To Be A Spiritual Warrior

“To be a spiritual warrior, one must have a broken heart: without a broken heart and the sense of tenderness and vulnerability, your warrior-ship is untrustworthy.” Chogyam Trungpa


It feels as if the world is reeling at the moment and it seems to be closer to home than ever. People often come to class agitated by world events and distressed. It has made me think a lot about our roles in our local communities as yoga teachers and studio owners.

As yoga teachers, we hold the space. We hold the space for those upset about the state of current affairs, we hold the space for the parents of teenagers going through turmoil, we hold the space for mothers giving themselves to their families with little time for themselves, for those who are grieving or suffering from ill health and for those who might be undergoing financial or professional stresses, for those who are lonely, for those who may be forgotten and the list goes on. We do not come with advice or with judgment, but we are there, present, meeting each individual where they are.

Often yoga teachers are put on a pedestal, as if their lives are fully sorted and as if they inhabit a world of perfection. There is nothing further from the truth. As our students, we lose those we love, we suffer from professional and financial insecurity, we burnout, we have fallouts with friends and family and colleagues we may not get along with. It is our vulnerability and our ability to be with the suffering that allows us to hold hands and space for those in a place of suffering. It is our experience of sitting and being with all that arises, that allows us to experience empathy towards those undergoing life’s ups and downs. As we allow ourselves to observe our emotions and learn about our vulnerabilities, we learn to accept that we are the sum of our experiences. Being a spiritual warrior is not only the remit of yoga teachers. As friends, lovers, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, as human beings with broken hearts we can hold the space for others. It requires empathy, non-judgment and the capacity to allow us to sit with our own vulnerable self; it requires a broken heart and the acceptance of that simple act of being human with all the rawness that it entails.

At the moment, it strikes me that many of us are suffering broken hearts. I see it in fellow teachers and I see it in those I teach. I certainly suffer a broken heart when I see the rise of xenophobia, when I see people discriminated or judged on the basis of their religion, skin color or sexual orientation. I suffer when I see people fleeing homes ravaged by war with nowhere to go, carrying babies, grandparents and only a bag of belongings, the remnants of a whole life. I suffer when I see people feeling deeply insecure about their future, as the world becomes a more challenging and hostile place. I reel as I see current events unfold: the rise of intolerance and the rise of fear and aggression. This broken heart we carry allows us to find our spiritual voice.

I feel that now more than ever with events unfolding as they are, yoga teachers and yoga studios fill an important role in society. Many seek a safe space where it is ok to feel the way one feels, where it is ok to be human; to suffer, to cry, to laugh, to hold hands or hearts.

I feel as if my voice as a spiritual warrior is growing louder, I feel like screaming from rooftops with a megaphone. There is a sense that we collectively need to lower the volume on fear, hatred, insecurity and racism and turn up the volume of love, understanding, consideration and empathy. If we are not able to sit with our fear and insecurities and allow our own vulnerability to blossom into love and empathy, we will eventually have to confront what we most fear. Yoga means “union”. It teaches us to become whole. How can we ever feel whole from a place of separation?

There are so many ways we can bring light into the shadow of humanity. We can show our understanding to those who suffer, we can hold hands with those in need, we can volunteer or donate to worthy causes or we can march for causes that promote tolerance and equality. And more importantly, we can love more and hate less. In the words of Martin Luther King: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Can we access the depth of our hearts and counter hate with more love?