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March 18, 2020

The Way of the Spiritual Warrior

“A warrior seeks to act rather than talk.” – Carlos Castaneda

I was unconsciously letting go of all the resentment, anger and judgement that I was holding inside of me. It was me saying to myself; though it’s true that I had messed up in many areas of my life, and that I was in no way living up to 40% of my potential, it was okay.

I was telling myself I was doing just fine. I was where I was supposed to be. I needed all those fifty-plus years to arrive at this moment of realisation. I was now ready to accept myself, my life, warts and all.

That day was a new starting point for me. A place where I could chart my progress henceforth. Now, all I had to do was compare myself, not to my previous self. Instead, to the ‘me’ after that particular Sunday.

On Sunday 14th of July, I had sat under my Bodhi tree for a few hours of reflection.

The sun was starting its descent, filling the sky with an orange-yellow light as a slight breeze brushed against me. The thin branches above my head started swaying, their leaves caressing my face, neck and shoulders. From afar, I could hear only the distant chirping sounds of birds. It was as if I was the only person alive in the whole world.

I was overcome by a powerful feeling of peace. A feeling that intensified when I sat there thinking of nothing at all. A clear image kept popping up in my mind. It would linger for a few seconds then go away.

Finally, I got up. I walked around to loosen my stiffened body. Within seconds, my mind was flushed with a clarity that I’d never sensed before. The image that kept forcing itself into my mind was that of a spiritual warrior. It wasn’t a man clad in black and wielding a samurai sword, but rather an image of me, where I looked strong, serene and wore a warrior’s smile.

I looked like a mixture of all the heroes who have inspired me; Rumi, Gibran, Hemingway and Alan watts. The words “spiritual warrior” didn’t come up but they were the first two words that jumped at me with the image.

Let me clarify, first, that the tree was not a Bodhi tree but rather a Palm tree, and secondly that this significant hour of my life came after many months of intense work on my ‘self.’ The work included many sessions with a psychotherapist, in-depth conversations with my close friends and family and much archaeological writing in the form of a memoir.

It took me a few days to discern what a spiritual warrior truly meant to me and what were the next steps that I should take. My priorities were now clear, and anything that didn’t fall into the path of becoming a spiritual warrior became irrelevant.

The first steps of becoming are:

  1. “Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it”-Epictetus

I would be a man in action who embodies his philosophy rather than one who espouses it. A man who will teach only when he has gone through the lessons. A man who is focused and disciplined in taking actionable steps towards self-mastery Instead of merely learning about them from the wise words of the many teachers.

  1. Start Now

The reality is; how we will live in twenty years or the future time depends wholly on the habits, behaviour and values we take on today. Most of us won’t change a great deal after reaching maturity. So, waiting to retire when the kids leave to college or holding onto resentment of past regrets until we start working on ourselves is rather foolhardy.

If we don’t start now, the odds are we never will. Life is happening to us, with or without our permission. Perhaps I left it too late, or maybe I’m a late bloomer, but the point is I’ve started and as a great teacher once said, “the time is always now, and the place is always here.”

  1. Only through pain can we gain inner peace.

I’ve always thought that when I achieve inner peace, the internal suffering that goes on in my mind would cease. The reality is not so. It’s rather the opposite.

Just like the Buddha said almost three thousand years ago, “the only way to enlightenment is first through suffering and then secondly in mastering the mind comes the cessation of suffering”.

The only way to master the mind is to live an examined life focusing on our inner life and not the outer one. In learning to control actions that are under our control and not worrying about the other actions that are not under our dominion.

This inner journey is the heart and soul of the spiritual warrior. It is arduous and fraught with much pain, suffering and frustration. It requires much patience and perseverance. It is in this journey where we shed layer after layer of the false self we have embodied over the years.

The three Ps (pain, patience and perseverance) I’ve hated all my life and tried to evade are unavoidable. There, simply, is no easy fix. More importantly, there is a far greater reward in doing it the long hard way.

I’m starting with my body.

The first place to start this journey is with my body. All my life, I’ve been much in tune with my surroundings, feelings and spirit through my body. It’s like through my body I can see more, feel more and be more.

When I eat poorly, it immediately affects my state of being. When I exercise hard or go for a long run, I’m transported to a place of rapture that is hard to explain in words.

However, I’ve never taken the step further than just a mere feeling here and there. I’ve always stopped short of the pain barrier, not allowing myself to transcend the pain and keep going. In 2013, I ran a half-marathon but stopped short of a full marathon because my knees gave way and I succumbed to an injury. Now, I feel it was more my mental attitude that stopped me rather than my weak knees.

For me, working on my body is not about creating a six-packed body, though that would be welcome. Instead, to use my body as a gateway to my enlightenment—a declaration to myself that I can reach the finish line.

What if I put in the long, painstaking hours to make my body a temple and refuge for my mind and spirit? What if my body becomes a mirror to my new way of being—my introduction to becoming a spiritual warrior.

This will be no mean feat at my age and after recovering from a double leg fracture in early 2018. To do so would mean to eat the right way, exercise heavily to gain more strength and energy, and to exercise smartly by including a stretching regimen that can protect my 51-year-old body from injury.

I will follow a strict low-carb eating plan, with no sugars, no fried stuff and no processed foods. I will up the ante when it comes to my workouts. My routine will include three weightlifting sessions, three high-intensity interval training sessions, and finally, three running or cycling sessions in between.

I’ve set myself a target that by the first day of January 2020, I will be at my fittest, most energetic and healthiest condition ever. This translates to dropping my weight by five kilos, having less than 12 per cent body fat, and running a 10km race in under sixty minutes.

After that Sunday, my journey as a spiritual warrior began. For me, the best place to start with my inner journey is by mastering the body. In doing so, I’m telling myself that I can be more than just 40% of my potential.

I’m taking action right now and willing to bear the pain to get there. Thus, ready to tread the path of mastering my mind. That knowing will automatically transfer into other areas of my life where I want to become more—my writing life and business. Only then, could I have a way of connecting to my spirit?

I invite you to join me on this journey. I will be sharing many posts over the next few months that will detail the further steps along the voyage of the spiritual warrior.

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