Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Taxi Ride

 Three Russian soldier honor guard

Taxi Ride

A child that lives with ridicule learns to be timid.
A child that lives with criticism learns to condemn.
A Child that lives with distrust learns to be deceitful.
A child that lives with affection learns to love.
A child that lives with truth learns justice.
A child that lives with happiness will find love and beauty.
- Ronald Russell (Lessons From Life)

November 10th and I hop into the back of a Moscow taxi. It's after 7pm, drizzly and cold. I'm exhilarated after a long weekend with sixty-five exuberant folks. I'm also tired.   Beside me sits Petr. He will replace Julia as translator later this week in Rostov-on-Don when I return there to complete this three-week Russian trip.

Petr and I met only a couple of hours ago. Our get together tonight is designed to give us time to acquaint with one another's speech patters enabling translations to go as seamlessly as possible in a few days when we'll serve a corporate group. Petr has been talking nonstop: martial arts; his abilities with sticks as weapons; his dark side street escapades of confrontation. He's curious about aikido as a way to foster peace.

As the cab door closes Petr opens up with an unexpected admission, "We have a real problem here in Russia with violence. Most of it doesn't make the news. We're in denial.   A lot of war veterans are having bad times.   They're into drugs and alcohol and hard violence." I ask, "Afghanistan?" "Yes."He continues, "PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder].   It's the same thing here in Russia as in the USA." An interesting conversation starts to unfold, made even more so given I haven't generated it or mentioned PTSD in any of our discussions. But, PTSD has been on my mind recently.

The three days immediately preceding this trip I attended the annual Aiki-Extensions Conference, this year hosted at Sofia University, Palo Alto, California. Of the many presentations, two grabbed my attention: Body Awareness in Trauma and Peace Making by Paul Linden, PhD, and Janice Taitel, MD; and Aikido as a Component in Holistic Therapy by Tom Osborn.   Both presentations addressed the PTSD needs facing individuals, families and communities. Both addressed the findings and constructive impact that these three practitioners have had integrating aikido into their efforts to address that need.

Paul and Janice outlined the impact that movement has had with their clients and patients, and demonstrated through audience participation how aikido was assisting efforts to un-anchor and reframe experiences held by those suffering from PTSD. Tom, now into his seventies, served with the 101st Airborne Division. For twenty-four months he was on Special Forces A teams in Viet Nam. He outlined the impact of his work with aikido at Veterans Administration facilities - there to serve vets and staff. On my flight into Russia I read his book, Combat Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Holistic Approach. It is quite compelling.   I urge you to order a copy through Amazon.

The reason these presentations impacted me is because I know first-hand from George Leonard why The Samurai Game® was created - that being to deepen an understanding about the long-term impacts of war without having to actually succumb to the physical injury or death as a result. As a social philosopher George wanted people to consider questions like this, "Why does the human race keep doing war when we individually and collectively know what it always creates?"He wanted us to take this question personally to heart when it comes to our own personal "wars".

These presentations also impacted me because of the thirteen years that aikido has been a major part of my life. I have witnessed people, many of them otherwise and previously combative, transform themselves and their responses to conflict. The impact of the presentation also touched my formative years.

As a kid I lived in a home constantly on guard against what might happen if the wrong thing was said at the wrong time to my dad. I learned how to be hyper-vigilant, and how to anticipate responses in tense situations. In those days I didn't understand why my dad would flinch at the sound of a jet flying overhead. I couldn't understand why certain holidays triggered violent responses in him. But years of experience have deepened my understanding.

Tonight I'm sitting in this taxi and having a chat with Petr. Tomorrow is Veteran's Day back home. I'm a vet. My brother is a vet. My father and his brother were WWII vets. My brother-in-law is a vet. My nephew is a vet. His son, currently serving as a US Marine, just returned from a warzone. I was never in combat. But I know the stuff of PTSD and how it affects a family. PTSD is not limited to persons who have been in a military conflict or navigated their way through a war zone. It's more prevalent in our societies and having a greater impact in our economic policies, politics, and social and business environments than we think or that we want to admit.

Hoping to not be overly simplistic or appear foolish, I would offer many people (including you?) could relate to aspects (and possibly experiences) of PTSD if they will stop, think, feel and get in touch with their bodies.

Have you ever found yourself involved in confrontation or a dangerous situation where you felt your safety severely threatened? Afterwards, were you ever on guard against similar situations and/or physically triggered by environments reflective of the environment surrounding that prior threat? If you can honestly answer "yes", then you know what I mean.

When I was 12 years old and on a hunting trip, the jeep my dad was driving flipped over. It pinned my head to the ground. Luckily, my brother scrambled out in time to lift the jeep's back end off my body. My dad had a quick moment to pull me out before my brother set the jeep back down. Over the next few years whenever we would hunt near that place, I became nauseous and shaky. I would refuse to go on if we got too close to where we'd had the accident.

Tonight I shared with Petr that as America was heading into Afghanistan, a group of friends and I were asked what we might say to people high up in our military and national security apparatus who would have to carry out a Presidential order to undertake combat operations. We were asked to imagine that we would only have only a few seconds to give advice knowing that it wasn't a matter of "if we go in", rather "when we go in." This question came from someone who was about to attend a meeting of top officials actually confronting that situation in reality. I recall saying, "Tell them to talk to the Russians before they go." Why was that my response? Because the Soviet incursion into Afghanistan quite literally broke the USSR's economic back and shattered their national psyche.

The taxi is long gone and so is Petr. He spoke his "спокойной ночи." In a few days he will be with me in Rostov-on-Don to serve as a translator. Back in the hotel I've spent time sending thank you notes to family and buddies back home who have served in the military.   Among them is Al Takata. Like Tom Osborn, Al was with the Special Forces in Viet Nam. He left the Army a highly decorated lieutenant colonel, and carried with him many deep secrets. He's a great guy, and today a man of love and forgiveness.

An email pops into my mailbox as I head to bed. It's from Al, returning thanks for my having served in the Army. In closing he writes these unexpected, yet gracious words, "The Samurai Game brought me back from Viet Nam and was the factor that made me realize that I was suffering from PTSD. Without that awareness I could not begin my healing. Today I am 99% well. Love, Al."

Halfway around the world Al Takata has no knowledge of the specifics I've lived through these days in Russia, or of the Aiki-Extension Conference attended a few weeks ago in Palo Alto, or of the conversation and topic discussed this evening in a taxi with a young man named Petr.

It's past midnight in Moscow. What time is it in America?

You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good bye.
Teach your children well,
Their father's hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picked, the one you'll know by.
-        Crosby Stills Nash Young (Teach Your Children)

© Lance Giroux, November 2013

1 comment:

Steve Finnell said...


On the Day of Pentecost Peter quoted the prophet Joel (Acts 2:21'And it shall be that everyone who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.')

To call on the name of the Lord is to acknowledge the authority and power of the Lord, and follow in obedience by meeting the terms of pardon.

The apostle Peter did not tell those on the Day of Pentecost to say the "sinner's prayer." Saying the "sinner's prayer" is not calling on the name of the Lord.

Peter preached the death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Jesus. Peter declared the Jesus was Lord and Christ. (Acts 2: 22-26) They obviously believed Peter's preaching because they asked the question(Acts 2:37 ....."Brethren what shall we do?")
Peter did not tell them to say the "sinner's prayer." What was Peter's response to their question? (Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.)

1. FAITH: Believe in the death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Jesus. Accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
2. CONFESSION: Acknowledge Jesus as the Christ and the Son of God.
3. REPENTANCE: Make the commitment to turn from sin and turn toward God.
4. WATER BAPTISM: Be immersed into Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.


1. Philip preached Jesus to him. (Acts 8:35)
2. He confessed Jesus as The Christ the Son of God. (Acts 8:37)
3. He was baptized in water. Immersed by Philip. (Acts 8:38-39)
The Ethiopian eunuch did not say the sinner's pray nor was he asked to do so by Philip.


Romans 10:9-10 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

To call on the name of the Lord is to acknowledge His power and authority and confess Him as Lord and Christ . (Acts 2:26,Acts 8:37, Romans 10:9-10) To call on the Name of the Lord is to repent and be baptized. (Acts 2:38)


We are never told we are saved by "faith only." We are never told that saying the "sinner's prayer" is calling on the name of the Lord.


1. Faith: John 3:16
2. Belief and baptism: Mark 16:16
3. Confession and belief: Romans 10:9-10
4. Born of water and Spirit: John 3:5
5. Grace and faith: Ephesians 2:8
6. Buried through baptism: Roman 6:4-5
7. Water baptism: 1 Peter 3:20-21
8. Baptism: Acts 22:16
9. Baptized into Christ: Galatians 3:27
10. Believe: Acts 16:30-31
11. Repentance and baptism: Acts 2:38
12. God's mercy, water baptism, and the Holy Spirit: Titus 3:5
13. Water baptism: Colossians 2:12-13
14. Repentance: Acts 3:19


YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com