Last week I introduced the concept of Kokoro Yoga, which loosely translates as “Heart-Mind Integration.” It is a practice of cultivating a Warrior’s spirit and is the internal developmental practice Catherine Divine and I have developed to train SEAL and other warrior-athletes through my business SEALFIT. In this blog post, I would like to delve deeper into the basis for this training and lay some claims for its efficacy in forging a warrior’s spirit.
In a recent meeting with reps from the United States Marine Corps, the officers told me how disturbed they were by what they saw as declining resiliency in their troops. Of note was how PTSD was not being addressed holistically, and how consequently suicide rates continued to be high with Soldiers and Marines. The suicide rate in the Armed Forces continues to be nearly double 2005 levels, peaking in 2009 and is nearly 50% higher than the national average for the civilian population.
We agreed that addressing combat stress after the fact was an incomplete solution.Providing a sensible, simple and effective means to prepare the troops mentally and emotionally before and during combat is also required. The general message was that Soldiers and Marines lack the requisite mental and emotional development skills for success beyond the tactical mission. They may win the tactical fight, but lose the war for their own health.
The Marine officers were in agreement that it is not enough to simply throw recruits into the crucible of boot camp and infantry school, and hope they have the inner skills to deal effectively in the complex and murky battlefields of today.
An underlying key to this challenge is that recruits are not being prepared for resilience in their pre-military lives, like in the past. Resiliency in my day was forged on the farm, in the forests and through grueling physical training. Contrast that image with the numbers we face today, with 70% of 17-24-year-old American civilians who are too fat to be accepted into the Armed Forces. Today, those who have these hardy, grit-building experiences are a much smaller group than in the past and tend to gravitate to the SOF community, if they are interested in the military at all.
This leaves today’s Soldiers and Marine recruits without the basic mental skills to control their internal dialogue and direct it toward success, or the emotional intelligence to maintain a resilient attitude through the intense challenges they will face. The service indoctrination programs have a sink or swim approach and do not deliberately teach what we at SEALFIT know to be learnable mental toughness skills.
The unfortunate result is that our military members are left exposed on the battlefield as well as on the Homefront, ultimately weakening the teams and institutions of the military itself.There is no illusion that the systemic solutions provided by the leaders aren’t working. I believe this is because the current solutions don’t address the issue in an integrated manner—meaning they don’t improve the “I” inner-self of the warrior, the “We” culture of the teams, AND the “It” systems of the bureaucracy that are meant to support the warrior for optimal health and performance. The current solutions for resiliency and PTSD are one-dimensional and lack impact.
However, there is good news. We have tremendous success in developing mentally tough and resilient warriors through SEALFIT, using our Kokoro Yoga and Unbeatable Mind training. We have trained warriors going into all SOF forces, as well as select Canadian military units.
Integrated warrior training, such as ours, has been used by warrior cultures through the centuries to develop the character and spirit of the warrior, allowing warriors to access traits such as:
- Emotional resiliency and “grit”
- Mental toughness, focusing and concentration skills
- Expanded awareness and intuition
- Selflessness, Optimism, a high esteem and the ability to see the good in all
- Determination and “sisu,” or the ability to “embrace the suck”
- An appreciation for simplicity and non-attachment
These traits, among others, define the character of a warrior, a character that needs to be developed through physical, mental, emotional and spiritual training. The Spartans did not leave it to chance and hope that their warriors would be prepared to win. Nor did Merrill’s Marauders or the Underwater Demolition Teams. Warrior cultures, through the centuries, have actively developed their warriors with disciplined physical and mental training. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be doing the same in our modern military.
Born out of the Indian subcontinent, Yoga means to integrate. It is the oldest developmental system known to man, used by ascetics to develop elevated consciousness and by warriors to develop their warrior spirit. The aims were different, but the tools the same. The first was aimed at strictly interior development, the latter aimed at mastering the inner domain in service to a life of action and performance.
Kokoro Yoga brings yoga back to its warrior roots as a personal developmental tool for mastering the inner domain…not to retreat from action, but to win in the heart and mind before stepping onto the battlefield.
Modern warriors could use training such as Kokoro Yoga to access their warrior spirit, better accomplish their mission and return home to their families healthy and whole. Let’s stop ignoring the past and utilize the wisdom of our warrior ancestors.
Next week I will explore how Kokoro Yoga, as a personal system for integrated development, differs from Hot Yoga or other forms of “westernized yoga.” Until then, stay focused and ponder what it means to integrate.
Hooyah! –Coach Divine
P.S. Click HERE to pre-order the upcoming book BEFORE April 12th and get TWO awesome gifts valued at $49 including A 1 Hour Kokoro Yoga Video Training with me AND Chapter 1 of the new Kokoro Yoga Book.