You’ve got your bug out kit, know your route, have the map, GPS, song-line, idea about who, what, where, when, and how; you even have the shiny where-with-all to bury stashes, practice an escape plan, share it with family, and then sleep better at night. “Be prepared” is the motto, and you have all the supplies, but can you succeed when the unpredictable, yet inevitable true survival situation confronts you? That question stalks your mind from the shadows in their many forms.
Making a primitive fire from scratch takes practice, but can you make that fire when you’ve only had 2 hours of sleep? Ever try to strike a match with numb fingers? Have you carried your bug out bag for thirty miles over rough terrain and then tried to start fire in the dark during a storm? The true survivalist battle is grappling with the unpredictable. Familiarizing the mind with stress and the unknown creates a stronger fortress of protection than any physical design.
Mindset is the ultimate survival skill. It’s something you can practice any time, anywhere, under all circumstances without impediment. When we find ourselves performing under pressure in unfamiliar places, everything changes. Suddenly tasks, which appeared so natural and fluid, become unrecognizable. The mental tools of a survivalist are often put on the back shelf in place of shiny hard skills like tracking or shelter building. Indeed, these skills are important, but they are worthless if you don’t have your head on your shoulders.
The classic example is getting lost. The first lesson learned is not to panic, admit you’re lost, and then assess the situation. This is crucial foundation-building for a sound mind and confident discernment. Without rational thought, all of our shiny bells and whistle attachments in this modern bug out craze are a waste. Even this new phrase– “to bug out”– is a shift away from stability into panic. When you’re already letting your imagination run away with you, how can you be prepared to take on the complicated challenge of keeping yourself alive?
So much energy seems to be put into what kind of a situation we are going to be facing. We can prepare our stuff, talk all we want about the who and what of survival, but these expectations create a false sense of security. What about what’s happening right now? The concept of bringing the pot to slow boil with a frog in the water comes to mind. By the time the truth hits, you’re already cooked. Keeping an awareness of where your food comes from, how you gather energy, the use of fossil fuels versus renewable energy from home methane catchment or passive solar, are all shifts in consciousness that lead to being better survivalists in the now. At this moment, your ability to be self-sufficient will determine what happens tomorrow.
If you are relying on some bunker out in the woods that you’ll have to drive to, you’ve not studied the board enough. This is a simple case of trying to put the cart before the horse. Start with your own home. Where do you live, and what kind of relationships are you forming with the other people around you? This concept of cooperation is very important, especially for you, urban and suburban dwellers. Weaving a strong web of community now will create the support network to help in emergencies at any time, not just TEOTWAWKI.
Isolation will lead to failure. Divide and conquer is a classic military strategy. For so long we’ve been preaching fear-mongering and selfishness. This mindset puts us into a panic, allowing doubts to slips in. Suddenly everything is a threat. This kind of paranoid energy would kill us very quickly in an actual survival situation. The deer does not constantly live in fear of the cougar; she has a cultivated sense of awareness or vigilance without obsessing. If she was constantly in fear of being stalked, she’d never be able to sleep, eat, or accomplish any of the other sustaining practices that keep her healthy and alive. How is your self-care going these days? Do you take time to relax and rest? When was the last time you laughed? Being in a state of anxiety about the end of the world and whether or not you have enough will drive you crazy. Don’t do this to yourself.
No one can really predict what’s going to happen next, so live in the now– today. Living in fear with the stress of not knowing is like sticking your head in the sand and just hoping for a better day to come. Get up off your butt and be a “doer”. Work towards what you want to see, instead of what you just talk about all the time. Organize in your community, and connect to the people you are already sharing your resources with. To sit there helpless and playing the blame game gets you nowhere fast. Maybe your blood pressure goes up a bit, but fits and hysterics are a sure sign of instability. That kind of malcontent breeds frustration and energy drain.
Why are we waiting to start a new life after “the fall”? Seems we’ve been falling for a while. The self-serve mindset is comfortable and easy for people these days; it takes the hassle out of dealing with others and removes responsibility for actions taken or not taken. Think about how you serve others in your community and what you bring to that table. Generosity breeds abundance, miserly action invites scarcity and greed. Being able to give confidently and serve without expectation creates the better world we are all looking for in this life. Carry yourself every day as though it will be your last and you’ll embrace survival with confidence.
You know what the biggest struggle of surviving really is? Doubt. When you start doubting, the world gets a little darker, things stop working in your favor, and the easy everyday tasks becomes insurmountable. This negative mindset is all the more persuasive when we are tired, cold, hungry, and alone. Think of all the survival stories you’ve read and ask what determines the happy ending from the not so happy ending? The answer is courage, confidence, and tenacity for life through embracing adversity– the will to carry on and adapt.
Adaptation is key and that flexibility comes with stretching the mind through experience. Honing your mindset begins with tracking your reaction to stressful situations in everyday life. How you handle day-to-day challenges is a form of survival. Are you the kind of person who starts sweating bullets and goes into a blind panic over a change in plans? How do you feel about breaking routine? How well do you cooperate with others? Can you handle acclimating to a new situation without struggling to take control?
Inward focus gives us a mental set of tools more valuable than any physical skill. Truly, mind over matter is something to take very seriously. For example, exhaustion is a common theme in survivalist situations. Learn to deal with this stress in day-to-day experiences by stretching beyond the point of “just getting by”. When we succumb to feeling tired, we surrender. This is not an option for a survivalist. Surrender means death. It may seem a little far-fetched to think that feeling tired will lead to death, but think about one of the common side effects of hypothermia. Dozing off means never waking up.
Prepare for stress by electing to take on difficult challenges occasionally, in order to better know your weakness, and then work on the gaps in your awareness. Those who know the cold and dark do not fear it, rather they embrace its gifts to their advantage. Figure out what triggers you to shut down, then challenge your habit. When the deer takes the same path to water every day, it becomes an easy target. In our fight for survival, the winning mindset will persevere, not a whining mindset of defeat.
Stillness– the opportunity to take in all the senses and make an informed choice– can be a powerful alley in your struggle. Discipline your thoughts by focusing. Act through reflection, avoid escalation, and remain calm and collected. Being mindful strengthens our resolve and tempers our reaction. Emotional impulse is not where you want to be in a crisis; it leads to blindness. Imagine being lost in the woods and blind! Survival depends on open-mindedness and the ability to see beyond what is just in front of us.
Another part of being mindful involves questioning. An inquisitive nature leads to discovery. Think of being trapped in a cave; would you sit and cry? What if you explored with your hands, feeling around the floor and walls? There could be a candle and match just out of reach on a crate near by. Every time you choose to “shut down” or close your mind, you invite limitation. This action in survival will shorten chances of a positive outcome through ignorance.
The average prepper won’t ever leave the comforts of what is familiar to seek true survival experience. This is an unfortunate burden to put upon others. (Yes, our actions directly impact those around us.) When we are unprepared, someone else must carry us, which in survival, does not end well. Help reach your brightest, most empowered self by surviving your everyday life with intention, and track your actions, taking reasonability for the consequences. Prepare by living fully and experiencing the unknown.
To clarify, the current definition of “prepping” is NOT surviving. Hording stuff will give you an upper hand, perhaps, but to be truly prepared, you should already be living in the mindset of a survivalist. Split-second action determines outcome. Behavioral blocks, our emotional shut downs, are what create energy drain in difficult situations. Surviving is one of our greatest challenges, but we’ve become soft in mind and body through our conveniences. The mind is neglected, made to sit in front of a screen, or eased into a false sense of security through consumerism.
Maybe the idea of just hopping into a bunker sounds comfortable and safe. Recognizing that we live in a time of convenience is key. Surviving is not comfortable; being trapped in a metal box will wear on the mind. How have you prepared that mind for such irritation? Even before you go to that bunker or basement with the vault door, where is your mental power being spent right now? When you are cut off in traffic, getting mad is a waste of energy. If you capitulate to your anger in such an insignificant situation, how do you think you’ll react when you find yourself on the run from a real threat? Our thoughts feed our actions and make or brake our abilities in the moment. Pay attention to these patterns and recondition impulse to invite forward thinking.
Learning to look ahead and strategize is another skill in the arsenal of the mindset. Playing chess may seem “geeky” to many out there, but concentration, spatial awareness, and strategizing (planning ahead) are good exercises for preparing our mind to handle pressure. If you look at a chessboard and roll your eyes, you’ve already met defeat. In a typical situation, shrugging off the difficult tasks when action is not critical will lead to slacking in our action when times are critical. In times of great challenge, effort and strategy are a necessary part of survival. Surviving cannot be accomplished through neglect. Chess utilizes critical parts of our thinking and trains the extra steps of preparedness into our everyday planning. This leads to quicker action time and less reckless knee jerk reaction.
Spend some time observing what you turn away from and ask why. Why is there a block? Avoidance can be a great strategy, but it’s only a short-term fix. Eventually, that cut on your finger might go septic. The lack of forethought (an underestimation of stress and its toll) will catch up with you. This is when an exhausted, unprepared mind makes bad choices. These reckless decisions may not seem all that critical at first, but as they add up, your chances of surviving drop. You keep on walking into the blinding snow with no hope. Hope comes with a plan and solid thought cultivated in awareness. This tool, the mind, gives us the ability to act on all our other training.
Another method used to supple our thinking involves shifting the negative (“no, can’t, won’t”) to positive (“yes, can, will”). This seems like a token move, but really our approach to a situation will make or break our success. It takes more energy to be in the negative, an ever-downward spiral leading to failure. In survival, wasted energy weakens stability, which leads to collapse. The positive reinforces our strength and feeds the move towards victory (survival).
To get the best result, sharpen the mind as you would any good blade. Keep pushing your limits to find new ways of challenging old-held fears and blocks. Change things up in life, find new interests, and explore all you can around you. The invaluable arsenal of questioning– to learn– familiarizes the unknown. Through creative ingenuity and strong will, cultivated with the wisdom of experience, the human mind will thrive under even the most difficult situations. This is the ultimate survival lesson.
It takes all our cunning to make it through a true survival situation, not just the latest flashy gear and over-stocked bunker. If you think about it, we’re already putting ourselves in stocked bunkers. How are you keeping your thoughts active? Questioning and cultivating a bright mind leads to never-ending possibilities. In survival, every new opportunity presents a much-needed perspective. Perhaps TEOTWAWKI is something to embrace, in ending the world as we know it, we invite perspective and greater possibilities. In a survivalist situation, or any situation, why would you compromise for something less? Would you put just a lighter in your emergency fire kit? Perhaps, if that were all you knew.