February 8, 2012

Off the Uniform, into the Practice.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

It’s a question that is asked when we’re very young, possibly pondered by our parents before we could even walk. It’s our invitation to begin building the puzzle of the present, ultimately piecing together into our picturesque vision of the future. In high school, I took one of those personality and interest tests that revealed I should be a forensic pathologist, someone who works with dead bodies in a morgue. Nothing against pathologists, but I was sort of offended.

I never had dreams of what I was going to be when I was little. I didn’t dress up like a doctor or a ballet dancer. Even today I see my six-year-old son running through the house saying he wants to be an astronaut or Luke Skywalker. He’s very interested in defying gravity, which is promising to the future yogi he doesn’t know he’s about to become.

So I did what a lot of people in my situation do, changed my major (a few times), changed my minor, couldn’t make up my mind so I doubled my major and settled for what came naturally to me…the military.

I’m into physical fitness and that seemed to be a key deterrent in the University’s recruiting numbers, a definite bonus for me. My personality can also be a little, oh, how does my mother say it…“rough around the edges.” The career path seemed to fit.

So, I did a lot of stuff.  I literally traveled from country to country, experience after experience, changing positions, changing branches, changing jobs.

An old military adage is “hurry up and wait.” Literally, you hurry to the next deployment, the next duty assignment, the next promotion and then you wait and hurry again to the next thing on the horizon. The concept of a present moment is foreign.

As my military experience continued, so did my yoga practice. Early on I taught myself how to do a headstand (sirsasana). I taught myself the only way I knew how: hurry up and get there so I could focus on something else. There was no fun in that and all I learned to do was to literally stand on my head. But as I began to be more present and accepting of my circumstances and myself, the more I wanted to not “hurry up and wait.”

Accepting the present moment for what it is and not what it should or could be is a powerful notion, a notion that didn’t come easy or without its flashing red lights. I waged war on myself, forcing myself to be something that I wasn’t. I didn’t accept myself for what I was, but only saw myself as how I should and could be based on others’ perceptions.

Some believe that you make your own path in life, nothing is ordained, and nothing is fate. Others believe that you have a particular path in this lifetime and are equipped with the gifts to be successful on your path. I prefer to believe the latter of the two.

I’ve seen many great military officers who choose a lifelong military career and I believe that was their ordained path to live. They had this twinkle in their eye when they spoke about leading Soldiers and had such a pride in themselves, the uniform, and the military. I’ve also seen the opposite, where the military is something they do because they happen to it well, not because it’s their passion. Time seems to wear differently on these faces and they appear to lumber through life. I believe this can apply to any profession.

Bob Marley said, “don’t gain the world and lose your soul, wisdom is better than silver or gold.”

So here I am, about to end an eight year military career to teach yoga.

I don’t know how the future is going to turn out. I don’t have the glide-path career chart (yes, there is such a thing) that tells me what I’ll be doing at year 10 and year 20 posted next to my Krishna poster. All I have is my mat, the present moment and acceptance for who I am. I don’t think it can get any clearer than that.

Edited by Brianna Bemel

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