunts me.

So, I know loss.

For most of the things I've lost, I have gained important things thereby creating the equity of a near-zero balance. Even with all the friends I have lost in the war; I have established new friends with strong bonds. I also retain the fond memories of those I did lose. But the thing that can never be recompensed or replaced:  I lost my innocence. By innocence, I don't mean virginity. You can lose that without losing your innocence, if it is given up as an act of love, not just pleasure. But my innocence, that was ripped away in a world where good people are forced to do evil things in the name of good and right.

One of the other GBE bloggers wrote a rather startling story about the loss of innocence. It was in regards to child molestation and pedophilia. while I understand the definition of innocence that she utilized in her blog, I have a slightly different definition. What the main character in the story lost was not innocence but naivety. Naivety is that form of innocence that comes from not knowing evil. It is what Adam and Eve lost in the garden once they acquired the knowledge of good and evil.

Naivety is lost when one comes to know evil and wrong. Children might be mischievous, doing "wrong" or "bad" things. But they are still naive until they are exposed to and gain knowledge of true evil. Being a victim does not claim innocence. It reveals evil. It steals naivety.

I have not been naive since my pre-teen years. I will openly admit that I was a troublemaker. I was also the smart one that had an alibi ready for everything, or had a way of convincing people that I didn't know what I was doing was wrong. I also tended to get away with things because I was "such a good boy". Then again, when I did stuff, it was preplanned. I also watched the frequency of my mischief so that others would find it difficult to accept that I did the things I did. Yes, I got away with quite a lot of mischief and mayhem. However, I still held onto my innocence. I knew some of the things I did were "wrong". However, none of them were truly evil.

Evil rests in doing things in order to intentionally harm others. Evil rests in doing things to intentionally defy God. Evil is not mischief. Evil is not falling to occasional temptation. Evil is tempting others to do those acts. Evil is deliberate.

From my philisophical perspective, innocence is lost when you find you have no choice but to choose a path you know to be evil. It comes from intentionally performing an act you know to be evil, to be wrong, to harm others. The choice may be a difficult one. In my case, it was because the alternative was worse. It was to allow worse evil to take place. Standing by and knowing allow an evil act to occur without doing anything in an attempt to stop it. In many cases, the evil of inaction is worse that the evil act itself.

"A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury."
John Stuart Mill

War is a necessary evil. It is a last resort for when all else has failed. It should never be entered into lightly. Once begun, it must be seen through to its logical conclusion (the utter and complete destruction of the enemy). It also needs to be painstakingly prosecuted to prevent or mitigate as much of that evil from spilling over to non-combatants as possible. A fine example is the crusade in which the Saracen commander, Salah ad Din (a Muslim Kurd), stated his intentions to reclaim Jerusalem. He then gave safe passage for all women, children, priests, and non-combatants to leave the city before he commenced his assault. In modern warfare, we make a list of protected sites and utilize precision weapons. In the crusade, there were women who refused to leave their husbands. In modern times, collateral damage still occurs.

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
John Stuart Mill English economist & philosopher (1806 - 1873)
On 11 September 2001, many Americans lost their naivety when Al Q'aida destroyed the World Trade Center and attacked the Pentagon. This was not their first attack against a US target. It was just their first successful attack against us on our own soil. This was also their first attack that was affected against primarily non-combatants.

In 2003, I went to war in Iraq. This is when my innocence first started to wiggle away. There was an incident involving some Fedayeen Saddam attacking my unit's perimeter. I was the first person to return fire. I shot where I saw the muzzle flashes breaking the darkness. By the time others starting shooting back, the fire had ceased. To this day, I don't know if any enemy were killed or if I was the one who killed them.

This was, by far, not the first time I had used force to defend myself or somebody else. A friend and I had thwarted an attempted rape in Seattle back in the mid-90s, for one example. In high school, I had blocked off the attacks of another until I realized the only way to make the person stop was to hit him. I did. I punched and kicked (and bludgeoned with trash-can lids) until the idiot stopped. I can enumerate many other instances. In each, my offense was taken for defensive reasons, and never beyond the minimum necessary to reduce the threat. I will admit that there were times I wanted to beat somebody to a pulp just to teach them a lesson. But that would have been sinking to their level, or worse. But I still hold that taking those actions was always within the realm of not crossing the line into having to do evil to prevent evil. I maintain that I was innocent, and remained so until 2003.

The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty English economist & philosopher (1806 - 1873)

The exact moment I lost my innocence is hard to define.

In 2004, I worked a job that put me in the decision-chain for some counter-terrorist actions. I cannot get into the details of what I did and what operations were conducted. I can say that some of the things I recommended definitely fell to the side of "necessary evil". One day, in particular, sits in my mind. It rests there to the point I still dream of it. It still weighs upon my conscience. When asked if I would make the same recommendation again, I state that under the same circumstances I would. It was the best solution. However, once the act was done, I had to review tapes of a building exploding. I had to attempt to count body parts as they scattered in the blast. At least one terrorist was killed (I found out later that we had killed 3 of them). But one of their wives and children also died in the event. I was part of a decision the lead to the intentional death of children. I still believe that we had no other choice.

These men were responsible for the murders of thousands of people. they were planning future attacks against many more. Most of their targets were to be non-combatants. They attacked people of a different ideology than theirs. It had nothing to do with military threat. the majority of their targets were peaceful, religious people. I hold that the lessor evil was the best decision. It doesn't change the fact that I knew it was still an evil act.

But that is not the event that I consider to be the moment I lost my innocence. It is merely an example of the fact that I had. I hold that I am a good person. Since losing my innocence, I am far more careful and conscious of my actions regarding others. But now I know exactly what I am capable of and how far I am willing to go in order to protect and safeguard. I am willing to cross lines that , thank God, most people will never have to face. I sacrificed my innocence for the greater good. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. I put myself in God's judgment alone on this.

Back during the ground assault, one particular event occurred that I consider the moment I knew my innocence was lost. We were on the way towards Baghdad. We halted our convoy for a quick maintenance stop. We also needed to stretch our legs and get blood moving in our bodies so we could press on towards our objective. My driver needed to relieve himself, so I covered him while he went into the reeds to do so. He called me over to see something. I walked over and saw, in the reed-line, a body. My soldier was doing his best to fight his urge to vomit. I just looked down at the decaying and bloated enemy body. It was an Iraqi soldier. I don't know how he was killed. It could have been from one of our rocket strikes. It could have been from our infantry. He may have been shot by one of his own people. As I looked down upon the carcass and tried to formulate how best to report it, I watched it explode into a cloud of flies. All I could think of at that moment was "you got what you deserved". Reflecting back, I cannot really say that. He was a soldier and was doing what he thought was right to protect his country. He probably had a family. He probably was not responsible for any of the evil that Saddam had done. He was young, too young to have been part of the Iran-Iraq war, the atrocities in Kurdistan, or the invasion of Kuwait. But in that moment, that was my thought. As I look back, that is the moment that I knew my innocence was forever gone.

War is a horrible thing. the worst part of it is when you have to face the horror you are capable of inflicting. It matters not if it was just. All that matters is that the person you once were no longer exists. Innocence is the first casualty.

I'm closing this with a poem by a famous historical figure, a warrior, a great general.  Before doing so, I pose a few questions:

What have you lost?

Are you still innocent? If not, describe the moment you realized your innocence was lost.


by Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.

Through the travail of the ages,
Midst the pomp and toil of war,
Have I fought and strove and perished
Countless times upon this star.

In the form of many people
In all panoplies of time
Have I seen the luring vision
Of the Victory Maid, sublime.

I have battled for fresh mammoth,
I have warred for pastures new,
I have listed to the whispers
When the race trek instinct grew.

I have known the call to battle
In each changeless changing shape
From the high souled voice of conscience
To the beastly lust for rape.

I have sinned and I have suffered,
Played the hero and the knave;
Fought for belly, shame, or country,
And for each have found a grave.

I cannot name my battles
For the visions are not clear,
Yet, I see the twisted faces
And I feel the rending spear.

Perhaps I stabbed our Savior
In His sacred helpless side.
Yet, I've called His name in blessing
When after times I died.

In the dimness of the shadows
Where we hairy heathens warred,
I can taste in thought the lifeblood;
We used teeth before the sword.

While in later clearer vision
I can sense the coppery sweat,
Feel the pikes grow wet and slippery
When our Phalanx, Cyrus met.

Hear the rattle of the harness
Where the Persian darts bounced clear,
See their chariots wheel in panic
From the Hoplite's leveled spear.

See the goal grow monthly longer,
Reaching for the walls of Tyre.
Hear the crash of tons of granite,
Smell the quenchless eastern fire.

Still more clearly as a Roman,
Can I see the Legion close,
As our third rank moved in forward
And the short sword found our foes.

Once again I feel the anguish
Of that blistering treeless plain
When the Parthian showered death bolts,
And our discipline was in vain.

I remember all the suffering
Of those arrows in my neck.
Yet, I stabbed a grinning savage
As I died upon my back.

Once again I smell the heat sparks
When my Flemish plate gave way
And the lance ripped through my entrails
As on Crecy's field I lay.

In the windless, blinding stillness
Of the glittering tropic sea
I can see the bubbles rising
Where we set the captives free.

Midst the spume of half a tempest
I have heard the bulwarks go
When the crashing, point blank round shot
Sent destruction to our foe.

I have fought with gun and cutlass
On the red and slippery deck
With all Hell aflame within me
And a rope around my neck.

And still later as a General
Have I galloped with Murat
When we laughed at death and numbers
Trusting in the Emperor's Star.

Till at last our star faded,
And we shouted to our doom
Where the sunken road of Ohein
Closed us in it's quivering gloom.

So but now with Tanks a'clatter
Have I waddled on the foe
Belching death at twenty paces,
By the star shell's ghastly glow.

So as through a glass, and darkly
The age long strife I see
Where I fought in many guises,
Many names, but always me.

And I see not in my blindness
What the objects were I wrought,
But as God rules o'er our bickerings
It was through His will I fought.

So forever in the future,
Shall I battle as of yore,
Dying to be born a fighter,
But to die again, once more.

Inner Peace: The Rules of the Road

Inner peace is an individual accomplishment constructed from individual perceptions and the fabric of the ineffable substance the entwines us with the universe. Having read many metaphysical treatises and theological/spiritual teachings, many common threads exist in describing its attainment. Being a simple blog, I do not have the space nor do most readers have the time for us to sift through a philosophical essay the length of Kant's "Treatise on Pure Reason", Descartes's "First Meditations", and Miyamato Musashi's "Go Rin No Sho" even in a "Readers' Digest" form.

I'd like to share a mantra or prayer that many have either read or recited. It is rather famous and is used to close many 12-step support group meetings.

"God Grant Me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change
        The Courage to change the things I can
               And the Wisdom to know the difference"

This is known as the "Serenity Prayer". It is a prayer asking for guidance towards the path of inner peace. It is not asking for the peace to be granted automatically. In its words are the inherent contract that the supplicant has to do the work.

Inner Peace and Enlightenment are journeys, not destinations. The paths to them are, according to Buddhist teachings, as narrow and difficult to walk as a sword's edge.

To attain Inner Peace requires one to follow a set of spiritual rules that seem common in almost every credible teaching on the subject. First, you must recognize that it is a journey, not a destination. Like every journey, you have choices along the way. Some of these lead you the direction you want. Some lead you there the long way. Some are shorter. Some appear to be shortcuts. Inevitably, these "shortcuts" will get you lost or in the wrong direction. The problem lies in that we won't know if we made the correct choice until we are already along the path we chose. We really have no map to navigate by. However, there are some signposts along the way, if you pay attention.

Regardless, the true path can always be recognized. It is the one with obstacles along the way. It is the one that sometimes leaves us hoping we don't fall to one side or the other along a narrow bridge. To navigate the path of Inner Peace, you have to have balance in all things. You have to be grounded. If you are a "drama queen/king" your path will be filled with what you ask for, conflict. You will find yourself off-balance much of the time. Your perspective will be a skewed one. Of course, you will be so used to this slanted perspective that you will believe it to be normal and you will try to skew the rest of the world to be in line with your view. It is much easier to straighten yourself up than the move the whole world, but that will not dissuade your attempts. Eventually, you will find yourself on a twisted path that is canted to your view. That path does not lead to Inner Peace.

The same concept of balance goes with all things from what you put into your body (food, drugs, etc) to how you interact with your surroundings. If you do not first have balance, you will fall. If you don't fall, you will be like a man in the forest who has one leg longer than that other. You will seek a straight path, but find yourself always drifting off in another direction or walking in circles.

Along the same lines of the "drama queen" example, if you try to move everybody else to conflict, you cannot have peace in yourself. The world will always have conflict. there will always be pitfalls and obstacles. Why create more? From a military perspective, all obstacles we emplace for our protection always also work against us. A minefield designed to harm and slow the enemy also slows us or takes away one of our paths. the same goes with  intentionally disturbing others' path toward Inner Peace. The better way is to also help others clear their paths. If their path is clearer, so is ours. This is called Compassion.

Along your path, there will be spots where you will question your ability to navigate. You will also question any aid offered. Life does not throw you things you cannot handle. It doesn't. Sure, there are obstacles you cannot overcome. But there is usually a path around them, if you are on the right path. For those few that there is no path around, there is somebody willing and able to help you. It may be a fellow traveller. It may also be your deity. However, it is up to you and your perception to make it past those obstacles. To do so, you have to have faith. You must have faith in you deity, in your fellow traveller, and (most importantly) in yourself.

As for those obstacles that come up, you cannot always anticipate them. but if you are ready for an obstacle at all times, they will not catch you unaware. But never, ever expect an easy path. If you anticipate and easy path, inevitably the greatest obstacles will meet you instead.

Many of you have already read one of my essays discussing "Now". The bottom line on "Now" is that you have to be present in order to be on your Path. "Now" is always the time. Yesterday is too late. You can look back to see what went right and what went wrong. However, you cannot change it. Don't try. Don't dwell on "what if I had..." or "if only I had...". Take the lesson and move on. Don't stop and ponder the future. The future is too ambiguous. It is contastantly changing and only takes form when it is no longer the future, but now. Here is always the place. If you constantly think about anywhere other than where you are now, you will not be walking your path.

Along with choices and being in the here and now, you have to act. What good is deciding on a path or solution if you stand still? Now, sometimes, choosing to stop and enjoy an moment is an action. But if you have Inner Peace, you can enjoy every moment. That is actually how you know you are on your path. But you will never be on path if you don't ACT! Newton's laws of inertia apply not only to the physical realm, but to the metaphysical, spiritual and ethical realms as well. To sit by and watch others do wrong is just as bad as doing wrong yourself, if not worse. If you do not put yourself into motion, you will stagnate. If you do not choose to change your path to a better one, you will stay lost.

Telling the future is easy. I do it for a living. Yes, I already stated that you shouldn't dwell on what is not yet come to be. But you can influence what that future will become when it becomes now by what you do NOW. I mentioned that there are signposts. They happen intermittantly along the way. You can learn to expect them and watch out for them. They may be difficult to see, but they are usually there. You see, everything happens in cycles. The seasons change. Good things happen and bad things happen. Children are born. People die. There will be times of joy and times of sadness. But you can find beauty, peace, and happiness in each. Every season has its beauty. Winter has the fresh fallen snow. Autumn has the colored leaves. Spring has new growth and birth. Summer has its frolicking and blooming. (In Arizona, Summer also has its invigorating storms with grand light shows and rock music called Monsoon Season). the same goes with all seasons in life. Recognize the cycles and prepare accordingly. If you are ready, you will not be caught unaware and you will not be miserable.

Take the tale of the two businessmen. One always wears a sharp suit, carries a small atache case, and wonders about all happy go lucky. He believes that whatever the day brings, that others will provide him with his supplies. The other moves at a setermined pace. He carries a larger briefcase. He carries spare pens, notepads, etc. He also carries an umbrella. One day, they are waiting for the bus. The buses go on strike. No bus will be coming. A storm hits. The man with the larger briefcase pulls out his umbrella. He has spare cash on hand and hails a cab. He makes it to work on time. the other man, who is competing for the same contract, shows up late. He is soaked and uncomfortable. When the perspective client asks for additional information, the one with the attache case seeks a pen and paper so he can write it down. The briefcase man pulls out a notecard and a pen, and writes down the information. The smile on briefcase man's face is always slight, but always there. Even "bad days" are not that bad. Attache case man has his ups and downs. Which is probably happier?

No matter what, you have to be true to yourself at all times. If you delude yourself to believe that you are on path when you are way off, you will remain lost. Honesty is always best. You should seek to be honest to yourself and to others at all times. Being honest to yourself is always of utmost importance. If it is raining and you tell yourself that it is a nice sunny day, it won't keep you from getting soaked. If you tell yourself that it is indeed raining, you can sing and dance in the rain! But the one thing that nobody else can take from you in life is your integrity. It is the one thing we have that only we can throw away.

Things in life are going to happen. That is why it is life. That is why Iner Peace is a path, not a destination. They will happen whether you get involved or not. You need to resign yourself to the fact that things happen. You have to capitulate. If you accept the inevitable, and prepare for it, life gets easier. You will be at peace. Now, there are things worth fighting for. But life is not to be fought against. You have to embrace it, surrender to it. Whatever happens, accept it. Rejoice in the here and now. Being happy doesn't mean being blissfully unaware of what is happening. It is finding beauty in sadness. It is embracing grief and realizing how wonderful it is to care and be cared about enough for loss to hurt. It really is that simple.

All of these inner perceptions are the bricks of life. They are the rocks that make the path called inner peace. But they are held together by a mortar. Something cements these rocks, holding them together, making the path stable enough to tread upon. This connecting substance is our unity with the universe. We are not alone. Our interactions with other living things is what binds these rocks together. Have you ever noticed that if you are in a room and suddenly somebody starts laughing that everybody wants to hear the joke? Why? We are all connected. We all want that laughter. When you are sitting alone and see a loving couple exchange affections you either will look and think "how nice, how cute" or you will be annoyed. Why? Because we all seek that connection with another. We are all individual cogs in one giant machine. We are all individual grains of sand that make up one paradise beach. Our Inner Peace does depend upon how we perceive others. Others' Inner Peace depends upon how we interact with them. Would you choose to be around, the gloomy nay-saying pessimist that expresses disdain for everything? That guy who is always complaining? Or would you rather be with the funny person with the good jokes? The person with the smile on his face? The guy who solves problems and helps everybody out? The guy who knows how to get the job done, done right, then go and have fun? I choose guy number two. The trick is this, make yourself guy number two and you will always have him/her around. Before you know it, those you are closest to will start to be guy number two as well.

Yes, it really is all that simple.

And yes, I am a warrior. I go to war. I fight the battles that must be fought. Many of them are battles that most people would not fight. My world is a world of chaos and conflict. Yet, at the moment, mine is a path of inner peace. At least I have faith that it is.

Lead Us, But Lead Us Not

For the majority of his youth, Michael had been slight for his age. With this perceived disadvantage so came the bullying in the schoolyard and at the local playground.
The bullying and taunting intensified when he started playing baseball in the local little league program. Because of his size, he was always assigned to right field. Because of the local rules, the coach was forced to play everybody on the team for at least three innings. Michael always started the games, playing the first three so that the bigger and better kids were in the game for the final six. Of course, he also batted last and was told not to swing. He was small, so his strike zone was far more difficult to hit. The coaches decided that a walk would be a man on base, but Michael trying to hit the ball would result in an out or double play.
One game, Michael was frustrated with not being allowed to "swing away". With a runner on second, Michael bunted down the first base line, advancing the runner to third. What the coaches failed to recognize was Michael's speed. He was on first base and taunting the opposing team to throw the ball to second before any player could even get a grasp on the ball. Of course, he forced the error on a wild throw, and made it to second. The runner made it home, giving Michael's team an early lead. However, Michael was taken out of the game in the third inning. In addition, the coach gave him a lecture on following directions.
When the team ended up losing the game on an in-the-park home run in the ninth inning, it somehow became Michael's fault because they "would have won if some people listened and did what the coach said". Michael responded searching for accolades for his bunt. The team ended up running the perimeter of the park 20 times because of his arrogance. Michael got his nose broken and his briefs pulled halfway up his back from other members of his team. Six boys from the team circled around Michael while Hank, the chubby catcher and biggest bully of the bunch, slapped Micheal around and gave him a "Melvin". The coaches stood by cheering the whole time.
In an act of defiance, Michael struck out swinging in his one at-bat the next game, two days later. He suffered jeers and teasing from the rest of his team, led by Hank, that day and during the next two successive practices. The whole team, to include the coaches were against him, it seemed.
All of them joined in the mob mentality of picking on the little guy, except for Vinnie. Vinnie was the team's superstar. Vinnie appeared to be a natural at baseball. He was the league's best pitcher with a remarkable fastball for a 10-year-old. He also led the league in RBIs and had the best batting average with a .800. It seemed that every time Vinnie stepped up to the plate, he knocked the ball out of the park.
What made it appear that Vinnie was such a great player was that he was able to do all of this despite his having to leave games or practices early on Tuesdays and Thursdays for some unknown reason. He also was late to several Saturday games due to some other commitment. What the rest of the team didn't know was that Vinnie spent at least an hour a day all year round with his father practicing baseball. What the rest of the team also didn't know was that baseball wasn't Vinnie's only athletic activity.
After the particularly second practice, Michael walked over to his bike, doing his best to hide the tears welling in his eyes. He knew the tears would just goad the rest of the team into punishing him more. The usually quiet and soft-spoken Vinnie rallied the rest of the team around him. He spoke of teamwork and unity. He told the others that the only way the team could be great would be if everybody pulled their weight and helped each other to improve. He then told them that he didn't think that what they did to Michael was right. Vinnie's eyes peered directly into Hank's the entire time. He walked away from the rest of the team and stopped Michael before he could ride away.
Vinnie waited until the other kids were gone. He took Michael back on the field and threw him some slow pitches, gradually increasing the speed. He told Micheal to just connect with them, not to swing all the way through. He worked on technique and focus. Soon, Micheal was hitting the ball into left-center, a perfect hole for a base hit. Vinnie cheered each time he had to run back to retrieve the ball for the next pitch. "Look, Micheal, you have to listen to the coach. But here's the deal. If that pitcher actually puts one into your strike zone, and you hit it like that, well, there's nothing anybody can say. With your speed, you'll have a double every time. The coaches won't stop you from swinging anymore."
"Thanks Vinnie"
"Hey, Michael, one more thing. What are you doing Saturday morning?"
"Watching cartoons. Other than that, nothin' "
"I'll have my dad pick you up at eight."
"There's somebody I want you to meet."

That Saturday morning, Micheal sat on his front porch in anticipation. He had no idea what Vinnie's plan was or where they were going. Michael expected it would have something to do with baseball, so he wore a sweatsuit and had his glove. In a backpack, he had a nice pair of jeans and a cool shirt in case it wasn't baseball. Vinnie's father pulled up and Vinnie motioned for Micheal to get in the car. "Sorry we're late, I had some chores to do. But Dad says we'll still be there in time."
The whole ride, Michael berated father and son to tell him where they were headed. The two just grinned and shook their heads. Fifteen minutes later, they pulled into the parking lot of a boarded-up store. A older man motioned them inside and patted Micheal on the head. "So this is the 'new brother' you were bragging about? Well, Vinnie, we'll see how he measures up."
The man's words welled anxiety into Micheal's heart. Micheal wondered what they would be expecting of him in this strange place. The old man told Micheal to take off his shoes and place his bag, shoes, and baseball glove in the corner.
"Sir, what is this place? Why am I here?"
"Micheal, this is a sacred place. It is my school. I teach boys to be men. I teach men to be warriors."
"So you're going to teach me how to fight?"
"I teach people how to defend themselves and to defend others. I teach how to fight if you must. I also teach how to not fight unless it can be helped. I teach a way of life. That I'm going to teach you anything is yet to be seen. Now, here are my rules. Do what I say as I say or show to do it. Do not question what I say, only how. Never say that you are sorry, to me, only that you will do better. Do better. The words 'I can't' are forbidden here. Whatever I teach you must never be used in anger. You must never use what I teach you to harm anybody else unless you absolutely have no other choice. The other students in this school will be your brothers and sisters. You must always stand up for what is best for them, just like you should for your own family. Never be disrespectful of your parents. Study hard in school. Practice 'the way' at all times. Never dishonor your family, this school, or yourself. Can you follow these rules?"
"That is a 'yes, sir' or a 'no, sir'. You must make that choice, here an now. Here is where you are. Now is the time of choosing. This is a choice that can shape the rest of your life. This choice is your first lesson. It is also the most important one. So, once more time, Michael. Will you follow these rules?"
"Yes, sir."
"Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, you will be here without fail, as long as you are a member of this school. You will recite these rules at the beginning and end of each class. Vinnie has a copy of our book at home. I gave it to him on Thursday, to give to you when the time was right. Ask him for it."
"Yes, sir."
"You learn quickly. Now, go to that corner, sit on your heels, and watch the class. Do not ask anything. Do not make a sound. Do not move from that spot until I tell you to, for any reason."
Micheal obeyed. He watched in amazement the different things the other students could do. They could move with such grace, speed, and power it was entrancing.  He listened to the teacher's words, and let them fill his mind. Questions formed, then answered themselves. Near the end of the class, the teacher motioned for Micheal to join them. He introduced Michael to the rest of the class. Then the class circled around him.
"Michael, it is time to see if you learned anything today. Relax and clear your mind. think of nothing. I do not mean to not think of anything. I mean think about what 'nothing' is. Close your eyes and trust us."
Michael did as he was told. The world spun and he found himself on his back on the mat. "Stand up and do it again". Micheal obeyed, but he was more tentative. Again, he ended up on the mat. "Michael, to learn to walk, you have to crawl, then stand, then fall. Trust and unity are the same way. Now, go to that end of the mat. Think of nothing. Feel the way your body works. Walk from there to the other end. Do not stop. Do not raise a hand. Oh, and Micheal, do not open your eyes for anything."
Michael again did what he was told. Sometimes, he felt the world spin. He expected to feel the mat strike his face, but it didn't. Other times, he stepped and he felt a slight touch turn him in another direction. He was tempted to open his eyes to re-orient his direction. He avoided the temptation and squinted them tighter. then he felt himself lifted into the air by many hands.
"Open your eyes, Michael. You did it." Michael was suddenly aware that some of the other students pushed him around, struck him, and threw him in order to test his resolve. Others pushed him back to the correct course, back onto his path.
The rest of the class held him up and carried him to the center. One of the other students pointed to a spot and told Michael to stand there. the rest of the class formed into a rectangle with Micheal at the back, left corner. The class bowed to the teacher. Then they recited the rules.

Michael diligently continued to attend the classes. He also started practicing baseball with Vinnie for a half-hour before or after every regular practice and game. The two quickly became close friends. Hank noticed this and started to jibe and taunt Vinnie about it. Vinnie always responded with a quiet grin. the other team members began to take notice. A schism seemed to develop, half the team remaining loyal to Hank while the other half siding with Vinnie. In all of this, Vinnie seemed to take no side but Michael's. The season ended with a loss in the championship game. Hank used the loss as an excuse to, once again, blame little Michael for all that was wrong in the little league world.
Eight months passed. Michael continued with his training at the school. He discovered that the martial art he was learning was a form of Bujitsu,  the way of the Samurai. But it was a ryu, or school, developed by the teacher. The school he attended was the only of its kind in the world, the only one that taught this particular style. The teacher had traveled the world as a young man and learned several styles of martial arts, to include traditional Japanese Karate and Aikido. What he taught was a blend of these various styles.
He also heard rumors that the teacher had studied with monks in Tibet and various spiritual leaders around the world. He heard adults use another name for the teacher. Micheal later learned that name to mean "bringer of peace" in some other language. Michael fond it odd that a teacher of fighting would have such a title. One day, after class, Michael asked the teacher about it. The teacher responded only that some people use names and titles for others because it helps them to categorize the roles of the others is in their life. He said that many called him "bringer of peace" because he insists on battling against unnecessary conflict with peace and kindness. "I battle force with leverage. Most of the time, the best leverage is to be gentle or give in without giving up. That is our way."
Baseball season began again with practices and team meetings. Hank continued to badger and taunt both Michael and Vinnie. During the third practice of the season, the coach insisted upon batting practice. Hank retorted that letting Michael bat was a waste of time, since he wasn't allowed to swing anyway. Micheal did as Vinnie had coached him. He let the ball go past him seven times because it was not in "the zone". Then the coach snickered when he saw the sign that Hank gave him. It was for an inside fastball. Because he found some bit of malicious humor to it, he let one rip. Out of control, it smacked Micheal in the helmet.
"Oh, no, the little baby's gonna cry!" Hank belted out in response.
To everybody's amazement, Michael stood up, dusted himself off, and stepped back into the box. "Coach, could you please throw me a strike for once? The kids on the other teams throw better than that."
The coach responded with another heater. This one was a fastball that could have come from a professional minor-league pitcher. Michael swung the bat and met the ball. The ball flew to the bottom of the fence in left-center field. The rest of the team stood with mouths agape as Vinnie cheered his friend. Hank took this as a personal affront, an attack on his character.
After the practice, Hank and his band of six surrounded Michael with the intent of giving him another bloody nose and "Melvin", at the very least.
Vinnie walked up, followed by the rest of the team. "Hank, what's the matter? Do you need six people to fight your battles for you?"
"What, you here to fight his battles for him? I don't need these guys. Does little Mikey-wikey need his bodyguard to defend him?"
"Actually, Hank, I'm here to see that you don't get hurt. We need our catcher this year."
"Me, get hurt?"
The rest of the team laughed with Hank.
"Michael, remember the rules. Don't hurt him more than you have to."
Hank rushed at Micheal. Micheal moved to the side and tripped Hank. "Hank, just let it go. I don't want to fight."
"You mean you don't want your ass kicked again," replied Hank as he stood up and rushed in swinging. Michael blocked the punches and responded with a single punch to Hank's midsection. Hank doubled over and fell to the ground. Micheal reached down to try to help Hank back to his feet.
"I'd want to be your friend and team mate, Hank. Friends and team mates don't fight each other."
Hank responded by slapping Michael's hand away. Michael offered his hand again. Hank took it and allowed Micheal to help him to his feet. Once there, he tightened his grip and tried to pull Micheal into a bear hug. Micheal ducked and curtsied,  allowing Hank to fall over Micheal and land on the ground to the other side. By now, the other kids were laughing at Hank's failure. Micheal looked at Vinnie.
"That's enough. This isn't funny!" yelled Vinnie. The other kids looked stunned. Again, Michael offered to help Hank to his feet. Hank was crying in embarrassment. He got to his feet and began to run home.
Twenty minutes later, Vinnie and Michael knocked on Hank's door. When Hank finally succumbed to his mother's goading, he came to the door. "Hank, about today, we're really sorry. Vinnie and me have been talking. What are you doing Saturday morning? There is somebody we want you to meet."

35 years later, three men met at a local bar. They shared a friendship and a bond that had grown stronger with the years. Hank was still Hank. Hank had become a psychologist specializing in family counseling and teen crisis therapy. Vinnie was now "Coach" or "Mr. P". Vinnie made it onto a major league baseball team, but was cut after one season. He decided not to pursue that path. Instead, he decided to follow his life-long ambition as a high school math teacher and baseball coach. Michael was now known as "Cale". He had just retired from the military, having served numerous tours at war. He was preparing to travel in order to work on his doctorates in philosophy and spirituality. This was his homecoming and farewell party.
A drunken thirty-something  bumped, spilling both of their drinks. The drunk immediately became confrontational. Hank apologized and offered to replace the man's beer.
"For your clumsiness I ought to beat the beer out of you."
"Yeah, yeah... I remember the rules." Hank turned to the man as Vinnie and Cale pulled bills out of their pockets and handed them to Hank. "Let us buy you and your friends another round, friend."
Hank turned to hand the money to the bartender. The drunk drew back his fist to hit Hank. Cale deflected the blow and turned the drunk to face him. Gripping the man's hand, he shook it. "I'm Cale and I'm damned glad to meet you. I always say that nobody can ever have enough friends." The drunk's demeanor shifted, softened.
"Hey, dude, I'm sorry. I had a bad day."
"Everybody has those now and then. Tell ya what, why don't we all sit down and see if me, my friends, you, and your friends can't all turn a bad day into a good night, together."
The night went on. As they were preparing to head home, Hank and Vinnie asked Cale what he was planning to do after he got back from his trip.
"I'm planning on re-opening the school, and I can sure use a couple of assistant peace-bringers."

Abandon the Lodestones Attached to your Spirit


The word holds many negative connotations. A parent abandons a child. A husband abandons his wife. Somebody wreaks havoc with "reckless abandon". When a situation appears impossible to overcome, one abandons all hope. When life takes an unexpected turn, people abandon their dreams.

Yet, other things may also be abandoned.

One day, I headed outside of the wire. While traveling to our destination, we encountered five IEDs, each with a secondary device. Once the math is done, that equates no less than ten bombs that were meant to kill us. This was not the first time we had gone outside of the wire. This was not our first encounter with deadly IEDs. We knew how to react to them and mitigate any damage they could cause. We abandoned our flight response, leaving only the fight response. That saved many lives that day.

You can abandon the negative things that will hold you back. You can abandon what you know to be poor responses to whatever happens. You cannot abandon fear. If you do that, you won't have your early warning system that keeps you safe. But you can abandon acting in fear. You can abandon being a victim. You can abandon helplessness.

You cannot abandon heartbreak. I would not suggest abandoning that or grief. You need them. they help you to learn and grow and understand the world. But you can abandon hatred. You can abandon all the fighting and bad times. You can abandon thinking it was your fault that something lasted as long as it was meant to ended. Feel the pain. Learn from it. Abandon what caused it. It is over.

You can learn and move forward. You can abandon your past, once you have taken from it what you need. The past is meant to be left behind. If you hold too tightly to it, you will be left behind by your own life.

In my own life, I have learned to abandon many things that would hold me back. I had to. I have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from the war. If a deep spiritual search hadn't led me back to a path seeking enlightenment; I would be lost in a very dark place. I had to abandon much of that darkness. It was filled with screams. It was filled with gushing blood. It was filled with the stench of death. I still smell things like a steak cooking on a grill and flash back. But I have learned to abandon the hold those memories had upon me. The flashbacks are no longer as frequent. They are no longer as frightening. When they come about, I abandon those feelings and feel Here and Now.

Sun Tzu wrote that when things do not go as planned and all appears lost that there exists a way, in each situation, to turn it to your advantage. To do so, you have to have courage and determination. You have to abandon concession and defeat. This goes with everything in life, including death.

The only negative emotions are anger, greed, hate, envy, and jealousy. Abandon them. Leave them behind. If you act in anger and hatred, you will end up hurting somebody you will regret harming. Fear has its place. You cannot let it conquer you. but it is there to warn you. Love is a great thing. Lust can be as well, as long as it goes hand in hand with love. Grief comes from losing something or somebody you love. It shows you care. It is a way to remember that love; not that it ended but that it exists! In that, grief is very beautiful.

There are no hopeless situations. Abandon that thought.

There are no ordinary moments. Every moment is special and beautiful. Look for the beauty. Abandon the ugliness.

We are all connected. Harming another should be a last resort. Hating and hurting others hurts ourselves and those we love. Harming another should only be done to decrease that pain when nothing else will do so. Abandon hatred. Abandon revenge. Instead, embrace unity and compassion.

Normally, I am against littering. However, when it comes to these things, dump them on the side of the road. Toss them in the river. Flush them down the toilet. These negatives are trash that will weigh you down. Don't carry them. Abandon them. The laws of metaphysics dictate that they are 100% biodegradable.

The Feeling of Life and the Journey of Living

I was watching a romantic comedy. There was one line in it that struck my semi-awakened mind. The truth behind the line was so profound that I felt the need to expand upon it.  I offer to you more insights born from, of all things, an inane line from a romantic comedy.

It is not the meaning of life that matters but the feeling of life and the journey of living. That is the end result of my paraphrasing and twisting the movie line.

How many of us are looking for the meaning behind everything that happens, especially the things that happen we don't want?  How many of us planned for an outing or an event only to have something come up at the last minute forcing us to change those plans? If it hasn't happened to you yet in your life, it will. It is a fact of life. It is "house rules", as Dan Millman would say.

When this happens, in our reaction there inevitably come the questions of "Why did this have to happen?" and "Why me?". Did the universe just have it out for you that day? No. Is everybody out there trying to ruin your plans? No. the truth is that what happened, happened. You didn't foresee it and you didn't count on it. Where does the blame truly reside? Well, the answer is simple. The blame resides inside you.

Now, I'm not doing a bunch of finger-pointing here. I am just bringing certain things to light. The reason you feel as though things went wrong is because you chose to feel that way. Your allowed your mind to control your emotions. Did something happen? Yes. but what were our actions? Did you choose to pout over it? Did you choose to start finger pointing? Did you choose to ask the negative questions? Yes, you did, even if the choice was subconscious. 

Happiness is a point of view. Do you blame the sky for raining or do you learn to dance in the rain? I prefer to dance in the rain. It can be quite invigorating and enjoyable. 

If the burden of life seems to become too cumbersome, which do you do: pray for the burden to be lifted or pray for bigger shoulders to carry it? Life throws us nothing we cannot handle. It may take a little bit of management, yes. But we are born with the capacity to deal with whatever life throws our way. It is up to you to take action. Yes, that action sometimes means making the conscious choice not to act. 

Life is not a destination. It is a journey. The load we carry shifts as we travel. Sometimes things drop off, evaporate, or are used. Sometimes those things are replaced. Sometimes something new is added. Each thing we carry has its purpose. It is up to you to figure out what you want to use them for. But that is the great puzzle of life, isn't it? That is what makes life fun, figuring out the puzzles. In the end, it doesn't matter if we got it right or not, but that we did our best and had fun in the process.

Feeling is what makes life enjoyable. How we perceive something is up to our point of view. Yes, bad things happen. We can all agree that there are things that universally are negative. Feel those things. Enjoy feeling those things. I know, it sounds weird to say you should enjoy grieving. Without the love that is there, the grieving wouldn't be there either. Enjoy feeling sorrow. It reminds you that you care about something. but don't let those feelings be the end of your existence. Instead, use that love that was there for positive actions. I guarantee that nobody who cared about us who has passed wants us to waste the rest of our lives pondering on why they had to die. It's "house rules". Everybody dies. The trick is to accept that and enjoy the life you have, NOW! That's what our loved ones want of us. Yes, they want to be remembered. But none of them want their memory to consume your life.

Feel life. Feel everything around you. Feel the wind in your hair. Feel the sun on your face. Feel the snowflakes on your eyelids. Feel the kiss on your lips. Feel the rain drip off of your nose. Feel the hand that you're holding. Feel the grass growing beneath your feet. Hear the music of the universe. See the wonderful displays of nature: lightning, butterfly wings, flowers. Smell the scents. taste the flavors of your food. ACT... don't just think about it. 

The bottom line is that you need to make the conscious choice to enjoy every step of the journey of life. Yes, sometimes you will step onto a rocky path. Sometimes that path will have sharp stones that cut your heel. Taking a short break to let that cut heal is taking an action. While doing so, smell the roses. Adjust that burden. build bigger shoulders. Refill your canteens. If all you do is sit there and worry about that cut, that cut will rule your life instead of giving you the opportunity to enjoy everything else that's around you. Do so passionately!

Walk through life aware of what is around you. Keep peace, love, kindness, courtesy, compassion in your heart. Do not do with naivety. Protect yourself and those things you love and care about. Live in the moment, for that is the way of the warrior. Action is the spirit of the warrior.

Scan, Focus, ACT!

When I deployed on my second tour to Iraq, I worked for GEN Metz, among others. General Metz sent out a message to all of those in his command on his basic tactical philosophy for combat. That message was not only given in speeches and policy letters, but handed out in cards to each soldier in theater. It gave thre basic steps to every situation a soldier in Iraq may face.

Step One: SCAN

Keep looking across your sector. Take in all the details. Look for anything out of the ordinary, anything that didn't appear normal or as though it belonged. Keep your attention on everything you are responsible for at all times.

Step Two: FOCUS

When you notice that thing that appears different, out of the ordinary, not right; bring your full attention to it, get into the details and see what must be done.

Step Three: ACT

Do what you know must be done. Pull the trigger. Reduce the IED. Save the child.

These words, this philosophy, is great advice to the soldier in the field. A soldier that keeps these steps in mind stands a better chance at coming home safe, getting his buddies home safe, completing the mission, and making things better for the local nationals.

General Metz is a wise man. His words were great advice and guidance for the soldiers. But knowing General Metz, I am sure that his words were meant not only for actions at war, but as a course for daily life, regardless of the circumstances. He did apply this philosophy to things other than just actions in combat. But they were things all relating to the life of a combat soldier. He applied the philosophy to safety both in the field and at home (or out recreating). It really is great advice.

But does this advice apply to the everyday Joe Public? How can this soldiers' way be significant to a college student, a mother, a father, a priest, an insurance salesman, or a plumber? Can people like this benefit from a soldier's basic method?

The warrior's path is open to anybody willing to walk it, regardless of profession. Anybody willing to brave the path, the way, can also benefit from this methodology. So, after some thought, I am sharing my interpretation of General Metz's guidance to those willing to try it. As simple as it may seem, like all simple things worth doing, it isn't easy. You have to do it with intent, and practice it at every given opportunity, every given moment. Eventually, it will become second nature.


Those who have read my earlier blogs may already know this message, this step. Scanning is nothing more than paying attention to all of life around you. It means being aware of everything at once, and living in the here and now. It means actively feeling the wind in your hair and the sun on your skin. It means actively feeling the rain on your face and the snowflakes on your eyelashes. It means listening to the cooing of an infant and the stories of the elders. Take everything in, and sift through it to find what is out of the ordinary.

To quote Dan Millman, "There are No Ordinary Moments". There is something extraordinary in each moment. Many are not aware enough to sense it. Nobody is perfect and everybody's attention wanders at one time or another. But, as much as possible, if you are scanning the here and now, you will sense that extraordinary "object". It is there, if you sense it or not. To look for it, you haveto look in everything at once.

You have to widen your perceptions. You have to open yourself to the points of view of others. You have to change your vantage points and see for yourself. You have to open yourself up to receive that extraordinary item. It is not hidden. It is like those elusive keys when you are running late. You look all over the place to find where you left them. But you are too busy focusing on this or that to see that they have been in your hand the whole time. Sometimes, it takes somebody else to say "your keys are in your hand, dummy". And, in this process, it is perfectly fine to laugh at yourself for missing them.


Temporarily turn your attention to that extraordinary thing. Take in its details. take in the joy and wonder of it. Let that extraordinary thing fill you. If grieving, take in the love for that person that made them mean so much to you. If celebrating, take in the purpose of that celebration and let it fill you. If caring for somebody, take in the life and love of that other being. Let that touch fill you.

We live moment to moment, not day to day or second to second. Every moment is extraordinary. The trick to happiness, that deep down happiness, is to focus on those extraordinary things when we notice them. The more you open yourself up to them, the more they appear. When they do, embrace them. If you chase them, they will run away. If you open yourself up, they will come to you.


When that extraordinary thing becomes apparent and you have focused  in on it, it is time to act. It is time to make a choice and apply the necessary leverage. If music is playing, it is time to dance. If somebody is doing wrong, it is time to stop it. If somebody needs help, it is time to help. If it is a tranquil moment, it is time to enjoy the silence. If it is a moment leading to a future decision, itis time to take in the facts you have, or move to where you can get that better vantage point, get those facts. But on that one extraordinary thing, it is time to act. It is time to choose. It is time to act by choosing patience. It is time to act by choosing to smile, or cry, or laugh. It is time to act by choosing to live with intent, putting all of your energy into the moment, into that extraordinary thing, to change it, make it even more extraordinary, make it better, stop it from being bad.

In Aikido, there are two parts to any movement. There is the touch and the release. In the touch, you connect with the energy of the outside. You focus on that energy. You move with it and, if necessary, gently change that energy's course. But you embrace it. The second part is the release. This is where you choose to let that energy go back out into the world in the direction you chose. It is changed through its harmony with you. You are the catalyst that changed it.

If focusing is the touch, the embrace, that moment of harmony, then the release is the action. All things that go up, must come down. All things that touch must eventually release. Through the action of intentional choice, you do not chose the fact that there is a release, or even necessarily the timing. But you do affect the path it takes as well as the path you take.

But all of the Scanning and Focusing is wasted without the Acting. You must do, even if that doing is the intentional choice to do nothing but enjoy the moment and that extraordinary part of it.

Each moment has that extraordinary part.

Scan. Focus. Act. Repeat.

This is the way of the warrior. Do so with peace in your heart.

My thanks again to Mr. Dan Millman for his inspiration. My thanks to General Metz for his tutelage and attention. Thanks to all the other peaceful warriors out there. Most of all, thanks to all of you who took the time to read the ramblings of this madman and fool.

"It's better to be a humorous, old fool than a young, serious jackass" (Socrates to Dan Millman, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior).

Comments, questions, observations and discussion are highly encouraged. Kudos are always welcomed.

Three Poems from a Warrior's Heart

My Brothers' Keeper

To Those of 3/25 IBCT who didn't make it home.

Seek me not in your hallowed quarters for I am not among you
Look down not upon me with malice or disdain
I know where the blame rests
I carry the guilt
Knowing you can never be replaced
Please find a way to welcome me
When years from now, my time comes to join you there.

Feel the reciprocated touch
Of all those you touched in your short years
brush soothing on your brows
And ease your souls to rest
Know your smiles are burned into my heart
With the laughter we shared and the songs we sang
In those fleeting moments between the horrors
We had embraced as normalcy.
I miss you my friends and brothers.
Please forgive me
And know you are immortal and eternal in my heart.
For the heart forgets not even what the mind fails to remember
And I remember how you lived.
Copyright ©2008


(In memory of SFC Schuyler Haynes, CPT Chris Seifert, CPT Derek Dobogai, CPL Yari Mokri and the other soldiers who have given their lives during Operation Iraqi Freedom)

Alert and singular in purpose
Not allowing his mind to drift
He left his thoughts in Victory Base
For later he could contemplate as he packed
How the next morning he would be on his way
How his wife and child would be surprised
His mom would cry tears of joy
And a hero's welcome he would face
For this was his last patrol 'fore
A fortnight's peace well earned

A flash and a bang
Mom cried no tears of Joy
No happy surprise for his beloved nor son
He caught the last flight out of Baghdad that night
Not on a C-17 but on Angels' wings.

  © 28 DEC 2003

Waking Under Water

to those afflicted with PTSD

Seeking stillness, This aching silence
fills my nights and haunts my days
I crave you with each waking hour
still unnoticed, midnight screams get louder
reaching out, I still think you're there
Don't touch me
unless you know you love me
Just hold me
and let me know you're there
in this silence,
 in this darkness
Unaware of where I am,
 Waking Under Water.

I hear your voice in my head
above the raining cries for help
Your words reach me, their sound is calming
You still cry out For this to end
Don't Save Me
unless you know you love me
Can you save me
if you cannot save yourself
From the screams that break the silence
Come touch me,
let me know you love me
let me hold you
And let you know I am here
In this darkness,
 Waking Under Water
Copyright ©2008