Sunday, January 2, 2011

Survival Conditioning

Most of us live day-to-day in conditions that don't require us to physically chase our food, kill it, butcher it, and drag it home for dinner. Nor do we live a nomadic lifestyle that demands finding a new location of a suitable site for the construction of our shelter every afternoon before daylight vanishes and the cold of night sweeps in upon us. Most of us don't have to engage in a daily hunt for supplies to kindle a fire to give us light and warmth and to cook our food and purify our water. And, speaking of water, most of us do no more than turn a tap to access all the water we need — already hot or cold according to our desire. We live in a time of great blessings.

But the truth of the matter is that all these blessings can have the effect of making us soft, if we allow that to happen. We can lose the knowledge of how to provide for ourselves. And not only the knowledge is lost, but the physical ability to perform tasks that were common to our ancestors two generations ago.

That would be fine if we could live in perfect confidence that nothing will ever happen that will require us to have those physical and mental skills that were once a part of daily life. But we can't. Every day, the headlines tell of people struggling to survive one kind of disaster or another, either natural or manmade. Sometimes it's the weather, or a geologic event, or disease, or human conflict. There is no shortage of catastrophe in the world, and we might find ourselves caught up in something of that nature someday. The purpose of this blog is to help spread information about how to prepare ourselves for those moments when our world gets turned upside-down, and what to do during and in the aftermath of those events.

The title of today's post is Survival Conditioning. I would like to propose a two-pronged approach to this conditioning — first mental, and second physical. It's been said that 90% of survival is mental, and I believe that. By that, I don't necessarily mean cerebral — I mean psychological. Yes, the cerebral part (knowing what to do) is important, but the psychological component is absolutely critical. The knowledge you can pick up from books, taking classes, talking with other people, watching TV, etc. But the psychological aspect comes mostly from personal experience, coupled with wisdom (the wise use of knowledge). You become psychologically stronger as you gain experience. Once you've weathered the storm, so to speak, you won't be so easily terrified when the next storm comes. Emotional strength comes  slowly but can rise to the moment of need immediately when you're facing a crisis. It's the ability to lead with confidence, with an even temperament, with compassion, with encouragement toward others who are struggling.

The second prong — physical — is developed by doing. You can't sit on a couch and watch an exercise video and become physically fit. You have to be up and doing, or that aspect of conditioning will never be yours. The physical demands that come with any survival situation are both sudden and enormous. You might have to jump out of the way, run for your life, pick up and carry something heavy, keep going for hour upon hour. Each survivor's story is unique insofar as the physical demands are concerned.  Those who either give up psychologically or can't keep up physically fail to survive.

The truth is that it isn't all about your abilities, either mentally or physically. Sometimes pure luck (being in the right place at the right time) plays a huge role in whether or not you will make it out alive. But in every event, your chances are better if you are both mentally and physically prepared.

So, back to my proposal. Let's call it a New Year Resolution, since this is the beginning of a new year — I propose that we continue working on the "learning" aspect of both urban and outdoor survival topics, but that we also get out and put into practice the physical components. That means we go hiking and camping, learn to gather tinder and make kindling and start our fires without matches or flame devices. It means we take inventory of our home supplies of food, medical supplies, etc and take an orderly approach to setting aside a quantity that would carry us through a disaster for several months if we were fortunate enough to be able to shelter-in-place at our home.  It means putting together a substantial 72-hour kit for the vehicle. It means putting together a logical evacuation plan. It means doing.

I wish you a Happy New Year and my hope that you will never need to use what we talk about here — but that if you ever do need it, that this blog will have served you well.

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