I keep using the word warrior here, neglecting to define the word very carefully. I do explain what I mean in the introduction to my book, Poise: A Warrior’s Guide, but even there readers may be left wondering what I’m talking about when I say that warriors are poised men and women. This is from the opening pages of the book:
This book refers to these poised men and women as “warriors” or sometimes “warrior travelers,” terms picked up from Carlos Castaneda’s magisterial work about his apprenticeship to Don Juan, a warrior of stupendous poise. Warriors, or warrior travelers, are people who pursue breakthroughs in personal awareness. They are impeccable men and women who give their best at all times. In a deeper sense of impeccability, they are exquisitely aware that we are all going to die, and thus they bring a vibrant appreciation and value to every moment. Even though they are not at all morbid but, in fact, indifferent to death, warriors are keenly aware of the short time we have on earth. Knowing they have no time to waste, they come alive now, joyful, unencumbered, humble and alert.
By traversing a path of love and avoiding the worn ruts of ordinary human behavior, warrior travelers seek power, a mobilization of personal energy that allows them to witness the full wonder of the world. Because they strive to become the epitome of poise, nothing could be more fortunate than being a warrior traveler.
Readers may be put off by the word “warrior,” because it has war connotations or because it seems too confrontational or too fierce. Women sometimes tell me that the word seems masculine to them, so they don’t identify with it.
Since nothing could be more fortunate than being a warrior as far as I am concerned, I’d better be clear about what a warrior is and what a warrior isn’t.
Here’s what a warrior is not
Let’s start with what a warrior is not: an ordinary person that everybody would find easy to classify, understand, and predict.
A warrior would not classify herself or himself in a way that would be limiting. A warrior will not fit into one of the boxes we like to put people in so that we can understand them.
For a warrior, none of our common identifiers would be attractive or accurate. A warrior, in my use of the word, would never think of herself or himself as a category of persons that make us vulnerable to being predictable. A warrior would avoid being, in any predictive way, a:
- Republican or Democrat or even an “independent”
- A First Baptist, Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, atheist, or agnostic
- Upper, middle, or lower class (or an “untouchable” if you are the poorest of the poor in India, no matter that everyone around you calls you that all of your life)
- A capitalist, a communist, a socialist, a patriot (of any country)
- A Yankee fan, a Cubs fan, or any other kind of fan
- Married, single, divorced and remarried, divorced and single, etc.
- Young, middle aged, elderly
Eckhart Tolle, asked recently what the lowest level of consciousness is answered laughingly, “The news.”
The news uses every possible classification to describe people. These classifications are simplistic but offer an easy way to talk about people, put them in a box, and criticize or praise them.
A warrior wants no part of the social contest for attention and power, which is just egos talking to other egos, drawing attention to the false self and claiming its dominance.
A warrior is not an ego making its pathetic case over and over, talking about itself endlessly.
A warrior is not in a box. A warrior cannot be predicted or figured out.
The defining reality for a warrior is death
The consciousness of a warrior, the moment to moment awareness of a warrior, is set by the energetic fact that we are going to die.
A warrior uses death as an invaluable adviser all of the time. He or she imagines death on its mat, just behind us, ready to tap us on the shoulder at any moment.
A warrior, momentarily confused, angry, irritated, impatient, or resentful, asks death, “Do I have any time for this crap?”
The answer, of course, is always, “No, you have no time for any crap.”
Thus, the warrior is able to let go in a moment’s time any of the ordinary crappy feelings caused always by self-pity and victimhood.
The crappy emotion may rise up in a warrior’s body but will be dispatched instantly by his or her full awareness of death.
This awareness that we will die is not morbid or discouraging for a warrior. It’s a liberation that allows the warrior to be present and connected, grateful and creative, and light hearted even in the midst of horrific challenges.
A warrior’s awareness of death is a blowtorch to the ego and its false claims on us. Death helps the warrior fly free of the ordinary person’s needs to be important, to be respected, and to be ever absorbed in the small bubble of the ego.
The warrior is fearless
The warrior has passed the first threshold of learning, which is fear.
Most people never defeat their fears, but instead give in to them, avoid them, stay always on safe ground.
The warrior has identified his or her fears and gone looking for them. Stalking herself, the warrior confronts her fears and what she discovers are ghosts and phantoms that are surprisingly easy to vanquish.
And then one glorious day, the warrior awakens unafraid. Fears have been battled and defeated, those trembling weaknesses no longer present.
Now the warrior is clear and thinks that everything can be understood at last.
The warrior is buoyant and will be looking, looking, fearlessly from now on.
Life’s space has expanded dramatically, and whatever barriers held the warrior back from learning have been brought down.
The warrior will never be afraid again, which simply means that fear will never make decisions in the warrior’s life again.
A warrior’s learning
A warrior has one goal: to learn. The warrior will have many challenges, just as all men and women have challenges.
But the warrior embraces challenges for the opportunity to learn.
Warriors recapitulate their lives, examining every life event, starting with the most recent and working back to memory’s limit until they see their ubiquitous ego at play and can laugh at themselves, release the event for good, and move on.
The warrior recapitulation is the most powerful learning process we can undertake
In this way warriors discover how the foreign installation, the social download of beliefs about reality we all receive from our parents, teachers, and culture, has led them into dead ends, mistakes, and bad explanations for what was going on.
At the bottom of each life event recapitulation, warriors discover the boxes they lived their lives in, and they laugh in sheer wonder about their own folly.
Then, as they create new lives for themselves, warriors continue to recapitulate their lives as they unfold. Learning speeds up now because there is less to recapitulate.
If the warrior doesn’t stop learning, mistakes get uncovered fast now, and the warrior makes corrections almost immediately.
The ego is shrinking into a flabby, old, sulking ghost that no longer has any power to guide the warrior’s life.
A warrior’s personal power
Warriors have attained personal power at this stage. Unafraid and clear, the warrior is a joyful spirit.
In the face of challenges, even huge challenges, the warrior is poised—able to be fully present, feeling connected to everything in life, full of gratitude, creating the life that wants to emerge, and bringing a light heart and sanity to every moment.
A warrior, at this stage, is on a loving path, looking, looking, breathlessly.
A warrior’s relationships with other people change at this point.
The warrior sees the human species engaged in endless folly, lost in the dream of the foreign installation.
Able to control his or her own folly, the warrior is detached, humble and alert.
Because warriors have supreme self-control, because warriors are fearless, and because warriors live in a spacious consciousness, they actually can have anything they want. But, if they stay humble and alert, they don’t really want anything conventional anymore.
A warrior’s cup is filled to the brim, and anything you give her is more than she can take.
Warriors have their full powers at their disposal but may need to travel in disguise. Otherwise others may be afraid of them, so warriors look and even act like everybody else in order to preserve their incomparable personal freedom.
The I Ching puts this stage this way:
Depend on only yourself now. Keep petty people and petty concerns at a real distance. Let the world’s dramas sail by. The image here is of heaven over mountain. Pull over your most constant self a cloak of invisibility and remoteness that even the heavens in their glory would envy.
People need not know what you are doing. Make no one understand.
Tell no one what you think of them. Interpretation by Sheila Heti in Where We Are
Warriors avoid clashes with their fellow humans, refusing to confront. Instead, they save their energies for breakthroughs in awareness, an enterprise that requires true power.
Nothing could be more fortunate than being a warrior.
Can anybody be a warrior? Theoretically, yes. But since very few people become warriors, I have to conclude that the poised consciousness of the warrior is a matter of good fortune that cannot be explained.
My own recapitulation of my life to date teaches me that I have been the most foolish of men, the slowest possible learner, and the biggest pain in the ass imaginable to family, friends, colleagues, and the people I’ve taught and coached.
I’ve worked hard, but no harder than most people.
I can’t see how I deserved the great good fortune of being a warrior. I can point to no personal virtue that earned the gifts I’ve been allotted.
It was pure luck or just my fate that I learned about the possibility that I could become a warrior.
Now you know too. Go for it.
Here’s an earlier post on how to defeat your fears: Poised We Are Fearless