The Journey of a Peaceful Warrior
As I walked to the front of the auditorium, my heart was pounding so loud that I could no longer hear the din of the crowd. I placed my notes on the podium and held it tightly so my hands would stop shaking. Gazing at the crowd I took a deep breath and started to read "Small Steps to Peace," a poem that told of my journey toward inner peace.
"It's a small step to gratitude.
The privilege of working on the land gives much to be thankful for,
I am allowed to fell the rhythm of the earth,
That day will follow night, season will follow season,
This never alters; it is the heartbeat of the earth,
Its rhythm has brought me calmness."
As I finished the first stanza the shakiness had left my voice. Although my heart was still racing I was starting to feel confident about my words and action.
While walking back to my seat amidst smiles and polite applause, I knew that this presentation had gone better than the last. Later I was able to meet Jim, my mentor, and he confirmed my feelings. "You have found your voice. I clearly heard your story," he said. "You are ready to begin work in your community."
"I'm still scared to be in front of everyone," I replied.
"That's okay, your voice was clear and strong, you are ready. You are becoming a warrior," he answered with a penetrating gaze.
The concept of "Peaceful Warrior" has been discussed for centuries and has been a focus of mine. In Pema Chodron's book, Comfortable With Uncertainty , she states, "Those who train wholeheartedly in awakening are called warriors - not warriors who kill, but warriors of nonaggression who hear the cries of the world.... A warrior accepts that we can never know what will happen next. We can try to control the uncontrollable by looking for security and predictability, always hoping to be comfortable and safe. But the truth is that we can never avoid uncertainty. That not knowing is part of the adventure. It's also what makes us afraid."
In my case, the land had cultivated in me gratitude, humility, gentleness, and an appreciation for what is, which are all attributes of a "Peaceful Warrior." As a farmer, I must constantly deal with variables beyond my control, so most days nature provides me with lessons in humbleness and gratitude. Organic farming also shifted my paradigm from being master of the land, to becoming a member of the land community. The realization of my interrelatedness has allowed me to slowly dissolve the illusion of control and become appreciative with whatever arises.
I did not realize at this time that Jim was helping me find courage and giving me a valuable lesson on fearlessness. To this day, I still hear my heart pounding, whether I am speaking to a small group of farmers or standing in front large crowd addressing a major land use issue. The fear of crowds and public speaking has become a means of waking me, and ultimately helps me with the issue at hand. With the proper tools and a little courage the warrior forges an invincible weapon of compassionate action and moves forward beyond fear.
Bernie Ware is an organic farmer, Buddhist practitioner, and activist for peace and the environment. He is faculty member for Tara's Meadow Center for Peace & Native Wisdom on Beaver Island, and will soon be joining four other facilitators there for the 'Path of the Peaceful Warrior' Labor Day weekend workshop, Sept. 3-5. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org