The Process

From the novel:

            Chad: “My situation has to do with trusting people. It goes back further than my girlfriend dumping me. I’ve struggled with that for quite some time. Lanco (Chad’s Focker) says, ‘No wonder you got a problem with that. You really can’t trust anybody.’”

            Doc: “Let’s address Lanco’s comment. I want you to break down into groups of three. Remember the goal is always to get Centered and stay Centered. Remember again, this is a process. You begin by being curious and conducting an inquiry. What is Focker’s position on this situation? What does it mean to get Centered in this situation? In both instances that includes thoughts, feelings, physical experience, and behavior. Then the question, ‘What skills are needed to get Centered and stay Centered?’”

            We came back to the group and shared insights.

            Fockers Thoughts: I don’t trust people. People will fuck me over. I can’t handle rejection.

            Fockers Feelings: Vulnerable, hopeless, paranoid, lonely, suspicious, fearful, and anxious.

            Fockers Physical Response: Muscle tension and nervous stomach.

            Fockers Behavior: Isolates and sabotages relationships.

            Centered Thoughts: I accept that some people will not accept me or like me. I accept that some people may choose to terminate our relationship. I accept that some people will not be truthful and honest. I am grateful for the experience of this relationship. I wish this person well. I am free to grieve the loss of someone special in my life without judgment. It is in the stillness that I experience the peace that sets me free to let go and move on to new experiences in each moment. I am open to exploring new relationships and fresh experiences in each moment. I can do this. In the final analysis, I will seek to be Centered with acceptance and the awareness that I have everything I need to get on with my life.

            Centered Feelings: Peace, sadness, grief, free, grateful, forgiving, attentive, compassionate and open.

            Centered Physical Response: Relaxed, calm and flowing.

            Centered Behavior: Reaches out for new and fresh relationships; embraces the moment.

            Needed Skills: Deep breathing, attention training, Centering Meditation, The Eleven and Nine Steppers, positive attitude.

            Doc: “We’ve explored some ideas that can be used to help with getting Centered with Lanco Focker’s trust issues. Chad, what are your comments?”

            Chad: “If Lanco wasn’t around, I wouldn’t have trust issues with people.”

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            At Center, trust is an irrelevant concept. What is trust? It is me trusting you to be like me, to do what I want you to do, to meet my expectations, to be someone you’re not. Trust issues don’t exist at Center. Anna in the novel was devastated by her husband’s affair. At Center she is free to grieve and be sad without judgment. She is also free to leave Center and hook up with Pee Wee and kick some ass also without judgment. Not long after she checks in with Pee Wee, maybe an hour, maybe a few days, she knows kicking ass is not working and she takes Pee Wee kicking and screaming to Center where Pee Wee will soon be transformed. The darkness cannot live in the light. She is now free to begin letting go and getting clear about this moment and her intentions for right now. In the future, she may stay with him or she may leave him without any judgment either way. For now in this moment, she is telling us that she is committed to working on the relationship.

            Anna has defined her Center and now has the challenge to live that commitment. Someone said the skills you have learned so far are like tools in a toolbox. When you think about the toolbox, you might notice there aren’t many tools to choose from and the toolbox is pretty light. It’s not about the number of tools. It’s about the training to use those tools effectively. So the answer to the second question on how to get Centered and stay Centered is about the training required to master the skills.

From the novel:

            Anna: “Earlier, I didn’t fully understand why Doc had us over and over and over doing Centered Meditations. Now, I think I’m finally starting to get it. He talked about the transformation of Pee Wee at Center. It’s like we have to train ourselves to experience our Center. I can tell you for me that it has not come easily.”

            Rob: “I’m still struggling.”

            Anna: “Something simple was what helped me more than anything. Doc, you were always talking about that quality of peace at Center. You implied or maybe even said that the peace was the foundation or cornerstone of our Center or something like that. And I was trying to go there and be in my beautiful place and feel the peace. And sometimes I could and sometimes I couldn’t, but most of the time that peace was illusive. I was trying so hard to find it and feel it. Would anybody like to guess what I found for me was the answer?”

            Paul: “How ‘bout me takin’ a wild hairy ass guess – the fucking deep breathing.”

            Anna: “YES!! The fucking deep breathing! The very first skill Doc taught us which in the beginning bored most of us to tears. So now would everyone close your eyes? Go to your Center and get comfortable in that place. Look around and see the beauty. Now, in that place, focus attention on your breathing and begin some deep breaths. Stay with your breathing and I’ll let you know when to open your eyes…. Open your eyes. What was that like?”

            Jett: Everyone said they experienced peace as long as they could focus on the breathing even though various Fockers in the group were at times distracting the experience at Center.

            Anna: “It is in quieting the mind, our Fockers, that we discover the meaning and experience of inner peace. So what we need is more…”

            Group: “Training!”

            Anna: “So the deep breathing becomes the core skill to help with the Centering Meditations, The Eleven and Nine Steppers and the ongoing discovery about the power of the moment.”

            Chad: “All the things you said helped me with my issue of trust. I know the training is the key and I’ve got some good ideas from you guys to help with defining my Center when it comes to trust. For me right now, the Centered thoughts are the key. I can use those thoughts to help me with The Nine Stepper on getting beyond and letting go of old painful memories of rejection and The Eleven Stepper to help me move forward to create some new and different experiences in relationships.”

            Doc: “As each of you continues the training in whatever situation arises, what happens?”

            Jett: “We strengthen our Centered brain circuits by changing the way we think and by living those thoughts. At some point, we become aware that being Centered in this particular situation is coming easier and we are training less. The Centered circuits are getting stronger and Focker is rarely on the scene in that situation.”

            Rob: “But she hangs out in the shadow of our minds to kick our ass in other situations.”

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            Guilt and shame seem to be ongoing issues for combat veterans. The first place to start is not with Focker, but with what actually happened over there. That shouldn’t be too difficult because we have been working on these memories for The Nine Stepper. The goal there was to reduce the intensity of the imprint. Now we’re looking at them for another reason. They hold the story that stirs up guilt and shame or related feelings. Break down in groups of three and share with each other two memories that stir up guilt and shame.”

From the novel:

            Ace and I talked about the one when we gave the LT the all clear about no civilians in the village and he called in the air strike that killed the women and children. My other one was Migs dying after I promised him he wouldn’t die on my watch. Ace’s was when he lost two of his squad on an ambush during our first tour. He blamed himself for not insuring the approach to the enemy position was secure. Doug had lost numerous drivers in his platoon during his tours in Iraq. Some he had held in his arms while they bleed to death or died for other reasons.

            Doc: “Now that you have identified the memories, what is your Focker telling you? Refer to your handout on Fockers PTSD. You came up with that list in the second group and many of them may be applicable to what you are thinking right now. Also, identify feelings, physical responses, and behavior. I wonder how many of you will see a change in your previous experience of those memories six weeks ago.

            Jett: All three of us were doing better and had seen improvement. In fact we were all surprised we had made that much progress.

            Doc: “Now look at both of your handouts on the Centered state. Make sure at Center you have addressed every one of Focker’s thoughts. Take some time to get those down on paper.”

            Jett: Ace had difficulty coming up with a Centered phrase on his perceived failure to secure the approach to the enemy position. I was in his squad and I felt like he did all that was possible to make sure it was secure. He disagreed. In addition to some of the thoughts already written on the handout, he came up with, “I will ask God to forgive me and do the best I can to live with the reality that those soldiers may still be alive if I had done a better job. I cannot change it. It is what it is.”

            Doc: “You now have all the information you need to go forward with your training plan. It may include using every tool in your toolbox. You have everything you need to get to Center and stay Centered.”

            Ace: “I just shared with Jett and Doug that I consciously will not let go of my sadness and remorse over the loss of two soldiers, because I did not properly do my job. In fact, as I just said that, it occurred to me I feel those same feelings about many of my experiences during those two tours. That doesn’t mean I have to kill myself, be an alcoholic, or have a miserable life. I will commit myself to being as Centered as possible in my life and I am already discovering ways to find peace and happiness along the way. But I choose to carry a remembrance of that situation at Center as a reminder to be humble and committed to being a good person. I agree with Doc that guilt and shame are a form of self-indulgence and my goal is to let them go.”

            Doug: “Sadness and remorse are so much better than guilt and shame. I like that.”

            Frank: “But are we letting ourselves off the hook? Many of us did some horrible shit. Why shouldn’t we feel guilt and shame?”

            Doug: “I would say we’re free to feel as much guilt and shame as we want to. And I believe there’s some truth to the idea that we should feel some guilt and shame for what we’ve done. But at what point does it become a ‘pity party’ and feeling ‘poor me ain’t it awful…everybody see what a piece of shit I am.’ I don’t know how anybody draws that line in the sand for someone else. I like Ace’s idea. I’m ready to stop feeling sorry for myself and shift into sadness and remorse.”

            Frank: “So it’s not all fun and warm and cozy at Center?”

            Doc: “You combat soldiers have major challenges to face. There is no magic, no wand to wave and make it all go away. But if you continue your training, you will see results. What I’ve suggested are guidelines to consider. You make your own decision about the nature of your Center. I encourage you to continue asking the question, ‘Is my definition of Center working well for me?’”

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            We will spend the rest of this session in different pairs leading each other through breathing exercises, Centering Meditations, and walking through both the long form and short form of The Eleven and Nine Steppers. (At the end, group discussion)