From War to Awakening: One Soldier's Journey to Self-Discovery

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Leaving Behind the Battlefield

After 12 years of fighting in the desert combat zones of Kuwait, Baghdad, and Kandahar, John Lawyer faced the greatest battle of all – the battle within himself. Transformed from a soldier to a spiritual seeker, John’s journey from war to awakening is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

Growing up in a small town in central Oklahoma, John had a relatively normal childhood. However, as he entered his high school years, his family life became more turbulent with his parents’ divorce. Seeking adventure and a sense of purpose, John joined the army straight out of high school, even before the events of 9/11 that would shape the course of his military career.

Drawn to the Middle East and fascinated by counterterrorism, John became a Counter Intelligence special agent in the U.S. Army. Over the next 15 years, he spent 12 of those in combat zones, working tirelessly to fulfill his duties. “I really liked my job, I was good at it, and I threw myself into it completely,” John recalls. “I was working 100-110 hours a week for almost years at a time.”

The Toll of War

The prolonged exposure to the intensity of war took a significant toll on John, both physically and mentally. “It’s kind of like when you know you get into like maybe like a pot of water and it’s just room temperature so it’s fine, but then it starts to get hotter and hotter and hotter,” he explains. “That’s kind of what it was for me. I was so involved in what I did with my job and so focused, you don’t realize the trauma and the toll it’s taking on you.”

When John finally returned home after over a decade of service, he found himself in an unfamiliar world. “Even cars were different,” he says. “I had been overseas so long that everything had changed, the whole world had changed around me, and so I felt like a stranger.” The adrenaline rush of war had become a form of addiction, and the transition to civilian life was jarring.

John struggled with PTSD, hypervigilance, depression, and anxiety, unsure of how to heal and find his identity outside of the military. “I didn’t really have an identity outside of my job because that’s all I did,” he admits. “I didn’t really have free time or hobbies or anything. I just worked all the time.”

The Journey to Healing and Awakening

The road to recovery was not an easy one for John. He sought help from the American VA, where he was paired with a therapist who introduced him to mindfulness and Eastern practices. However, at the time, these concepts were too abstract for John to fully embrace.

It took several more years of wandering and struggling before John finally reached a turning point. “I was too attached to my past, I was too attached to what’s happening tomorrow,” he realized. “And so I let go and surrendered a bit.” This act of letting go, although not consciously a spiritual practice at the time, was a significant step in John’s journey.

It was a few years later, while lying in bed with his wife, that John experienced a profound moment of clarity and understanding. “The universe just kind of made sense to me,” he recounts. “Where like we’re all connected, we’re all one. I felt in the moment like we’re all saying very similar things from different religions and spiritual philosophies.”

Finding Purpose in Spirituality

This transformative experience marked a turning point in John’s life. He recognized his higher purpose, his Dharma, to help others who had gone through similar struggles. “I knew what my higher purpose was. My Dharma that I was meant to help people kind of help themselves and maybe I could help people get through stuff that I’d gone through because I feel like no trauma is better or worse than any other trauma, it’s all equal.”

John’s spiritual awakening led him to embrace a universal, omnist perspective, respecting and drawing insights from a variety of religious and philosophical traditions. He found a deep affinity for Hinduism, Daoism, and indigenous and pagan beliefs, all of which informed his understanding of the interconnectedness of all things.

With this newfound understanding, John set out to create an online nonprofit spiritual community, Kishar, named after the Sumerian goddess of Mother Earth. The community is designed to empower individuals to explore their own spiritual paths, fostering authentic connections and meaningful conversations in the digital age.

Navigating the Modern World

In a world often divided by ideological differences, John emphasizes the importance of slowing down, embracing imperfection, and cultivating self-love. “We aren’t taught to love ourselves,” he says. “We’re taught to look outward a lot and to take care of others and to be strong and be heroes and all this stuff for other people, but really the most important thing we can do is take care of ourselves first and love ourselves fundamentally at a core level before we go out and do anything else.”

By finding balance and opening ourselves to the universe, John believes we can navigate the complexities of the modern world with more grace and understanding. “We have more time than we think we do,” he reminds us. “So, we can slow things down a little bit and realize that we have all this time in our day and take advantage of it in ways that are good for us.”

John’s journey from war to awakening is a powerful testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the transformative power of self-discovery. Through his work with Kishar and his message of universal love and understanding, he hopes to inspire others to embark on their own journeys of personal growth and spiritual fulfillment.