Tag Archives: dalai lama

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WarVet Leans on the Dalai Lama: On Laughing With Others

“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.

20130625-212109.jpgThis 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.

1337256000000.cachedMy 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

CJ Keller, USMC, Retired

Wisdom: The Sound Application of Knowledge

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion” -The Dalai Lama

By CJ Keller
Veteran, USMC

Wisdom is the sound application of knowledge.  It is a deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply judgments and actions that serve optimal outcomes.

How can we cultivate or tap into wisdom through yoga?  Wisdom often requires control of one’s emotional reactions and control of the senses, so that universal principles of reason and morality prevail to determine our actions.  Our practice, whether in a physical posture, breath control or meditation, facilitates presence and grounding in the moment.  This grounding enables a yogi to draw upon judgement from a more objective place, where the mind is calm and freed from emotional barriers of stress and anxiety.  A quiet mind can listen to the authentic inner voice that we all posses. Ultimately, this is the voice in line with your values and this is the voice that guides your actions.

CJ Keller, USMC, Retired
CJ Keller, Veteran, USMC

The mindful movement, breathing and relaxation techniques used in SFHW’s yoga teachings, allow us to be lifted from the fog of our senses and from our selfish and often misguided desires.  As brothers and sisters bound by the honor and pride of military service, we can use our unique knowledge from training and combat, combined with a focused mind to make better, wiser choices for good in the world.  Mindful yoga fosters connection, sharpens intellect, and strengthens knowledge of self and others. This wisdom is a compass for our actions, leading us to happiness and compassion for ourselves and those we serve.

Dear Yogis: We Own This War

“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.