Although the true enemy of the angry is anger,
to confront this anger with more anger is unwise.
The true friend of the angry is loving-kindness,
to transform it within, to be expressed without.
I [Sergeant Kendel] thought about what Sakyong Mipham had written to me: “For if we let their actions trigger our anger, not only will they have stolen our mind, but our dignity as well.” Grimes’ and Mann’s [fellow soldiers] reactions highlighted how easily we can succumb to fury and resentment and lose control of our mental faculties. I could understand their anger, but their breakdowns showed how it was a trap, a black hole I or anyone else could easily slide down. The Shambhala meditation teachings I’d been learning, called “the Tiger’s path of discernment,” reminded me to watch my step.
They emphasized not giving in to emotional impulse, but seeing clearly what was going on both inside and outside of yourself so could recognize the best way to act – like a tiger moving through the jungle with strength and sensitivity. When I arrived, I’d thought I could somehow stay above these harsh feelings, but I immediately realized that my mental situation was far more fragile, that I could collapse just like they had. Once you begin down that dark path of frustrated hatred, as many war veterans have experienced, it’s hard to pull yourself back and regain your dignity and self-control. For many of the soldiers, the deaths led to seeing the Iraqis as the ultimate threat – the ultimate enemy. There was absolutely no desire to understand the bigger picture. Their minds shut down, preventing any chance of seeing more deeply.
War, I learned, creates a narrow, tunnel-like vision of our existence. Haggin [another fellow soldier] had learned of the first four deaths while recuperating in Germany, which probably motivated him to return to Iraq rather than remain in the hospital. He came back unexpectedly and soon after departed for his, and last, patrol, Grimes said to him, “If you see one, and you have a chance, you take the shot.” Haggin couldn’t wait to get back out on patrol and make those who had killed our friends pay for it. The problem of course was finding them, whoever “they” were. Haggin never found an opportunity to “take the shot” to avenge our friend’s deaths. Instead, death found him.
Wrath Of War Vs Peace Of Mind
Walking the Tiger’s Path: A Soldier’s Spiritual Journey in Iraq
Paul M Kendel