Wilderness Survival, Tracking, and Awareness

Living On The Edge

Most people in the modern world take so many things for granted. One of those is that the world as we know it will continue indefinitely. Another is that our own lives will continue, without much in the way of significant change, for quite some time into the future.

A consequence of this is that people in the modern world feel and act as though they have a long time period in which to do anything significant in their lives. Most of the large, important decisions people make, and the things that they decide to do in response to those decisions, are things that will take a very long time. People plan a career, knowing that it will be many years or even decades before the benefits of that career come to fruition. People buy a house that they will not own for 20 or 30 years—and so on.

Another consequence is that what people are doing right now is often of very little importance (other than perhaps to add one tiny little almost insignificant bit to the long, drawn out goal far away in the distance).

There are several problems with the above mind-set for the person who is interested in self-sufficient living, and in survival without using the products of modern society. One problem that many would-be survivalists (including myself) have encountered is the feeling of stress that can come from knowing that the familiar world-as-we-know-it is coming to an end, and in fact could be taken away at almost any time.

To address these problems, including that of stress, I think it is necessary to in some way come to grips with the idea of living on the edge.

To believe that we have all the time in the world is not only stupid, but also takes away our appreciation of life, for where there is no awareness of death, boredom and discontent quickly set in. The warrior knows that his death is constantly stalking him; therefore whatever time he has left is a most priceless gift. Knowing that his time cannot last, the warrior savours his gift to the full, and enjoys every moment of this precious time. This is what is known as living on the edge.
Theun Mares, Return of the Warriors, p146.

The only reason why man hates the thought of living on the edge is because he insists on holding onto the idea that his life is not what he feels it should be. Being plagued all too frequently by feelings of discontent and bitterness man constantly hopes to change his life into what he imagines he would like it to be. In order to maintain these hopes man must believe in some future time in which he will be able to materialise his wishes. Thinking in this way, it is not so surprising that man should abhor the thought of living on the edge, for the concept, and all that it entails, threatens his entire view of the world, filling him with an overpowering sense of insecurity and doom.
Theun Mares, Return of the Warriors, p148.

He came to believe that much of what is wrong in Western society arises from the denial of death. "I feel this denial of death actually complicates problems that exist in Western society," Rinpoche said in the interview. "It is why there is no long-term vision, not very much thought for the consequences of actions, little or no compassion. People see death as terrible, as tragic. Because they want to live, they see death as the enemy of life and therefore deny death, which then becomes even more fearful and monstrous." But death can be a friend, he told the crowd at Interface. "Death holds the key to the meaning of life," Rinpoche said. "Remembering... brings life into focus... It sorts out your priorities, so you do not live a trivial life... It helps you take care of the most important things in life first."
How To Live Free of Fear of Death, Sogyal Rinpoche.

Having witnessed the very essence of life and death, there is nothing in this world a warrior cannot contend with. In the face of certain death nothing matters any more, because the worst is already at hand. So by accepting death as an inherent factor of life, the warrior is always calm and lucid. Neither his words nor his actions reveal that his knowledge encompasses both life and death.
Theun Mares, The Toltec Teachings - Volume VI, p174.

One of the most profound implications inherent within the concept of living on the edge is the fact that this is where life is for ever new, for ever nascent. Consequently, for the warrior living on the edge, life is never stagnant or repetitious, or boring. Instead every moment of his life is filled with awesome wonder and breathless excitement.
Theun Mares, The Mists Of Dragon Lore, p139.

Living with death as their best advisor and in having learned to dance the edge of life, the Warriors of Freedom are incapable of looking upon life in the same way as average men and women have been taught to do through their social conditioning. For the Warrior of Freedom death is not something vague out there that will only catch up with him in his old age, but is instead a very real and vital force that guides his every step, his every decision, emotion and feeling. Knowing that his death can tap him at any moment, the Warrior of Freedom does not waste even an instant of his time or his personal power, but strives to make every moment and every act as meaningful and as pleasurable as possible. Such warriors are for ever ready to make their last stand right here and right now, for each and every one of their acts is utterly impeccable and an expression of their innermost predilection. For such a warrior there are no regrets, only a breathtaking sense of enthusiasm and exhilaration.
Theun Mares, The Mists Of Dragon Lore, p153.

A warrior cannot base his decisions or actions upon faith, for he knows that faith is far too vague and uncertain. Instead, a warrior must look for facts in which he can believe, before deciding what course of action to take. This, however, is exactly where the Warrior's Path moves so very far away from the course followed by average men and women.
     The warrior acknowledges firstly, that he is living in an unpredictable universe in which life offers no guarantees; and secondly, that because his death is stalking him constantly, he has no time to lose. In the face of such odds, what facts are then left upon which the warrior can act with confidence?
     In such a situation, the only thing the warrior can possibly know for certain in that he cannot procrastinate and therefore cannot dither in his decisions. For better or for worse, the warrior must take action in the moment, for in the presence of death it is now or never. Furthermore, regardless of whether such action entails doing something, or refraining from doing something, the warrior also knows that his whole future depends upon the outcome of his choice. Thus the warrior acknowledges that he, and he alone, must take full responsibility for his actions.
     These are the only facts a warrior can know for certain. They do not amount to much, but at the end of the day they are all any warrior can ever possibly need, for in their application they are powerful beyond imagination. By acknowledging the fact that his time upon earth is limited and that he can die at any given moment, the warrior turns his ordinary time into magical time; and by living in the moment and by taking full responsibility for his actions, the warrior achieves that alertness which makes each one of his acts an expression of his discipline and his predilection.
Theun Mares, Cry of the Eagle, p124-125.

With an acute awareness of his death, with his detachment, and with the power of his decisions, the warrior sets up his life in the most strategic manner he can. The knowledge that his death is stalking him guides his every action and gives him his great lust for life. The power of his irrevocable decisions enables him to choose without regrets, and what he chooses is always the most impeccable course of action. As a result, the warrior always enacts everything he has to do with ardent zeal and utter efficiency. When someone behaves in this manner, he can rightfully be called a warrior, for he has acquired the greatest of all attributes; namely, patience.
     Once a warrior has acquired patience he is well on his way to activating his power. The warrior now knows how to wait. His death has become his best advisor and therefore sits next to him, advising him, in inexplicable ways, how to make his choices, and how to live his life as strategically as possible. But still the warrior waits, all the while learning without feeling the need to rush, for he knows that he is waiting for his power. And then one day the warrior suddenly manages to do something that is normally quite impossible. The warrior may well not even notice his incredible achievement, but as he keeps performing wonders, and as impossible things keep happening to him, he starts to become aware of some sort of power beginning to emerge from within him.
Theun Mares, The Toltec Teachings - Volume VI, p188.

Having acquired patience, and no longer fretting over impossible expectations, the apprentice now continues to work quietly, without hurry, but also without wasting precious time and personal power. His learning now proceeds with the sure and easy steps of a man who knows without doubt what his purpose in life encompasses. Consequently a quietness of life surrounds the apprentice—an inner state of serenity in which it is no longer difficult for him to save and to store personal power. Then one day, whilst performing a very mundane act, the apprentice suddenly becomes aware that his actions have somehow become imbued with a quality that has never before been present. At that moment he knows, without anyone having to tell him, that the power he has been struggling to acquire for so long is finally at his command.
Theun Mares, Cry of the Eagle, p86-87.

Theun Mares' website is www.toltec-foundation.org. His books can be purchased in two forms. The old style is recently out of print, but some of them can still be found new at many bookshops and at Amazon.com. The new style is much more expensive, due mainly to the archival-quality of the paper and binding, and can be purchased from his website.

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