The Mystic Warrior Practice is a comprehensive plan to transform every area of my life. If you read my last rambling post, you’ll know I reacted badly to a shadow eruption that almost derailed my spiritual practice. Thankfully, I was able see through the ruse and I’m now in the process of sorting myself out and getting back on track. It’s a big job and it could take a while, but it’s worth doing – even if I fail in the long-run.
But this isn’t about winning or losing. As I said last time, this is an opportunity to renew my commitment to my spiritual practice and gather together everything I’ve learnt over the years and share it with you. Although I’m not setting it up as a teaching for others to follow, I do hope it will be of benefit.
The plan involves assessing where I’m at and what I need do to improve my spiritual practice. I’ll be looking at each area of my life, seeing what I’ve learned and the mistakes or misunderstandings I’ve fallen into. And then exploring what practices I can do to deepen my understanding and ground my practice in my body.
You’re welcome to follow along and apply the same techniques to your life and spiritual practice and perhaps we can help each other out!
The plan is called Mystic Warrior because it incorporates both love and will – or contemplation and action – which you need if you want to make progress in your spiritual practice. You can’t just sit on your arse and contemplate eternity, smiling beatifically. You have to put the truth you see into action too.
So what is a mystic warrior?
The word ‘warrior’ tends to be associated with war and fighting, but it’s also connected with wisdom in many traditions, such as the samurai, and the legend of King Arthur. I explored this in another post when I was given a gold helmet in a guided meditation – by a raven! It took me a while to understand what the gift meant, but perhaps this project was what my deeper Self had in mind. You can read that post here: An Unexpected Gift.
Anyway, Matthew Fox says we need to reclaim the word ‘warrior’ and calls it a spiritual archetype. In Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-warrior for Our Times, he explains that a warrior isn’t a soldier, but a mystic:
“It takes a warrior to become a mystic, for the mystic cannot survive in denial; the mystic hunts everywhere in search of his or her beloved.”
The beloved being God. The mystic path is about seeing Reality directly, but this knowledge comes at a price. So the path to enlightenment requires great self-discipline and courage. It requires the spirit of a warrior.
There are multiple references to swords and warriors in spiritual literature. For example, in Buddhism, the bodhisattva is a spiritual warrior who forgoes their own liberation to save others from suffering. They represent the path of compassion and fearlessness in overcoming the ignorance that stops you from seeing your true nature.
In Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, Chögyam Trungpa says the key to being a warrior is not being afraid of who you are. This doesn’t mean the ego, but the true Self or Buddha nature. The ego is based on fear, but the true Self is fearless. He explains:
“…the word ‘warrior’ is taken from the Tibetan pawo, which literally means ‘one who is brave’. Warriorship in this context is…the tradition of fearlessness.”
The Buddha himself came from the warrior caste and used a lot of military language in his teachings despite the path being about embracing non-violence. To attain enlightenment, the Buddha battled the demon hordes of Mara’s army – Mara being a symbol of illusion and evil. You can read an account of the battle on Wild Mind here.
Many people see mystics as being out of touch with reality, but this path isn’t about transcending the body and the world and zoning out. It’s about being fully grounded and present in the body and in life – and that’s where the challenge comes from. It’s easy to float off in a bubble and hang out with angels. It’s much harder to deal with the mess of day-to-day life at the same time as remembering who you really are.
This is an important point because the difficulty of the path often makes people look for shortcuts. The ego decides that awakening should be done fast or on a schedule and goes looking for ways to skip to the end of the process without doing the work. This might involve using psychedelics, for example, which can help when used in the right context but it’s easy to get sidetracked if you don’t have a competent guide.
Mysticism also isn’t occultism. It’s not about paranormal experiences, visions and trances, getting off your face on drugs, levitating or producing other powers known as siddhi. You might experience these things, but you’re advised to steer clear of them and not to encourage them if they do happen. This is because they can trap you on the psychic level where it’s easy to fool yourself and to be fooled. Some mystics never experience these things and you don’t need to in order to awaken.
Mystics want to know God. Anything else is just a sideshow – a distraction.
To be a mystic you have to be brutally honest with yourself and willing to go where God, or Spirit, leads you. It can be a tough and lonely path to follow. Breakthroughs usually come after long periods of struggle and sometimes intense suffering. In fact, it can be a period like this that places you on the path in the first place.
This is what happened to me. I didn’t choose to become a mystic; I got plunged into it by life and had to figure it out as I went. I was profoundly resistant at first – hence my novel Addled: Adventures of a Reluctant Mystic. I’m still learning about the path and what it means – hence this practice plan.
Being a mystic is a vocation. You don’t follow this path as a lifestyle choice or because you fancy having a go at being mysterious and pious. If you’re a mystic, you’ll know because you’re called to it. But you don’t have to become a monk or nun or live like a hermit, unless you want to! Some monks are mystics, but most probably aren’t. In fact, mystics within spiritual institutions have a reputation for freaking out the other monks with their extreme experiences, as Caroline Myss explains in Anatomy of the Spirit,
“Observers, even those inside the monasteries, kept their distance from some of these mystics, lest the ‘eye of the Divine’ blink in their direction. It was well known that few could endure ‘direct contact’ with heaven.”
Now there are loads of what Myss calls “mystics without monasteries” running around in the world – on the loose! – freaking out their family and friends and random passing strangers. Perhaps you’re one of them. There’s a good list of ways to know if you’re a mystic on Mummy Mystic here.
So being a mystic is about seeking union with God, but you’re not really separate from God in the first place. The mystic knows there’s nothing outside of God – everything is held within His embrace. Even the ego.
This is what makes the process of awakening so fiendishly difficult. The paradox can really mess with your head and lead to misunderstandings and detours down dead-ends.
You’re not separate from God so to awaken you don’t have to become someone else. You just need to be what you already are, or remember your original face before you were born. This means the process of awakening involves stripping away anything that isn’t the real Self – anything that stops you from remembering or prevents conscious union with God.
The warrior side of the path comes into play here because it means cutting away extraneous desires, attachments, ideas, and identities. At some point the ego realises it’s being eroded and starts to resist. At the start of the process the ego is often on board because it sees the path as a way to achieve something or get something it doesn’t have, i.e. enlightenment.
But you already are the awakened mind – you don’t need to become it. Besides which, the ego can’t become enlightened.
So at some point on the path you have to make a choice between the ego and the Soul. This is when the ego really starts to kick up a stink and fight for its ‘life’.
And this is when you need to be a real warrior.
You have to choose to awaken. You have to say yes to the Soul, to God, and no to the ego and lower drives, anything that keeps you circling through desires that can never be fulfilled. But the fact that you have to choose to awaken doesn’t mean you can control the process or dictate how and when things should happen. This is the paradox of choosing to surrender.
On the other hand, you can’t really choose to become enlightened. You don’t even know what it is because you can’t imagine it from the level of ego. So most people have a lot of fantasies about enlightenment – what it means and how it will affect your life. All of those fantasies will be stripped away by the process, as well as your ideas about God and reality in general.
To be a mystic you have to question everything – even your desire to awaken.
Am I doing this for the right reason? What does my Soul need? What is God asking of me? These aren’t easy questions to answer, and the immediate, glib response is usually wrong – probably the ego trying hijack the situation for its own nefarious ends.
This process isn’t about becoming someone better. It’s not about fixing yourself or being perfect. It’s not another ego trip or hero’s journey to a golden land of happiness. I don’t want to rebuild my life only to watch it collapse again because I’ve built it on false ideas made of ego sand.
The Mystic Warrior practice is about removing resistance to Reality and getting out of my own way. It’s about saying YES! to being alive and accepting the truth present in every moment.
It’s about remembering that everything is in God, even the shitty stuff, even the pain and the darkness. This sounds crazy, but if you could see Reality as it is, you would see what the mystic sees – that there’s nothing but God.
“Take courage. The human race is divine.” – Pythagoras
Next time, we’ll explore the inspiration behind the Mystic Warrior Practice…
More on Mysticism:
- The Characteristics of Mysticism – what it is and isn’t
- The Cloud of Unknowing – text extracts
- Mysticism Bookshelf – recommended reading
- The Mystic Way – how a mystic awakens
- Revelations of Divine Love – text extracts