Warrior Ethics

Posted on October 18, 2011



Image by John-Morgan via Flickr

“Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh and the greatness which does not bow before children.” – Khalil Gibran

It is a cold day. Fall is here and is brings with it the sharp smell of leaves dying and moisture thickening the air. Colorado is a beautiful place to watch the weather change and being here during the fall makes me wax philosophic about life and how I engage in it – Svadhyaya- self-examination is one of the Niyama (yogi code of personal ethics) that helps develop a conscious relationship with the self as well as the world. I am fully in the seat of this practice today.

Being so open makes it a good time to explore a post that I set to the side for a while, because it brings to the fore an aspect of my life that is tender to examine – I remember a friend telling me that tenderness is simply a place where one’s “ground” has been worked and is ready for planting and growth. Solid words.

So- here we go-

I recently read an article about Forrest Yoga founder Anna Forrest pairing with the Exalted Warrior Foundation to help out veterans wounded in the most current wars. This article brought me to tears for a number of reasons, but primarily because this is good yogic work. I am a supporter personality and have an inborn need to help others – Karma and Bhakti yoga are the forms of yoga that I find most appealing and supportive to my personality :The yoga of selfless service and the yoga of devotion. Anna Forrest, the founder of a practice that I followed for 6 of past 12 years is amazing and the perfect person to help establish this kind of karma yoga for those broken by war. She founded Forrest Yoga after discovering yoga helped her work with emotional and physical trauma in her own life. It is intensely physical practice that asks its practitioners to tap into enormous wells of mental dedication. As Ana says, “”My intent in teaching Forrest Yoga is to inspire people to clear through the stuff that hardens them and sickens their bodies so they can walk freely and lightly on the earth in a healing way, a Beauty Way.” Breaking through to beauty. What a gift to give those who have experienced war. Those who return from violence with physical and mental scars are most in need of a path that gently supports recovery.

My ex-husband is a veteran. A former infantry marine leader. He came away from war a changed man physically and mentally. We met when I was in graduate school and my interaction with him shifted the focus of my thesis to the exploration of war trauma on the soul. It’s interesting, life affecting work. Work that spoke to the supporter/fixer in me. Walking in this space made me feel like I was doing something for the world. But…( there’s always a but right?) I fell in love with my husband’s brokenness and he fell in love with my willingness to help him. A positive outcome could not be born of such a union. We fought. His trauma possessed him, made him aggressive and dark. Things broke and then broke further and we found ourselves standing on a pile of pieces that were supposed to be our life together…blinking at the devastation we created. Both of us together.We divorced. I stopped trying to work with veterans because I stopped being able to see the forest through the trees. I couldn’t find an inlet, safe from my pain to see how best to continue doing good work in this community…save for my yoga practice. Yoga became my safe haven. . .

You get where I’m going with this? My personal response to the interplay of what I love and what brought me pain was(is) unnerving but necessary.

Sitting in Svadhyaya- self-examination has helped me unravel my responses and place them into the greater worldview. ( This took time BTW – I didn’t wake up one day and everything was roses and butterflies and okayness) Not all warriors are wounded beyond repair. Not all people are so caught up in war trauma that they cannot be remade, knitted back together with the threads of spiritual, mental and physical action offered by yoga. Not all women are drawn, like I was, to help these individuals at any cost…and honestly, my ex was not either.

In the end, the very end of things we are all individuals and each of us takes what we are given when we open our eyes each morning and weaves each moment into a life…a life worth experiencing. Like Tom Robbins says, “We’re our own dragons as well as our own heroes, and we have to rescue ourselves from ourselves.