My father volunteered for Special Forces before I turned one, back in the early sixties before Group’s reorganization in 64. Throughout my life, he taught me the things he knew from his training and from his experience in White Star (Operation White Star Mobile Training Teams WSMTT).
He taught me how to shoot, fight, and us my mind to control fear and to overcome mental and physical obstacles and limitations. He was one of the best this country ever produced. I had a good teacher.
Dad did not know the specifics of how the mind communicates with and controls the body. He just knew how to make it work. His lessons, however, sparked my drive to further knowledge.
He and I took Evelyn Wood Speed Reading Dynamics in the early 70s, and we both did well. I increased my speed to thousands of words a minute. I did not know at the time, but this course was exposing me to important insights on how the mind works.
A person speed reading does not sound out the words but takes words in a block at a time, much like someone with a photographic memory is able to read a page at a glance. Think of it this way: when you finish reading a book, you no longer hear the words in your head but are left with the meaning. Gleaming knowledge while speed-reading is something like that. This process intrigued me, that the mind could absorb words and gleam information in that way. It opened my imagination to understanding how the mind/brain works.
Later, back in the States, I went to my first summer camp. Up to then, I had not played much ping-pong but challenged the camp champ to a game anyway. He beat me twenty-one to one. That evening, I sat by myself and played a game against him in my mind, visualizing every serve, return, volley, and score. The next day he beat me twenty-one to twenty. He was pleased and surprised. Nobody had yet given him a good game.
I was surprised too. Who knows where I got the idea to use visualization in this way. I could have learned it from dad or heard or read about it somewhere; but I simply do not remember. I may have even figured it out myself. Nonetheless, it worked, and it worked well and opened me to further investigation to understanding the mind/brain.
I carried these lessons with me into the military. Of course I used my knowledge of the mind/brain to help me succeed in basic training and my advanced individual training, although these were not all that challenging physically or mentally. However, airborne training stressed both mind and body, especially running in a Georgian August.
In basic and AIT, we ran only a mile at a time. Airborne trainees ran four miles. I had never run four miles before and had to quickly develop a mental technique to remove pain, fear, and doubt. During the runs, I focused on the back of the guy to my front. We ran without shirts due to the heat, so I focused on one of his vertebra, narrowing my vision and attention. The mind/brain cannot focus upon two different things at the same time. So excluding all other thought by focusing my attention on one point, the vertebra, my mind/brain did not and could not acknowledge the pain existed. Without the brain’s acknowledgement, there is no pain.
I arrived at COSCOM Fort Bragg on a Friday afternoon straight out of airborne training. The OD steered me to my barrack and told me what time to fall out for PT that following Monday. I had been training for six long months and felt ready for anything.
That Monday morning, about one hundred fifty guys wandered out of the billets, all there to get ready for Special Forces Phase One.
“Who are those guys?” I asked, seeing a group of men standing apart from us across the way.
“They’re an A-Team. They’re conducting the run this morning.”
I’d never seen a real life A-Team before and was impressed.
“Someone said they’re running us four miles this morning.”
“Oh, good,” I said. “I can run that far.”
I had been afraid PT with Special Forces was going to be rough. Standing there in the early morning darkness, I had no idea my previous four-mile runs were rice pudding compared to what I was about to endure.
Bringing us to attention, the lieutenant moved us out onto the main road. He called for double-time, march, and then he took off at a sprint. The formation of men stretched and contracted like an accordion trying to catch up and get organized.
We were running at near top speed. I had never run four miles that fast. I had never run one mile that fast. I suddenly thought, “This is a shakeout run. They’re going to send everybody who falls out to the 82nd Airborne.” I then heard my father’s voice. “Son,” he had said at the airport as I left for airborne training, “no matter what they do to you, don’t quit. Determine in your mind, fix in your heart, the only way you will leave is when they carry you away in a pine box or drag you off down the highway, kicking and screaming to stay.”
I fixed not quitting in my heart.
Within a half-mile, men were leaping from the formation like flees off a hotplate. I quickly reverted to my mental trick, focusing on the guy’s back in front of me. Soon, I was running outside myself, focused on a fold in a white tee shirt, listening to the sound of more than a hundred pair of combat boots clapping asphalt in unison against the early morning stillness.
Guys in front of me were leaping out one at a time over the first two miles, forcing me to move up in line. I finally found myself up front and had to find a new focal point. I focused on a spot at the horizon, where the ground came into view as we ran. We made two lefts and headed back to the barracks. My focus was so intense I stopped hearing the boot beat. I stopped feeling the breeze. My world became limited to that distant spot. Nothing else existed.
Killer Hill broke my concentration, but I regained it at the top. One mile later, the lieutenant called us to a march and then stopped us in front of headquarters building. When he turned us to face him, I glanced over my shoulder at the formation and was shocked. I was one of only twelve guys who had finished the run.
The lieutenant didn’t say a word but looked us one at a time, jaw set, and gave us all a quick nod of approval before dismissal. I felt good, although I was spent, and my legs were a bit wobbly. Moreover, the experience left me reeling. Before that day, I had suspected but didn’t fully comprehend the power of the mind. I had not just played a ping-pong game. I had just experienced the real deal, and everything I had learned came together on that run to a good end.
Not long after, I began studying hypnosis and its techniques, increasing my understanding of the mind/body relationship. Hypnosis seems mysterious, and people hold many misconceptions on the subject. Nonetheless, it is not produced through magic spells, animal magnetism, or any other external power. It is a natural part of the mind/brain, a quirk brought into being due to the intricacies of the most complicated mechanism in the universe. This quirk is useful, if we know how to employ it. Through goal oriented focused attention, relaxation, and suggestion, one can set aside the conscious mind and tap the subconscious, a source of tremendous power and control (Consider my four-mile sprint, whereon I relaxed, strove for a goal as I focused vision and attention, and listened to my father’s suggestion.)
I soon had an opportunity to use one of the hypnosis I found an opportunity to use one of its techniques to help another. I tested for my Expert Field Medical Badge (EFMB); a weeklong test of medical and military knowledge, culminating in a twelve-mile timed individual march with backpack. I wasn’t in the same shape I had been in Ft. Bragg, but I didn’t let that slow me down. I picked up the pace and left the others testing for their EFMB behind, staying well ahead and out of sight of the mob for the rest of the march.
At about mile ten, two guys from the infantry caught up to me and we fought for position for a half-mile until I developed a leg cramp. This wasn’t a race, but I did want to come in first. Nonetheless, they pulled ahead. A young woman I had come to know during the testing caught up to me, but she overspent her energy doing so and began to fad. Encouragement helped her only so much; she had nothing left and talked about stopping altogether.
I turned to a hypnosis technique.
“Imagine,” I said, “a large sliver reflective sphere in front of us, huge with a tremendous gravitational force that is pulling us forward and upward, making us light on our feet. It is pulling us upward and forward, and we are growing lighter and lighter. Walking is now easier and easier.”
Our bodies are capable of so much more than we know or believe. The above technique took conscious thought out of the equation and allowed her subconscious to take control of her actions. The subconscious evaluates nothing but accepts all information as true. Imagining a large sphere pulling her along sparks the subconscious to attempt to make that visualizing come true.
Her strength renewed, but my leg cramp would not relent. I was hobbling like House without a cane. I told her to go on and follow her sphere to the finish line. The two young men came in first and second, she came in a close third, and I came in not far behind in forth but far ahead of the mob still out of sight.
The mind/brain controls the body. The body does not perform independent of the mind/brain. Learning how the mind controls the body allows one to overcome physical and mental obstacles that prohibit performance. Pain, fatigue, and or handicap are frequent inhibitors. Moreover, the mind is often its own worst enemy, too often falling victim to ignorance, doubt, and fear. Knowledge overcomes all.
This knowledge isn’t just for four-mile sprints and forced marches. As a non-golfer, I have visited a driving range only once in my life. On that day, I used visualization and imagination to drive golf balls consistently and accurately up to three hundred yards making only a couple of duffs. I’d seen golf on television. I’d seen golfers swing their clubs. That’s all I needed to perform, stored memories and imagination.
The mind is the most powerful tool you own. Learn to use it, and there is no goal you cannot achieve.