mind games and breathing exercises

Shooting is frightening. Days at the range tend to be filled with a combination of performance anxiety, test anxiety, and the very real awareness that these are high-risk training environments. In other words, the fear that things may go wrong is pervasive during a shooting exercise. Today, I took part in the M4-Carbine qualification course. For those who aren’t familiar with military evaluation exercises, this is another one for you to know.

Here is how it’s broken down. The first evolution requires that you take 5 shots at a target 25 m away while lying in the prone position within 5 minutes. The second evolution requires you to assume the prone position from a standing position, and then take 5 shots at a target, reload with a 5 round magazine, and then take 5 more shots at a target within 70 seconds. The margin for error is slightly higher because the margin for perfection shrinks. These shots have to be taken at a tolerable level of accuracy. The next two evolutions are exactly the same, except you are kneeling. The last evolution only requires 10 shots at a target 25 m away within 10 minutes.

Patience is a virtue when completing this course. Unlike other courses, time is not as unforgiving. For someone with little experience handling guns, I benefit more from extra time on the exercises. The mind is the vehicle for patience. However, the mind can also be a terrible partner on the range. A mind that drifts and wanders towards other people’s targets may make waste of the time allotted for these exercises, and a mind that blatantly travels further out can also be a hindrance. What do I mean by that? That thinking about the ways I may have offended someone by reacting to a conversation in an insensitive way is something that I should be doing, but not while at the range shooting through a qualifications course. But how do you control a mind that wants to think what it wants to think?

Breathing helps. By focusing on your breathing, you somehow center yourself into something that is semi-external, but right within you. It isn’t as deep as focusing on a memory, and it isn’t so shallow like focusing on whether your form looks good while shooting. Breathing, interestingly, is something we don’t necessarily judge others for. Even those people who breathe heavily, we recognize it as a form of discomfort, but never as something to discriminate against.

I think I have arrived at the conclusion that I need to continue to develop breath consciousness. Breath consciousness allows me to control my movements better, and become uniformly intact. What I mean by that, is that every movement feels the same. A repetitive motion repeated often enough becomes a habit and then leads to mastery. That’s what lies ahead of this journey, mastery, and I am a young apprentice.

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