MENTAL STRENGTH (Part III): Get Air

Greetings Everyday Spy,

Building mental strength is a unique and powerful experience. If you have been reading this series, I know you are feeling the benefits already.

What we are doing today may be something new to you. You are about to learn a practice that only 1% of people use.

The most challenging training I ever had to endure was water survival. I have a complicated relationship with water. I love it. It hates me.

I’ve always been drawn to large bodies of water. Lakes calm me; oceans excite me; rivers call me to adventure. But like any other passionate waterman out there, I respect water as much for its danger as its beauty.

Survival in the water centers on two fundamental human needs; warmth and oxygen.

The human body was not designed to thrive in water. Extended exposure to water weakens skin, increases blood pressure, reduces body temperature and actually causes dehydration.

As a 160lb man with 7% body fat, I don’t float well in water. I have no insulation to keep my vital organs warm. Seeing the water may bring me peace, but being in the water means work.

Water has the power to take human life in the blink of an eye. It can destroy vast areas of land in a matter of seconds. Its force cannot be stopped – only redirected.

Staying warm in the water is a matter of physics. No amount of mental strength can prevent hypothermia. One day I will teach you how to maintain cognitive functions during hypothermia, but that day is not today.

Today we focus on oxygen. Because…

The body can survive hypothermia for two hours but begins dying after 6 minutes without oxygen.

Oxygen is the most important element on the earth. Every carbon-based life form requires oxygen in some way. Oxygen is at the heart of our everyday survival – from making fire to growing farms, fighting illness to firing rounds.

But despite our total dependence on oxygen, we don’t realize its power.

95% of people breath in a way that is fundamentally flawed.

Our body can process, direct, and utilize oxygen at near perfect levels. When we are born our bodies breathe efficiently. But as we become adults, our breathing becomes less effective; not because of the body, but because of the mind.

We live in a world full of distractions. Screens, speakers, and social commentary bombard us constantly. Our environment is always competing for our attention.

The average person is exposed to 8,000 advertisements a day.

The world runs on revenue and revenue requires you. A typical consumer needs to be exposed to a product or message (ad, social media, email, etc.) seven times before they buy. So businesses, politicians, and advertisers assault your senses with stimuli.

When the human mind notices these stimuli, instinct takes over. We enter a hunting mindset – a stalking mode – that physically alters our breathing pattern. If you are still reading this letter, your breathing pattern has already changed…

When the mind is engaged on a specific external stimulus, breathing becomes rapid and shallow.

This breathing pattern increases heart rate and reduces cognitive performance. Your brain is priming your body to ‘react’ – like a cat stalking a bird. You are poised to pounce.

But rather than catch prey, your environment has primed you to consume. To buy, vote, listen, comment or like. Your mental strength has been compromised by the stimulus around you.

When primed effectively, the human mind believes it is in control when it is actually under control.

Breathing has become a buzzword used to create hype about a basic biological process. Don’t trust the buzz. ‘Just Breathe’ is a lie that sells t-shirts and bumper stickers.

Breathing is the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. It is a function, not a process.

The process to build mental strength doesn’t happen by accident. It happens by choice.

What I’m teaching you isn’t hype – it’s science.  

The more oxygen you get from each breath, the higher your mental and physical performance.

Each time you inhale, oxygen reacts with the glucose in your body. That reaction creates carbon dioxide (waste), water vapor, and a molecule known as ATP (adenosine triphosphate, aka: ‘energy’).

The higher the oxygen content, the higher the energy generated in each breath. The lower the oxygen, the lower the energy.

Less than 1% of people are trained to breathe in a way that yields superior mental and physical performance.

Trained operatives maximize individual performance using two breathing techniques:

    Holotropic Breathing – designed to control your emotional system

    Diaphragmatic Breathing – designed to control your physical systems

Holotropic and diaphragmatic breathing are two very different techniques that produce the same result – increased oxygen concentration in the bloodstream.

Whether you want to sharpen your mind when it feels foggy or regain emotional control in the face of anxiety, these two techniques will serve you without fail.

Here is how you take control of your environment with elite breathing techniques:

    Holotropic Breathing:

         Step 1: Sit or lie in a comfortable position and take deep breaths that focus on filling and emptying your lungs completely (30 seconds)

         Step 2: After 3-6 deep inhales and exhales, gradually begin to increase the rate of your breathing within comfortable limits (2 minutes)

         Step 3: Continue to increase the rate of your breathing – fully filling/emptying your lungs each time – until you reach a rate of breathing close to one full inhale/exhale per second. (3 minutes)

         Step 5: Maintain the forced rapid breathing for 1-2 minutes

         Step 6: End the exercising by taking a long, slow inhale and exhale

    Holotropic Experience: This technique is physically challenging. You will feel a head-rush and mild discomfort as your mind and body react. The process rapidly oxygenates your blood (similar to hyperventilation) and increases oxygen to the brain. As a result, your mind will feel an immediate increase in mental sharpness and clarity that lasts as long as 2 hours.

    Diaphragmatic Breathing:

         Step 1: Sit or lie in a comfortable position and take deep breaths that focus on filling your belly (diaphragm) rather than your lungs (30 seconds)

         Step 2: After each deep inhale, purse your lips tightly and force each exhale to last for 10 seconds. (2 minutes)

         Step 3: Begin inhaling using a swift, single gulping action that fills your diaphragm. Continue the extended, purseed exhale (3 minutes.)

         Step 4: End the exercise by taking a long, slow inhale and exhale

    Diaphragmatic Experience: This technique is easy and comfortable. You may feel a drop in body temperature as your blood pressure and heart rate naturally decrease. You will feel a rush of physical relaxation immediately following the last step similar to drowsiness. It is not. It is the feeling of neuromuscular release.

Welcome to a life where you use the power of oxygen to boost mental strength.

These techniques give you control over your nervous system by counteracting external stimuli. Where those around you remain under control, you just took control back.

Think of these breathing practices as tools you can use as needed. Some of my missions required me to use them daily. Others, only before key actions.

My training taught me to survive in the water, on the water, and under the water.

I still believe that water should be respected.

But where there is oxygen, I know there is power.

Godspeed, #EverydaySpy