The Guardian Broadcast
"Providing Concealed Carry & Armed Self-Defense Wisdom."
A podcast by Patrick Kilchermann, founder of the Concealed Carry University.
"Do You Know How to Breathe?"
In modern society, it is all too easy to forget how to do things that our ancestors knew intuitively, and without effort. Perhaps the most critical of these skills is the simple act of proper breathing.
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Hello, and welcome to the Guardian Broadcast! This is Patrick Kilchermann, founder of Concealed Carry University.
I’m sorry for missing last week’s broadcast. My wife is very pregnant right now, and as I was going to be out of town for the latter half of last week, my window for recording a Broadcast was very small. It was interrupted, and – it happens.
This week, I’ve got some very practical advice for you: I want to focus on breathing.
When I first began studying the idea of Combat Breathing, I was amazed to learn that a man or woman could control their heart rate to a pretty significant degree just by breathing differently. It seemed incredible to me, but the physiology behind this is actually a no-brainer: It seems that as our situation or environment becomes more stressful, our bodies react in a closed-system manner, where a combination of chemical and electrical signal causes our bodies to begin tensing up in a few ways, as we prepare for Fight, Flight, or Freeze.
Breathing is one of those things: as we tense up in fear or in preparation for action, our breathing becomes more rapid and shallow. That’s universally understood, but what was new to me was the fact that simply by making an intentional effort to slow your breathing down, you can fool your body into thinking that the situation is not as dangerous as your brain may think it is.
Now, why would you want to fool your body in this way? The answer is twofold:
>First, our environment is almost always NEVER as worrisome as we think it is.
>Second, being tense and on the brink of FIGHT, FLIGHT, or FREEZE is almost never going to help us to deal with the problem we’re facing very effectively.
For example, Fight, Flight, or Freeze has only a few uses, and they all more or less relate to how a human would interact with his or her environment in a caveman-like setting. When we encountered a threat, we felt stress, and this stress response led to and aided our Fight, Flight, or Freeze action. You know, the stress of a snake falling in front of our face, causing us to slap that snake away, or lifting a car or boulder off a child, or running from a hornet’s nest or out of control vehicle, or locking up and playing dead in the face of an attacking bear.
But for us modern humans, by the time we’re 80 years old, we might have had a handful of times in your life when the Fight, Flight, or FREEZE instincts were pivotal in your survival.
Instead, the modern man’s ability to use tools has advanced far more rapidly than natural selection-induced evolutionary change. In other words, the structure of the human being’s brain and body hasn’t changed a bit since 8,000 years ago, but we’ve gone from slamming rocks together to make fire, to milling V8 engines to the thousandths of an inch, and setting them to perform flawlessly for 6000 hours, which translates to that engine turning a billion times in its life cycle. We’re very smart. We’re very good at making life easier for ourselves. And so, there aren’t going to be many times when we need our Fight, Flight, or FREEZE skills.
That said, one thing hasn’t changed: the stress response to problems in our lives that leads to putting us on the edge of Fight, Flight, or FREEZE. Even though stress almost never helps us solve our problems, it still happens. And not only does it happen, but it’s gotten to the point where chronic stress (or stress maintained for months or years) is literally the number 1 killer of people. It ruins careers, it ruins relationships, it ruins lives. It causes chronic digestive issues. Anxiety, obviously. Heart issues. Weight gain. Eye problems. Hair loss. Not fun! But just as deadly and unhealthy are the mechanisms we use to deal with chronic stress. And I’m not just talking about medication which erodes our kidneys and livers. I’m talking about alcoholism or drug use or cigarettes or gambling, or other physical excesses that destroy our bodies faster than outright stress does.
Now, obviously stress should not be ignored – stress is not a problem, it is a symptom. A warning sign. If you’re feeling stress, there’s probably a very good reason, and that reason should be discovered and fixed. HOWEVER, being stressed rarely helps in solving the problems of the modern man. For that, we need clear heads and calm nerves so that we can determine and form realistic strategies, and set to them with diligent action.
So the question becomes, how do you obtain a clear head? Well, you have to break the cycle that leads to stress. And the most accessible and direct way we have to do that, is to control our breathing. To breathe the way a truly relaxed and calm person breathes. This has an almost instant effect on our bodies: it slows our pulse, and slows or even stops the release of chemicals that cause stress, and even can release chemicals or signals that calm us down.
How do you do this?
The best way is to compare the ways that a stressed person breathes to the ways that a relaxed person breathes. A stressed person takes rapid, shallow breaths up high in their chest. In the extreme, this looks like hyperventilating. A relaxed person takes slow, full breaths, down low in their abdomen.
And that’s what you want to do. Slowly fill your lungs from the bottom by dropping your diaphragm all the way down, until the lungs are full. Hold it for a beat, then exhale slowly.
Somehow, it became a masculine ideal to breathe into the tops of our chest. I guess it’s probably because we associate a puffy chest with strength, but a puffy belly with weakness. Well, we need to get over that, because breathing into the abdomen triggers the movement of a special nerve that runs along the diaphragm, which has a direct and immediate control over our brain’s tension and stress level.
Now, Combat Breathing is an exaggerated form of proper breathing that acts like a restrictor plate on the carburetor of an engine. If an engine is revving up and out of control – like a new soldier might when he finds himself in a deadly firefight and realizes that there is no way to escape – the best thing for him to do may be to just cut off his air supply a bit to slow down his engine, or his pulse, so he can think and act clearly. That’s why combat breathing involves extending the breathing process with 4-second inhales, 4-second holds, 4-second exhales, followed by another 4-second pause before the process repeats itself.
But for a person not engaging in physical, violent combat – but instead simply navigating the treacherous world of poorly managed economics – your breathing need not be so exaggerated as combat breathing. Just focus on taking long, deep breaths by expanding the diaphragm, inhale until the lungs are full, then exhale at a relaxed pace.
Trust me: it works. The positive effects this will have on you and your health are too outrageous to name, because it’ll sound phony. Instead, just make a concerted effort to re-train your body to breathe in this way over the next few weeks. Now, I’ll warn you. Training your breathing method takes a lot of work. But like any other habit, it only takes a few weeks to implant. The first step is to simply become aware of how you’re breathing. Observe the way you breathe, and instantly you’ll begin doing it better, according to the instruction I’ve provided. Eventually, you’ll notice that every 3rd or 4th breath follows this better tempo. Then every 2nd. Eventually, nearly all your breaths will.
Again: it works. It turns out that the old advice to step back and take a deep breath is not only a means of distracting you from the problem at hand: it’s an action that will have a very real, positive physical impact on the chemical composition of your brain. It literally makes you more patient, more aware, more wise, and more likely to act intelligently.
Okay, now you can end your Guardian Broadcast session right now, but I want to add three things: two stories, and a fact.
First we humans are part spiritual beings – our souls – and part animals. Physically, we’re animals. And the fact is that an animal body requires oxygen. Without oxygen, our response times get slower and less intelligent and less focused. Having read the number of memoirs as I have written by crew members on high-altitude bombers or submarines demonstrates this in very vivid ways. And when we see fish swim into stagnant water that is less oxygenated, they begin acting drunk. That’s how important oxygen is to animals – especially to humans, who rely heavily on our brains for economic survival.
Well, when we allow our lungs to only inflate a little bit with shallow breaths, we’re passing by an opportunity to give our brains all the oxygen fuel they need. We’re missing out on realizing our full capabilities, big time. I don’t know about you, but that’s a big deal for me. Whether it’s with a firearm, electronic, or an engine, nothing grinds me more than failing to utilize energy effectively. Losing energy to friction in an engine, or to heat in an electronic… I can’t stand it, and I’ll spend hours chasing down and identifying these bottlenecks of efficiency.
So, take it from me: my research has certainly taught me that failing to use our lungs properly creates an enormous efficiency bottleneck in our bodies. But not only that, letting our bodies fall into an oxygen-lean state even increases the risk of cancer in a number of different tissues. So, there are plenty of reasons to get cracking on re-calibrating the way we breathe.
Another way to drive this point home, is this: during World War 2, a brilliant American or English engineer whose name escapes me made the critical realization that it is downright foolish to draw a parallel between the displacement of an engine and its ability to produce power. Now, we Americans have almost completely forgot this lesson, and so we believe to our cores that a 350 cubic inch engine is three times as powerful as a 100 cubic inch engine. And while specific examples may seem to prove this true, it’s simply not true in principle. In fact, developing a powerful engine depends most chiefly on how much oxygen and air you can suck into, consume, and push out of that engine. In other words, the most efficient engines will be the ones that can inhale and exhale air the fastest. It was this engineer’s thinking that led to the creation of some of the greatest piston-driven engines ever devised: those that powered propeller-driven aircraft, particularly the fighters – particularly the liquid cooled V12 engines.
These engines were made so remarkable not by large bore strokes or cylinder diameters, but by the equipment that was devised to aid in their ability to consume oxygen. Large, strategically placed air intake housings. Turbo chargers and super chargers spinning at tens of thousands of RPMs to force an astronomical amount of air into the engine. And intercoolers, to cool the air down, making it more dense, and therefore making oxygen more plentiful. Using these strategies, these engines were made to produce as much power in the vastly thin air up at 30,000 feet as some of the best, million-dollar-car naturally aspirated engines can here on the ground.
And it’s all simply because people realized that there was an efficiency bottleneck in these existing engines, which was corrected by helping them to breathe better.