Here's what I experienced last holiday season (written around Christmas 2007). I didn't have a blog back then, so had no place to share this.....now I have a home for this "story". Thanks for reading it.
A disappointing awakening.
I follow, as best I am able, the Yoga Sutra laws of life (yama) and rules for living (niyama); and I am appreciative of those who serve and have served in the military. I recently learned that some in the yoga community believe these to be mutually exclusive.
I enter this holiday season with a heavy heart. The holiday email card I sent to my yoga friends and contacts provoked hostility, threats and complaints. The message I sent from my yoga retreat center of "season's greetings" to all and "thanks and wishes for troops, veterans and their families to be safe and healthy" was heard by some (who chose to respond) as "support for murderers", "shameful", "evil", "supportive of unsustainable lifestyles", "war lover" and other words I consider even less pleasing. 5% of those I'd emailed many times previously about opportunities to take discounted yoga vacations, reported my holiday card as spam. Another 20% of those who received the email card unsubscribed to my newsletter.
My disappointment from this experience is not from loosing potential customers for the retreat center. Rather I learned a bit about my own naiveté and an uncomfortable lesson: some who consider themselves "peaceful, loving, non-violent" are selectively so. Teachings of the Sutra and most Eastern and Western religions do not teach us of a god or universe who picks and chooses to whom well-being is wished. We are taught to love all beings, even those with whom we disagree and of whom we disapprove.
So is my lesson here to omit mention of individuals who have served our country in all yoga marketing materials? Is it to develop a thicker skin and "let it go" when I am called a "war lover"? Is it to try to explain to those who do not support troops that the troops are worthy of our love and prayers too? I'm not sure yet what to do with this information. So I'll do what I often do I am troubled; curl up on the couch with my fiance, Scott, and talk it through. And Scott, a United States Marine Corps Veteran of several foreign conflicts, will give me a hug and tell me to "just breathe".
To wish safety and health to the boys, girls, men, women who put themselves in harm's way does not equate supporting war or a particular political party. It means wishing loving kindness (ahimsa) and contentment (samtosha); specifically to those who may have trouble feeling loving and content this holiday season. Some who responded felt similarly and have inquired about how they can help in my initiative to make the yoga retreat center handicapped accessible for wounded veterans. These yogis and yoginis were the minority.
As I write this, two days before Christmas, I continue to receive a flurry of "unsubscribe" notices from my yoga email contacts – should I conclude that not all humans deserve safety and health or just that I did a lousy job of communicating this intention? You decide, my full email holiday card text is below.
To those of you who wished upon me death from war….I wish to you and your loved ones, ahimsa and samtosha. Namaste and happy holidays to all.
Full text of my email that provoked anger and threats:
Subject: Happy holidays and thanks to troops and veterans
Thank you to all troops and veterans around the world.
Wishing you and your families a safe and healthy holiday season.