What does it mean to be a spiritual warrior? This somewhat contradictory term appears in multiple wisdom traditions throughout human history. A fascinating concept, a spiritual warrior implies one who combats the most insidious and universal enemy—ignorance.
Known as Avidya in Sanskrit, ignorance of the true nature of the world invokes countless forms of suffering. The spiritual warrior deliberately takes up the fight against this cunning foe, choosing to bring light to the darkness.
The path of the spiritual warrior is not an easy one. It can challenge you, require sacrifice, and force you into the cognitive dissonance often encountered when you search to discover the causes of your ignorance. However, the rewards are great:
1. In the act of self-liberation from your fears, doubts, small mindedness, and limiting beliefs
2. In service to the world as path makers and leaders of a global shift in consciousness and world transformation
What then, are the qualities of a spiritual warrior? What attributes or states of mind are necessary to become warriors of light?
A spiritual warrior must possess expanded awareness (https://chopra.com/articles/the-three-qualities-of- awareness). While spiritual practices such as yoga and meditation enhance and accelerate the growth of awareness, a spiritual warrior must have the specific awareness to recognize that you are at war with the darkness of ignorance. If you are to take up the call of spiritual warriorship, you must remain vigilant that in the lack of awareness, ignorance will grow. As you pay attention to yourself—your thoughts, speech, actions, and beliefs—you deprive ignorance of a fertile field in which it can take root.
A spiritual warrior has courage. Martial artist Bruce Lee said, “Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” This is what it means to have courage. As previously explained, the path of the spiritual warrior is not necessarily easy. You can face danger, fear, pain, and uncertainty on the path to spiritual mastery.
Spiritual warriors press on when confronted with adversity, doubt, or the inconsistencies or irrationality of their beliefs and behavior. This doesn’t mean you don’t feel the fear; it means you feel it and keep going. Deep down you know that the enlightenment you seek is worth enduring the temporary discomfort of the journey.
This brings to mind The Serenity Prayer…God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. This is a prayer we in Alcoholics Anonymous and many other support groups recite during our meetings. For me, the the path to spirituality came from facing the danger, fear, pain and uncertainty of not being able to go a day without taking a drink (ALWAYS more than a drink!).
When I found myself in a 28-Day Treatment Program for Alcoholism was when I slowly found myself in the spirit of the sunlight. I began to learn about the disease of alcoholism. I learned I was fear-based and my thoughts and actions followed suit. With this enlightenment I did what was suggested in the rooms of AA and from Alcoholics Anonymous’ Big Book to learn a new and spiritual way to live. My life has never been better!
I do need to emphasize that I am in no way a representative of A.A. All I know is in my deepest, darkest place of existence with no where else to turn, Alcoholics Anonymous gave me what I needed at that time to turn my life around and to help me to love myself for who and what I am.
Next, the spiritual warrior possesses discipline. Discipline is the ability to restrain yourself—to control your impulses, desires, or emotions for the sake of improvement. It’s important to note that such discipline comes not from some outside authority, rather the spiritual warrior forges in the fire of your will. You make the difficult choice to pursue spiritual practices or Sadhana (https://chopra.com/articles/how-to-live-your-sadhana-every- day) over the often more comfortable or conventional ways of life with the intention of attaining higher states of consciousness.
Discipline can also mean simply staying on the path. The spiritual warrior knows there will be obstacles on the journey, but when those occur, self-discipline keeps you keeping on when others are content to quit. (https://chopra.com/overcoming-chaos-workshop/thank-you)
I realize that this writing is about the 8 qualities of a spiritual warrior, but for this alcoholic in recovery, I must put my sobriety first. I have learned to live this way and everything in my life is about the gratitude and humility I feel being able to live without drugs and alcohol.
On this journey in recovery I have discovered that I am on a spiritual path, which I believe AA promotes (do note that many who have and have not experienced Alcoholics Anonymous believe that AA is a religious cult. We are not. And I embrace your opinions).
So all of my writings come from my heart. My heart is who I am. I am sober and spiritual. That is the focus of my writing and my life.
So regarding discipline I have found that keeping close contact with the fellowship of AA helps me in all regards. When I go too long without a meeting or some kind of contact with a like-minded human being, my brain gradually starts taking over. My brain is sick. I stop living from my heart and my life gets pretty shitty again. I get off my spiritual path. So my discipline is self-care which means for me AA meetings, time for Dee with meditation and yoga, and the common sense things of good sleep, nourishing food, exercise, etc.
Relentlessness is another key attribute of the spiritual warrior. Being relentless refers not to being harsh or inflexible. Rather it implies a persistent and determined intention to seek out false beliefs, attempts to fool yourself, and ego delusions. The spiritual warrior understands that ignorance is a tenacious adversary that requires daily and consistent attentiveness so as to not let it take you by surprise.
Aaahhh, Grasshopper. So right! I learned this lesson the hard way (but the way it was intended I learn it) by getting complacent in my life of recovery. My life got busy. Everything was good. I told myself I was on a spiritual path and in contact with my Higher Power. I no longer attended AA meetings nor had any contact with the fellowship. More importantly because of this, I stopped giving back what was so freely given me in the rooms of AA when I needed it most…me, my body, my service! And I no longer heard the newcomers’ stories nor witnessed their struggles. I forgot how bad my life was before getting sober.
So false beliefs, attempts to fool myself, and ego delusions finally got the better of me. When offered a drink, although I courteously replied I haven’t had a drink in 13-1/2 years, that drink was left for me in case I changed my mind. I had no defense. The drink yelled at me until I drank it. The disease once again surfaced with just one shot of Tequila. I needed more and my life once again revolved around drinking, hiding, lying, and cheating.
Relentlessness also means ruthlessly slaying the 1,000-headed dragon of self-importance. Your sense of self-importance can slow spiritual progress and obscure your understanding of who you really are. Relentlessly seeking out opportunities to subjugate [conquer, vanquish, defeat, crush, quash, bring someone to their knees, enslave, subdue, suppress. ANTONYMS liberate] the ego (https://chopra.com/articles/understanding-mind-intellect-and- ego) creates space for spirit to enter your life.
So when I tried to get sober again and got back into the rooms of AA, 90 meetings in 90 days, doing all that was suggested (just like the first time around: sponsorship, Big Book, meetings, service), I thought calling 4 women a night to say my name and that I was not in the spirit of the sunlight was lame! How was that going to help me get sober? How was that going to lift the obsession to drink. But I continued going to meetings and rigorously honestly stated at each meeting that my name was Dee and I drank last night. Day after day. Night after night…until I played the 1,000-headed dragon of self-importance and picked up the 2,000 pound phone and made those 4 calls every night for God knows how long. I’m sober today.
The spiritual warrior is also cunning. As your awareness and spiritual discipline grows, the warrior of light recognizes the slippery nature of the mind and how easily you can fool yourself. You, therefore, must be equally cunning and crafty when it comes to outwitting your habitual thought traps (https://chopra.com/articles/retrain- your-brain-how-to-reverse-negative-thinking-patterns) and cognitive biases. In the space of expanded consciousness you learn to anticipate the stories you tell yourself, the ways you hide from the truth, and how you stubbornly defend your false sense of self.
This alert witnessing and understanding of your thought process or metacognition allows you to intercept your conditioned behavior so you can course correct toward more conscious choices in thought, word, and deed.
I know for me that alcohol was just a symptom of my disease. My head is so sick. I can justify anything and I always find myself lost or in trouble. So with that I shall not let my guard down to slip back into that deep and dark place of alcoholism nor stinking-thinking. I’ll just suit up and show up at meetings (which always makes me feel better anyway), I’ll reach out the hand of AA to those who need it (alcoholic or not), and I’ll continue to practice self-care.
I look at the disease of alcoholism like I look at the ocean. It is not to be feared. It is to be respected in all its power. It can take you down in a heart-beat if we let our guard down. Don’t live in fear. Just live cautiously.
Patience is the next quality of the spiritual warrior. Patience is the calm acceptance that not everything happens according to your timeline. It allows you to be content as well as pause, wait, endure, and allow things to unfold in their own way.
The spiritual warrior doesn’t act needy. You don’t push or demand that the universe comply with your wishes. Instead, you recognize that a bigger picture is unfolding; in the absence of a broader perspective, you can’t always know what action to take. Therefore, you can calmly be in the moment and wait for the universe to act. When the right time becomes known, the spiritual warrior seizes the opportunity and takes spontaneous and transformative right action.
I love this part of my journey. That I am not in control. That it’s not about me. And that I have a Higher Power in my life that has my back and a journey for me that I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams. So I let my Higher Power drive as I sit in the passenger seat of life knowing that everything is perfect at this moment. I stay in the moment and know that everything…life…will pan out just the way it’s supposed to, when it’s supposed to.
The spiritual warrior also possesses sweetness. Sweetness might seem like a strange attribute of the spiritual warrior, something associated with weakness or sentimentality. In this context, however, sweetness refers to impeccability in word and action. The spiritual warrior holds yourself to the highest of standards, refraining from anything that could be considered potentially cruel or hurtful.
As the Dalai Lama reminds you, “Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.” It’s easy to be hurtful and mean to yourself or others. Kindness, compassion, and sweetness in the face of anger or ignorance require enormous strength and understanding. Seeing the world from higher ground allows you to act and speak from a place of sweetness that benefits everyone you encounter.
Are we not bombarded every day with negativity? A newscast. A newspaper. A magazine. Overhearing co-workers at the time clock. It’s not always easy to be sweet, which I choose to call positive. But I choose to live my life in a positive way as I have found the negativity takes a lot more energy and I don’t have all that much left. The disc-space in my brain is full-up and I am discarding unnecessary shit to make room for better things. I am in my sixth decade of life so I don’t have the physical vitality I had in my twenties and thirties. But guess what? I wouldn’t go back one single day!
You see, today I am a new person. A positive and hopeful and optimistic person. I have been given a new lease on life. I have a purpose today to share my experience, strength and hope with whomever enters my Dee Bubble and has like-minded beliefs as me. And when we don’t connect I do not take it personally because AA and spirituality and my Higher Power have gifted me with love of self and being comfortable in my own skin.
Hey, and sweetness doesn’t mean being a doormat. Set your boundaries Hold your head high and stand your ground…when necessary. Walk away if you must. Don’t lower yourself to the levels so many on this planet are living in. Be you. Love you. You’re awesome just the way you are!
The final quality of the spiritual warrior is love (https://chopra.com/articles/choose-love). To the spiritual warrior love is all that is. It is the core of your being and core of all other beings. Removing the veils of love is the spiritual warrior’s quest. You exist with love at your source, but often it lies hidden beneath anger, trauma, or suffering (https://chopra.com/articles/transcend-suffering-through-the-5-kleshas). Expanding the field of love for both yourself and others is the ultimate goal of the spiritual warrior. Love heals all wounds. It is that transformative power that can change the world. The spiritual warrior shines the light of your love into the darkness of ignorance, not to destroy it, but to transmute it into knowledge.
When the spiritual warrior possesses these attributes you become a powerful force for change in the world. The spiritual warrior fights against the self-delusion, fear (https://chopra.com/free-programs/awaken-to- happiness/week-7-replace-fear-with-love), and ignorance that create suffering in your life. This battle is fought within; an effort to shed the chains of conditioning and false beliefs that lie within you. The reward of this campaign is the expansion of consciousness; the spiritual warrior becomes a beacon of awareness who brings healing to the entire world.
Join Deepak Chopra for the free, four-part online workshop Overcoming Chaos, where you’ll learn how the science and magic of meditation can help you dissolve painful emotions, calm the anxious mind, and move past the chaos of daily life. Learn More (https://chopra.com/overcoming-chaos-workshop/thank-you).
Please, share your gifts…your experience, strength and hope. Brighten someone’s day with a smile, or an open door, a hug, or a hello. Know you are never alone on your journey and your journey can help others in their struggles. Let’s make this world a better place to live, with love and compassion, one day at a time, one kindness at a time can trickle around our planet over and over and over…
Thank you for reading. Thank you for being you. Wish warmest aloha, Dee Harris
For those interested in Art with a Spiritual Message, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com. Mahalo and enjoy!
About the Author
Adam Brady (/bios/adam-brady) Vedic Educator
Yoga teacher, author, and martial artist Adam Brady has been associated with the Chopra Center for nearly 20 years. He is a certified Vedic Educator trained in Primordial Sound Meditation (/articles/what-is-primoridal- sound-meditation), Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga (/teach/seven-spiritual-laws-yoga-teacher-training target=), and Perfect Health: Ayurvedic Lifestyle (/teach/perfect-health-certification-program), and regularly teaches in the Orlando, Florida, area. Over the last several years, Adam has worked to introduce corporate mind-body wellness programs into the workplace within a large... Read more (/bios/adam-brady)
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