The question I get asked most frequently is, “How did you go from being in the Marines to teaching yoga?” Looking back after 14 years, it seems like the transition was simply part of my path. At the time, however, I was cautious to slowly set aside the gritty toughness I’d honed in the Marines and open myself up to the beautiful strength found in compassion and acceptance. With this contrast of lifestyles as a backdrop, I’d like to offer three useful thoughts to help you create a better version of yourself.
Stay slightly uncomfortable. In the Marines, my identity was pretty fixed. By that, I mean I went into situations and applied my skills and talents as best as possible to solve something. Learning took place, but it wasn’t me learning about myself; it was me learning to fix something outside myself. In that sense, I stayed pretty comfortable. When I started attending yoga workshops and meeting people who were as far away from the military as one might imagine, I learned about myself. It didn’t always feel great and that’s the point. When we are uncomfortable in situations, we have an opportunity to grow. Tony Robbins has a great acronym he frequently uses — CANI, which stands for Constant and Never Ending Improvement. If our lives start to feel routine or repetitive, it’s time to step outside our comfort zone.
Have something sacred in your life. This one took me a while to figure out. Honor, courage and commitment were the chief values we held to in the Marine Corps; they revealed themselves in ceremonies like the Marine Corps birthday, or when we recognized heroic achievement performed under extreme duress. As much as I tried to embody them, I always felt like they were “on loan” from the Marines. In other words, they weren’t really mine; they were the virtues meant to bring all Marines together. It wasn’t until I created an altar in my home that I truly understood the power of believing in something.
My altar is fairly spartan; it has symbols of my faith, jewelry that is important to me, a handwritten prayer and a fair number of crystals. In the Marines, I used to have an “I love me wall” — a wall that recognized all my military achievements. The altar is about who I am; the wall was about what I had done and how I had done it. I make time in front of my altar as least once a day.
Accept that wisdom is an inside job. We had a saying in the Marines: “it’s easy to be hard. It’s hard to be smart.” Said differently, we can struggle to accomplish something and think the struggle is a given or in some way required, or we can find a smarter way to get it done that isn’t quite as difficult. Perhaps the greatest lesson yoga has taught me is that wisdom comes from within.
Photo by Elena Lewis.
David Richards is a #1 international best-selling author, life coach, yoga instructor and self-development speaker. In his debut best-selling book, Whiskey & Yoga, David shares his wisdom on finding one’s purpose and living intentionally. His recently released novel titled The Lighthouse Keeper is a story around the power of mindfulness, and will explore the ways individuals can learn to shift their awareness to master their minds.