The Art of Zen and the Combat Veteran

Good morning everyone, it is a glorious sunny and brisk day here in Eastern Afghanistan. I’m here to talk to you about meditation. What it is, why you should do it, and how to do it. But first, let me start by way of introduction. My handle here on the wonderful world of the interwebs is “The Jackrabbit” I am neither a guru, nor a mystic. I’m just a regular guy who was in the infantry and is now a contractor. However, I’ve been meditating pretty regularly for around 6 months (and irregularly over about 2 years.) and I have seen incredible changes, in both my demeanor, and my ability to face hardships and mental turmoil (such as PTSD and anxiety.) So, this little blog post of mine is more of a personal testimony, than any advice given by a professional. But if it helps, awesome glad to be of service. So now that you know a little about me, here’s the nuts and bolts of what I do. 

1. What is Meditation?

So,first and foremost we need to discover what meditation is, on both a physical and a spiritual level. On a Physical level meditation is nothing more than a type of “Thoughtless awareness” that has several interesting medical benefits and is suggested to increase activity in the parasympathetic nervous system. While there are many different types of meditation techniques out there. My personal favorite is focusing on nothing. But more on that later, for now simply know that I is a process of deliberate mental training. A couple more things while we’re discussing the physical portion of this. Meditation takes WORK. It is difficult and you won’t want to do it starting out. Just like going to the gym your body hates change and will want to fight you every step of the way. For me meditation is a gym session for the mind in almost every way except for the physical exertion. Just like the gym, I have days where I feel like I killed it, and reached a new breakthrough, and I have days where I felt like it was a huge waste of time. And finally, just like the gym, you won’t see immediate results. This is a slow progression not a “one and done” type of thing. However, I assure you it is wort it. I have seen the real lasting physical and emotional effects of this practice first hand, my blood pressure has gone down a good bit, and I approach life in a way more laid back way than I used to. Finally, disclaimer time. This is something that is a long term kind of help, don’t stop taking any medication unless your doc says so, this isn’t a magic pill, it’s a supplement. For the love of all that’s holy don’t keel over with your last words being “BbbbbUt Rabbit said it would be fine!” I didn’t, I don’t and if you die from a bad case of the dumbs, you can’t blame me. Don’t be that guy/gal. 

Now excuse me while I wax eloquent. Spiritually speaking meditation has done more for me than praying ever could. I have felt connected to the creator in ways that I cannot explain. I feel true happiness and even a twinge of connection with other people (weird right?) Emotionally I am calm when before I was a cracked out Chihuahua. While things do bother me (I’m no Zen master remember) I find myself able to pass over them and worry about them considerably less. I am patient without being lazy, and calm without being passive. I cannot put entirely into words how much this has helped me deal with my demons. Which is one of the big reasons I wanted to pass the information along to you guys. 

So, that’s a brief introduction into what meditation is given as concisely and simply without hippy woo woo bull crap as I can give it. Like I said in the beginning I’m just a dude that does stuff and things. Anyway, on to my next point.

2. Why Should I meditate?

I already mentioned this a bit on the above point so I won’t dwell to long here, but I hope to be able to give a better and more concise list of reasons. Because I’m cheap, slothful, and somebody else already did the work I present to you peer reviewed bullet points from somebody with way better grammar skills than yours truly.

       (Citation at the bottom of the article)

  1. Increases immune function 

  2. Decreases Pain 

  3. Decreases Inflammation at the Cellular

  4. Increases Positive Emotion 

  5. Decreases Depression 

  6. Decreases Anxiety 

  7. Decreases Stress 

  8. Increases social connection & emotional intelligence

  9. Makes you more compassionate

  10. Makes you feel less lonely

  11. Improves your ability to regulate your emotions 

  12. Improves your ability to introspect 

  13. Increases grey matter 

  14. Increases volume in areas related to emotion regulation, positive emotions & self-control

  15. Increases cortical thickness in areas related to paying attention 

  16. Increases your focus & attention

  17. Improves your ability to multitask

  18. Improves your memory

  19. Improves your ability to be creative & think outside the box 

  20. It makes you wise(r) 

3. How long should I meditate for?

Ahhh, meditation, the simple saying of the word conjures up images of Indian gurus and Chinese monks siting on mountain tops for hours at a time. However, we’re Americans dangit, we ain’t got that kind of time to spare. We’re busy being free and stuff. Luckily, hours are not necessary to produce positive effects in our lives. When I started, I began with 5 minutes every day. My little ADHD butt couldn’t handle much more than that. Nowadays I’m up to around 45 minutes to an hour due to time constraints in my day to day life. (I would go for longer if I could) However, a good goal for beginners would be anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. It just depends on your mental abilities starting out. Again, just like the gym, don’t load up the bench press your first day. You’ll burn out and are more likely to quit because you feel like you’ll never get there. Also, you are going to fail when you begin this. You might try to mediate for 15 minutes and only get a few minutes of actual meditation in. This is normal. I won’t go on about this because there are already a bazillion meditation guide videos on YouTube. I’ll link my favorite one below in the citations. So now that you have a good idea on how to begin meditation, it’s time to discuss

4. The Different types of meditation. 

I’ll begin by telling you all about my preferred flavor of meditation, and then give a list of other practices and a citation at the end of the Article to research more into them if you so desire. 

Personally, I prefer a Zen style of meditation known as Shikantaza. Basically, it is the act of sitting and focusing on nothing with my eyes closed. When a thought pops up, I acknowledge it and let it pass. Usually I will only have a few moments of thoughtless peace every few minutes but as I continue to do it the space between thoughts grows ever longer, which allows me to focus on the stillness. It’s a cool technique and one that I really enjoy, but I also understand that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. So without further ado here are a few more different types of meditations. 


  2. HINDU MEDITATION (Vedic & Yogic)




Now understand this is not even close to an exhaustive list, but it should give you enough knowledge to begin sifting through more, if you so choose. 

Guys, meditation has been a bigger help to myself than all the therapy in the world. I hope this little writing of mine gives you guys some help and some useful tools that you can use in your day to day life. 

Until Next time, the violence in me recognizes the violence in you. Namaste. 

~ The Jackrabbit

The Jackrabbit has also just started a podcast for men’s self-development and betterment. If you’re interested check it out at the podcast is Clog the Cog Radio