Saturday, June 27, 2009
The Heart of the Warrior
It happened!!! I cried on my yoga mat. Tears of sadness and joy. Tears of an open heart. Tears of compassion. Beautiful, fearless tears. I have been eagerly awaiting this moment and it came today at Equalityoga. Hundreds of lovely beings shared an outdoor practice dedicated to social action-specifically for Gay Rights. We created a collective intention of cultivating equality-equality as love, honor and respect for all beings for who they are. During this practice, I found myself cultivating these same feelings for myself-love, honor and respect for who I am. I forget to do this sometimes. I forget to recognize my own basic goodness. This is what connects me to everyone else. If I forget this about myself, how can I connect to others? How can I have compassion for myself and for others? Only when we recognize our own basic goodness can we shed our fear-based egos and allow our hearts to crack open, spilling love out into the world. Only when we have looked at our own soul can we realize the beauty of another's soul. When this happens, we experience the Heart of the Warrior.
In the tradition of Shambhala (a path of meditation I was introduced to some years ago that views all beings as fundamentally good), the Heart of the Warrior is one of fearlessness and gentleness. The warrior is not afraid of who she is. She can look directly into her heart and mind without the veils of fear, doubt and ego. She can allow her heart to open completely and share her love with the world. Fearlessness is her source of strength and her strength enables her to open to the world with a raw and tender heart, a heart of complete gentleness. The Warrior is so vulnerable that she is invulnerable; there is no ego to be wounded. The Warrior has great strength and great softness. The Warrior has both masculine and feminine. The Warrior has no arrogance, no aggression and no attachment to past or future. The Warrior extends herself fully with kindness to create and maintain an enlightened society.
So how do we develop our warrior? Where do we start? How do we become fearless and gentle? Here is how.
1. MEDITATION: The late Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a lineage holder in the Shambhala tradition, explains that through the practice of sitting still and following your breath as it goes out and dissolves, you are connecting with your heart. By allowing all thoughts to melt away, you start to "break through the ancient crust of ego and awaken to the joy of fully living in this world". You let your guard down, you take off your masks, you recognize your basic goodness. By simply letting yourself be, as you are, you develop genuine sympathy towards yourself. Out of this, grows a tenderness and a sympathy for others. "Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world. You are willing to share your heart with others" (Chogyam Trungpa). The warrior dares to experience the sharp edge of reality and move forward with gentleness, awareness, and inquisitiveness.
2. YOGA: Basic goodness is a fundamental principle of Anusara Yoga, which happens to be the style of yoga I have chosen to study most closely (you can tell I dig this whole "basic goodness" thing). Through a physical yoga practice, we can connect with our hearts and celebrate our intrinsic goodness. By honoring the beauty and goodness in all practitioners, teachers of Anusara Yoga create a space in which it is safe to unveil and look directly into your heart. It is common for yogis, through the beauty and physical expression of the practice, to feel or release intense emotion on the mat (even tears, like today for me!). This is the Heart of the Warrior. This is the fearlessness of looking at ourselves, honoring ourselves, and honoring others.
3. PRESENCE: The Heart of the Warrior can pop up at any time. All that is required is presence. When you are present, you are not thinking about the past so you have no identity (no ego), you are not thinking about the future (or the false happiness that awaits you there), you are 100% in the now. When you are in the now, you are automatically connected to your heart, to your basic goodness. And since you are so open in your presence, anything that comes along touches your raw heart and brings forth compassion. The simplest thing can bring about tears of joy. The harshest circumstances can be addressed with great gentleness. In the midst of great difficulty (grief, hardships, loss, break-ups, etc) your heart is waiting to be cracked open. All you have to do is ALLOW yourself to be present. It is the fastest way to heal. No fear, no aggression, no hiding, no defensiveness. Just awareness and love.
As I have found with many things of this nature, the Heart of the Warrior cannot really be explained. It cannot be intellectualized. It MUST be experienced. And it must be experienced by YOU. So take a friggin' sledgehammer to your ego and expose your beautiful heart. Be raw, open and tender. Find your warrior and extend yourself fully to the world with gentleness, fearlessness and non-aggression. JAI HO!