The Way of the Warrior

Creative Commons License photo credit: Jayel Aheram

There are not many people who have creds in the departments of both humanitarian and war efforts.

Eric Greitens spent his twenties in refugee camps in Bolivia and Rwanda. And then he joined the Navy SEALS. He currently runs an organization called The Mission Continues and he recently wrote a book called “The Heart and the Fist”. This past week in an interview on the Diane Rheme show he said,

“To be a real warrior means that you develop your strength in order to be of service to others.”

This struck a deep chord with me. If I am honest with myself I have to be mindful of the violence that bubbles in me when I experience or observe injustice. My first instinct is not to pass around a big hug. It’s to punch someone in the face (or worse). On the one hand I can temper this response as a byproduct of anger and find a more accurate response. But there is something so natural about the instinct to stand up and fight. What do you do with that? Is violence and fighting just when it is defense of the oppressed and vulnerable?

I Shall Fight to Stay Alive
Creative Commons License photo credit: Hamed Saber

When asked how he felt about pacifism he said,

I actually have tremendous admiration for people like Gandhi, for example, who are absolute pacifists. I think the key, though, to be a really strong pacifist, it actually still means not that you avoid conflict, but that you’re willing to actually put yourself in a place where you’re going to use peaceful means in the middle of conflict. And I have tremendous, tremendous respect and admiration for people like Gandhi, for other people who have taken that kind of peaceful approach.

I think one of the things I find is that they actually have that same set of [warrior] courage because they’re actually willing not just to talk about being pacifists, but they’re actually willing to go to the front lines themselves and to use those peaceful means.

And this made me cringe. Because when I feel my violence rise up in response to injustice, it is so easy to say that I am not going to do anything, I am going to step aside and avoid my anger in the name of compassion. But silence and softness is not the way of compassion. It is the way of fear.

Compassion is the way of the warrior.

What do you do with a practice that teaches both Ahisma (non-violence) and Virabhadrasana (warrior pose)? How do you embody the warrior and practice non-violence?

These questions haunt me. What do you think?

Posted by:

- who has written 31 posts on Yoga Modern.

Lauren Znachko is a yogi and writer in Chicago. She travels to the jungle, lives in the city and although she begins each day with a cup of coffee and never leaves the house without her iphone, she finds at least a moment each day with the page and on the mat. The art of combining an embodied life experience and expressing that it with crafted word is what inspires her to teach and write in a way that brings unity to the many communities of which she is a part.

8 Responses

  • Belinda says:

    I was surprised to read how inarticulate Eric is, given his considerable education and achievements. This happens when something is not at peace within oneself – when something, an idea or a belief, is not at peace, it's not clear. Eric has been trying to hold together two views that are ultimately incompatible with one another, which is why they're not at peace within him. A pacifist is a warrior that has come to understand the nature of anger and violence, and has transcended it, to stand his/her ground in peace, no matter what is swirling around them… thereby causing others to become peaceful around them, just through the influence of their peaceful being.

    • Andre says:

      "A pacifist is a warrior that has come to understand the nature of anger and violence, and has transcended it, to stand his/her ground in peace, no matter what is swirling around them… thereby causing others to become peaceful around them, just through the influence of their peaceful being."

      Wishful thinking – this is certainly NOT the case. All the peaceful protests, petitions and group meditations did not stop the eastern cougar from going extinct this year, stop the old growth forests being cut down or stop oil companies from devastating the peoples and ecosystems in Alberta, Ecuador and surrounding countries, the Gulf of Mexico or the Niger Delta.

      To answer your question Lauren, I think that violence is inherent to the natural world. To deny violence is to deny something which we are apart of. I think we become unnecessarily violent when we decide we are above and better than the natural world ie: veganism. I won't kill another animal, I am better than that, I will ship my food in from another country and have no connection to what is really happening on that land base.

      Often what is considered 'non-violent' is harmful in ways which may not be so obvious. My lack of direct action to stop the quarry's in my area has displaced countless species of animals, wiped out native ecosystems and polluted the water of surrounding communities. Are my actions truly 'non-violent'?

      • prettyhumanbeings says:

        Andre, thank you for these thoughts as it is clear you have taken a lot of time to think about this issue. One of my favorite writers in Annie Dillard. She is a nature writer and captures the inherent violence of natural world that you referred to. Reading her work has continued to keep me honest in my observations and questions.
        I wonder if there are new terms that we can create or imagine since 'violence' seems to be a more nuanced term than we tend to acknowledge. Are peace and violence truly antitheses?
        When we look at the different embodiments of divinity, destruction and creation are nearly the same act. Much as Jesus and Buddha embraced enlightenment and love, they also destroyed ignorance. Perhaps violence and fighting does not require death and bloodshed. Perhaps violence can be about service resurrection.
        But how do you know? It feels like a dangerous line to walk. And maybe that's the point.
        Thank you for thoughts.

  • hydafl says:

    Wow this is a puzzle for sure. As I think on this the movie Peaceful Warrior comes to mind in title. When confronted with the possiblity of fight or flight one must be sure of the necessity of vs the other. Fighting for a just cause may be whats necessary to have the ability to to do the other. One also has to be careful not to underestimate the ego in these ventures, championing a cause for acclaim woul not be of value in this case. Warrior by definition of the Samurai is to serve or be of service in this case.
    we have the ability to be warriors in spirit, meditation comes to mind (no pun intended), sit ins and activism.
    Great question Lauren.

  • Andre says:

    Here is a video which may be of interest
    'Pacifying Resistance'