Stop Digging The Fox Hole!

by | Feb 18, 2023

Living in the moment…

“The past has no power over your present, as stated Eckhart Tolle, is a poignant pointer to the fact that the psychological influences of your past experiences/memories can be completely let go of if you choose to stay fully in the present, in a state of awareness (ensuring that you don’t get lost in your mind).Jan 17, 2019”

My Enduring Fox Hole…

It was early in my life when sports, including surfing in Southern California, that kept my mind in the moment. Staying focused in school was tough, though. My grades were embarrassing back then, especially high school.

My mind was full of the things I feared, especially home-life. I started digging my enduring fox hole as a kid. I kept digging in those years, and never stopped, except in moments of freedom, riding waves up and down the coast at my favorite surf spots.

When I enlisted in the US Navy, a few days after my 17th birthday, my mind was set on the future. “Freedom at last.” I thought. It felt that way for awhile until it didn’t.

Past fears returned and the future became a preoccupation. Digging a new fox hole in another ‘safe place’ in my mind was inevitable. I rarely felt free to live in the present. The painful pit in my stomach only got worse over time.

Each day was about survival and whether the next turn of events could set me free or send me to hell. Nightmares awakened me most nights. A good night’s sleep seemed impossible for too many years.

As the years passed by, following service in the Navy, opportunities were presented to me because of the excellent vocational training and experience in the Navy. I was fortunate to discover a new love for learning in a promising career, including earning a degree in college.

The downside of my duty station in the Navy was working in a dark basement of a highly secure communications center. We were required to work 12 on 12 off each day with a 3 day break every 7 days, I was assigned the night shift in a pressure cooker, that exacerbated my PTSD.

Digging the enduring fox hole well into my 60’s kept my mind at some distance from the emotional pain. After two failed marriages, it was a loving third marriage in the mid 80s that saved my life.

Did I stop digging a new fox hole? Of course not! Once in my mid 60s, my life seemed a little safer, but sleepless nights and nightmares persisted. “How will this treachery end?” I kept thinking to myself.

Let’s move on from this never-ending story of pain in my heart and soul. It was time to stop the digging and learn to be present each and every day. I begin building a tool kit that saved my life.

What is Mindfulness?

It’s never too late to learn about this practice, and it takes lots of practice, believe me.

“Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.” The Mayo Clinic

Thought Field Therapy (TFT)…

After decades of wishing and searching for a trauma informed therapist, my wish came true in 2020. It was through the advancement of telehealth, I found a wonderful therapist who had many years of experience working with people who suffered from PTSD, including veterans.

She helped me peel back the onion from the earliest memories of my life. We identified these “chunks” of my life, including repressed memories. It’s impossible to build a logical picture of your life without addressing smaller pieces of these painful memories.

For several months she helped me look back and revisit these experiences. I shiver now thinking about the challenge of doing these steps in sequence, creating a trajectory of my 7 decades of life. It was this process over many months that helped me significantly.

Guided therapy allowed me to look at myself through the lens of a grown-up Steve. I started speaking to “Stephen” my childhood name. Here’s an example…

“I hold this little boy now from long ago. I talk to him and hug this precious toddler in my mind. This is my therapy. This is how I’m healing. This little guy needed hugs and reassuring voices saying, “it will be okay, son”

Wow! This therapy was magical. I’m not that little guy, Stephen, anymore. When these painful thoughts of my childhood come to the surface, I talk to Stephen as the adult Steve, separating the child from me as an adult.

Here’s a good reference to learn more about the areas of a healthy mind and brain.

How to live in the moment…

Practice, practice, practice until your daily lifestyle is a religious discipline of Mindfulness Meditation. Doing this is challenging, though. All sorts of negative stuff gets in the way, including your demons trying to sneak into your mind at every chance.

It’s a good bet that if you stay focused on your passions and what you care about the most, that can keep emotional pain at safe distance. Always plan a day that includes making a difference for someone or others in your community.

4 Science-Backed Tips for Sticking to Your Meditation Practice

“When it comes to building the habit of meditation, questions about how much to practice (and how to stick with it over time) may leave you shrugging your shoulders instead of relaxing them. Here are four strategies to help you build a practice that works for you.” Read More 

Never give up on yourself!

Life is a work-in-progress everyday, every hour of the day. You own it. There’s a ton of support out there if you’re open to it. I have found long time trusting friends to be the best of the best source of staying on track. For me, those very few special friends have been there for me for decades, in the best times and the not so good periods when we need them the most.

If you’re lucky enough to have a spouse or partner in your life forever, good on you. My wife has been at my side to lift me up for over 40 years now. Without her I wouldn’t be here in this moment to share my story with all of you who tune into my blog on a regular basis. Writing is a big part of my own healing and mindfulness meditation practice.

Keep trying to live in the moment each and everyday. Never give up, or give in to your demons…

About the author

Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
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