Mani Raman looks into how our habit of struggling with life like fire-fighters is keeping us miserable. He suggests a different approach to life and yogic practice – the spirit of a warrior. This is the edited version of an informal talk given during Online Satsang on 27th May 2018.
In our life, we have made everything a battle, a battle we force ourselves to fight every moment. We struggle and fight to conquer life. The more we feel that we are losing the battle, the harder we fight. The harder we fight, the more frustrated we become, ending up feeling crushed and defeated by life. We may feel that life is against us and that frustration and failure are inevitable.
Life, however, destroys nobody. It is life that has brought us here, we were born out of it. If we fight with our own source of energy, we will be destroyed not by life but by our own violence.
Seeking External Validation and Admiration
This inner violence, this misery, is created by us, by our wrong approach to life. All skills that we have accumulated are misguided and unfit to solve our fundamental problem. We all carry a deep-rooted wound of rejection. We don’t have self-respect but only self-denial, self-condemnation. To compensate for it, we crave for validation and admiration which we have been trained to look for outside of us. We have learned this psychological strategy from our parents, society and our education system to get our rightful admiration and validation for everything that we face in our life.
Fully depending on external validation, we’ve become so afraid and so out of touch with our own self that we are constantly on guard and triggered every moment to wage a war. This trembling inside is due to the deep-rooted fear of ‘I am not enough’. We cannot depend on ourselves and we have to depend upon others. To depend upon others means that we need to rely on something outside of us which is not under our control. If that which we want to hold on to is not attainable or that which we hold on to is not available all the time we struggle and fight and deplete our energy in the process.
Facing Life As It Is
Life is not against us. We are a part of it and not separate from it. We are intrinsic and organic to it. It’s impossible to conquer life – the part cannot conquer the whole. Life is very spontaneous and flows and emerges by itself. Life is a dynamic dance of energies in the outer world as well as in one’s subjective inner world. So to face life with its multidimensional ever emerging layers, we first need to attend to this unfinished business – the fight within ourselves.
Whether we like it or not, we need to face this inner fight. We cannot escape. No matter where we go, the same life is waiting for us. We need to face it now. There is no way of escaping. We may think we can avoid conflict and difficulty. In the end, however, the flow of life itself is hampered by our continued effort to prevent discomfort and conflict. The sanskrit word avidya best describes this state. Avoidance and prevention therefore have no meaning. We cannot fight with life itself.
Fire-Fighter or Warrior? Mastering the Art of Living
What we can do is develop the strength and ability to wage a clear and decisive fight against our own defensive mind, our own self-defeating patterns. This fight requires more than just a fire-fighter’s skill of putting out flames. A fire-fighter is trained to react and function with urgency. But in life and its unpredictable future, we have to negotiate not only the urgent but also the emergent – that which is not obvious and unforseeable, like a raging fire. The ability to deal with the emergent conditions of this battle of life demands much more than the functional skills of a fire-fighter. We all are like a fire-fighter trained with particular skills to deal with life and its incidents.
The fight we are speaking about, however, requires the quality of a warrior. A warrior, like a fire-fighter, is trained to be skillful, but he stands in the battlefield, prepared to face anything that will emerge at anytime. Nothing can be predicted. He is not in a defensive mood. If one goes to war with dragging feet just to defend oneself, defeat and disaster are certain. A mind that is always on the defensive mood cannot gather the strength and enthusiasm necessary to win a war. A heavy heart and defensive mind will shrink in every way possible. A warrior, on the other hand, is whole and complete. He is fully there and for him even his fighting is a joyful, blissful affair. The word siddha in Yoga means ‘adept’, someone who is an accomplished performer of all of life’s arts. A siddha is ever free – before, during and after the battle.
The Warrior’s Self-Respect in our Daily Practice
To qualify for this state and for the capacity of a warrior, the fire-fighter needs to transform from self-condemnation to self-respect. The immense self-respect of a warrior is necessary in our daily practice, in Yoga and in our meditation. In life, most of us don’t have the luxury of choosing our battles. At least in our yogic practice we can choose how and with which attitude we approach our inner battle.
Our next article will introduce meditation techniques to put the warrior spirit to practice in your sadhana. You can sign up for our newsletter below to be notified once the article goes live.
Until then, we invite you to reflect:
What are you taking away from this article?
Do you recognise the fire-fighting habit in your life? If so, in which areas?
In which areas of your life are you already applying the spirit of a warrior?
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Keep practising 🙏
Banner Image Credit: Dave Contreras