The rigid hierarchies of the military demand absolute obedience to authority. How do these power structures, and the culture that surrounds them, affect the men and women who serve? Neuroscientist Amishi Jha, a pioneer in the study of the effects of meditation on military personnel and their partners, discusses with Anuradha Bhagwati, a Marine Corps veteran and the author of Unbecoming: A Memoir of Disobedience.
After a lifetime of buckling to the demands of her strict Indian parents, Bhagwati abandoned her grad school career in the Ivy League to join the Marines, which she describes as—the fiercest, most violent, most masculine branch of the military—determined to prove herself there in ways she couldn’t at home. Once her service concluded in 2004, Anuradha courageously vowed to take to task the very leaders and traditions that fostered misogyny, racism, and astonishing injustice in the military. Her efforts have resulted in historic change, including the lifting of the ban on women from pursuing combat roles in the military.
Anuradha Bhagwati is a writer, activist, yoga and meditation teacher, and Marine Corps veteran. She founded the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), which brought national attention to sexual violence in the military and affected dozens of historic policy reforms within the Department of Defense and Department of Veteran Affairs, including overturning the ban on women in combat. Anuradha is a regular media commentator on issues related to national security, women’s rights, and civil rights, and is the recipient of numerous awards. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico, Foreign Affairs, and The New Republic. She lives in New York City with her service dog Duke.
Amishi P. Jha studies the neuroscience of mindfulness and attention at the University of Miami, where she is associate professor of psychology and director of contemplative neuroscience for the University’s Mindfulness Research and Practice Initiative. Working with the U.S. Army and others in extremely high-stress occupations, Jha uses functional MRI, electroencephalography (EEG) and other neurobehavioral measures to study how the brain pays attention, the mental effects of stress, and ways to optimize attention. In 2010, Jha launched the STRONG Project (Schofield Barracks Training and Research on Neurobehavioral Growth), which uses computer and brainwave testing to compare the effects of mindfulness practice and positive psychology in “resilience training” to help soldiers prepare for deployment.
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THE RUBIN MUSEUM OF ART