The Spiritual Warrior: A Life Without Armor Part II
There Always Comes a Time to Shed Our Armor
For the people I have worked with over the years, it took an extreme motivational crisis to even begin looking at the defenses they had built up. That was true for me as I tried to navigate the pain and trauma of my failing marriage.
Despite the powerful armor I had at twenty-eight, I could no longer face my sense of humiliation and failure. But because real men don’t run and a good Marine never quits, I decided to rely on the Marine adage “falling back to re-group.” I leave Colorado and make my way to California where I fortify my suit of armor with promiscuous sex and dysfunctional relationships.
Every person has his or her personal story, but I believe there are familiar themes and threads that band us together. I encourage the people I work with to discover the threads of their story and the ways in which they built their own self-protective armor. With the support of a compassionate coach, guide, or mentor, this daunting process becomes manageable. Without it, people who experience an initial crisis and make superficial attempts to forge a new path often go out on their own again, then crash and burn spectacularly.
Hitting Bottom and Beginning the Spiritual Warrior Journey
Hitting bottom is a term people use in alcohol and other drug recovery. There are some dangerous beliefs about what hitting bottom really means. Sometimes people think they have to lose everyone and everything they hold dear before they can start again. For others, it’s the damage they do to their bodies or minds. And for many, it’s experiencing the deep shame of failing, despite their best intentions — that’s how it was for me.
At twenty-nine, I go on a two year journey of learning how to live my life without alcohol and pain pills — what I perceive to be the toughest, and most indispensable component of my armor.-Stephen GrinsteadAt twenty-nine, I go on a two year journey of learning how to live my life without alcohol and pain pills — what I perceive to be the toughest and most indispensable component of my armor. I have an intense desire to stop, so I promise my daughter and Karate Sensei Kim that I will never drink or use pills again.
It’s only a year later when I experience the second worst moment of my life — both emotionally and spiritually. I use pain pills, despite my best intentions. I am so ashamed that I failed, despite all the self-discipline and willpower I learned in the Marine Corps and from Sensei Kim.
I’ll never forget this night: I’m in my living room on my knees crying, feeling intense shame and a sense of total failure when the song “Help” by the Beatles comes on. I hear it in a completely different way. I sing along, addressing this musical prayer to my higher power and begging for spiritual help — and I receive it. I feel inspired and reach out to my spiritual mentor.
This is a significant turning point for me — this is where I begin the search to find my true Spiritual Values, Principles and Practices.
Beginning to let go of our armor can be quite challenging – often filled with doubts and fears. I often heard myself say “I can’t do this! It’s too hard!” as well as many other self-defeating thoughts and beliefs. However, the best decision – sometimes the only real decision we can make – is to move forward no matter what.
Overcoming Our Darkest Hours
I’m thirty two, clean and sober with a black belt in Karate, getting ready to leave my life as a construction electrician and open my own Dojo when I experience my darkest hour as a Spiritual Warrior. I’m injured on a job and can no longer do the work that I believed made me a “real man” – more importantly, I can no longer practice the Martial Art I truly love.
I am paralyzed for almost two weeks and fall into a deep depression; my pain is unrelenting and becomes a chronic condition. I believe my life is over — I feel hopeless, helpless and begin to suffer with my pain. I experience a place so dark that I call it the Chronic Pain Trance.
As a Spiritual Warrior on the path, I now know that it is okay to ask for help. I need my Spiritual Warrior Band of Brothers and Sisters to help me live the life I desire.-Stephen GrinsteadThis is the lowest point of my life and I start to let go of everything I’ve learned. I take on aspects of my old armor again…and I almost don’t survive. But the healthier part of me knows there is a better way.
I make the decision to live and begin a journey of hope as a true warrior to find real freedom from my suffering. I’m not depending on the old armor, but use my new spiritual values, principles, and practices, as well as learning how to be vulnerable, humble and teachable.
Asking for help can be very challenging for many people — but especially for me. Some believe it means we aren’t real men; they believe there’s something wrong with us or that asking for help is a sign of weakness. If we’re weak, we will be rejected, thrown out of the club, we will be hurt — and then we might as well just die!
As a Spiritual Warrior on the path, I now know that it is okay to ask for help. I need my Spiritual Warrior Band of Brothers and Sisters to help me live the life I desire.
Taking an Honest Look at Your Armor
My journey has not been an easy one; yours probably won’t be either. But I promise you that, if you’re willing to start taking an honest look at the “armor” or defense mechanisms you’ve developed, you will discover a new found freedom – an appreciation for the man you truly are, a love in your heart and a lightness of spirit that will revitalize your relationships and your health. I have helped many people begin this journey into the unknown and take on a new identity as a true Spiritual Warrior.
If you’re ready to get a jump-start on the Spiritual Warrior path – discovering the threads of your own story, identifying the characteristics of your self-protective armor and embracing your spiritual power – the following exercises will serve as invaluable tools.
Print each worksheet out, follow the instructions, and begin developing your own Spiritual Warrior Principles and Practices. The more effort you’re willing to put into this process, the more you’ll ultimately get out of it.
Image Courtesy of Unsplash/Jeremy Thomas