Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gratitude, Veterans Day, and Moving Forward

This is the 200th post on Is Yoga Legal. I find that incredibly hard to believe. I am also glad it happened to fall in this month of gratitude. I had all sorts of great ideas for what to say about this 200th post, just like for the 100th post. I wanted a post that would look to the future and be just about this seemingly momentous (and hard to believe occasion). But mostly I wanted to say thank you to everyone who reads this blog, who comments, who supports me, who asks questions, who challenges me, and who has connected with me over time and space. It has been an amazing journey, and I am deeply grateful. I have learned so much. I wanted to share that gratitude in November. It seemed so fitting.

Then I realized I really wanted to write a post about Veterans Day, and how could that have to do with this 200th post business? I thought about putting all the deep gratitude in a 201st post, but then I realized my thoughts on Veterans Day explain perfectly my thoughts about living in this dual world. And one of the areas for which I am most grateful is that writing this blog and having the ensuing conversations with friends, families, and complete strangers (if there is such a thing), has actually helped me more fully comprehend these issues. That’s when I realized a Veterans Day post is a perfect 200th post. It is filled with the gratitude, the confusion, the thoughts, and the nuance of what has made this blog such an incredible journey for me and, I hope, for you as well.

Today, I posted this on the Is Yoga Legal facebook page, which has been a plethora of gratitude quotes throughout the month: “Today I am grateful for all the people who have risked their lives for all of us. I have no love of war, but anyone who is willing to volunteer to protect me deserves my deepest thanks.” In just a few words it sums up how I feel about Veterans Day. I want to honor the people, but I have a hard time honoring the reason for which we honor the people. But then, in law school, I became more understanding that we, as lay citizens, simply do not have the facts, and maybe there are reasons country leaders make that if I knew the facts I would agree.

In other words, yoga has opened my eyes to our deep connection to one another and the reality that war anywhere in the world affects all of us and harms all of us. Law school opened my eyes to the reality that I simply do not know all the “facts,” and perhaps there are needs beyond what I can understand. Perhaps there really are times it is necessary to kill one person to save thousands. This is an age-old philosophical question that cannot be answered in one post on this blog. But it bears repeating as an issue. Which view is “right?”

From day one, the focus of this blog has been in the heading, “Where two worlds collide, one lawyer-yogi considers whether those two worlds can co-exist.” One of my greatest mentors/teachers in the legal profession once told me after she read a post, “I think yoga and law are very similar. They are both looking for the truth.” I was floored. She refuses to step foot in a yoga class (bad experience), but she sees and understands deeply why I am drawn to it.

And while I agree with her wholeheartedly, both yoga and law at their core, are about understanding “truth,” in whatever form that means to the people involved, this Veterans Day issue is really where the lawyer-yogi dilemma rubber meets the road.

The cop out is simple. Honor the people, but not what they were doing that made them veterans. But they believed, and at some level I believe, they are fighting for something “worth fighting for.” And maybe that is true. Even the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga religious text takes place on a battlefield, and the human in the story is ultimately told to fight in the ensuing battle by the Supreme Being, Krishna. I rarely get into the religious aspects of yoga, but they do exist, and in this sense help understand why this dilemma in us runs so deep.

It is easy to take a black or white position. Either all war is bad, or war is necessary to protect our freedoms. But if it is not abundantly obvious from other posts, I do not do that very well. I live in the gray areas. So where does that leave us? My grandfather and great uncle were soldiers in WWII, and my cousin a soldier in the first Gulf War. I honor and respect what they did and who they are as people. But the pain we all get from war anywhere still haunts me.

So, on this Veterans Day, part of me wants to just say I am grateful for a day off and forget the why. But that’s just selfish and superficial and not actually true. It is difficult to have these discussions with myself and others. Another part of me wants to honor the people and not the war. And another part of me wants to hold all of it and attempt to not go crazy. And to be very honest, that third ability came from my time in law school. It helped me see so much of what I refused to see while growing up even before the yoga helped me articulate what I have felt and experienced so much of my life.

What better way to honor this blog and my gratitude to all of you for staying with me through these 200 posts than to ask the huge questions that created the headline up above? Prior to today, I was starting to think I had to change that sentiment. When I first wrote it more than three years ago (WOW!) it was really more about whether lawyers would accept a yogi and whether yogis would accept a lawyer. But I have come to realize it is much, much deeper than that. It comes down to these issues of interconnectedness and reality of this world in which we live.

I am, therefore, deeply grateful that Veterans Day is this opportunity to struggle with the deepest issues this blog is about and deeply grateful we can share this discussion. And so, as a way of looking forward, what comes next on this blog? Where do we go from here?

We can continue the discussion. Sure, it is important to learn how to use asana at the desk, but more and more I think it is necessary to learn how to take all of ourselves, the yogis and lawyers (as a metaphor for modern humans) within us, and bring that all to the table to look at all the nuances that creates. 200 posts is a long time to realize that, but your responses and your presence have all led to this point. Thank you.

I would love to hear your thoughts going forward.


© Rebecca Stahl 2012, all rights reserved. 


  1. I feel your struggle for it has been part of my own, from VietNam in the 60s through my experiences in the Defense Industry in the 80s to 9/11 and beyond. While it's easy to justify putting a bullet in Hitler, it's a lot harder to justify killing the enemy soldier who is on the battlefield only because he was drafted and had no alternative ... even as we know that a failure to kill him could give victory to an enemy bent on destroying us. And this doesn't even begin to take account of Iraq or Afghanistan or what we "ought" to do about Iran or Syria. Great piece, Becca!!!!! Thanks for your courage in embracing the gray!!!!!

    1. Thank you, Stan. A part of me does not even see the benefit of putting a bullet in Hitler. That's the gray.