“Only affection produces authentic friends.” –The Dalai Lama
We sat outside a barn in Oregon, the sound of sheep and goats in the background, happy to see on another. I’d traveled north to Oregon in need of a change of scenery, and also to touch base with friends. I felt blessed that he’d chosen to drive a few hours to visit with me.
This friend was an old friend/new friend. I call him that because this was the first time he and I had ever met. While he had met my husband, he and I had only carried on a conversation for 4 years over through blogs, emails and phone calls. We had mutual acquaintances, made through the experience of war. This long awaited meeting was special.
I’d followed him through is many missions overseas to rough and dangerous territory. He was a good man, pressed to do dangerous risky work, among people who needed and wanted him there, and others who only wanted to kill him. His point of view always gave me a deeper perspective in trying to understand the bigger picture of things in Afghanistan. Gradually, his role came to an end, and he returned home. But here, something ominous awaited him in the form of PTSD. We knew he was in trouble because he admitted as much to us via emails and phone calls.
To say many of us were worried is an understatement. But we all loved and believed in him, and hoped a change would come about.
It did. And what it took was a move, and being in a place that didn’t resemble the arid landscape of Afghanistan, where nature and beauty came together and most of all –where he was needed and could find a new a new purpose. He’s finding a balance of things. We talked about his life as it is now, and he told me that prayer works a lot, as does reading the Dalai Lama. He described something that the Dalai Lama said, about the difference between laughing with people and at them.
My friend said this wasn’t an easy thing for him to do –he used to be a deadly mimic. But all the while, in doing so, it was a way for him to deflect what he was really feeling, and also to ignore the feelings and humanity of the other person. So while it’s not easy, it’s what he’s practicing now as he makes his way through civilian life.
You have to take care of others, of their well-being, by helping them and serving them, to have even more friends and make more smiles blossom. -The Dalai Lama
We talked about how it wasn’t that different from the years when he was in command of so many young men and women. There was discipline, and he served them well by extending patience and order. He is still very much a warrior with the people skills acquired through service, now burnished with the wisdom of the Dalai Lama. He still has PTSD, he still struggles with sleep, but rather than edging into a pit of despair, he has resources now to help him cope.
We ended our meeting as the late afternoon set in. He left to continue on this fruitful path, one that teaches him compassion through the ability to laugh with others.
Read: “Why I Laugh” by the Dalai Lama