Nearby is the country they call life. You will know it by its seriousness — Rilke
One of the archetypes that comes on-line when we begin to take life “seriously”, particularly our own life, is the spiritual warrior. My first experience of my warrior happened when I was in bioenergetic therapy – a body-oriented therapy. I was in a regressed state, feeling strangely like a very, very bad person. Bad to the bones in fact. Given that I felt like I was about two years old in this regressed state, it made no rational sense. What could I have possibly done in two years of life to feel this way? As I felt into my “badness”, I felt a protest begin to arise. You could call it my soul. It was something deeper than this ontological sense that I was a bad person. The voice sounded, in no uncertain terms, “I am not bad”. This was followed by rage and a profound sense of indignity at being seen this way.
Today, I call that voice my spiritual warrior. In Buddhism, they call this energy that arises to defend one’s dignity and fundamental right to be celebrated (and not denigrated) the Shambhala warrior. Our inner warrior orients, not from aggression and violence, but from a place of deep self-awareness, and a sense of the fundamental goodness of life, which begins and extends to one’s own right to be treated with dignity.
This is an actual energy that we can recruit when we are being mistreated. The mistreatment can be subtle—in situations, for example, where we feel like we are not being seen, heard, or taken seriously. It can be an occasion where we feel like we are being used instrumentally, as a means to an end, rather than an end in ourselves.
Until we recruit our inner warrior, we tend to minimize, or simply not register, insults to our dignity. Alternatively, if our trauma remains unconscious, we can find ourselves on hair trigger alert for anything remotely resembling such an insult. These two ends of the continuum, denial and hyper vigilance, signal that unintegrated trauma is running our lives.
Our warrior does not react to insults. S/he does, however, respond, non-violently but firmly communicating that we are not prepared to suffer insults to our dignity; we will not be made invisible; we will not be used as a means to any other end. The image I get of this is that our warrior wields a sword of truth. S/he knows what is true and false, right and wrong, good and evil. S/he sees through obfuscation, posturing, and manipulation. You don’t f#ck with the warrior, whereas the ego/personality is susceptible to lies, manipulations, and put downs, as much as anything else because it is all too familiar.
The warrior’s posture is tall, spine straight, chin up, chest out—not in a gesture of artificial propping, but as a reflection of being made in the image of G_d, and therefore inherently worthy of love and respect. Like the true warrior this energy is as much an energetic that we transmit. Others take us seriously, because we take ourselves seriously.
The warrior also rises up to defend others, who are unable to defend themselves for whatever reasons: the child who is being beaten up by bullies, the woman on the receiving end of sexist jokes or behaviour, the child who is being beaten by a parent for whatever reasons. The warrior will intervene non-violently. This was the role of the prophet in the Jewish tradition, one who speaks truth to power. The warrior is at work in Jesus when he defends the prostitute being stoned by the crowd.
In yoga, the warrior’s pose helps to actually evoke the energy of the warrior. Try it, and feel into what life would be like when we recruit our inner warrior in defence of our essential natures.