By Mary O’Brien, M.D.
Will you exit the same way you entered?
Making that assumption is human nature. Tragically, as people in London, Manchester, Brussels, and Berlin have witnessed, ordinary assumptions can be deadly.
Survival requires alertness. It always has. It always will. There has never been a shortage of danger in the world. The nature and complexity of threats have evolved over the millennia, but certain principles of survival endure. Being mindful of your surroundings is one important principle.
Mindfulness is not new. Nor is it merely a pleasant pastime. “Being in the moment” is a good way to slow down, enjoy a meal, or notice a full moon. It may, with practice, help reduce blood pressure and stress. That’s nice. However, in an age when deranged fanatics and terrorists can wreak massive devastation in minutes, mindfulness can save lives.
An off-duty police officer is still a police officer. The same is true for health-care professionals. The next time you’re out in public, be it in a classroom, a café, or a concert hall, practice some mindfulness that really matters:
- Be alert, be vigilant — pay attention to people and things around you — not your devices. Do not “zone out.”
- Scan the area for possible exits. It is human nature to leave a place the same way you entered. This can be a fatal mistake in a fire, a terrorist attack, or any catastrophe.
- Resist the temptation to follow the crowd. Panic-stricken people can be exceedingly dangerous. Be mindful of alternate options for escape. Being trampled to death is not a good option.
- Cultivate enough silence in your daily life to foster good instincts and intuition. When seconds matter, this can save lives.
The principles of mindfulness have been practiced and promoted by some very wise people over the centuries. It is curious that a step on the path to enlightenment may be the most crucial survival skill of all.