In “Habits of Mastery, part 5” we discussed the concept of a heightened state of awareness.
Heightened awareness is developed through training in somatic practices such as Warrior Yoga, Qi Gong and most martial arts.
Traditionally it was also developed naturally by hunters and stalkers such as the ancient Apache Scout and modern Navy SEAL as a result of long periods of silence coupled with elevated risk.
This week I would like to look at another trait that flows from heightened awareness and is enhanced by mental fortitude. The trait is being unflappable when under extreme pressure.
This is an odd word – unflappable. The dictionary definition is “to be able to maintain composure under all circumstances;” it’s the quality that a natural leader exhibits when he or she steps up to take control of a bad situation, often awing bystanders. It is the same habit displayed by Winston Churchill as he stood up to Nazi Germany against unreal odds. But how do us “normal” folks begin to develop this habit?
Quality Breathing is the Secret
Perhaps the most valuable way we can cultivate this attitude is through developing “breath control.” Breath control is just as it sounds – taking control over our breathing pattern in a conscious effort and directing it for a specific purpose. This must be practiced just like a hand stand push-up or the flute. Without practice, the breath is at the whim of your unconscious mental and emotional states. Your mental and emotional states are at the whim of external and internal stress. The causal link is undeniable and well researched.
You can notice yourself how, unconsciously, your breathing patterns change under different forms of stress. Then, as we let out a deep sigh, we activate the universal stress shut-off valve and return to normal breathing.
Why not take Control?
Though I know we can’t control much in our lives, there is ONE thing we can control: that is our breathing.
Breath control practice is serious business for those deep into the warrior traditions of the martial arts and yoga. Tim Miller, of the Ashtanga Yoga Center in Encinitas, will practice breathing for an hour every morning before his physical training. When I am fortunate enough to practice with him I am humbled by his discipline and skill. The “light” version of the practice is in the form of our Box Breathing. I believe it to be so valuable that I start our workouts and Warrior Yoga sessions at the SEALFIT HQ with 5 minutes of box breathing every day.
Stress to Success!
Breath control is the path to unflappability for leaders who need to maintain composure under all circumstances. Through deep, controlled and rhythmic breathing, we are able to slow the brain’s unconscious activity, develop a relaxed but alert mental state, regulate the heart rate and bring the stress response under control. In doing this we turn stress into success!
PS: We are hosting a combined Unbeatable Mind Seminar 0Feb 22nd (http://beta.sealfit.com/camps-academies/uma-seminar) and 20X Challenge Feb 23rd (http://beta.sealfit.com/20x-challenge) at CrossFit honor in Allentown, PA. 10% discount on all events until year end!
Special thanks to the Diestel Turkey Ranch family for sending a couple unbelievably tasty Turkeys down to SEALFIT for Thanksgiving. Here are Jason’s words:
I have been a member of the UM community since inception and recently attended the Unbeatable Mind seminar at Crossfit Admundson. I am sure Mark will remember me; we were the “flock” of turkey farmers!
Anyhow, I would like to send one of our very special reserve pasture raised turkeys to Mark for this upcoming holiday season. All of the work that has gone into SEALFIT and Unbeatable Mind is transforming our family business and we would like to send our gratitude for this offering. Thank you very much! –Jason Diestel