Wounded Soldiers

Without your wounds where would your power be?  The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken in the wheels of living.  In love’s service, only the wounded soldiers can serve – Thorton Wilder

I have always been drawn to books on spirituality, from mainstream ones like Harold Kushner’s Who Needs God to the unconventional, like Carlos Casteneda’s books about the Yaqui Shaman, Don Juan.   I was touched by Marianne Williamson’s reflections on The Course in Miracles in A Return to Love and scratched my head as I followed Wayne Dyer’s progression from his pragmatic Your Erroneous Zones to his embrace of Law of Attraction nonsense in The Power of Intention.  I’ve read most of Dan Millman’s books based on his encounter with his personal shaman, Socrates and Dr. Bernie Seigel’s 365 Prescriptions for the Soul lives among my desktop books, along with M. J. Ryan’s Attitudes of Gratitude.  A battered copy of Melodie Beattie’s Journey to the Heart has been my companion for most of twenty years.  Stir in my mother’s spiritual guidance (which didn’t make me a Catholic as she intended but made me a spiritual seeker) and twenty years of Working the 12 Steps, and you have a spiritual stew that seems to work for me.   Most of the time.

It’s possible that it’s my disdain for gurus that has led me to draw my spirituality from so many sources.  It is, I admit, also possible that it is my ego.   But through a bookshelf of self-help books and roughly 2000 12 Step meetings, I’ve realized if someone says something that conflicts with my spiritual common sense (even though it fits perfectly with theirs), there’s no way I can fit that piece into my spiritual puzzle (although, in time, I may find it fits itself).  And if someone seems to be preaching to me … that is, telling me what to do without sharing their own struggles along their path … it’s very hard for me to listen.

I started a new book this week, David Kundtz’ Awakened Mind: One Minute Wake Up Calls to a Bold and Mindful Life.  His Quiet Mind: One Minute Retreats from a Busy World was a gentle treatise on taking moments for mini-meditations during the day.  Awakened Mind addresses the grittier issue of facing the world as it is as a means of being a compassionate, mindful human being.  In it, he offers the notion of a wounded soldier, a person who has been through the ravages that life can bring and emerged whole.  He says that when he needs help in a crisis, he seeks out a wounded soldier, not a preacher.  I agree wholeheartedly.   The authors I’ve drawn upon most, like Kushner and Seigel and Beattie, bare their souls while they reveal their beliefs … and the people I’ve chosen as friends in my latter years are unafraid to show their wounds … and their mistakes.

If we look at our lives from this perspective, our struggles … and our mistakes … become the stripes we earn to be wounded soldiers in the world.  At the end of his section on the wounded soldier, Kundtz asks, Who is a wounded soldier in your life?  Or maybe:  For whom are you a wounded soldier?  Those, my friends, are questions worth answering.

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