I am the daughter of a warrior. My father was a bomber pilot in WWII and the Viet Nam War. My mother watched the bombing of Pearl Harbor from her bathroom window on Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. I am also the sister, aunt, cousin, former spouse and friend of countless military personnel. My love and respect for those who serve – and for those of us who wait and hope for their safe return – is boundless and deep.
At his core, my father was a man of peace. He grew up on a sheep ranch in northern Nevada. He carried sick or injured lambs until they were strong enough to walk with their mothers. He learned to nurture and raise healthy animals in a stark and challenging environment. He could kill for food or to relieve an animal’s suffering but never for pleasure. His warrior heart was as tender as it was strong. He believed those wars would bring peace; so did I.
I think the Viet Nam era was the most challenging. At one point my father and my brother (by congressional waiver) flew combat there at the same time. My mother and I waited stateside and supported the wives and families of the crews. I stood on tarmacs and honored those who returned in body bags. I went with my mother (my father was the Wing Commander), the Commanding General’s wife, and chaplains to knock on doors and bring the news to those families when planes and crews were lost in combat. I sat in base chapels during memorials for those same men, the brightest and the best. I read letters from my brother when his squadron commander and fellow pilots were shot down and taken prisoner. I wept buckets of tears when those same men limped off planes and kissed the ground 7 years later and we were done.
Now, I look to other sources to walk The Path of Peace. Life has shown me that only peace can create, give birth to and nurture peace. The Dalai Lama has lived this before us in the most challenging of personal and world circumstances. Exiled and aware of what transpires in his native Tibet, he simply asks to meet with those who now rule there. He seeks an opportunity to be heard. He lives in peace.
I am inspired by him and others I know who live in peace, non-duality, oneness of mind and heart. My choice to walk this path was not dramatic or profound. It began slowly and quietly when I was a child. My heart is tender like my father’s. Seeing suffering was difficult for me. I didn’t know what to do with what I saw and felt. It is still difficult for me because I understand that when one suffers all suffer. When the twin towers fell and I allowed myself to watch what had happened, my body responded violently to what I saw. I wretched and vomited and cried myself into exhaustion. Then I turned the tv off and have never looked at those images again.
I practice and teach yoga and meditation. I am a Reiki Practitioner. My students have included Japanese, Vietnamese and Muslims. Our mutual love and respect has brought much healing to my heart and mind. My visits to Japan as a military wife brought me to my knees. The gentle beauty of the people and the land wiped out everything I had been taught about our “enemies.”
Please do not misunderstand me. I have not “arrived.” I am still confused and hurt by the violence in our world. I can still react and want to eliminate those who attack and destroy in order to gain power. The abuse of women, children, anyone unable to protect themselves takes me to a dark place inside. Until I sit and breathe and come into the Oneness of All That Is. Until I see the perpetrators manifesting the fear and anger and lack of power I have experienced in much lesser ways in my own life. Until I feel my own capacity to do harm when a child or an animal is abused. Until I remember a human being can only live and behave from the level of awareness they are currently experiencing. Until I remember that peace begins within and cannot be forced on anyone.
So, I sit often. I find that sacred place within my own being and I abide there. I trust that what I experience within manifests without and fills the world I walk in with compassion. I trust what I know: this moment, this breath of peace, gives birth to the next. What emanates out from me flows without hindrance into and throughout my world. When one suffers, all suffer. When one lives in peace, all can one day live in peace.
The Path of Peace begins within and manifests without.