Challenging the meaning of life is the truest expression of the state of being human -Victor E. Frankl
Two years after I separated from the Marine Corps, I was lost in practically every aspect of my life. My marriage had fallen apart, I despised my meaningless job in business and I was in debt up to my neck. Too frequently, I sought false refuge by drinking with Baltimore City cops who were also self-medicating PTSD and anxiety. Having seen death and destruction of war, nowhere felt quite safe anymore, except when I boozed, it took the edge off. Then a game changer, I found yoga and meditation, it found me. Being this big battle-tested tough guy Marine, I found myself a bit conflicted and confronted a series of lingering questions. Should I stick with the story that tough guys shouldn’t do things like yoga, and let others judge or criticize me unfavorably? More deeply, should I allow past traumas, fear of failure, rejection, uncertainty in life to keep me from connecting with myself and others, to keep me from fulfilling my potential?
Ultimately, could I have the courage to shift the course of my life from downward spirals of self- sabotaging, self-doubting beliefs toward an upward path of uncovering my true dharma, duty and place in the world?
starved for authentic experience
Each time I place my body on a mat or a cushion, I set a meaningful intention for my time on it. Importantly, this intention needs to be connected to my deeper values and beliefs, it is the initial spark which becomes a flame that when patiently fueled by breath becomes a strong and balanced fire. When I move and breathe with this fire in my mind and body, it takes root and grows. When I step off the mat and into the world, I carry it with me and extends to those I interact with and connect with.
Two years apart from the Marine tribe, I still polished my medals of valor with a pride-filled false ego and wore invisible armor that hid unseen scars. This only served to isolate me at a time
when I was still stuck in the blood, mud and shit filled streets of Iraq. What happened for me over the last five years has been nothing short of a personal revolution. I can confidently look back and see two major lessons: one, that our experiences of pain and suffering hinge upon our chosen beliefs and destructive habits of mind. If we can gain insight into, then unlearn these maladaptive beliefs, we can alter the presence or severity of our suffering. Two, that with a purposeful, intention filled yoga and meditation practice, new meaning and understanding will unfold naturally in front of us. It falls into our lap almost effortlessly. Our path forward toward what is right and good for us becomes clear and obstacles along the way are navigated with ease. For all of us that have ever felt fractured and lost, this process of finding a new way to be that feels right is a miraculous and rich experience of revival and rebirth.
With the state of western values and culture increasingly dependent on external solutions to internal problems, it comes as no surprise that we are often left with a sense of emptiness and confusion. We’re conditioned to reactively buy, spend and hoard money, acquire material goods and pop pills to quench our thirst for comfort and calm our fears. While this might be functional temporarily, it’s short-sighted and we find ourselves needing another fix once that buzz wears off. All serve as false refuge. So where should we look for true refuge? Your yoga mat and meditation cushion (preferably with the beautiful teachers at SHINE Power Yoga), of course.
If you’re struggling with your purpose in life, job, relationships or just feel stressed all the time but aren't quite sure why, I invite you to share this post with your friends, then bring them along with you for this great practice. During our yoga classes, you will find golden opportunities to mindfully pick and choose all the ingredients you need to build a strong fire and re-connect with a deeper sense of purpose. You’ll not only inspire yourself and find new meaning all around you, but your energy will inspire others to do the same. Through this process our community and culture grow together and shine bright together.
Picasso said “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
Last but not least - - I’m very excited to announce that starting Saturday March 26th, SHINE will begin offering another way to deepen and round out your yoga practice with a 60 minute Mindfulness Meditation class! Here, I will lead our weekly sangha (community) with a 20-30 minute sit followed by a guided dharma talk. I look forward to seeing you there.
~ CJ is currently living in South Jersey as an occupational therapist, finishing his 500 hour yoga teacher training under the guidance of Rolf Gates, and serves as a program director for Veterans Yoga Project. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or take his weekly Vinyasa class every Saturday at 12p with meditation following at 1:30p at the Maple Shade studio ~