Living in the jungle was both boring and exciting. It all depended on what was happening and could change in an instant. Living in the now became commonplace. There wasn’t a lot of time to be thinking about the past or worry about the future.
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We Were Living In The Now
Life inside our base camp was mostly monotonous. We look forward to going on operations and getting into the jungle. I spent a lot of time cleaning and prepping gear, as well as reading. The temperature inside the tent would quickly reach 100 degrees. I don’t remember ever being cool or dry; I was always sweating.
One day as I was lying in my bunk reading and sweating, I was suddenly startled by the “burp” of a machine gun. I saw bullet holes appearing in the roof of the tent. I immediately rolled off my bunk onto the floor, grabbing my weapon. My teammates and I made our way outside the tent. Much to our dismay, we saw the Peruvian commander standing outside the barracks across from our tent holding an Uzi machine gun.
The weapon was seized on a mission the day before, and the commander wanted to test fire it. Not being familiar with the weapon, he did not know how to handle it. Without any warning, he pointed the weapon at the sandbag wall facing our tent and squeezed the trigger. The Uzi recoiled violently up into the right. He lost control, and the rounds went over the wall, into our tent. We had to be living in the now because these events can happen at any time.
Our base camp was in the Upper Huallaga Valley in Peru. This area was controlled by the Sendero Luminoso communist terrorist organization. They would protect the narco-traffickers and did not like us gringos. Occasionally, they would attack our base camp. We always had to be ready.
One night I was dead asleep when I was awoken by two explosions. Thinking it was another attack, we proceeded to our defensive positions. Later we found out it was just a Peruvian police officer. He’d gone a bit crazy and attacked others inside the base camp with grenades and rifles. Luckily no one was injured.
The other day as I was reminiscing about life in the jungle, I realized that most people are not aware of what is happening right now. They are too busy thinking about the past and the future. Learning to live in the now is important. Your thoughts are mostly comprised of your past and future. If something bad happened yesterday, you dwell on it for days. It can create anger which boils inside of you. If your thoughts are constantly about the future, are you wondering how things will turn out? Wondering can create anxiety and worry.
You can take control of your thoughts by focusing on what is happening right now. Look for all the good things going on around you. Concentrate on living in the now. I was lucky to learn this growing up, even though I didn’t know I was doing it. I didn’t realize how important it was, but I did it.
Thank You Dad
My father inadvertently taught me how to live in the now. He loved the outdoors, and we spent vacations camping, hiking, and enjoying nature. Dad always taught me to stop, look around, and observe everything. Observe the plants, animals, and sky. Everything that God had created. Many people go on a hike and never lookup. They don’t stop and enjoy the beauty.
In the jungle, outside of the base camp, we had to be living in the now. There was no time for the past or future. Many things can kill you including, snakes, insects, animals, and narco-traffickers.
I had to be aware of everything around me at that precise moment. Listening for unusual sounds and looking for any movements. I had to be able to tell if anything was out of place. I had to be aware of where I was stepping and where I would put my hands. Thinking about the past or future would get me killed. I was forced to focus only on living in the now.
Still Serving Me
The lessons from the jungle serve me well today. I still have thoughts about the past and the future, but today they are controlled. Because I control my thoughts, I am living in the now even when I am thinking. If I feel negative feelings creeping in, I stop and focus on what is happening now to cause those feelings. I use my five senses to immerse myself in the now.
If you are experiencing anxiety, stop, open your five senses, and begin living in the now. Think about what is causing these feelings and how you can stop them. Experience everything around you as it is happening. Let your worries float away and be happy to be alive.