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I recently had a lovely visit with my father. I’ve not had much connection with him during my life, and so now, in our later years, it has become very important to the two of us that we reconnect and learn who we are together.

My father is a skilled hunter and marksman and so it pleased me to have the chance to experience target shooting with him. This is something that is interesting to him and I wanted to share in that, challenging myself with an experience that I am not at all comfortable with. As I hesitantly and fearfully attempted to hold the pistol in my hand, he shared a practice technique that he has successfully used with my young nephews, called BRASS. This stands for Breathe, Relax, Aim, Squeeze, and Shoot. As I was contemplating the acronym this week, I realized it fits very nicely in every area of my life.

BREATHE: This is the first part of the preparation process. It centers me and focuses my attention. It readies me to meet my next step head on. I hear my father’s voice in my head: “Take a deep and steady breath.”

RELAX: The first breath leads to a feeling of steadiness and on my exhale I can feel my body relaxing. I allow any jitters or uncertainty to flow down my back and I move on to the next step.

AIM: I put the target in my sight. I see the direction I intend my shot to go. It’s right there in front of me and I am lined up to hit it.

SQUEEZE: I Freeze. I recognize that my hesitation disrupts my flow and guarantees that I will miss my target. I know this because I squeezed off a few shots with my eyes closed and my breath held! This is not a good thing. I shot the dirt. I shot the trees. I could have shot the dog. As I consider the experience, I realize that this is the point where I encounter my own resistance and fear all the time. This is the point in time that everything stops for me.

My father tells me, “Don’t anticipate the noise. Don’t anticipate the kick back.”

SHOOT: So I begin the process again. Breathe. Relax. Aim. Breathe. Relax. Aim. Breathe. Relax. Aim. My father is infinitely patient with me as I keep trying to align myself before taking action. And then I find the place inside where I know I am calm. When I squeeze the trigger my eyes are open. My shot is fired. And I hit the target. I am not always perfectly in center, but I am always around the zone I intend to hit.

Breathe. Relax. Aim. Squeeze. Shoot. I must steady myself in the face of every new experience without anticipating the worst. I must soothe myself and become aware of the perfectly right and aligned feeling. And only then will my inspired action lead me to hit my target.

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