Living Life with the Warrior Spirit

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musashi5Many people talk about “peaceful warriors” to the point that it has become a cliché, not to mention an oxymoron because war is not peaceful. If you are a real warrior, in the classic sense of the word, it means that you’re going to have to go out and fight, beat people up, kill them and be involved in war.

Now for most people this is terribly unrealistic and not something they want to do. As a matter of fact the majority of people who have to go through war really wish they hadn’t.

That said if you are a spiritual warrior, at least from an Eastern point of view, you are someone who will fight every battle until you become enlightened, giving no quarter to anything inside you that prevents you from persevering.

It’s a fairly courageous act and one that, frankly speaking, most people haven’t got the guts to tackle. The idea is really great. Everyone loves the concept and it’s not that the concept isn’t wonderful, but actually doing it is rough.

The Qualities of the Warrior

If we look at some of the qualities that warriors have, the first is perseverance through hardship. They seek to win a war knowing there are many battles and they do not make excuses for failure. In the face of defeat they simply state the facts as “I did my best and we lost” without trying to justify their actions. They must stoically and objectively assess what did not happen that needed to so that in the next battle people remain alive rather than die.

They have to be capable of and willing to see things for what they are. They have to be realistic-not crying into their beer when they lose nor jumping up and down after winning. Well, except maybe for a day or so to blow off some of the pressure, but warriors don’t kid themselves that winning a battle is winning the war-not if they’re going to stay in the military, not if they’re going to be a soldier in any time or place in history.

Only in the rarest of occasions do warriors always win. Most lose some battles and when that time happens there is a great tendency to fall down, to internally disintegrate and to find themselves in direct conflict with how they thought they were wonderful, magical and god-like.

They must come to the realization that they are human and human beings don’t always get it right. True warriors actually have to do their best to get it right even if it means going back to completing an unfinished and, often times, undesirable deed. In war the biggest concern of the average soldier-not the high-ranking generals, not the politicians who order them but the warriors themselves-is just to get through the chaos alive and intact. Conversely, in sports and business everybody jumps about and pounds their chests with shouts of “We won!” and then the rewards are passed out.

If you want to talk about competition and winning, then it is fair to say that warriors have the spirit to win. It’s what they do. If you’re on a battlefield, whether fighting with guns, swords, bows, arrows or by hand there is no person who wants to lose. Dying or being maimed for the rest of your life is not a wonderful option, so you want to win.

On one level, embodying the warrior spirit is useful because in daily life we have to compete, make money, and if we always lose then we end up with less and the trials of daily living become dramatically harder. However, you can’t get too carried away with your expectations and complexes about how responsible you are for what happens because at the end of the day no one knows how much they’re going to win or how much they’re going to lose.

People with equivalent talent, intelligence, ingenuity and creativity don’t always have the same luck-some end up being incredibly successful while others are not. All warriors know that there is a certain amount of luck involved in everything and so the seeds of genuine humility are sewn.

They’re not humble because they should be rather because they have the realization that thinking or believing they have all the answers is terribly unrealistic. Not everything will go your way and when it does it’s usually not all about your good actions. Likewise, nobody who fights in real wars glorifies the victory. The hero mentality is best saved for competitions-the mat, field, track, rink, ring, octagon, and even the high-rise building-but not for the battlefield.

Real wars are not about duels as portrayed in westerns or duels between two samurai. There are thousands of people on the battlefield and you can get hit by an arrow from behind while fighting the man in front of you. Recognizing this possibility and the skills needed to get through it alive are very valuable metaphors for the way in which we approach life: making money, becoming accomplished or winning competitions of any kind.

Equally, soldiers are known for having very close relationships with one another. They have to deal with the immense grief of losing people and it has been said that the friends you make in the middle of war are friends you keep for life.

In fact, they often become the strongest relationships warriors have, stronger than the ones they have with their wives/husbands, girlfriends/boyfriends, family members and other friends because the bonding comes from what you could call the ultimate pressure. They carry forward with disparity all around them yet are able to appreciate the delicate balance inherent to the human condition. If the person next to you doesn’t cover your butt, you’re dead. If you have the attitude that you’re so great that everything is going to work out just fine, you might not be around long enough to take that self-delusion any further.

Good warriors accept human frailty because in war you see human frailty all the time. Good warriors also accept human courage because in war you frequently see tremendous human courage. What comes with that is the ability to carry the baggage-self-sacrifice-for those who could not carry it for themselves without dismissing the people who lack the courage.

With humility all genuine warriors take incredible risks while carefully examining whether any risk makes sense. In war you’re up against a whole army, so any move can be fatal. Yet if you don’t take some calculated risks you’re absolutely going to be filleted for breakfast. The warrior spirit rises above the natural tendency to internally disintegrate, the “Oh my god!” and the wishing for death out of exhaustion, fear and grief. The warrior must be ready to fight when the next battle presents itself.

Catching and Finding Happiness

For most of us, this spirit is immensely valuable both in terms of the joyous and the horrible events of life. Warriors have the ability to catch and find happiness at any moment because in war you might only get a few hours a month where you really can be happy. If it’s there to be had you take it and you learn how to take it.

Many people in life have every reason to be happy, most everything is going their way and yet their own internal world is so unwarrior-spirit-like that they can’t even enjoy what’s right in front of them.

Many of the people who rise up to the top and become successful at anything-business, sports, politics-have usually gone through trials and tribulations. The difference is that businessmen might lose their money, married couples may divorce or the star batter may strike out, but not too many of them lost their arms, legs or eyes over it. The warrior spirit enables us to get past even the most tragic and desperate events.

You can witness this spirit in some of the kids coming back from the war in Iraq. The news covers fatalities, but there are boatloads of others who have been seriously injured. Modern technology allows us to triage in a way incomprehensible 30 years ago.

We see a lot more soldiers with artificial limbs, bound in wheelchairs, blind and so on, banding together to participate in marathons and getting involved in all kinds of competitive challenges. It’s the indomitable warrior spirit that goes forward. This quality is very sadly lacking in civilian society. Many people just don’t have the kind of grit needed to pick themselves off the floor when everything seems to have gone wrong.

The spirit of a warrior can be summed up in two simple words: humility and courage, real courage. The ability to have genuine perseverance that breeds courage under the hardest of circumstances is the warrior spirit, which can be embodied by any of us who are up for the challenge.

Like to hear your comments below…Stay good, Bruce

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About Author

Bruce is passionate about teaching the wisdom from Taoism including qigong, tai chi, healing, martial arts and mediation. He has been doing so for over 50 years and is a lineage in the Taoist Water Tradition. You can find out more at www.energyarts.com

15 Comments

  1. Hi Bruce

    That was a great article. One of the greatest challenges which soldiers and warriors have to manage is Post Traumatic Stress….it changes one’s entire outlook in life and one losses his serenity. Qigong can help and it gives hope to sufferers.

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    Tai Chi Master Bruce Frantzis Reply:

    Totally true…I used to work a lot with PTSD people with the Vietnam crowd when I was younger. Good luck, Bruce. Lee Burkins one of our Instructors has written a book called The Soldiers Heart which you might checkout..

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  2. In my case it was more of a conscription than my personal choice, as I had developed internal injuries which baffled me as well as the doctors I visited. During a period in which I became energetically awakened and many strange phenomena began to happen, my natural imbalances became magnified to cosmic extremes and culminated in events which I still do not fully understand. However, the utterly odd physical condition which became manifest after this period ended was practically inscrutable at first. Little did I know at the time, but it was as if an entire school had been created within my system, and I was now to partake of its instruction.

    The following 4 years were dominated by constant pain and discomfort, and inability to relax whatsoever. Yet after continuous work, the graduation is soon upon me. I actually thought such healing was impossible, and frankly I had resigned myself to the constant work itself as the only relief to be found. For warriors of the spirit, it would seem that the means is the end, rather than a way to reach it.

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    Zaafira Reply:

    Josh, while I wouldn’t wish medical problems on anyone, I have to admit, sometimes they teach us more about our ourselves than we may ever have known. It certainly sounds like you’ve had that experience.

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  3. this is the best article I ever read brucie boy! 😀 Keep at it kid! lol! I’m probably 10x younger then you but lol. I’m a fan of the warrior type philsophy! 🙂

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  4. Great article–it hits it on the head. I was reminded of my older son in Special Forces, due for his second tour overseas in the near future. That’s his attitude and the attitude of the guys in his unit. Used that same spirit zhan zhaung-ing my way through four bouts of bone cancer in the early nineties. Damn thing kept coming back and I had to keep “re-loading” spiritually to face it down. If it hadn’t been for the standing post I would’ve kicked the bucket and left a good-looking corpse 20 years ago.

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  5. Phil Hollis on

    I think that if people embraced this true warrior spirit and focused on winning their own internal battles rather than looking for external wars to fight , there would be a lot less conflict in the world. In England there a lot of young people coming back from Afghanistan with PTSD and a lot of them are ending up in prison. Not enough is being done to help them and the whole thing seems very sad and pointless.

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  6. Powerful article, Bruce. Uses war as a microcosm for everyday life. True warrior spirit and mental toughness are evidenced by people who do what they have to do to not only survive, but thrive. People who, despite the many challenges life throws at us each and everyday, find the will and the spirit to hold their head up, take the body blows, shake off adversity, do what has to be done, and still find joy and serenity in the little victories we do win. Thanks for your insightful perspective.

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  7. Derick Gilmore on

    This is a great article. I’ve had a very tumultuous time the past 10 years or so. From the financial and health issues to losing friends and property. While it does take a minute to shake ill feelings off. Having the attitude of appreciation for what I have left to fight with has brought about a new understanding of myself and the world. Understanding what’s in me and whose with me. So I can continue to fortify my position and reach new goals.

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