Zen Under Fire
By: Marianne Elliott
The story of a modern day heroine, Zen Under Fire is a self-authored testament to the power of yoga. Marianne Elliott may not like being called a heroine – in fact after reading her book I am sure of it, but what else can you call a woman who puts aside safety, job security, and proximity to family and friends to go off and accomplish humanitarian aid during war torn Afghanistan? This fascinating read is a much-needed glimpse into the people, the culture and situation that is life in the shadow of the Taliban. As American’s we hear so much about this part of the world, and it always seems that news is delivered in lumps. Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq all run together and become a muddled mess. Marianne Elliott has provided us with a truth about the different types of people from this region, has given insight into their culture, which before might have seemed archaic. Most importantly she has shown the world that good can and is being accomplished.
Zen Under Fire is the personal journey of humanitarian aid worker Marianne Elliott. In her mid thirties she has achieved her dream job – a posting with the UN in Afghanistan. Life there is no picnic. She knows it will be tough. She knows it is worth doing. Marianne tells the stories of a multitude of men, women and children that she encounters. Many stories are sad and desperate. But others are hopeful and display the innate human qualities of righteousness, kindness, and the desire to help. Before reading this book I knew next to nothing about the different tribes, the structures of leadership or the amount of humanitarian and nongovernmental agencies working to make life easier in this arid and harsh climate made even more inhospitable by violence and corruption. It was so enlightening and uplifting when she describes how men would welcome and respect her, or accept the teachings on women’s right and equality. There is so much to learn from this story, about living, about sharing, about trying, and failing.
Yoga is Mariann’s escape from the stress – the stress of the armed escorts, of being confined to houses or compounds, of the limitations from lack of funding or red tape. Living in the midst of rocket fire, or struggling with an unhealthy relationship builds stress, which Elliott learns to let go of through yoga and meditation. Stress will build up in the body and physically manifest itself in the form of toxins. Through yoga lessons and retreats, books and meditations Marianne reaps the benefits of this relaxing and restorative practice. Zen Under Fire is proof of the amazing benefits of yoga. Marianne and her experience with yoga in a war zone is a very strong testament the power that yoga can affect in our everyday lives. I want to thank Marianne for writing her story and sharing it with all of us because not only can we learn from her life, her sacrifice, her dedication, and bravery. The world needs more courageous and selfless people like her, now more than ever.