STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Video shows Thai boys' rescue from cave

Remarkable video released by the Thai Navy SEALs shows the rescue operation to bring the Wild Boar soccer team out of Thailand's Tham Luang cave.

Posted: Jul 19, 2018 11:09 AM
Updated: Jul 19, 2018 11:26 AM

It's a captivating image: a dozen pre-teen and teen boys trapped in a cave for 10 days, only to be found by rescuers mysteriously calm, composed ... perhaps even meditating.

It's uncanny to consider that their unspeakable misfortune (they would not actually get out of the cave for several more days) was accompanied by something very lucky: they were trapped with a former Buddhist monk of 10 years, their soccer coach, who was able to guide them in meditation, a time-tested technique that diminishes distress.

Leigh Weiss of Stanford University is correct when she notes that meditation was an ideal response to this situation. She told CNBC that the practice likely lowered their cortisol levels to help them stay calm, and lowered their rate of respiration in the confined environment, where air was a dear resource.

Beyond its utility in helping the boys and their coach survive, there's a pivotal aspect of working with our emotions in meditation -- one that may also help these boys navigate the complex fallout of their experience, both the media attention and the potential, personal traumatic reverberations. It's a central aspect of meditation that has implications for us all: relating to our experience with an attitude of "caring for it."

How might they have used this?

Ordinarily, we identify with our emotions, especially the strong ones, like fear and anxiety. Anger is certainly a good one to consider -- many of us struggle with it. Think about the last time you got angry. Anger sort of took over, didn't it? It may have even felt like, in a way, you were the anger. You may have even communicated the feeling in a manner reflective of this intrapsychic carjacking: "I'm angry," as opposed to, "I feel anger." I'm willing to bet the anger either became your boss (it dictated what you did, said, and thought next) or it became your enemy (you pushed it down or distracted yourself from it).

We might not see it, but we have a relationship to our experience, whatever it is, that is not unlike the relationships we have with other people.

So, what if you had been able to mentally take a step back from your anger, put a little bit of space between it and you so you could get some perspective? What if you were able to adopt a friendlier attitude about the presence of that anger, or were even compassionate towards the struggling part of you?

The same was possible with the fear and anxiety the Thai boys felt in the cave. It's likely that coach Ekapol Chanthawong guided the boys to not struggle against their intense feelings and to paradoxically regulate their stress in the face of it by "holding" their experience with kindness.

If you had done so with your anger, you would have instantly eliminated a layer of anguish for yourself. I say this often at MNDFL here in NYC, which offers meditation classes: if we're anxious and we're hating our anxiety, that's two layers of suffering. If we take a step back and become friendly towards our anxiety, we're left with one layer of suffering, and the anxiety becomes infinitely more tolerable than when we were struggling against it. This may well be what helped the boys to find ease in their entrapment and emerge relatively unscathed.

Second, this aspect of meditation empowers us to allow our emotions to run their course without being so seduced by them. Our emotions are like everything else in existence in that they have a life cycle: they're born, they peak, and then they die. When we make bosses or enemies of our emotions -- that is, when we indulge or repress them -- it's like we choke off that process. And you may have noticed, when we numb our emotions or take them out on others, it's not as if they go away. They just go underground, where they cause more problems.

In befriending our emotional experience we can allow our emotions to run their full course, diminishing the likelihood that their biochemical residue will remain in our nervous systems and cause other stress-related problems and illnesses. In short, if we learn to take them less personally, they rule our lives to a far lesser degree.

Returning to the 12 boys and their coach, we know that they will be forced to relive their experience again and again as the onslaught of media attention continues. With the proper relationship to their experience, this activity could be healing for them as opposed to re-traumatizing.

In my own work with trauma survivors as a therapist, little by little, I invite the retelling of unspeakable events, help patients to feel every bit of the emotional activation attached to the experience, and together we hold it all in a compassionate space. My hope for these boys is that they might be able to utilize the endless interviews they'll be having and other media attention that may be unwelcome toward similar ends by holding compassion for themselves, even if no one else is.

It's a good bet that the boys survived their experience in the cave, both physiologically and psychologically, in part thanks to meditation. While it's likely that you or I won't ever find ourselves in such a situation, we all have places in our lives where we feel trapped, stuck, and uncertain about our fate. I think the triumph of these young adolescents has something to teach us all about how we face the distress of everyday life.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 266598

Reported Deaths: 5852
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17807191
Hinds16967332
Harrison14298204
Rankin11280221
Jackson10976190
Lee9088145
Madison8619169
Jones6782118
Forrest6236124
Lauderdale6128192
Lowndes5564120
Lafayette5229101
Lamar507465
Washington4951125
Bolivar4149109
Oktibbeha409482
Panola388281
Pontotoc378560
Warren3698103
Monroe3693110
Marshall358570
Union357764
Pearl River3508106
Neshoba3499154
Leflore3122109
Lincoln307688
Hancock296362
Sunflower293075
Tate281162
Alcorn273554
Pike271081
Itawamba270063
Scott260849
Yazoo257156
Prentiss254554
Coahoma251555
Copiah250749
Tippah250150
Simpson243872
Leake238467
Marion225973
Grenada224272
Covington222473
Adams215371
Wayne215034
Winston207771
George204839
Newton200046
Attala197464
Tishomingo195661
Chickasaw189644
Jasper182538
Holmes172268
Clay167537
Tallahatchie157535
Stone152925
Clarke148662
Calhoun141822
Smith130726
Yalobusha123835
Walthall115037
Greene114529
Noxubee114126
Montgomery112736
Lawrence107617
Carroll106922
Perry105331
Amite102426
Webster97424
Claiborne89725
Tunica89321
Jefferson Davis88930
Benton86523
Humphreys84824
Kemper81020
Quitman7149
Franklin70717
Choctaw63813
Wilkinson59925
Jefferson57121
Sharkey45717
Issaquena1606
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 443009

Reported Deaths: 6662
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson649101007
Mobile31746574
Madison28413217
Tuscaloosa21566275
Montgomery20088332
Shelby19452132
Baldwin17333189
Lee13261107
Morgan12678142
Etowah12141181
Calhoun11555206
Marshall10487123
Houston9031164
Limestone838181
Cullman8296124
Elmore8243110
Lauderdale7946107
DeKalb7900107
St. Clair7876130
Talladega6523112
Walker6050183
Jackson603245
Colbert558194
Blount548586
Autauga540762
Coffee466964
Dale412785
Franklin377550
Russell358415
Chilton346873
Covington340880
Escambia339244
Tallapoosa3163109
Dallas313696
Chambers305470
Clarke303336
Pike265231
Lawrence255855
Marion254661
Winston234742
Bibb222948
Geneva213047
Marengo210531
Pickens200431
Hale186144
Barbour183438
Fayette178829
Butler174860
Cherokee166031
Henry160025
Monroe152621
Randolph146636
Washington142727
Clay130746
Crenshaw124845
Macon122837
Cleburne122125
Lamar120622
Lowndes116836
Wilcox108322
Bullock104628
Perry100518
Conecuh98022
Sumter90627
Greene77923
Coosa64018
Choctaw52124
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 55°
Columbus
Cloudy
56° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 56°
Oxford
Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 50°
Starkville
Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 52°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather