Webinar presenter Rodger Ruge answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Tactical Resilience: Mental Preparedness for Peak Field Performance (Part 1). Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: What was that special forces training technique called again?
Rodger Ruge: Absolutely, so a lot of special forces have adopted a meditation style. It’s a very integrated and complete system of meditation, and it’s called Transcendental Meditation. Or it’s also referred to as TM. If you Google that, or head over to YouTube, you’re going to get a lot of information. A lot of people really like it because it has a really, really detailed structure that fits very well into military models. Some people can get a little turned off by it because it has a bit of, I don’t want to use the wrong word here, but just kind of hear this out. It can be a little bit like our way is the way. And again, I’m not a fan of that, it might be for you, but not for everybody, right? Because we’re all very unique. But my advice is, go explore it, check it out, and you may find a true gem that absolutely fits perfectly for you.
Audience Question: Have there been any studies done on these techniques showing the efficacy?
Rodger Ruge: Yes, Mark, quite a few. In fact, I was working with a co-presenter, he and I were traveling all over the place putting on extended seminars. We do everything from eight-hour classes to 24-hour classes where we take deeper and deeper dives. He did a lot of research. He was a Wellness Coordinator and a Police Officer with the Berkeley California Police Department. And there were a number of studies that showed specifically with that Three Minute Meditation, that six-hour return of investment in terms of parasympathetic restoration. So, yes, everything that I’ve taught you today has science behind it and it’s one of the reasons I brought it to you. A lot of times, when I go into the world of the esoteric and strangeness, there’s not a lot of science there, simply because it just hasn’t been studied. I don’t necessarily doubt that it has a result, but what I’ve brought you today has all been tested, proven, and definitely has that. Now, I’m going to say this to your question, Mark, because I really liked your question. I think like you do. I want to know is there some research and science behind it? But after 30 years, I’ve developed myself to the point where I can now practice something, and because I am now in tune very much with my body temple. I know if I’m having a positive result. For example, the four proofs of parasympathetic restoration right? If I practice a technique and I begin to feel that that’s all the validation I need. I know right then and there from a biofeedback perspective, I am getting a positive result. Does that mean it translates to everybody? Not necessarily, but I’ve developed myself to a point of sensitivity enough where I can actually measure something in real-time from my own tangible experience. So, don’t discount that I appreciate the people that do the science. But there can be a tendency to toss baby out with the bathwater because it hasn’t yet been proven. Well, science is catching up in a lot of areas. So, ask yourself, do I feel better? And if you do, you’re good to go, in my opinion. That’s, that’s just a simple baseline for how I tend to measure things, but I appreciate the science question.
Audience Question: Peter works in Corrections. How do you deal with tough-it-out culture when it comes to this kind of mental fitness?
Rodger Ruge: Oh, Peter. Okay, now I’m triggered. Hang on, let me take a couple of minutes. My friend, I know many of you have this question, and it really, really is a difficult sell. One of the things that happened to me during my career was I had a journey through complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and I experienced something called EMDR. Or it’s an eye movement desensitization reprogramming brain thing. I was one of the first people in the country to go through it. When they brought it to me, they said, “Hey, we don’t know how it works or why it works, want to try it?” Maybe in me, I said, “Absolutely, I have nothing to lose. Let’s do it.” And in about six sessions of EMDR, I had resolved most of the complex post-traumatic stress issues I was experiencing, and that got me curious, Peter. I thought, well, if that outside the box and modality works so well, I wonder what else is out there, and that led me to the journey that has brought me here to you today. In that process, a lot of my peers when I started meditating, and I told people about it, they really questioned me. In fact, some even got to the point of not trusting me at all, thinking that because meditation is a bunch of liberal, granola-crunching hippies and that I wouldn’t be able to, for example, use deadly force in the field. But what ended up happening was that my performance and productivity, and my officer safety, and all my skills improved dramatically. Dramatically. It was impossible to miss the enhancement that I was experiencing. Then something very interesting happened, where I took a lot of guff in the beginning. I’d go out to a restaurant, grab a cup of coffee with my beat partner, and this is inevitably how it would go down. Make sure nobody’s listening, “Hey, man, about that meditation stuff.” What you’ll find, is as you begin to shift, people will begin to notice. And when they see the positive shift, they’ll get curious, and they will no longer fear the fact that you’re doing something that triggers them. We have to make it about us, Peter, and then, if we can influence the people around us, fantastic. Some folks, they just can’t get there. And that tough-it-up culture is exactly what’s killing us. And we have to push back against it, gently. And I think our actions speak louder than any words we could say.
Audience Question: How many cycles of the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique, do you typically recommend like you did today?
Rodger Ruge: So, here’s an interesting thing about all these practices. You can do this to the point where you really begin to feel tangibly the shift in your body, and you can get so adept data that 1 to 2 cycles will completely reset you. It can become, in other words, very, very quick. In the beginning, I recommend doing most of these techniques for a minimum of three minutes, and however many cycles that is, probably be 6 or 7. If you go a little bit longer, you feel inspired to do so, fantastic. No negative return there. It’s all positive. But in the beginning, I just recommend, stick with three minutes as your baseline. And ultimately, you’ll be able to say, I’m just going to be able to do one breath and set myself and it can be that fast once you’ve got a little time under your belt.
Audience Question: What is the purpose of doing the body check before breathing or meditating?
Rodger Ruge: Ah, Great question. This is about building awareness to how the techniques are affecting you, and one of the things I liked to do was to check my pulse before I did any of these techniques. But specifically, the three-minute meditation, that’s the one I experimented with most in the beginning. So, I would check my pulse and I’d get a 60-second measurement on that. And then I would do the meditation process, for three minutes and I’d check my pulse again. And inevitably, I would drop anywhere from 10 to 20 or more beats a minute in three minutes. That means a lot of restoration is taking place and my heart is not working nearly as hard as it was. Heart disease in our culture, the number one killer. So, anything that helps is best. So, the reason for the body scan is to notice how the body is changing. So that we proved to our ever cynical, analytical, and doubtful minds that what we’re practicing is actually working. So that’s the reason that I tried to do a body scan before, and after I like to see what’s shifted. And then you begin as you keep doing that, you notice more and more subtle things that were below our perception suddenly rise to the top. “Just not all that agitated right now over that thing that happened or that thing that person said to me.” “Hmm, that really took the edge off,” or “My headache reduced a little bit.” Wow. In three minutes, that’s pretty cool. Normally, I have to take this survey to get that to happen. So, it’s about awareness, building, and proving to ourselves that what we’re doing is having an effect.
Audience Question: What is the difference between meditation and prayer as techniques?
Rodger Ruge: Semantics.
Host: All right, you’re going to have to expand on that one for me, if no one else, I kept on waiting thinking, I don’t want it to cross-talk here. What do you mean?
Rodger Ruge: I love it. It’s such a beautiful question to me when we are in a place of mindfulness, which is to say, living completely, fully, and utterly in the present moment, without any judgment. We are parasympathetically restorative, and we’re putting money in our resilience bank account. Some people like to empty their minds. Some people like to channel that focus into something specific like a prayer. Both the practices will invoke the same parasympathetic response, and so, if meditation can be enhanced for you by adding prayer, absolutely, go for it. It is a beautiful thing and to me, both of those words are actually pretty synonymous. So, think of meditation as non-denominational and think of prayer as focusing on whatever absolute values system you practice. They go hand in hand, beautifully complementary to each other.
Audience Question: I tried mindfulness and meditation. But I cannot seem to disengage my mind. I really, really want to get there. How can I?
Rodger Ruge: This was a conundrum for me as well. So, here’s an interesting anomaly about those of us in the emergency services and military professions. We are kinesthetic-oriented. In other words, we like to move our bodies, we like to engage physically. That’s just how we’re wired. And so now, you’re also asking, our ever busy, really sharp, highly intuitive minds to go empty. That’s a pretty tall order. So, when we do a sitting meditation, touching those two finger points, gives the mind something to work on. Having a word for the inhale and exhale gives our mind something to work on those are good in terms of sitting meditation. But there is also the practice of moving meditation. So, let’s give you all a quick bonus. What is a moving meditation? Yoga, Qi Gong, Tai Chi. Now, all of those require a lot of time, a lot of discipline, and money. Most of us don’t have time. So how can we do a moving meditation that invokes the same parasympathetic response? And it’s called conscious walking, or walking meditation, or Za Zen walking. And it’s just this, we’d go out into nature, and we begin to walk at a pace that allows us to breathe through the nose so it’s a very slow pace. We then look at objects at different distances, which helps the mind to begin to calm down. We’re given an input at different distances, the mailbox, the rock on the ground, the airplane in the sky, the dog which ran across the road. As we’re walking, we’re breathing through the nose and looking at things at different distances. We can enhance that process by taking our shoes and socks off if that feels safe, and also putting our feet on the bare earth. Which literally grounds us to the earth’s electromagnetic frequency. And that helps to balance our central nervous system. That for those of you who want to look it up is called Earthing or Grounding. Deep science on that. Fantastic. So, if we don’t want to study yoga, learn Tai Chi, learn Qi Gong. Take a walk out in nature and use the exact same protocols that we did and all the other things. Breathing through the nose, light slow, deep breathing. But in this case, we walk very slowly, and we look at objects at different distances. This tends to settle the mind because we’re engaged in something kinesthetic.
Audience Question: You mentioned that crossing limbs as something you don’t want to do during meditation. So, when I’m not practicing these techniques. Are crossing limbs not ideal?
Rodger Ruge: So, our culture has a lot of body contraction, we’re very tense and rigid, we’re paramilitary or military, and the equipment we wear compacts everything. What we want to do is actually spend time doing the opposite of that in opening up the body as much as possible. And so, having our arms and legs uncrossed opening up the chest cavity allows us to become more parasympathetically restorative. Right, so we’re no longer contracting. When we cross our arms and our legs, we tend to create that contraction, we close ourselves off, but we also are creating a crossing pattern in the brain hemispheres. One of the things that can help us really relax is this opening and uncrossing, which tends to invoke a greater parasympathetic response in the body. We’re less closed off and more open and receptive.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Tactical Resilience: Mental Preparedness for Peak Field Performance (Part 1).