Being Vigilant

by Dennis Bradford

in physical well-being

Since tigers exist, being vigilant can save your life. Being lost in thought can get you (and your loved ones) killed.

I’m using “tigers” to refer not only to deadly nonhuman animals from insects and snakes to large predatory mammals like big cats and bears but especially to human predators.

There have always been tigers. There will be even more in the future.

This is because of the increasing urgency of such global trends as over-population, global warming, and oil depletion. These cause social dislocation as well as economic distress like currency degradation, even higher unemployment, and increased underemployment. These contribute to criminality as well as civil unrest.

In 1970-71, I spent a year in the army in Korea. I’d never spent an extended period outside the United States. At least in those days, Korea was a much more peaceful society than my homeland. I quickly realized that walking around Seoul at night was much different from walking around, say, New York City. I eventually felt the stress lifting off my shoulders. It didn’t return until I returned home.

There were far fewer tigers there; being vigilant wasn’t as important. However, because of the adverse trends mentioned above, no country is immune.

Fernando Aguirre in Surviving the Economic Collapse: “During good times people can afford to be spoiled, lazy, and let others handle issues that they should solve themselves. Crime rates are low . .. But one day that changes . . .” He experienced it after the 2001 economic collapse in Argentina.

Since 2007 we have been experiencing a slow-motion economic collapse in the United States. If so, being vigilant is more important than it has been in recent years, and, at least for a while, it will become more and more important.

By way of contrast, saints let themselves get eaten by tigers.

Are you a saint? Can your loved ones easily afford to lose you to tigers? Are you willing to sacrifice yourself?

That’s one extreme option. Furthermore, it’s a noble option! I certainly am not arguing that you ought to spend the rest of your life being vigilant merely in order to continue living. That would be a categorical imperative, and I don’t know what you should do.

Being vigilant is important if remaining alive is a priority for you. That’s only a hypothetical imperative: if you want to remain alive, even if only to serve others, then being vigilant is important.

The imminent economic crisis is already transforming our lives. The relatively benign times that we have enjoyed for the last couple of decades are ending.

That should not be surprising. Flux is incessant. This world is one of Becoming. Whether you like or don’t like current conditions, just wait and they will soon change!

If you anticipate and prepare for change, if you are committed to being vigilant as well as resourceful and positive, you may not only survive socio-economic breakdown but emerge stronger and more prosperous.

Are you ready to be tested physically as well as emotionally?

Are you prepared to deal with unfair and intense suffering all around you?

Could you thrive for a while even without easy access to medications, physicians, and dentists?

Are you prepared to stand up to criminals without the aid of police?

Are you a weak or fat or unfit wimp who would be unable to function without eyeglasses?

Imagine how life used to be for your ancestors. They always lived in small bands, which are much better for mutual protection and aid than living alone or with a single partner. Tigers took the very old, the very young, and the very foolish. As you are now, would they likely have taken you?

If so, why not improve your condition?

Being vigilant isn’t just about always being aware of your surroundings. Being vigilant is also about always being prepared to deal with emergencies. (Also see Bug-out Bag.)

A helpful exercise in being vigilant is to imagine yourself as a criminal. If you were looking at your life from the outside with the eyes of a tiger, would you be a ripe target?

There’s no such thing as perfect security. If you want to survive an emergency, your goal is only to be less vulnerable than those around you. Tigers aren’t stupid: they always prefer the easiest prey. They understand that, except in extreme circumstances, attacking strong prey is too dangerous.

For example, when you are walking alone, is your tread that of a confident, strong person with a clear destination? Would someone looking at you think you are distracted and lost in thought or that you are alert and being vigilant? Do you look healthy and fit? What does your clothing (especially your shoes) say about you? Do you have an air of being tough-minded and ready to fight to the death to defend yourself?

If you look like a fawn, expect tigers to attack.

Do you always practice being vigilant in public? If not, expect to be attacked. For example, if you enjoy an occasional night out on the town and permit yourself to get a little drunk, for that night you will be an easy target even if most of the rest of the time you practice being vigilant.

Especially if you are not big and strong, do you always have a weapon ready-to-hand when you are alone in public? It may be something as simple as bear or pepper spray, which will not permanently injure an attacker, but being vigilant includes always being prepared. If you are mentally prepared to use them, know how to use them, practice using them, and they are legal, what about carrying an easily-accessible knife and hand gun?

Are you ready to react quickly and violently if attacked?

Do you always pay attention to whether or not there are potential weapons in your environment? These include bottles, scissors, pens or pencils, chairs, and pieces of wood or pipe.

There was a story on the television news a week or so ago about a women who was alone in her bedroom. She knocked out a male intruder with a wooden bed post! She then contacted the police who arrested him.

Except in a crowd, do you practice keeping people at a physical distance or always acknowledging them when they invade your private space? In a crowd, do you maintain balance with your hands relaxed but up?

Have you had training in how to react if you are physically assaulted?

Do you regularly do strength training and fitness training to increase your physical strength and fitness? (Regular exercise also greatly enhances mental or psychological well-being.)

Being vigilant is about paying attention.

The most effective way to develop your ability to pay attention is use a spiritual practice (such as zazen meditation or Presence practice a la Eckhart Tolle) several times daily. If you are usually distracted from life by incessant thoughts, you are condemning yourself to missing your life as well as to leaving yourself vulnerable to tigers.

(Please see the spiritual well-being section of this site for more on spiritual practices.)

You’ll find it helpful to repeat frequently to yourself a saying from the bush: “Always alert, never get hurt.”

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