I have just finished an inspiring book: “Zen Under Fire – A New Zealand woman’s story of love and war in Afghanistan” written by Marianne Elliott. Marianne Elliott is a lawyer, who has worked as human and environmental rights advocate in the Gaza Strip and in Afghanistan. She gets to practice her yoga, meditation and compassionate action in the most war-torn parts of the world. In these challenging life and work conditions, she experiences the beneficial and transformative effects of yoga. As a sensitive person she gets told to harden up to be able to work in the extreme conditions. She can’t, she is touched by the people she met and the hardship and injustice they face. She deals with feelings of guilt, angriness, confusion and hopelessness. Instead, she learns to transform her sensitivity in a character quality.
I have been confronted with the injustice in the world during my time in Africa (Senegal, The Gambia, Uganda, Kenya and Ghana). Therefore, I can easily empathize with Marianne’s idealistic nature, her sadness while facing the ‘tough world’, and the feeling your work is never done, you can never do enough. You have doubts about the effectiveness and utility of your work. Do I do any good with my research or am I just harming the people/situation even more with my questions and presence? Yoga is a tool for her to deal with the daily stress and to bring her body and mind to peace. She discovers a profound inner wisdom, her true self by integrating yoga in her everyday life. The book is praised as ‘kind of like if Eat, Pray and Love happened in Afghanistan and the stakes were life and death’. Since she not only deals with the injustice she sees around her, but also with the difficulties of romantic relationships in war-torn parts of the world. Her stories provide you with an eye-opener and bring you down to earth. Her book leads me back to the true nature of yoga and the real purpose of life. It makes me stop worrying, instead being grateful for my wonderful life. Marianne has put this beautifully:
“In the West we are taught to believe that we can craft our lives into exactly what we want them to be. In places like Afghanistan the myth of being in control is exposed as exactly that, a myth. Real peace, I have learned, comes not from being able to control my life but from accepting my life as it comes. Real happiness comes not from getting everything I want but from embracing and deeply appreciating everything that I have. This is the beauty, and the power, of grace, surrender and gratitude.”
For more inspiring work of yogis who take their yoga off the mat and into the world, visit: Off The Mat and Into The World