Wild Peaceful Warrior

“The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.” -General Douglas MacArthur.

This has long been a favorite quote of mind, and something I relate to both my life and Yoga practice.

I started the practice and study of Yoga when I was 11 years old. Being a vata bodytype, the Yoga lifestyle quickly soothed the nervous, restless and anxious child, allowing her to discover a creative, artistic, sensitive, playful and deeply spiritual self.

At all times, Yoga is a highly individualized practice, yet one we share with others, for who better to accompany one on life’s journey than those who are interested in self discovery?

So it is, that from early on, my Yoga practice became that of a warrior, a kshatriya. This Sanskrit word is rooted in kshatra and means “roof, umbrella, dominion, power, government”, likewise, “to rule, govern, possess”. Externally, this is the way of the warrior, the soldier, the fighter. And yet another definition is from the ancient Iranian language, where it means “holy precinct, a sacred field”, so that a kshetra is a place where the holy temple or sacred event took place. This is seen today in Buddhism where the word kshetra means, “the place of refuge”.

Tempered through the might of Yoga, the wild child grew into a fierce Yogini.

Over the years I have studied martial arts, enjoy weapons, and have served in the United States Army. Over those years (and still today), many have related that they consider this ‘odd’ or contrary choices for a Yoga practitioner. Which means that what Yoga is, is not clearly understood by many. Again, it is a highly individualized practice, one that aids all those who step on the tapas (Yoga mat, discipline), an opportunity to discover, explore, refine and hone who they are.

My Yoga path is that of the Peaceful Warrior. Used to be I didnt like this term; today I realize that I simply didnt understand it. The Peaceful Warrior is so bandied about that its meaning has come to mean anything the user chooses it to mean. From a Yoga perspective – from my view on the tapas – it has come to mean the transition from Kshatriya (ruler, nobility, warrior) to Brahmin (warriors, priests). Note for my Hindu readers: Not in the sense of a societal practice, but an inner transition from one level of personal understanding to another.

So it is that the term ‘Peaceful Warrior’ began to unfold its wisdom to me. From the beginning, Yoga was not something I did, but a way of living, waking, sleeping, sitting, eating – a way of both living and dying. Which doesnt make my practice of Yoga special or better than any one elses, for it is merely the manner in which it has manifested within me.

Yoga becomes what the practitioner brings. Yoga is only that which one makes it. And for me, Yoga is not what I do to become enlightened, but something I do because I am enlightened.

Yoga, like the tapas (Yoga mat) is empty, simply a space, a linear point. So that if one chooses to be attached or non-attached, that becomes one’s Yoga.

For me then, Yoga is both physical and meditative. Physically, my Yoga practice draws upon both ancient and modern forms from Yoga to martial arts and even dance. My personal practice, as reflected in my teaching, is rooted in precision, alignment and calm abiding. My students often describe my classes as ‘challenging’, yet agree that they explore the body’s full range of motion, that instead of focusing on but a few poses/asanas, I deliberately seek out those positions that allow us to experience strength, balance, agility, control, grace and power.

Then, Meditatively, my Yoga practice is not just a sitting practice, but mindful living. Meditation is not just about sitting still, quieting the breath, and “seeking” for something (calm, peace, what have you), for the more one looks for something in meditation, the more it slips through ones fingers and so out of ones life. Meditation is freedom from ones own ideas – which for those consumed with the importance of personal ideas, sounds frightening. Yet, this is the very pulse of Yoga, and if taken up bravely, manifests as deeply and richly fulfilling.

Free from preconceived opinions, impressions, and groundless supposition, I am able to reside in non-attachment, simplicity, patience, and compassion. In fact, it is the ability to be rid of ones sense of identity that allows one to not just transition from ‘warrior’ to ‘spiritual warrior’, but to wholly embrace the fluidity of that shift within the primal layers of being.

So yes, ‘the soldier, above all others, prays for peace’. The Peaceful Warrior challenges fear and uncertainty, which are battles fought within the heart. Like the beautiful examples in the Bhagavad Gita, the Peaceful Warrior flows through life with clarity and awareness, knowing that all wars are fought within, and that the only victory is loving kindness and Truth. It takes decades to secure the Peaceful Warrior, for it requires courage, discipline, and commitment, and in the end, there is no reward other than awareness of Self. But then, that is all that matters ..

Shanti and Metta!
Yogini Valarie Devi
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