IT TAKES A BROKEN HEART TO BECOME A WARRIOR
Aktualisiert: 6. März 2022
I just moved to a new city. It still feels like there’s no one I know here and I love it. Because that means that I can walk the streets for hours without meeting any familiar face and just observe people, listen to the stories their bodies are telling, sense the effect the gazes we are exchanging have on me. Especially with other men I am playing this game: will our eyes meet in mutual acknowledgement or anxious rivalry? How long will the eye contact last? Will there be openness, an aggressive glance or even a smile? (How liberating that would be!) Playing this game, there’s one phenomenon that I encounter in every city and that always gets to my heart:
So many of the young men that I see remind me of soldiers who have lost their army.
They are fit, full of inner tension, and constantly scanning the field around them for potential threats. One hand is firmly holding on to a sports bag, the other to an energy drink — they are equipped. Yet they seem to be terribly lost. Which war are they training for? Which suddenly erupting conflict will finally call them to battle so that their spirit may be unleashed and they can be of service at last?
The soldier in waiting is the ultimate archetype for traditional patriarchal masculinity that I can come up with. And he is quite present, not just in the countless wars that are still going on, but also in seemingly peaceful urban cultures: a military haircut, camouflage clothing, daunting muscles are the soldierly markers of a distinctively masculine style. Armoured hearts, swallowed frustration, unspoken suffering and tense bodies often go along with it. Soldiers never show weakness. And if they do, they are instantly called out by other soldiers who are there to make sure that their comrades are kept in line. It’s an emotional prison that costs many lifes — male lifes thanks to an insanely high suicide rate and other lifes thanks to senseless violence against all kinds of non-men. It’s the military logic applied to daily life: if you show weakness, you need to be eradicated, dominated, conquered.
Most of us are done with that.
Many conscious men on their quest for a different male archetype have been coming up with a noble counterpart to this character: the warrior. While the soldier is here to t a k e life, the warrior’s job is to protect it. Both are ready to lose their life for a higher purpose, though traditionally the soldier serves a more powerful man on his quest for dominance and conquest while the warrior is deeply interwoven with the fabric of his community and its shared values. There are beautiful examples of warrior culture across the globe. Their codes of ethics offer an antidote to he toxicities of contemporary western masculinity. Just imagine all the lost soldiers turning into warriors with a purpose, putting their lives at risk in solidarity with those who are more vulnerable, for the protection of the earth, for the survival of endangered species, including ourselves! Damn! A deep sigh of relief. Maybe this feels a little illusory at this time?
But why is that? Why can’t we simply find the key to unlock the peaceful warrior in us males? Don’t we all want to evolve beyond our violent heritage?
And, yes, the “we” is highly important here. I am not just talking to “those guys” who have a more traditional masculine configuration, the classical “toxic men”. I am also specifically talking to men like myself, who chose to disengage from the culture of manhood, who chose to disidentify from anything violent or “tough-guy”; either because we weren’t invited to the party in the first place or because we tried not to side with the perpetrators whose atrocities our sensitive hearts witnessed (and often suffered from) early on. We wanted to be different than them and so we swallowed many of our own violent impulses and sometimes our masculine traits altogether. We did so in order to be seen as the “good guys”, especially by women, or because our victimhood made us hate men …and very often we came from a place of genuine love and an innocent wish to take a stand for kindness. And this is where the warrior comes in to also heal men like me:
The warrior is a lover in action. He is motivated by his love for his community, the sacred order of creation, his love for justice and equality. Instead of fighting outside enemies, he is aware of any impulse that violates the principle of love, especially within himself. He is ready and willing to take any action that will restore peace and put love back into its place.
I repeat: he is willing to take any a c t i o n.
This is especially significant for men like me: how often do we, in our attempt to be kind and peaceful, suppress our impulse to speak up, defend love, shine the light of kindness? Quite a lot, I would say. We do so because we don’t want to act like a macho. Yet, in reality we are not at all healed from toxic masculinity. Most of the time we are just blocking our impulse to take space. And to be honest, that usually n e v e r results in actually giving more space to others. It doesn’t matter if we are straight, gay or queer, or if we consider ourselves to be the most tender feminist posterboys, there’s always some way for the patriarch in us to get his way. It might be one of the passive-aggressive, manipulative and, yes, toxic ways we “soft boys” unconsciously come up with in order to act out our entitled and self-centered masculine programming.
That may sound quite harsh. It is meant to!
There is a fluffy sugar coating around the regular urban white middle-class liberal “new masculinity” that looks like tenderness and vulnerability, and yet it is just another (sometimes even more vicious) form of armour. It’s driving the women in our lives crazy. We are being called to use the sword of our inner warrior to cut that emotionally numbing fluff away — as much as the more traditional soldierly armour. Our willlingness to do so is what instantly turns us into a warrior. Removing the fluff will most likely reveal our radiant hearts. As well as all our scars, our unhealed, festering emotional wounds will become visible and some of our ugliest features will be revealed. It will be visible for everyone that indeed we are far from flawless.
What would happen if I were to cut away some of my own, very agreeable fluffy armour, for example? People would see that I am often driven by resentment. That I am really jealous of all those strong muscular guys who always do what they want and always get away with it. People would see how much I want to punish them for their behaviour and how a part of me really longs to be like them, because I feel powerless. People could see that I do what I can in order to hide these feelings and instead constantly require validation from others, acknowleding that I am g o o d although I myself feel like I’m the worst person in the world. People would see my neediness, my craving to be held, my inability to allow for actual intimacy because I am way too scared to lose control. I would divulge how I retreat into a cold albeit very “spiritual” detachment in order to avoid feeling. Uncomfortable to acknowledge.
A warrior is ready to face all that. He has the courage to present himself in the full glory of his imperfection. He has the willingness to admit his ongoing compliance with a violent world order, because a warrior is not here to live in denial but to take ruthless inventory of his actions and motivations, so that they may change. Not in order to polish his image and be praised for how good he is but because that is just another trait that distinguishes a warrior from a soldier: his commitment to Love makes him prefer uncomfortable truths over the simplistic narratives that you’re usually told before a war; where you are always the good guy and the enemy is really, really bad. A warrior never ceases to examine himself with clarity and compassion.
If you are in the mood to simply read some uplifting thoughts on Warrior energy then stop here. Thank you for reading. If you are willing to lean in more deeply and be challenged a little more, please continue.
A warrior never ceases to examine himself.
This is a field where I see many conscious men fail: the transition from soldier to warrior can easily become that slightly-too-quick costume change, discarding the old and worn-out masculine role and donning the sacred and heroic new pose: I am a warrior now, therefore I speak solemnly, walk with emphasised dignity and, snap! there’s the next identity to hide my unresolved stuff behind.
The next mask that will allow me to go unchallenged.
Especially when someone questions my comfort zone, I will instantly lash out to protect myself. Instead of ceaselessly examining my inner continuum of thoughts, motivations and actions like a true warrior, I will construct another external enemy that I can fight and which will guarantee that my army is the good one in this war. It doesn’t matter if this enemy construct is my partner, a fellow brother who questions my motives, a sister who calls me out, or, if we zoom out a little, “the 1%”; and most recently a well-known philanthrocapitalist and his hidden agenda, who’s an easier target than our own compliance with the status quo. Whatever the occasion, our unconscious warrior is ready to jump on his high horse and feel damn good about himself. … well, f*ck that, brothers!
You won’t fob me off with such half-assedness! We are here to embody kindness, to serve love and to bring about true, lasting and systemic change. This is why we need our hearts to be fully open. Broken open if you will. How else are you planning to serve love?
Trust me, your broken heart will grow back stronger, just like any other muscle you might be training at the gym.
In fact, let’s just start the training right here, shall we? The gym I want to invite you to is our everyday life and the political implications of this life. I challenge you to pay close attention to your heart while you continue to read: the way it opens and contracts while being confronted with the following paragraphs, which have been written with the intention of triggering you from a place of love. Tough love.
Our masculinity (and if you are similarly positioned as I am) as well as our whiteness, cis-privilege, able body, high-class passport, as well as your potential middle-class background and straightness, provides plenty of opportunity to enter deep inner reflection, to feel where it hurts, to train our hearts to break open in empathy. Sadly in many conscious circles this is a total no-go: “Politics, goddess forbid! We are here to shine the light and not to deal with such negative stuff. Stay away with all that talk about racism, patriarchy, all that. Identity politics, isn’t that just another plot by the ‘powers that be’ to keep us enslaved in guilt and shame? My inner warrior says a clear No to that. Cut the bullshit!! I’m gonna retreat to my radiant orb of white light!”
If this were a podcast, you’d hear one of those screeching sounds of a suddenly interrupted audio tape now: *wwwwsssshhhhhh*
I mean, this is definitely tricky terrain and I totally empathize with any resistance or hestitancy to go there. But what we need to understand is that this is not “just” harmful to all those who suffer from the exclusion that this lack of reflection is upholding in our (oftentimes still quite gated) communities. It’s also another missed opportunity for us to courageously show up as love and ultimately to heal ourselves and the collective.
How can we propagate oneness and still exclude so many uncomfortable perspectives? How can we seriously talk about transformation and change and then not muster the courage to invite other perspectives and meet them in the true sense of meeting someone, which means to be changed forever by that encounter?
How does your heart feel? Listen closely.
Whether it’s about including trans* men into a men’s circle, or about revisiting a flyer picture that clearly displays cultural appropriation, perhaps it’s about centering women in your organization, about acknowledging the often entitled role that gay men are playing in a queer organization or making space for people with disabilities to participate in your festival: a common response in the “conscious” scene as anywhere else is helpless defensiveness, or ignorance and usually a big dose of shame and guilt. I see people enter self-centered guilt spirals while simultaneously accusing the other of “guilt-tripping”. Seldomly the guilt and shame are fully felt and processed, even when people have already done a high degree of inner work, because we are all too quick to bring up some defense, some “spiritual” excuse for why the issue at hand is not relevant to us, why our priorities are different:
“We are all one and we don’t see colour.” — “Those loud queer people are just not yet healed enough to demand their place at the table in the appropriate tone of voice.” — “These angry POC people are just trying to hurt me.” — “We don’t want conflict here.” And this is where a form of misguided warrior energy will emerge to interrupt and shut down the “low-vibe”, “political” discussions. Here is where the heart closes. Or where it never even dared to open. It’s too hurtful, too shaky. We are afraid that the image we might see in the mirror might be too displeasing.
This might be a good moment to take a few breaths, deep into your belly. Just like at the gym after the first set of reps …check in with yourself… what are you feeling? … Okay, let’s continue.
The still unconscious warrior shows up to protect — whom? Not love in that case, but our white, cis, male fragility. In these moments we abuse our warrior energy by disconnecting ourselves from our pain because it seems unbearable. Very often in these moments we are not even close to an actual heartbreak. We are just too scared of “losing it”; “it” being our sense of authority and stability as well as the ground beneath our feet. We are afraid of spiralling down into a rabbit hole of guilt, shame and overwhelm. And of course there are limits to the amount of change that an individual or an organization can process at one time. It’s good to know your boundaries and not burn yourself out. It can happen that people feel so powerless that they are abusing their role as victim, and even terrorize and paralyze an entire group way beyond what is acceptable. There are moments where a voice that hasn’t been listened to for a long time is so pressuring that it turns violent. Of course you can’t just let that happen. But are you really on the edge already or are you just afraid to be challenged?
Too often I’ve heard these excuses that, if you follow one of those “PC” ideas, you will end up as a slave to some liberal ideology which will diminish your power to embody Love.
This is something that definitely can happen, but it is still a choice to allow a guilt spiral to unfold. Very often it is not those who point out an injustice who bring in the guilt, but me who is taking things personally and instantly feels judged and accused, even if (let’s pick a really popular one) the other merely adressed me in a factual way as the white male I simply am and reminds me of the systemic privilege that goes along with it.
It’s our guilt paranoia that makes us perceive simple assessments of reality as an attack. It’s also our fear of losing everything that paralyzes us. Maybe even a fear of revenge. Of man-hating feminists who will put our heads on sticks if we give in to them. Of someone tarnishing our reputation by calling us a racist. As if there‘s only domination or surrender. That can be nice in a kinky game. But reality is so much more complex!
Deep breath. Next set. I know you can do it!
It’s a total delusion to regard these topics as simply political questions. There is not one political question that is not also a question of the heart, a deep gaze into the collective unconscious, an amazing opportunity to do actual healing work on behalf of all.
It’s a spiritual necessity to courageously reflect the ongoing reality of structural violence in each of us, every single day. And it’s exactly here, that for men and as people of all genders, our Warrior can really show up.
Let all of the injustice, the rage, the disappointment, the fear, the narrative of hurt and revenge, let all this touch you deeply, let it melt you for real, allow it to burn your defenses away without restraint. Watch where parts of you resist opening up to another, especially towards women. In reality it doesn’t have to be as brutal as it sounds here. It might actually even be most effective to allow ourselves to cry a lot, to surrender to the pain, while being kind with ourselves as we do it.
by Fabiano Rodrigues, pexels.com
To acknowledge that racism, sexism, homophobia transphobia… also exist in our supposedly evolved circles is not a weakness. And it’s by no means a denial of our actual oneness. Very often I heard that pointing out our different social positions would result in some kind of divide-and-conquer and that we should unite and quickly deny all our differences. Despite the fact that this idea quite violently negates the genuine perspective of people who experience oppression on a daily basis, it’s also a dangerous misconception that conceals the actual division the powers-that-be are using to conquer us:
It’s the division between me and myself.
Between you and yourself.
This cut goes right through the heart of anyone who profits from an oppressive system and, while offering some insignificant amount of power-over, it takes away our very humanity, as well as the strength of interconnectedness that goes along with that.
In order to maintain your position as the top dog of such a system, you need to numb, silence, cut out whatever empathy you might feel towards those who are oppressed. Both the suffering and the healing of us men, of white people and others who are on top of social pyramids is right here, in this very cut that goes right through our hearts. It’s the same numbing cut that makes a soldier a soldier. Without it, he couldn’t transform himself into a killer machine.
If we want to become warriors, or simply become more human, we will have to look straight into that cut and do the necessary work to heal it. This is lengthy, oftentimes unseen, exhausting work. It’s nothing compared to the centuries and millennia of suffering that oppressed people had (and still have) to endure, in many cases having to fear for their life and safety every single day. But it’s a challenge for sure, a beautiful one. There’s so much to learn here. And, as a reward, you will very likely feel less separate from creation, from the beings around you. Let’s be clear, this is not about using the suffering of others as yet another opportunity for our self-exploration. That would be rather narcissistic, wouldn’t it? It’s just the sacred and humble work of justice that warriors do on behalf of the collective’s and their own wellbeing.
My inner warrior is passionate about doing this work, even if the little me has no clue how to do this and is scared shitless of the consequences of failing at it, again.
Luckily, there are role models everywhere, if only we are willing to see them. All it takes is a small courageous act to massively disrupt the status quo. Just a moment ago, I saw a video of a white male Police Sheriff in Flint, Michigan who along with his squad took off his helmet and put down the baton in order to peacefully march together with the #BlackLivesMatter protesters. Policemen across the U.S. publicly took a knee and for a moment canceled their solidarity with white supremacy and the violent racist cult that police forces across the globe seem to be way too often. All of this, hopefully, not in order to be the next “white saviour”, to distract from the ongoing violence that is perpetrated by policemen or to lead a movement that you can only be an ally to as a white person. But because that is what love demands from a lover in action: Protect life. Support the vulnerable. Take a seat in the circle. Also in less heroic (but maybe more sustainable) ways: by listening to other voices, sharing our platforms, our power, our access and, very importantly, tending to our friends and lovers with care. This is our service to the new civilization that wants to be born and that desperately needs all of us lost soldiers to turn into humble warriors. Now.
My takeaway points after writing this text:
A warrior is awake, alert and present. Not so much because he is looking for outside enemies. First of all he is alert and present to his own thoughts and emotions, from which his motivations and actions arise. Observing this is the true battle he is engaged in.