Saturday, April 2, 2011

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.