"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about." - Wendy Mass
Last week through tear-strewn eyes, I watched a movie called The Welcome. My dear friend, mentor, and founder of the Exalted Warrior Foundation, Annie, recommended it. Thankfully, she also suggested Kleenex.
The Welcome is a documentary about 24 veterans who, along with family members, partake in a therapeutic weekend retreat, and through writing, talking, and listening, they begin to truly welcome one another home.
What transpires in this room and then later in a sold-out theater in Ashland, Oregon is awe-inspiring.
I felt myself break open as I watched these remarkably brave men and women bare their bruised hearts by sharing their stories. Witnessing their courageous work, one learns very quickly what the true definition of a warrior is and that anything is possible when you face your fears and allow healing to take place. By sharing their experiences, they help us all to understand a little bit better about what it is to be a soldier, and most importantly, a human being.
Their tales of battle, injury, and death are chilling. And often life doesn't get any easier when they come home.
This movie had a big impact on me and left me with the realization that one of the most truly unselfish things we can do for others is to help heal ourselves. It brings to mind the familiar analogy of the flight attendant on a plane directing passengers to “Please adjust your oxygen mask first before assisting others.” We are of no help to one another, if we can’t breathe.
The Welcome got me thinking about how many times each one of us must return home, and re-enter our lives. Maybe not in the literal sense of returning from deployment or from a trip, but metaphorically, because whether it is falling off the bandwagon or recovering from a significant loss, diagnosis, or accident, we must gather ourselves, pick up the pieces, and rebuild our lives again. We can't go back, but we can start anew.
Last Thursday as we celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year, I sat with my family listening to the Rabbi’s sermon about life and death, mourning, and awakening and thought of the men and women from The Welcome.
The Rabbi spoke of the wounds and scars we carry with us. He spoke of how they may never go away, but that over time we can change our relationship to the experience, the suffering, to the very thing that caused the bleeding.
And that is exactly what these brave men and women did during the movie, they changed their relationship to their suffering. To me it was like watching them write their stories, and although they had no control over what already happened, they were going to create the best life they could from this chapter forward. And grieving and mourning and healing doesn't just end one day, it is a gradual process that takes time and a heartfelt commitment. It truly is work.
Similarly, it is something we are all called to do and often many times in our lives...we welcome our hearts back into our souls with grace, perseverance, hope, and faith. And over and over again, we step back into our lives, our worlds, our homes, and align ourselves with our souls' deepest wounds and longings and discover our greater purpose.
It is all in the welcoming, and how we welcome all of our feelings, not picking and choosing just the pretty ones. It is how we welcome our loved ones when they walk through our door, how we welcome our friends after they have been hurt, and the way we welcome back our service men and women as they return home.
We can honor our own individual struggles by finding our vulnerability and courage to breed the strength needed to share our stories in the way (and with whom) we want to share them. It is not weakness to admit to feelings of sadness, loneliness, depression, despair, and isolation. It is, in fact, the exact opposite. Coming home to our hearts even if they feel broken helps us find true freedom.
And home is inside, it is always available within as opposed to being somewhere else, somewhere out there. It is behind and beyond our hearts, it is beneath the noise, clutter and busy-ness, and it is deeper than our culture shock, wounds, scars, sadness, worries, and fears.
Home is the still pool of water. Home is here to welcome you no matter what kind of shape you are in or what kind of day you have had.
May we all find the strength, hope, and ability to welcome ourselves (as well as one another) home.
For more on the movie, The Welcome, please visit http://www.thewelcomethemovie.com.
To learn more about Annie’s efforts teaching adaptive yoga to vets and how you can support the cause, please visit http://www.exaltedwarrior.com.