“The world belongs to humanity. America belongs to the American people, not the Republican or the Democratic party.” -The Dalai Lama talking to Piers Morgan
This is a true story. The names have been omitted to protect the truly loving and caring. A group of well-heeled yogis, who have every earthly possession to make their lives comfortable, were given the opportunity to donate a few bucks to support our new community yoga classes for veterans at the VA and a local base. Their response: they didn’t think they should have to donate something that the government should already be providing.
This response isn’t atypical of those who are far removed from the realities of the politics that control the conditions of our veterans and their families. The truth is that funds are stretched, and while one would think that the VA provides yoga teachers at every single hospital, it doesn’t. We think it should too, and have written about the disparity of funding for yoga and other movement-based therapies in governmental institutions. However, to lounge on principles is akin to driving in a luxury car through a tough neighborhood and pretend to not notice the stress and suffering out the window.
Rob Schware, the Big Poppa of the philanthropic yoga movement and co-founder of the Give Back Yoga Foundation, writes in the Huffington Post, Veterans Trauma and Yoga: Are we moving quickly enough? He writes:
Are there enough yoga teachers and therapists to complement the work of other health professionals addressing the growing health crisis those now face who have served our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan, and even Vietnam?
Rob lists several resources, including our grassroots partner, Yoga For Vets. A civilian, Rob has an interesting professional background, and could easily sit back on the laurels of his career. But thankfully, he doesn’t.
I think the real issue is whether people are willing to put aside their personal politics, and help those in need. War is one of the less desirable products of our own humanity, and because we are a part of it, we at WarRetreat accept the consequences (both good and bad) that come from it. We know personally that war brings tragedy and suffering on every level. Driven by our own humanity, we own it. Because of this, we’ve witnessed the fruits of ownership, which is a sense of community, caring, and the creation of ways to address the suffering of others to offer a helping hand. Without ownership, we might as well lease a big car and drive through life, ignoring our environs.
This isn’t to say that we would dissuade anyone from being politically astute and even active. However, WarRetreat draws lines when it comes to bringing politics onto the mat –there is a fine line between activism and politics, especially in the U.S. where we live in a highly divided political environment that is both provoking and suffocating. One thing for sure, talking about politics makes people talk in short, desperate sounding choppy phrases. It tenses people up and closes people off. It seems to be the antithesis of finding stress reduction through yoga. Our goal is to help those who have been through the confusion of war find a bit of peace so that they may live the productive lives they desire.