Finding Purpose (and Joy) is Possible

[Hey guys! Matt here]

In my younger days in SpecOps, I shared some amazing life experiences with a brother-in-arms Green Beret.  He & I were about the same age, about the same points in our military careers, and we both shared a keen interest in the Samurai warriors of Japan.  Of particular interest were those influenced by the Zen traditions - the warrior poets.

One such samurai was Takahashi Deishu, who was known for his swordsmanship as well as his skill with a calligraphy brush.  The poem illustrated here has stuck with me for over 20 years, as I forged my own path to purpose.


Had I not been born

I need not die,

But since I have been born to die

I will.

At first reading, it may seem like a surrender to fate.  You struggle until you can't struggle any more, because struggling is what we're born to do.  Those who can't endure, fall out along the way, but the strong endure.  Sadly, for many years that resonated with my views on resilience.

But, that's not the point at all.

Since I was first introduced to this poem and Bushido code, my perspective of these values has evolved.  As my military career continued, views of leadership were largely based on the "great man" theory.  That's what we were taught, and what we were driven to achieve - to be like George Washington standing in perfect form on the bow of the boat crossing the Delaware on Christmas Eve.  As a younger man, my perspective of the Samurai warriors was jaded by this false perspective & ignorance of the true nature of warriors.

What I learned first-hand, through my own experience is that these were myths.  The picture of Washington was a romanticized fabrication.  The reality is that the Marbleheads of Massachusetts (our first riverines) saved the Commander's butt - and our freedom - many times throughout the Revolution.  Through my own experience of war & leadership, including my own Command experience, I learned the realities of leadership are not dependent on the great man at the bow.  The General does not reach the shore without the capable mariners pulling at the oars. The realities depend on every one embracing their role & doing their best in that moment.

Today, the words of Takahashi's poem are the same, but their wisdom speaks new meaning.  Yoga has enriched my life experience & appreciation of the strength in accepting our true nature.  What I've come to realize is that these words are about living with intention - not about dying.  Yoga has helped to lift the veil of illusion - removing the false perceptions.  Living with intention - aligning thought, word, and deed with our true nature - this is our super power.

Ego & Fear of impermanence are causes of suffering, not ways to find joy in our life's purpose.  The ego of the great man ignores the value of those who are served, those who may follow, those who would carry the General against the tide & current.  The fear of impermanence drives us in directions away from our passions, away from life itself.  The moment is fleeting.  We're meant to live.

Hot Yoga is unique in this way - the heat forges our true nature.  When the sweat is stinging our eyes & we're out of breath; when we're on the brink of doubting our very survival - the ego melts away (hopefully). Only then, can we move into the next posture with ease, transition with grace.

In that moment, we learn the postures are the messengers of impermanence while our true nature transcends.  It's not about struggle, struggle, struggle.  It's about connecting with, and accepting our true nature in that moment of the highest intensity when we're surrounded by our closest & sweatiest of friends!  Many people won't get that same experience anywhere else.

Takahashi knew his true nature, and he was at peace with his purpose.  He committed every moment of his life to perfect his art & skill, even though he knew it would end.  The knowledge of life's impermanence only solidified his commitment to the present.

Service is in our nature.  What we do & how we do it may change - just as we transition from one posture to another - but, the purpose transcends.  At Sol, we serve as guides, as teachers, as friends, as family. It brings us joy to see you thrive in this austere environment where few others will tread.  We serve as your Peaceful Warriors & there's so much more we learn together.

Want to learn more?  Come sit with the warriors.  The conversation is different.

[y]oga training starts now.