One of the most powerful archetypes in traditions East and West, and down through the ages, is that of the warrior. Think of the Samurai of Japan, the Sheik of India, the native Indians of the Americas.
Yoga too has its warriors - most notably Arjuna the troubled hero of the Bhagavad Gita. The warrior who, paralyzed by ethical and moral doubts, sits down before battle to receive advice from Krishna. But what is a warrior, what has a warrior got to do with awareness, and how does the warrior archetype mesh with the mat-based yoga so popular in the West today?
The first thing that makes a warrior a warrior is that they practice. Typically they practice a warrior art such as swordsmanship, entering the dream world, or a mind-body practice like Tai-Chi. Arjuna’s art was archery. And whatever art they practice it is a vehicle for developing strength and flexibility, and the skills of focus, discipline and intention. Skills they need when it comes down to the second thing that makes a warrior a warrior: acting with awareness as they step into the unknown. The awareness Arjuna gains from his discussion with Krishna. Awareness that enables the warrior to respond to each moment as it unfolds. Which brings us to the third thing that makes a warrior a warrior: they step into the unknown to effect a change inside or out in the world. A change which they may or may not realize. When they step into the unknown they take a purposeful risk.
At the end of the Bhagavad Gita Arjuna sets his purpose and takes his risk. Arjuna the warrior picks up his arms and goes to battle. This is the literal reading of the Bhagavad Gita. Another way of reading the Gita is as metaphor. Arjuna’s struggle is not on the battlefield - the message of the Gita is our struggle within. Our struggle to grow our awareness of who we are, to find our purpose, and to realize this in our doing and being in the world.
In this metaphor of yoga our mat-based practice is both our training ground and our battle ground as warriors. Through our yoga practice we build strength and flexibility. We grow our skills of focus, discipline and intention. And yoga brings us to a point where we have never been before. A point where we are invited to step into the unknown. A point where we are invited to take a purposeful risk. On our mats or in our world.
© David Dodd, June 2013
David Dodd is a life and business coach based in Amsterdam (NL) and Bath (UK); for more information see www.awareness-and-change.com