AJ US Marine Circa 2009
This is my experience of the spiritual journey, transforming myself from defensiveness to openness, toughness to tenderness, moving from the world of fear to peace, and learning to accept the evolution of others. When I was a teenager I wanted to be tough, because with toughness came what I perceived as safety, security, and success.
So I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Infantry, to become as tough as I possibly could become. Sure enough my body was hardened, my emotions were controlled, and I was a living, breathing, walking fighting machine. I was a warrior. I had no fear of death, and I lived life to the fullest because I was at my maximum physical potential. I could run 9 miles in 55 minutes and I seemed to never get tired.
At the young age of 19 I thought I was the stuff. I was not only a United States Marine, but I was also a black belt martial artist. I was small and agile, but I knew I was a force not to be reckoned with.
AJ at the School of Infantry. September 2008. 18 years old about to be 19.
I proceeded though boot camp at Paris Island, South Carolina and then on to the school of Infantry at Camp Lejune, North Carolina. There I learned the basics of being a modern day warrior. I threw grenades, I shot machine guns, rocket launchers, and other weapons of the modern fighter. I carried over 90 pounds 12 miles with only a few 5 minute breaks, then immediately after we had to drop our packs and run 5 miles non-stopped. That was the final event at the Infantry Training Battalion. While I was there I stumbled across a book called "The Sixth Sense" by the author Stuart Wilde. This is where things began to take a turn.
I began reading books about Buddhism, spirituality, psychic mediumship, and many other Stuart Wilde Books. Six months later I found myself being sent to Camp Pendelton, California. Living just outside the town Carlsbad. Unknowingly, Carlsbad was the town where Stuart Wilde's books were published and printed. I was being drawn to the magical world of the Initiate. It was in California where I began to turn from Ego to Spirit, toughness to tenderness.
After some very intense entheogenic experiences my psyche quickly began to be softened, I saw that it was not toughness that I needed, but softness, gentleness, and generosity. I created my own little following that was separated from the madness of the world of the Marine Corps, we discovered a way to step sideways, Through the Hidden Door. While everyone else was living in madness and chaos, we were living in serenity and peace. We had a healthy way out, while the others resorted to alcohol abuse, unfaithfulness to their wives, and self destructive behaviors. We were experiencing other dimensions entirely, but it was healthy for us. It wasn't escapism, it was freedom in a world where freedom was not a viable option, but freedom was an idea we were fighting for.
AJ at the Marine Corps Ball. Nov 2011
As time moved forward and I continued to evolve and grow spiritually, I began to withdraw more and more from the Marine Corps' world. I was growing happier and happier, but I watched some of my comrades deteriorate. I won't go into much detail out of respect for them, but there were suicides, spousal abuse, and various other negative consequences of our adverse conditions. All the while I continued to step sideways, Through the Hidden Door.
I served a deployment to Iraq and went on a few missions in Southern Iraq. It was convoy security, so our job was to cruise around protecting 18 wheelers from being blown up. For the most part it was without incident with the exception of one roadside IED, and us seeing someone video recording us. Fortunately I nor any of my comrades were seriously injured.
After the deployment to Iraq we had a little off time, I grew a beard and floated the river with my family. I relaxed and began getting reacquainted with my loved ones. Then before we knew it, we were at it again. This time we were called to deploy to Ukraine in 2011. This experience was considerably different, and more difficult considering the conditions. We lived out of tents for over a month, here my psychological state was beginning to deteriorate. I just went through a breakup with a woman I loved and I was having very bizarre panic attacks and mystical experiences. I would lay in my tent pouring cold water over a wash rag to sooth my anxiety. We were granted only 3 days off the entire time I was there, I was so distraught that I was afraid I wouldn't be able to leave base in fear of having a mental break down. We went out in the city of Odessa and after some Ukrainian brews I got to relax and enjoy my off time.
I suppose it was almost inevitable for my time with the Marine Corps was coming to an end. I was becoming more and more unruly, uncontrollable, and defiant. I was tired of playing the psychological mind games. I was gaining seniority by time in service and with that I was taking more control. My friends were being promoted over me because they were not as eccentric as myself, but they were still my friends, so I continued play along with the games. The young marines that just joined had to learn the lessons that we learned, so I agreed to play along.
A.J.'s best friend and some Ukrainian soldiers. Odessa, Ukraine. June 2011
It was after our time in Ukraine when I truly began to become free. I was unexpectedly discharged after we returned to Ukraine. I was thankful to be able to move on to the next stage in life.
I like to think of myself as somewhat of a hero back in my old Unit, because I was a leader of a movement from within. I offered my comrades balance, humor, and an escape. But in the end I followed my destiny and done what needed to be done. I stood up for what I believed in, at the sacrifice of a title that we were all taught to strive for "Honor."
Honor can make people go to extreme lengths, it was instilled in us. "Honor, Courage, and Commitment" I suppose it was my forgoing of the Marine Corps perception of what these values mean that is what liberated me. It is not to say that what we were doing was not honorable, it definitely was honorable, and I am grateful for my country, leaders, superiors, and all of my the experiences the Marine Corps gave me. However it was a mindset that I could no longer align myself with, but now I realize it was something I had to experience, to understand and go through it. It was the extreme conditions of the Marine Corps that brought me to where I am today. So for that I am grateful. I am thankful.
Today I am a spiritual seeker, an unconditional servant. I no longer seek to be feared. I no longer want to intimidate. Instead I want to help heal people, help others understand their life better, and help others realize the potential within themselves.
So here I am today reflecting on the life that I once lived. Smiling, looking back to an old unfamiliar me. If there were any lesson to be learned; it is to learn to accept your conditions and deal with what ever situation you are in peacefully. Do not struggle against it. Relax, open yourself up, and you will slowly move on to the position you are destined to be. Life has a way of working that way. If you are in a situation in which you do not belong, or say you have outgrown your current situation, relax... Your time is coming. Observe and learn what you can. Because you need those experiences to carry you on to your next destination.
Press forward, onward, for your destiny awaits.