The Survival Mindset

Historically, there has been a lot of information written about survival mindset, and how it makes an enormous difference in determining those who persevere and those who don’t.   If one reads popular works on the subject, it becomes apparent that there are some ideas that are constantly repeated, such as the necessity of keeping positive, having goals, and focusing on problems.  It is also obvious that these same attributes are key factors in the psychological health of the average human being in general. Unfortunately, despite all of the lip service given to this subject, a proper manual on how to achieve these goals has yet to be developed (at least in western society).

Psychological Flexibility

It is important to understand that, for most of us, our psychological inflexibility is the most important factor in determining our state of happiness and contentment, just as it will be a deciding factor in our survival both during and after a terrible event.  And, without a doubt, we will all encounter terrible events in our lives. Whether it is the loss of a loved one, painful disease, injury, or emotional trauma, there can be little doubt that every person on the face of the earth will, at some point, be faced with insurmountable odds where the solutions are not forthcoming.  The key to dealing with these situations is to acknowledge them without focusing on them even, long before they even occur.  Admittedly, this is a difficult thing to do, because we can’t predict the future. But we can predict likely events, and by dealing with them consciously long before the happen, we can better protect ourselves the events actually occurs.

Some people fall back to prayer and their reliance on god, others simply throw up their arms and ignore the problem (which doesn’t work in the long run), while still others take a more focused approach. The more focused approach is also the most effective and efficient, so that’s what we’re going to focus on.  When it comes to contemplating events, there is no better contemplative practice than meditation.

Warrior Societies

Before people start imagining that I’m off my rocker, I would like to point out that almost all warrior societies, whether they were Japanese samurai, Native American braves, or European knights, engaged in meditation, whether it was acknowledged as such or not.  Prayer, whether it be with repetitive, focused thinking as done when using rosary beads or simply focusing on a power beyond ourselves, is meditation.  Native Americans sought solace from sweat lodges and spirit guides, and samurai practiced meditation directly. In other words, people who are frequently engaged in crises generally find a way to meditate, and in cultures where crises are a norm, meditation is a staple of life.

Meditation works for a few reasons, but the most important is that meditation allows us to see our thoughts for what they are by separating them from our own ego.  In other words, when you shut your eyes to meditate and thoughts slip into your head, you can literally tell them to stop. And they will stop, if only for a moment. That simple pause in your thought process is where the real you exists.  You are not that stream of information that constantly zings through your head, nor are you the emotions that accompany them.  You are the space in between the thoughts and the feelings.

Processing Information

A computer and human mind function in very similar ways.  They both process packets of information and can only process so many packets at a given time, so try and imagine that your thoughts are a string of connected information packets being processes by a computer. Regardless of what the information is that the computer is processing, the computer stays the same.  It does not react to the information, it only processes it. If there is no information to process, the computer remains idle, but it is still a computer.

The human mind also processes information – huge amounts of it.  The difference is that humans get caught up in the information that they are processing. Their mind, ego, and emotions cause their body to react, which in turn creates even more tension in the mind and perpetuates a vicious cycle.

Practice Meditation

Meditation allows people to step away from this vicious cycle and examine who they really are.  Instead of reacting to the packets of information streaming through their mind, meditation allows people to step back and view this information for what it is, giving them the option to react to it or not.  And that is the essence of the survival mindset – knowing what information is valuable, when to act, and when to do nothing.

Meditation is easily one of the most valuable skills that people can learn.  Meditation can cure depression, relieve stress issues, improve bodily functions, and basically increase a person’s contentment, all of which are vital during demanding times.  It can be used by people to become closer to nature and to aid any religious pursuits they may have.

There are a large number of meditative programs out there on the web for people to try.  I personally find the basic Dzogchen Buddhist methodology to be the most straightforward and useful (though I’m not a Buddhist), but that’s  just personal preference.   Even without the structure of organized meditation and removed from religion (it can be introduced into any faith) , the process is still immensely useful. . The biggest problem that people encounter with meditation is that it takes a while before it really becomes effective, which leads people to lose interest or simply not put in the effort. This is disheartening, because I’ve seen any number of people drastically alter their lives from just twenty minutes of meditation a day, and in doing so provide a great deal of happiness to the people around them.

In the end, I can’t stress the usefulness of meditation enough.  When it comes to surviving trying life events there is no more useful tool than the ability to sit back and make informed, rational decisions without the influence of the ego and passions. Regardless of who you are and where you come from, life is going to present you with a host of difficult, and in time, insurmountable situations.  Knowing how to deal with problems, especially those with no solutions, is a vital part of the survival mentality that separates the real survivors from the rest.

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