On the Path – Finding our Way










The winter solstice is past, and chilly winds blow. Now is traditionally a time to tuck in and hibernate until spring's buds raise our spirits once again, reminding us of life's renewing cycles. And now is a time to focus on our New Year's surge of resolve for personal change. Often our resolutions invite new disciplines, greater compassion, or selfless action. Sometimes resolutions are personal reflections on meaningful work and life purpose. Certainly these are no small issues; in fact, their ideals may stir up guilt or overwhelm, pressing us to retreat to life's usual distractions.

Perhaps some of our promises have slipped, yet no matter how far into the New Year, daily we are given the chance to begin again. The first challenge is to stop the internal battle between lethargy and energy, inertia and passion. These are natural polarities, usually the first confrontation when our body, mind or spirit stretches toward growth. To transcend such opposites, we need a clear vision both of what we're reaching for and how to go forth.

The epic Bhagavad-Gita offers an inspiring teaching on rising above these inner rivals. Written in the first century this Hindu sacred text recounts an ongoing dialogue between the prince Arjuna and his charioteer, the Hindu god Krishna. A mighty warrior, Arjuna is renowned for his physical prowess as well as his spiritual zeal, marked by his friendship with the mystical teacher Krishna. Their poetic exchange takes place on the battlefield, where Arjuna's body trembles and "hair bristles" as he imagines the chaos and horror of killing. He faces a profound moral dilemma frozen by conflicts of duty, passion, honor and pity.

As the tale unfolds, it is clear that the real battle is within his mind and Krishna's teachings open Arjuna to deeper understandings by guiding him through the paradoxical maze of disciplined action and freedom. Krishna weaves an awe-inspiring tapestry with threads of duty (dharma), action (karma), discipline (yoga), knowledge (jnana) and devotion (bhakti) to help Arjuna realize a higher vision.

This story, though set in Indian culture, is a masterpiece of philosophical, spiritual and psychological wisdom. It takes those familiar sticking points of inertia and passion and links them to divine solutions. Specifically, when we're dedicated to a loving vision and not attached to the fruits of action, we build the inner freedom to act rightly.

But like Arjuna, applying such inspired choices to my own life certainly bristles my hair! How can I possibly survive a competitive work world in a heart and spirit centered way? Like many others, I am too easily caught between energy and exhaustion when I believe I am engaged in a win-lose battle. There must be a better way.

Over the centuries, wisdom passed down from mature, inspired traditions and cultures show us there is. The first step (versus the last resort) is surrender of the game of either/or, win/lose. The second is retreat from the polarity battlefield to look over the lay of the land. The third is determining where the skirmish really is-"out there" or "in here"? And then it is time to call on both the natural and divine capacity for clear sight. As in the Bhagavad-Gita, Arjuna discovered that more than force or weapons, clarity and vision were the tools he needed to guide him to follow his highest warrior's code.

This code is both a philosophy and a discipline for transcending polarities. It is how heart and vision whet and polish our tools for right living and inspired action. It is not an easy code to translate; yet our body and spirit naturally resonate with it when we surrender the mind's endless battles. Here is one version gleaned from both spiritual and psychological sources:

1. The warrior follows a path.
2. S/he continually hones her tools, attitude and abilities.
3. The Warrior strives for impeccability and integrity in all ways.
4. He/she is awake to each moment.
5. The warrior is accountable for his/her actions.
6. S/he stays centered even in the midst of chaos.
7. The warrior remains devoted to a spiritual cause.

This code, translated into daily living, supports our longings to realize our high reaching resolutions. When, like Arjuna, we retreat from the mind's battlefield, and scan the ground around us, we may well find that the warrior's code reveals the path to follow. Happy treading toward the promise of spring.