Warrior Mind

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I’m going to take it upon myself to assert that we are all good-hearted people here. Decent people. Compassionate people. As such, it’s understandable that current events and the apparent global trajectory of increased ignorance and aggression has each us more than a little concerned. When taking in non-stop coverage of violence and people treating each other as disposable commodities, it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid succumbing to despair, rage, depression or a defensive retreat into comfortable distraction. Allow yourself moments of that last one. It’s okay. Nobody can be a warrior 24/7.

A question I hear with increasing frequency these days is some variation on “What can we do about it?” Every single one of us who cares about the suffering of others wants to help alleviate it to the best of our individual abilities. This is a noble aspiration. But often, after pondering the “big picture” which invariably means the negative aspects of the multi-faceted picture, many of us come to the conclusion that the problems facing our species are too big, too deep-rooted and widespread for any of us to have a meaningful effect. And this isn’t inaccurate: the angle from which we generally view national or international strife is too broad in its scope and if we come to some idealized conclusion that we must single-handedly save the world, it won’t be long before logic returns to the equation reminding us that none of us are superheroes.

Despite the fact that all of us have vastly more vulnerabilities than potential exposure to kryptonite, each of us can become a warrior. When I use this word, I am co-opting the meaning given to it by the late Tibetan lama Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. He was not speaking of a fighter in the physical sense. A warrior of this kind needs no weapons. We are speaking of a warrior who has the courage and unflagging motivation to conquer his or her own mind. Someone who is willing to bravely and unflinchingly face the most ingrained neuroses, ignorant views, desperate attachments and obscuring aversions of their own psyche. Yes, we are all good-hearted people, as I said, but we are not enlightened people. Therefore, before we can contemplate direct action in the service of alleviating the suffering of others, it is imperative that we start with ourselves.

As I delve further into this topic, some of what I say might sound counter-intuitive, but please bear with me. I will be mentioning discoveries from the realm of physics and neuroscience, as well as seemingly obtuse philosophical axioms. Ultimately, the solution that begins within each of us will be found within the realm of psychology. But first, I want to lead us there through a bit of negation.

Waiting and hoping for a political solution to our problems is not only myopic in the sense that all political systems are specific to the nations they govern, but it’s also an exercise in futility. Throughout history, every now and then a leader has emerged who was able to transform moral outrage into non-violent solutions. Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr., H.H. The Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln and Aung San Suu Kyi are examples of such exemplary leaders. However, exceptional leaders are, by definition, the exception. The subdivided global game board upon which we are playing in 2017 seems to sport a collection of disparate leaders who run the gamut from impotent idealists to power obsessed authoritarians. The former wring their hands while the latter utilize the power vacuum to advance their nefarious agendas. In other words, our immediate precarious position means we don’t have the luxury of waiting for another such leader to ride in on a white horse and turn the tide. We need to take action now, but perhaps not the type of action you’re envisioning.

Protest without violence is good insofar as it tends to encourage the rest of us to have some degree of hope; a realization that we are not alone. It is heartening to know that there is a worldwide united front horrified by persecution, bigotry, violence, hatred and injustice. And it’s even more heartening to realize that those of us who feel this way are not in the minority. But I’m afraid that’s about the best effect we can hope for when we take to the streets with chants and slogans and candlelight vigils. It’s a sign of solidarity and it has worth, but it is not what will initiate change.

Religion is a panacea. Those who subscribe to theistic beliefs to guide them in their
actions and shore up their motivation to stand up for what’s right need not relinquish such very personal faith. It might just be the wind you need at your back as we venture into a frighteningly uncertain future. But no solutions to our global crises are to be found in the scriptures of any religion, Eastern or Western. Hence, theology is not the proper arena to consult in the search for pragmatic solutions. If one decides that earthly struggle is worthless while pining for an eternal heavenly paradise that will transcend the petty madness of the world, that person is essentially throwing in the towel. As I’ve said before, eternalism is a destructive view. Even if the notion of an eternal soul that will be judged accordingly after death turns out to be true, it does nothing to help our earthbound situation. In fact, more often than not, it is the excuse people grasp at to justify negligent inaction.

So we’ve ruled out politics, power, protest and religion as potential fields in which to search for tangible solutions. What’s left? The one thing that is utterly unique to each of us yet universally accessible: our own minds. Ignorance is the mother of aggression and taming our minds is the antidote to ignorance.

Ignorance is another of those words that’s been used and abused so that it’s become a shadow of its former self. In general, you hear people utilize the term when speaking of someone with racist or sexist tendencies. While it is true that such outlooks arise from ignorance, the amount of suffering it causes to every one of us — even those who view things through the most “progressive” of lenses — is so vast that humanity has chosen to compound its ignorance by ignoring its many forms, the ones that exist in all of us. This is why Buddhism urges us to follow the Middle Path; a way of viewing reality that does not succumb to the temptations of eternalism or nihilism. In this endeavor, the Universe can be our teacher. If we can truly understand how the Universe operates, it follows that we will truly understand how people and our own minds operate, because life forms are quite literally interdependent constituents of the 13.8 billion light-year phenomenal system. Nothing and nobody exists inherently. We speak of people and animals and plants and minerals and stars and planets as separate entities because our senses are incapable of apprehending the vast connected totality. But the real situation is all-inclusive. Every “thing” and every event is dependent upon every other thing and event. The allegedly separate objects of the senses appear as the result of the finely tuned and selectively filtering microscopes that are our sense organs. A little over a century ago, shortly after Einstein perfected his groundbreaking theory of relativity, the emergent field of quantum physics began to make some shocking discoveries that ultimately legitimized some of the millennia-old ideas of the Eastern wisdom masters. Specifically, quantum “particles” exist and behave according to our own observation and expectation. Not even the most basic building blocks of what we call matter have an inherent existence. They, like us, are empty of independent existence. In short, there is nothing in the Universe that can accurately be called anything other than “the Universe”.

These scientific discoveries can help us better understand the errors in many of our own cherished and seemingly logical outlooks. When Isaac Newton perfected his explanations of what is now called classical physics, they seemed so self-evident on the macro level that no reasonable person questioned these theories. Admittedly, on the macro level, they still largely work and are quite handy for navigating daily life. But they are also just another example of intentional mental filtering of what we ignorantly assume are unimportant details. I almost feel inclined to suggest that anyone reading this drop a tab of lysergic acid diethylamide to get a fuller understanding of how our brains ignore information they consider irrelevant to the situation at hand, but that might be irresponsible of me. Hallucinogens aren’t for everyone. Meditation, on the other hand, is safely available to every one of us.

So I urge you to take up the habit of meditating. We all must understand our own minds before we can discern what is wrong with the minds of those who perform the most antisocial of acts that cause such widespread suffering as we’re seeing now. There’s really no way around this — no effective shortcut. If a snarling Neo-Nazi provokes comparable rage in our minds, regardless of the righteous and inclusive social stance we take, we are actually adding fuel to the fire by integrating more ignorance into the struggle. Similarly, if we choose to retreat into our own little worlds of family and romance and entertainment in an effort to wait out the storm, we are also acting out of ignorance. Attachment to a person, thing, activity or idea is a destructive tendency, just as destructive as angry aversion. This is because it does not acknowledge reality as it is. Reality as it is does not care about what we cherish because there are actually no separate people or things to cherish. This is important. If and when you can fully internalize Universal interdependence, the necessity of Yin to Yang, pole to pole, black to white and male to female, then and only then have you attained the necessary mindset to develop perfect unconditional empathy. It is essential that we develop empathy for all, even those — especially those — that cause us the most distress. We cannot squelch bigoted discrimination while still viewing humanity as a collection of us and them or I and everyone else. Actual empathy demands the understanding that you are me are him are her are everything. Then and only then will we have tamed our minds of their harmful habits of erroneous discrimination.

You might justifiably wonder how this is in any way a pragmatic and practical approach to real world problems. That’s okay. It’s just because you, like all of us, have lived your entire life being inundated with false views that have been passed down from one neurotic generation to the next. There is precious little reason to question seeming truisms that pervade the human race when all you see are other “independent” entities behaving according to these falsehoods. But this is misguided. 20,000,000 Elvis fans CAN be wrong.

When you meet aggression with aggression, all you have done is strengthened the heat of the battle. When you meet aggression with despair, all you have done is given your tacit approval to the aggressor. When you meet aggression with social circle tribalism (family, friends, lovers), all you have done is compounded the false view of separateness. It’s time for each of us who care about the state of the world to take a daunting journey into our own psyches, uncovering every gross and subtle misconception and prejudice that resides there. This journey lasts a lifetime, but here’s the good news: it’s contagious. And that’s where it gets its pragmatism. Consciousness is also interdependent, so let’s all do our part and inject the energy of love and wisdom into the Universal consciousness. Be exhaustive, be brave. Become the warrior this sad and scary world so desperately needs. In the depths of our unconfused minds, we’ll find our luminous original nature that is devoid of a name or physical attributes. We’ll find our true identities and perhaps lose our imagined notions of an independent God in the process. We’ll realize that we create our own reality and that everyone we meet in this place is just us with a different temporary mask. That’s where empathy begins. That’s where true, indestructible love resides. Everything will be okay.  It can’t be otherwise.

Thank you for reading this long-winded essay. For another brilliant take on a similar theme, please check out this profound post by Brooke at A Gypsy’s Tale: Masters Of Our Fate. The post you just read would not have materialized without her.

24 thoughts on “Warrior Mind

  1. Brilliant piece. I believe we are all light and part of one consciousness. Politics is a scam I don’t buy into it or our society. Money is a scam too. Funny you should mention meditation Iv just started a yoga class and believe that meditation and looking within yourself can provide answers

    Liked by 1 person

      1. it shouldn’t be whats left is should be whats there in the first place. the prob is we have greedy people who like to control. I follow a lot of anti establishment stuff. in the past few yrs Id say people are becoming more aware as the start to burn out from being wage slaves and look at other options

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Paul. Holy shit. This post. If I could get my hands on a tab of lysergic acid diethylamide, I would drop it so hard and so fast because I know there is so much meaning in these words that my brain has failed to absorb, and I desperately want to understand all of it. You know what I think of you, but again, again you have caused my brain to explode from your brilliance and perspective and I am sitting in stunned silence right now. You are unreal and one of the most unique human beings I have had the pleasure of knowing. Fucking hell, Paul. Amazing! Off now to read Brooke’s post that prompted this masterpiece.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t even know how to respond to such kindness, Tanya. You make this whole endeavor more than just worthwhile — you make it an absolute joy. I am so grateful that you are alive and that I was given the amazing opportunity to know such a genuine, compassionate, witty and fully engaged friend as you have become.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Start from within, and share without…never more clear to me than now that we are all connected and fascinating pieces of one big puzzle. Which isn’t really a puzzle at all, but more like “all that is”, I guess. Still, as I learn and grow and drop away from illusions I no longer need to cling to, it’s kind of fascinating how I can hear what I’ve never been able to hear before from others, and how we all join to help each other in a fascinating dance.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fuck, I just wrote you a novel in response and decided it also needed to be a post, 100% inspired and dedicated to you and this mind-blowing gift you gave us. You are genius in motion in my opinion, and if I am the one who inspired these words, it leaves me with none. (except the novel i just wrote in response). 🙂 You are a gift, and your writing, timeless.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Sir, you just rose from the ranks of Marvelous Curiosity to Undeniable Guru, in my book. My every morning starts with a long look inside, because, as you’ve so brilliantly elucidated, it all starts from within. I lament to my wife the lack of true self-awareness in the world around me more than any other societal ill. It is a heinous condition, one in which we are powerless to help combat.

    But, perhaps, I’m battling it all wrong. Being a warrior of words, with the hope that my salvos of sagacity will drop embers of enlightenment upon the simpletons of society, makes me no better than the manipulators I so deride. Fix what’s going on inside yourself, Tom, not just first, but only.

    I like that. Mediation is the life for me. (I’ve tried it, loved it, and abandoned it more times than I can count).

    And, who knows. As each and every one of us reaches further inside to heal our own insufficient parts, a leader may emerge from within. One of us could be there very person we are looking for, we are all looking for, and we don’t even know it yet.

    If I remember correctly, at least some of the enlightened ones you’ve mentioned in your text came to ascendance much later along the road than others …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, thank you! But these, too: “Being a warrior of words, with the hope that my salvos of sagacity will drop embers of enlightenment upon the simpletons of society, makes me no better than the manipulators I so deride,” are the words of a humble yet erudite guru. I love when verses of wisdom show up in the comment section — it is, more than anything else, why I do this.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Well written and brilliant as usual, but I hope you’ll forgive me for expressing my personal opinion: idealistic fantasies. Love and empathy aren’t going to suddenly spread through the ranks of evil people in the world -and mark my words, there are evil people in the world- just because we feel it. We could hold hands and sing kumbaya all day long and it wouldn’t change a single evil heart. Some people are just sadistic little fucks, Paul, and there’s no changing them, no matter how much compassion and love and empathy you throw their way. Some can be saved, sure, and some could have been saved at one point or another in their lives, but for most of them it’s too late.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I suspect you are absolutely right. In fact, in an earlier post about hypocrisy, I called out certain Buddhist leaders for not offering any pragmatic solutions and just encouraging people to develop compassion in themselves or worse, send money for some new temple being built. So I guess I feel there’s room for both: hands-on compassionate and/or resistance-type action and personal spiritual growth with the ideals I noted firmly in mind, but with the implicit understanding that this is not enough.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Absolutely. Just because it’s not enough doesn’t mean it’s not right. Empathy and compassion and understanding are what separate us from them- a little oxymoronic I suppose, given the whole point of it is erasing the lines between “us” and “them”, but you’d be mad not to see that there is a line. I think the trick of it is remembering that people can and do cross that line all the time. You can go all the way over, but you can always come back. Still, at the end of the day that decision lies with the individual, and there’s only so much everyone else can do. It’s important that we set the example (you’ll forgive my high-horse)
        for the narrow-minded and the ignorant, by remaining compassionate and understanding in the face of all adversities, yet never deluding ourselves into believing that it will always be enough.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. You are Einstein in apparent movement in my notion, and if I am the one who divine these words, it leaves me with none. Love and empathy aren’t going to suddenly bed covering through the ranks of malefic people in the humans -and fall guy my words, there are malefic people in the humans- just because we flavor it.

    Liked by 1 person

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