There are not many people who have creds in the departments of both humanitarian and war efforts.
Eric Greitens spent his twenties in refugee camps in Bolivia and Rwanda. And then he joined the Navy SEALS. He currently runs an organization called The Mission Continues and he recently wrote a book called “The Heart and the Fist”. This past week in an interview on the Diane Rheme show he said,
“To be a real warrior means that you develop your strength in order to be of service to others.”
This struck a deep chord with me. If I am honest with myself I have to be mindful of the violence that bubbles in me when I experience or observe injustice. My first instinct is not to pass around a big hug. It’s to punch someone in the face (or worse). On the one hand I can temper this response as a byproduct of anger and find a more accurate response. But there is something so natural about the instinct to stand up and fight. What do you do with that? Is violence and fighting just when it is defense of the oppressed and vulnerable?
When asked how he felt about pacifism he said,
I actually have tremendous admiration for people like Gandhi, for example, who are absolute pacifists. I think the key, though, to be a really strong pacifist, it actually still means not that you avoid conflict, but that you’re willing to actually put yourself in a place where you’re going to use peaceful means in the middle of conflict. And I have tremendous, tremendous respect and admiration for people like Gandhi, for other people who have taken that kind of peaceful approach.
I think one of the things I find is that they actually have that same set of [warrior] courage because they’re actually willing not just to talk about being pacifists, but they’re actually willing to go to the front lines themselves and to use those peaceful means.
And this made me cringe. Because when I feel my violence rise up in response to injustice, it is so easy to say that I am not going to do anything, I am going to step aside and avoid my anger in the name of compassion. But silence and softness is not the way of compassion. It is the way of fear.
Compassion is the way of the warrior.
What do you do with a practice that teaches both Ahisma (non-violence) and Virabhadrasana (warrior pose)? How do you embody the warrior and practice non-violence?
These questions haunt me. What do you think?