April 9, 2014

A Happy Hippie-Peace-Freak. ~ William Hunnell

Photo: Christian Ostrosky

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” ~ Lao Tzu

If anyone would have asked me ten years ago—scratch that—five years ago where I saw my life headed, I’m not 100 percent sure what my response would have been. I can, with certainty, say that where I am now, is the last place I’d have expected myself to be.

Oh, the fluctuations of life.

I’ve learned through my experience as a yoga teacher that with all of the yoga practice, all of the mantra reciting, and all the meditation, it’s  only as good as my own practical application of the yamas and niyamas. Not just on the mat but off, as well. Understanding that they apply to every being and thing is paramount. Which is a lesson I learned in an odd way.

In order to appreciate the ends you must know the means as well.

I’ve spent my adult life in more or less the same version of reality. For the first ten years of my adult life I served in the U.S. Marines, then I served for nine years as a Police Officer and then following that, another eight years building an army. Within that position, I sent soldiers off to fight in a war. I did this because I simply didn’t know any other way to be.

I was successful at what I did both in Law Enforcement and in the military. I adhered to the principle of “Do what’s right: always.”

I found myself in many situations that tempted my senses, yet I did not yield my principles.

I detested folks that I referred to at the time as ‘hippie peace freaks’. And I did not care for “tree huggers” because to me, they were intellects that had no ‘real world’ experience. I had no time for them.

I, also, was never really a nature-type of person, too although I’d enjoy a walk through the woods every now and then. Never did care for hunting, too—I guess the image of Bambi’s mother stuck with me all of these years. However, I did enjoy fishing and camping and I must say, I rarely, if ever, kept what fish I caught, it was sport to me and not survival.

And then came Yoga.

I initially began my Yoga practice for my ego and then eventually for the related health benefits as my body’s BMI was in a range that was well above the standards for military life. Additionally, I could no longer exercise in the manner I was accustomed because of a knee injury.

As I explored further into the study of Yoga, I determined that it would remain purely a physical practice for me. I didn’t want to get involved in the chanting, mediation, or other “touchy-feely” stuff.

I soon figured that if I explored more maybe there was something to what people were saying about Yoga. So, I delved deeper. I hesitantly added meditation to my practice. Then I added pranayama to it. Soon enough, I added different mantras, too. The internal changes often amazed me.

Now that I am retired from military life and am more or less a full-time Yoga teacher, I became content with my approach and application of the yamas and niyamas. And yes, the ego is full of itself at times.

So, one day each week, I have off from teaching and practicing the physical aspects of Yoga and on one these glorious days off, I decide to clean up my flowerbeds and my front yard.

I go to the store and buy some chemicals designed for killing weeds. The advertisement on the bottle states that there would be visible change within three hours. Upon reading that I thought to myself, “Yes! Instant results so I won’t have to work as hard!”

Wouldn’t ya’ know, when I went to use that spray the sprayer didn’t work. No matter what I did I could not get those awful chemicals to come out of that sprayer. I tried very hard, too!

So, of course I had to resort to the “old-fashioned” method of weeding my flowerbeds—by hand. And as I was carefully weeding out the first section of my flowerbed, I observed a worm crawling away for dear life as if I was there to do it harm. Seeing that hurt.

I was stopped in my tracks—the realization that had I sprayed those chemicals…I might have not just destroyed weeds (which the weeds to have a use, by the way) I might have also killed that worm. My eyes began to sweat (guys don’t cry—their eyes sweat!)

I whispered to the worm, “Peace, my friend…go on about your life’s work”.  That lesson cost me forty bucks and it was the best money I ever wasted.

Then it happened: I realized I’m slowly becoming one of “them” and I couldn’t be in better company.


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Apprentice Editor: Jessica Sandhu/ Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: elephant journal archives


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William Hunnell