For me, it all started when I started to let go of the mental thought-processes of doubt, worry, and fear, and allowed myself to fall into heart-centered feelings of unconditional love and deep faith in a higher power. For me, it was a process of realizing that life was much more than using my intellect to figure things out, or even just having a positive-based belief system. For me, it was learning to follow a path that included diving more deeply into my yoga practice – being more deeply devoted to the ideal of oneness, of One Love, of Christ consciousness, of learning to live in the eternity of each moment. For me, it was about embodying with wholeheartedness a lifestyle of loving awareness and authentic presence.
Of course, these awakenings usually come about in our darkest moments, right? It was no different for me. I remember the moment specifically – my body shaking in fear, my mind lost in endless cycles of unanswered questions. When the essence of life smacks you in the face, you wake up. When you get lost inside your head consumed by who you think you are, sometimes it takes a storm to help you re-member who you really are.
All of these years later, I look back at the wonders of life that have unfolded since that time. All of these years later, I look with amazement at the community that has come together at Heart of the Village Yoga to support one another – not only in the practice of yoga, but also in the quest to live more satisfying, heart-centered and community-building daily lives. All of these years later, I realize innately that it takes a village to realize the essence of life – it takes a community to practice loving awareness and to build loving relationships.
So now… a dozen years after I was smacked in the face… 9 years after a US Army veteran from St. Croix looked me in the eye and said, “You’re not leaving, are you?”… 6 years after I shared a vision with a US Air Force veteran from San Diego and co-founded Warriors Live On… and 4 years after I started a new journey with my wife at Heart of the Village Yoga… I have the opportunity to bring my heart to life by bringing the essence of our “Village” to California. Next week, Memorial Day weekend, I will have the opportunity to bring yoga to a group of veterans on a nature excursion on the Pacific Crest Trail outside of Big Bear. I have the honor to walk with presence and authenticity, as a warrior and alongside warriors, carrying with me the heart of our Heart of the Village Yoga tribe on a trek with Warriors Live On.
You might say that Warriors Live On initially grew out of our own healing experiences and practices, from those darkest times when my wife and I struggled through PTSD utilizing the practices of mindfulness and yoga and nature-based living, to our shared experiences of healing with Eva Belanger and other United States veterans, to our shared vision of bringing our own successes with holistic practices to a wider population of veterans through a new non-profit organization called Warriors Live On. Since its founding, Eva has been the force behind the actual manifestation of the vision; I have only been a voice of support from the other side of the country. (I remember writing a letter of support when WLO set out on its first nature excursion shared here on this site.)
Warriors Live On is now an organization which provides integrative healing processes for post 9-11 combat veterans who are battling the debilitating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Recognizing that the effects of PTSD on both mind and body can be healed, WLO now offers integrative programming incorporating nature treks, acupuncture, Somatic Experiencing, Organic Intelligence, yoga and nutrition. This multi-modal approach eases the symptoms of PTSD and opens the door to a new way of living.
To those of you who have become my family and my circle of friends at Heart of the Village Yoga, please know that I carry with me your love as I bring my heart – our collective heart – to a new circle of friends next week with Warriors Live On. To those of you who I will have the honor of being with next week, please know that I am humbled, honored, and excited to share this new journey with you.
Each of us has a story to tell and new stories to compose. But each of our individual stories are part of an ever-expanding larger story. Each chapter unfolds, usually where we direct our attention. When we embrace intentional practices, life has a miraculous way of letting those practices turn into reality. Sometimes, it takes a journey of a hundred steps to look back and see the first step. Sometimes, it takes a journey of a thousand miles to look back and realize you’ve been sharing the path with many, many others. Sometimes, it takes a lifetime of experiences to realize that it is all about living a life of loving awareness in the eternal gift of each moment.
Bringing heart to life begins with the first step, yes. Its enlightening now to have the good fortune to look back and see those steps, those chapters in my own life. But it begins again with the next step. And it expands as your heart expands. And it expands again when you have the love and support of a village. And it expands again and again when you realize that you a part of an ever-expanding field of relationships, mutually interdependent and connected. Bringing heart to life is about embodying loving awareness in each timeless step. Its about bringing your authentic self and your whole heart – a full heart, a clear heart, a strong heart, and an open heart – to life in each moment. Its about being a warrior and a healer for the benefit of all.
I am honored to recognize the warrior in each of you, and I am humbled by the wonder of our ever-expanding circle. To those of you struggling in this moment, take heart – and take the next step. And the next. It takes work. It takes practice. But, one day at a time, life unfolds. The gift of the current struggle will be the lesson learned that will help awaken the essence of who you really are. Have faith in your higher purpose… and take your next steps with intention and with open eyes, bringing your heart to life!
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