“It is better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.”
There is a story in Chinese martial arts lore about “The Peaceful Warrior,” where a young apprentice asked his teacher why, if he was striving to be inwardly calm and at peace, did he need to learn the ways of a warrior.
“Would it not be more tranquil and serene to be a gardener and tend the plants?” he asked. “Tending the garden,” the master replied, “is a relaxing pastime, but it does not prepare one for the inevitable battles of life. It is easy to be calm in a serene setting. To be calm and serene when under attack is much more difficult, so, therefore, I teach you that it is far better to be a warrior tending his garden rather than a gardener at war.”
We don’t always have control over when we are confronted by violence, especially in a hyper-violent world such as ours; a world filled with people who have been conditioned since birth to be violent: violent to each other, violent to other animals, violent to the environment. Such violence is the greatest hindrance of our time, the ultimate obstacle. It’s the precondition above all conditions that must be reconditioned.
A warrior in a garden is a person who has reconditioned the conditioned violence within. It’s a metaphor for a person wielding courageous compassion, benevolent bravery, fearless empathy, and dauntless altruism, all in the face of a hyper-violent world. It’s a peaceful warrior who has mastered The Art of Fighting Without Fighting and thus mastered himself.
The enemies of Carlos Castaneda’s Man of Knowledge are similar to, and thus subsumable by, the warrior in the garden. The warrior in the garden is coiled like a Kundalini snake, but a snake who has transformed fear into clarity, clarity into power, and power into sacred humor.
A force of nature first, a human second, the warrior in the garden forever hopes for peace but is always prepared for war.
1) You have defied your fear and gained clarity
“The self-confidence of the warrior is not the self-confidence of the average man. The average man seeks certainty in the eyes of the onlooker and calls that self-confidence. The warrior seeks impeccability in his own eyes and calls that humbleness. The average man is hooked to his fellow men, while the warrior is hooked only to infinity.” ~ Carlos Castaneda
Fearlessness is possible without resorting to violence. As I’ve said before, fearlessness is about transforming fear from an unskillful worry into a skillful courage. The warrior in the garden has already honed her mind-body-soul into skillful courage.
But she first had to transform fear into fuel, and fuel into fire. Indeed, fear used as fuel is courage. This is the clarity that washes over you when you have embraced your own fear, defied it, and reconciled it into a heroic disposition. Such clarity is not gained by rejecting fear, but by becoming intimate with it. As Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche said, “regard fear as the kindling to build a big fire of fearlessness.” The kindling is your fear; you are the fearlessness.
When you’re able to transform your fear into clarity, you go from being a victim of the world to being a hero for the world. But up until such reconciliation you will remain a victim, an “average man,” a pawn on the chessboard of power.
Where the victim runs from fear and inadvertently leverages cowardice into his/her life, the warrior uses fear to leverage heroism into the world. As Zig Ziglar quipped, “F-E-A-R has two meanings: ‘Forget Everything And Run’ or ‘Face Everything And Rise.’ The choice is yours.”
2) You have defied your clarity and gained power
“We are all Mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born” ~ Meister Eckhart
One can never have too much clarity, but one can lose oneself in pigeonholed truth. Clarity that has been replaced by all the eggs in one’s basket is still limited by the basket, no matter how clear one is. Such pigeonholed clarity must be resolved through self-inflicted wake-up calls.
The warrior in the garden solves this dilemma by shattering the mental paradigm of their clarity, flattening box of their clarity, and pushing the comfort zone that has been reinforced by their clarity. They take the next step in learning. They uncomfortably crush out.
They recycle the mastery by continuously evolving through the Cycle of the New-layman. They breathe in clarity and they breathe out uncertainty. Clarity comes and goes. They fill their cup to overflowing, and then they empty it again so that it may be filled with new knowledge. Knowledge enters, becomes muscle memory, and is then let go so that new, un-buttressed clarity can pour in.
This is achieved on a mind-body-soul level. Crushing mental paradigms and flattening the box keeps the clarity of the mind in check. Stretching comfort zones keeps the clarity of the body in check, and also keeps it healthy.
Destroying outdated gods and then creating new ones keeps the clarity in perspective while also keeping imagination robust. This is all done despite, and maybe even in spite of, the powers that be who threaten to use violence against the warrior in the garden.
But the garden is still green, and it will remain green as long as the warrior’s clarity remains resilient, flexible and ultimately adaptable to any given scenario. Such sacred buoyancy naturally manifests itself into power.
3) You have defied your power and gained wisdom
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
Power is perhaps the most difficult enemy for the warrior in the garden to defy. This is because power feels so good. It hijacks the ego. It even comes across as an ally.
And it can be an awesome ally when used as a tool toward empowering others, but it is one that can cloud our reasoning if not kept in check.
Unchecked power is more like a confused snake that clings to its skin rather than shed it. The longer it clings, the more likely it will become corrupt.
The skin gets tighter, more rigid, and less adaptable, even as it becomes more and more powerful. Eventually, the clinging snake (unchecked power) eats itself. As Nietzsche said, “The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die.”
It is your duty as a warrior in the garden not to cling to your power. You defy your own power by turning the tables on it and purposefully, maybe even painfully, making a point of peeling off your power as if it were skin. It is stripping the wannabe invulnerable ego and revealing its absolute vulnerability. Lest your power become corrupt and consume itself, you must counterintuitively defy it.
How do you know you’ve defied your own power? You’re able to empower others through your power without getting hung up on one-upmanship. You’ve shaken all your secure foundations, but you have a foundation beneath all that is insecure. You do not cling to your power, you release it instead. You spread it out. You expiate it.
You’ve flatten the arena of pseudo-power so that prestigious-power is free to rise to the top and atone for itself without ego. You are conscious of your own power, but you don’t limit your power because of your conscience, you magnify it because of your compassion. You’re able to dethrone the Master Complex through Beginner’s Mind. You are intermittently “In stillness like the mountain; in motion like the river,” as Wang Zong Yue surmised.
If you can do this enough, and with enough consistency, then the truer, more prestigious, power of wisdom will be revealed.
4) You have defied your wisdom and gained Cosmic Humor
“First here was the Sun, who was young once and is now a grandparent of many powers. But the Sun will one day go into the Void. That’s the power of the Heyoka—the Void.” ~ Ruby Plenty Chiefs
Defying your wisdom is taking your thoughts, tying them into knots, and then transforming your own mortality into a punchline. But it’s a sacred punchline. One that strikes at the heart of the human condition.
One where you’re laughing out loud, at the gods, rather than merely being the butt-end of the joke. Once the punchline is felt, deep in the soul –once honored despite mortality, and once reconciled along with the shadow– the knot is untied and the soul is liberated into cosmic humor.
You understand the world by turning away from it. You honor the world by laughing at it. You honor authority by mocking it.
You honor your wisdom by defying it, realizing, as Carl Jung did, that, “The soul demands your folly; not your wisdom.” Your ego is a curious puppy lost in a dogpile of happy balloons. Your wisdom is the profane compost that sprouts your sacred humor.
In this state of cosmic humor you reveal to others that the way almost always leads through the brambles. Especially if one seeks authentic transformation. The path is not soft and sweet, but jagged and elusive. It is not artificially blissful but authentically painful. It is not pretend forgiving but ruthlessly absolving. But it ends (begins) in the garden.
It ends (begins) with the warrior’s heart in full flutter, his soul in high laughter, tending to a bed of roses; knowing, with absolute humility, that should violence ever present itself, violence will be put down and taught a lesson. If war should ever rear its ugly head, its head will be chopped off and seeds will be planted in the neck hole.
If the garden should ever be threatened by forces of evil, or even force of good, those forces will be thwarted. Because the garden is life defying entropy, and the warrior in the garden is precisely the same self-similar thing.