Out of high school, I wanted to be a professional mix martial arts (MMA) fighter. From 16 to 24, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ) and MMA were my life. After massively struggling with depression, due to a major spiritual awakening when I was 14 on a Native American vision quest, becoming a warrior gave me an identity and taught me how to fight back against my own demons. It instilled an identity that would allow me to face the world on my own terms.
To spite how positive BJJ was when I was young, as I got older, I noticed that something started being really off. I’ve always been a deeply spiritual person and thought of myself as a spiritual warrior ever since I found martial arts, but I hit a wall. When I would train I stopped feeling a sense of progress, but instead a ruthless world where I was going to be the alpha male no matter what it took. If a guy didn’t tap in a BJJ tournament, I was going to break his arm, no second thought about it. If someone on the street wanted to fight (which never happened) I was ready to lay down the law.
In my personal life, almost everything was violent. I listened to a combination of hardcore industrial and rap. I worked as a bouncer at a club where I was always looking for someone starting trouble. I got into dating multiple women and playing out my domination fantasies. All of this together put me in a world that was never happy, loving or peaceful. It was all about the grind and not being a bitch.
In a moment of insight from just contemplating why everything felt so wrong, I decided to start over. That’s when I left and lived at an SN Goenka Vipassana center for 1 year. At these centers, you meditate for 12 hours a day (3 hours being mandatory group sits, the rest being optional) for 10 days. While I was staying there I was only allowed to sit one 10-day course and then would serve for two. The funny thing about this though was that the serving was more intense because you had 6 to 15 volunteers in a kitchen trying to cook and serve fresh food to roughly 120 people. Needless to say, there was always one person in the group that couldn’t handle this and there would be some type of drama. Still, I really value the time I spent there and still recommend anyone who is interested in learning how to do deep meditation to try a course for themselves.
After that endeavor, I more or less stopped listening to music altogether or if I do it’s mellow. I got into a really loving long-term relationship. I also started going to college. I also did a little BJJ training, but it was more about brotherhood for me than anything else. All in all, I was back and have been focused on my spiritual goals ever since (of course there have still been lots of highs and lows though).
With so much time in both a positive and negative warrior mindset, I really want to share what I believe is the best way to think about both being a warrior. The true war is always the inner war. Everything that helps strengthen that inner war could be seen as an ally, everything that weakens you in that inner war is an enemy. One of the epithets of the Buddha means one who has slain all his enemies and then it goes on to explain that the enemies are the passions, also known as greed, hatred and delusion.
One thing that really resonated with me about Buddhism was that the Buddha came from a warrior clan known as the Shakya clan. To quote wiki, “The Shakya republic functioned as an oligarchy, ruled by an elite council of the warrior and ministerial class that chose its leader.” The Buddha himself was trained as a type of warrior. In addition, many of the first disciples of the Buddha were warriors, so much so that it actually became an issue with the king because his elite guard wanted to leave and become monks. This was actually such an issue that to this day you still can’t become a monk if you’re in the service of the king.
Since the Buddha and many of the other monks were trained as warriors, I think this is also part of the reason why monks were able to survive in the forests by themselves. It’s also talked about how those who are warriors can often make faster progress on the spiritual path due to having the necessary mental discipline. Being able to face pain (physical, emotional and mental) and persevere through is a huge advantage when we try to face our own issues head-on, which is really what the Buddhist path is all about. It’s a direct path that leads to higher states of consciousness through wisely going within ourselves and addressing the root of the problem, craving or desire.
Just to add one more point about this topic, the missing link a lot of the time for warriors who want to follow a spiritual path is that this battle is won through surrender. Sitting in meditation makes you very aware of your own inner issues and if you aren’t able to let go and flow with the process, you’ll end up multiplying your own frustration. Within the context of a martial arts tournament, we may not want to surrender, but that ability to see that the internal battle is won by being with what is, without trying to change or alter it, can be quite a learning curve.
In conclusion, I really do believe that developing the qualities of a warrior and even training externally in a martial art is good. However, everything has its limits, and fighting to harm others or out of anger doesn’t lead to inner peace. There is a balance where through living as a warrior you become strong and are able to defend yourself, but also live a life of peace. Since I trained and have many friends who also do martial arts, my hope is to show people how to make this shift, which is a part of why I decided to create Humble Stature to begin with. May you all be happy, peaceful and liberated.