Warrior as Guardian
warrior: 1. a man engaged or experienced in warfare and especially in primitive warfare or the close combat of ancient or medieval times. 2. a person of demonstrated courage, fortitude, zeal, or pugnacity.
—Webster's Third New International Dictionary
The term "warrior" is derived from an Old Germanic word, which Civilized usage has corrupted to the point that, at present, it is known primarily by the first definition above. It retains some of its original meaning in the second definition. However, the first definition is so entrenched and all-pervasive that using the term would further perpetuate the stereo-type, and trying to return it to its original definition would, like so many other struggles with the Civilized Way, be energy better spent elsewhere.
Instead, we will use "Guardian," a parallel Old French word that by some sparing miracle has not met the same fate as "Warrior." The same dictionary cited above gives its definitions as: one that guards or secures: one to whom a person or thing is committed for protection, security, or preservation. This was also the meaning of the term "Warrior" as it was used in the Old Way.
We are meeting the Guardian in our quest to know the men (as well as some women and the man within woman) of the Old Way because he exemplifies the role of maleness in Native cultures. The Guardian tradition is common to virtually all Old Way Peoples. He is a highly defined individual, many of whose characteristics are those of Native males in general. He is also an element of the Native psyche; he dwells in all the People, regardless of age or gender. (For Balance, many Native People purposely cultivate the expression of their less dominant gender.)
There are some who feel that there is no place for the Guardian in this Civilized day. In one sense this is true, as the man's lifestyle (more so than the woman's) has been severely disrupted in the transition from the Old to the Civilized Way. No longer are the Hunter and the Guardian viable parts of the family support system, whereas the woman's caretaking roles with children and hearth, albeit changed, still are. Men have trouble maintaining a sense of self-worth in such circumstances, much less functioning as Guardians.
In another sense, The Great Mother now calls upon Her Guardians with an urgent battle cry, the likes of which have never before echoed through the realms of Her Creation. The People of Greenpeace and Earth First!, single mothers, Natives who keep the Drum and refuse the spirit-death- all these people, and more, are answering the cry. They embody the Vision of the Guardian and have joined in the struggle to return to Balance.
We're all Guardians. Whenever we act on our Mother's or our kin's calling, our Ancestors who were once Guardians walk again on their Vision Path. Whether or not we were called to walk that Path, they give us breath, and we give them life. They are the reason for the survival of our lineage-the reason we are here.
The Path of the Guardian is one that we do not choose, but for which we are chosen. It is a most honorable calling to serve; it is being ordained to take one's place as a caretaker of The Mother and Her children. When the Path is understood and the Old Ways of our Ancestors are reawakened within our Heart-of-Hearts, we will know clearly whether The Great Mother has called us to Her service.
The Way of the Guardian takes a level of dedication, commitment, and Vision that an individual can't muster alone. It takes melding with the Greater Life, the Ultimate Wisdom. No one would decide on this Path to further his own ends. From a personal perspective it wouldn't make sense, because it demands so much of the self that it would contradict personal goal fulfillment.
But it is the only thing to do, the most fulfilling and rewarding life for one who hears the Cry. It is so clear that if he does not answer it, he lives a life of flatness and despondency. He is out of sync with the rhythm of his Heart-of-Hearts; he cannot get a grasp on that inner Balance that brings blessings to life.
The Way of the Guardian is the epitome of a life lived in Balance, because it is the giving of the greatest gift—the gift of self. His Path is rooted strongly in his Hoop of Relations, as it is there that his life of service begins. It is the strength of his Hoop that gives power to his Path. As he leaves his Hoop, he becomes part of a greater organism that is made up of many Hoops. He is a vital web in the net that holds the Hoops together. As a Guardian, he has no life, no purpose, when separated from that organism. He is like a finger, which has function and reason for being only when part of the hand.
To a civilian, the Guardian's life may appear to be one of deprivation and Spartan discipline. To the Guardian it is a life of bliss, the only Path there is. It is being immersed in another consciousness, existing in an-other reality.
Life is a gift; we honor The Great Mother who gave it to us by giving it, in turn, to that which honors Her. Such is the ritualistic offering of self of one who enters the training period to become a Guardian. In actuality, the preparation begins long before the formal Apprenticeship; all Native children are schooled in the skills of the lifeway. The Guardian Apprenticeship involves specialized training in a broad range of disciplines that carry the Apprentice far beyond the average performance range of his peers. He may be adopted by a revered and accomplished Guardian of his People, who will oversee his training. He will also study under a number of other practitioners to gain breadth and depth of abilities.
The Apprenticeship is a series of experiences and tests. It is a long, demanding, and glorious adventure, which asks for nothing less than his life as he knows it. He enters a period in which he is transformed; he receives new Powers, enlivened senses, and the ability to act as though his spirit is the spirit of his People. In surrendering to the task of training, he erases the limits he once had of himself and enters a realm of unbounded creativity and expression.
Serving a Guardian Apprenticeship requires the same level of dedication and involvement as joining a monastic order; the difference is that, in the Guardian Apprenticeship, there is no hierarchical structure or imposed regimentation. Discipline and motivation come from within. In effect, he apprentices to himself. He has a Guide, who reflects and facilitates and echoes Raven's occasional subtle nudge and inquisitive eye.
The Apprentice has an unswerving commitment to his Guide. The commitment is actually to The Great Mother and the Ancient Voices, which the Guide personifies until the Guardian himself becomes the personification.
To assist a Guardian Apprentice in his training is one of a Guides' greatest honors. The relationship between Apprentice and Guide is a very special one—in fact, unique in the spectrum of Guide-Seeker relationships. It is in answer to a calling similar to that which draws a mother to her far-off child. They share a clarity, discipline, and degree of attunement that makes their time together a Dance.
These are the steps of the Path to becoming a Guardian:
— to become fully alive, fully aware,
— to develop talents, senses, instincts, intuitions, — to release habits and patterns,
— to become self by becoming selfless,
— to be ever aware that life as a Guardian is a continuing Journey, that there will always
be another step, but not before the last one is fully taken,
— to accept protectorship of the People, caretakership of The Mother, and stewardship of
— to perform one grand feat in the service of his Guide. (This is both a final test and a return gifting for what has been given.)
Many of the techniques and exercises involved in these steps are found in the next two parts of this volume, and in Book II.
During his Apprenticeship, his behavior may at times become erratic and unpredictable. He finds himself struggling with new Powers and energies, trying to mesh them with his newly evolving concept of self. Contraries and images from his past regularly test him. What he perceived as his limits have been pushed out beyond what he could previously envision.
His Guide allows and often encourages this erratic behavior, as he knows it is part of the growth and transformation process. However, his Guide faces a tremendous challenge in bringing him to a state of equilibrium as he nears the end of his Apprenticeship. The Guide must be a master at reading the intricacies and complexities of an individual's psyche in order to direct the appropriate experiences at this critical time.
Respect describes the Guardian and all he is and does—respect of Earth and all She encompasses and respect of self. He is a highly attuned spiritual/physical being, entrusted with the welfare of his People. In this role he plays many roles—provider, defender, arbitrator, counselor, healer, and, at times, opportunist and predator. He is dedicated to self-improvement, so that he can become ever better at making Respect his Lifedance.
The mark of a Guardian is in the way he continually encourages himself to grow by taking the (or creating a) more challenging alternative, and by teasing the edge of seeming disaster. (This is the reverse of the Civilized Way, which is one reason why its unknowing Guardian-elects are caught in leading—or attempting to escape—flat, uninspired lives.)
In the first pages of this book, I recount how She Who Talks With Loons brought me the Gift of Being Nothing-the ability to step beyond oneself and let other things flow through. It is an essential step in becoming a Guardian. To become aware that he is not his ego, that what dwells beyond him is not as he perceives it, brings him a humility and an openness that allows him to begin listening for the first time. Then he can start using channels previously plugged by pride and youthful haughtiness. Shame and embarrassment leave him, as they are based on ego-bolstered pride. He becomes able to grow into a self-pride and a self-honor that is independent of ego and the opinions of others.
We develop an ego, in part, as a defense mechanism to protect the self from others who have a concept of us that differs from ours. We hold the ego as a shield to buffer us from what we consider to be personal affronts. We perceive them as such mainly because of low self-acceptance and lack of Circle Attunement. Our shield is feelings such as hurt, shame, pride, and embarrassment. These feelings rigidify and entrench us in emotional stag-nation, which impedes our ability to dwell in the now of our Circle and be responsive to it.
The Guardian has died to his ego and walked beyond it. (Some of his techniques for doing so are found in Part IV of this volume and in the Healing chapter of Book III.) He has a strong sense of self and manner of presence; he can speak of his quests and deeds without self-consciousness and self-imposed humility. And he can listen to the stories of another without ego-ripping pangs of vanity and jealousy. In fact, he and his comrades glory in each others' triumphs and in sharing the pain of each others' defeats.
From React to Act
The Guardian does not fight against anything or anyone; he fights for things. When he meets conflict on his mission, his high degree of training in methods of camouflage, avoidance, and deception allows him to cause the least impact upon others and their Paths. He has a highly attuned spiritual sense for the Life-force in others as being the same as that which flows through him, so he accords those who stand in his Path utmost respect and space.
If there is no other way, he is also highly trained to remove them in the most efficient, least harmful way possible. In this respect, the Guardian is often cast as "cool and efficient," and "heartless." Such is not his reality. He may appear detached, which is only because he never acts out of anger, lust, or grief and never strikes in a state of rage.
When and if he finds himself in such a state, he backs off rather than striking. He knows he is out of Balance and has temporarily lost his critical sense of perspective and attunement. He does not serve when he responds from a personal place. Besides being blinded to all but his own spirit-flow, his emotions have taken control and narrowed his eyes, making him extremely vulnerable.
This is not to say that the Guardian's actions are not imbued with feeling. On the contrary, this training serves to heighten the power of emotion. A distinguishing characteristic of a Guardian is that his changes in mood and temperament come from within. They are deliberate, con-trolled, and purposeful. And they are timely—they are enacted and drawn upon to give power to his service. In other words, his feelings serve rather than master him.
He exhibits a calmness and stability that is little affected by the happenings about him. He is trained to function from his center (also known as his Place of Power or Heart-of-Hearts). This gives Balance to his perspective and continuity to his actions. And it gives his People trust in his Guardianship, because they know the source and motivation of his actions.
He trains to allow his feelings to be those of the Greater Circle, seeing himself as but a part of that larger Life that gives him breath and purpose. As his hand feels and acts for the benefit of his entire body, so does he function in relation to the Greater Circle. Being of the Old Way, he already knows that honoring the Circle is the best way to honor himself; now, as a Guardian Apprentice, he learns that it is also the best way to honor his People.
In training, he consciously maintains this awareness of being as a hand to a body. When a personally based response to a situation surfaces, he shuts down and disassociates himself from the situation, so as not to reinforce the personal response pattern. Then he enters a state of Greater Circle consciousness and reapproaches the situation.
Just as near-sighted Mouse cannot see the Prairie from the perspective of soaring Eagle, the Apprentice cannot at first differentiate between the response that comes from himself and that which comes from the consciousness level of the Circle. His Guide must be ever vigilant in training to constantly catch his personal responses and help realign his response patterns to be sensitive to that which he serves.
Without this training, he would be of little service to his People. His actions would actually be re-actions—emotional responses based upon his personal feelings in relation to similar past experiences. Reactions, being personal, patterned, and habitual, dictate rigid behavior and predictability. This would leave the Guardian vulnerable to his enemies and inflexible in responding to the needs of his People.
One method of training identifies feelings that come from past patterns of service to self as old emotions, and those which come from discipline in service to the Circle as new emotions. Before training, the Apprentice served to empower old emotions; after training, new emotions will serve to empower him.
He learns that old emotions are based upon his perspective on how past events affected him. His Guide aids him in reliving those events from the Greater Perspective. Through this process, he begins to feel new emotions when an event occurs. Every new experience then helps to establish new emotion reaction patterns (see Healing chapter in Book III).
The process from old to new emotions can be long and painful. Being a creature of habit, the Apprentice trusts in his habitual responses. To rock that foundation is to rock his concept of self, his value as an individual. For that reason, this aspect of training, perhaps more than any other, requires trust in his Guide and surety in the fact that his Guide's actions serve the Greater Good. This is one of the situations in which he will be asked to fight to the top of the hill, with little awareness as to what he will view when he peers over the summit.
A different person, a new person, will be seen by others when he does clear the summit. His image to others is based upon his reactions to his environment; so, reacting differently, he will evolve a new identity. How-ever, from his perspective inward, he is not a new person—he has just completed a step in his Journey of self-discovery. He, having grown through his old ego-center, now senses from the same center as the Wolves and the Wind.
His old reactive pattern was to feel first, then act upon the feeling, then think about the situation based upon his feeling and the result of his action. Oftentimes he would cloak his feeling in rationalizations to justify his action. From his new center, his second awareness listens to his intuitive voice and then elicits feeling and thought to support his action. (In the next part of this book, we begin the training.)
Now, no matter where he is or what his involvement, the Guardian can maintain his new identity and sense of self, because they are not dependent on his internal or external environments. Even when regularly around other people, he has no particular need for alone time. He rarely gets tripped up on other individuals, nor does he get carried away by them.
A Guardian owns nothing. The vested interest of ownership could color his perception and distort his judgment. Just as his energy, spirit, and emotions are for the service of his People and under the guidance of the Greater Circle, so are the worldly goods that come under his care. He will share often with one in need, to his own apparent discomfort or deprivation.
If a Guardian ever senses that his actions may be in the service of something that is not in honor of the Greater Good, he will desist and withdraw in shame. He may return to his Guide and petition for assistance so that he can regain faith in himself and the trust of his People—and most importantly—in the eyes of The Mother. If he commits a grave breach of trust, he may relinquish his service and return to civilian life.
A Guardian need not be asked to leave his service, as he is aware of his failing and has taken immediate, appropriate action. This is in line with his training, as it is in his honor to know himself and act accordingly for the Greater Good. It is dishonorable and self-aggrandizing to attempt to re-main a Guardian in the face of disservice. When a Guardian returns to normal life, he maintains the respect and esteem of his People. Because they have a limited understanding of the Guardian's world, and they respect his choice to leave, they give honor to his former service by not prying into his reasons. The Guardian maintains self-esteem as well, be-cause in relinquishing his service he is serving his People.
Leaving Habit, Living Awareness
The vow of renunciation of worldly goods and pleasures taken by Civilized People (when entering a religious order or other service) is a rote, institutionalized relic of the threshold experience of the Apprentice's Quest to walk beyond himself. The act of renunciation, while seeming to maintain the essence of the Quest, actually contradicts it. The Guardian walks beyond himself by embracing, rather than renouncing, the physical realm. He metamorphoses into his ascetic, serving self through the wisdom of knowing; his Civilized brother arrives by force of denial, and in doing so, denies knowing himself.
Self-control necessitates some form of self-repression, which usually creates enough stress to clog the senses and interfere with the lifting of the Veil to the second awareness (see Sensory Attunement chapter). Eliminating renunciation and self-control as an option opens one up to the challenge and opportunity to grow into acceptance. For example: If Porcupine chews up my canoe paddle in the night because she is attracted to the salt from my sweat, I can react with resignation, with anger (and either repress, rechannel, or revent it), or by thanking Porcupine for the lesson in appropriate paddle storage and welcoming the opportunity to improve my paddlemaking skills.
The Guardian comes to self-discipline through self-indulgence. In an explosion of total attunement and involvement, he drinks in life to its fullest. Being in the now, being the embodiment of his Ancestors, and fulfilling his innate potential, he is content within himself and in Balance with the Circles of his existence. He is in charge of himself. Sacrifice and deprivation are as easy as laxity and indulgence, because they as equally and powerfully Dance in celebration of life in the present. They're just as easy because the Guardian sees them this way. Everything, every experience, is a feast, a Song of the moment, an affirmation of self.
He can just as easily pass over food as indulge, just as easily fight as dance, just as easily give as receive, because he is secure, fulfilled, and unthreatened. He is physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. He has the Power and pride and self-assuredness that comes with knowing and being himself. Habit and convention do not bind him, so he does not experience frustration or stress from want when facing change.
Any addictions or habits the Apprentice has need to be broken. Until then he is not ready to be given full entrustment, because he serves another master. He is not in charge of himself, not free to function as a fully thinking, caring, sensory being if his actions follow uncontrolled dictates. Just as with emotions, habits put him and his People at risk.
The Apprentice journeys beyond his habits through the process of coming to know himself. Childhood patterns, self-concept, and unfulfilled needs play major roles in which habits the Apprentice has, the strength of their control, and whether he even views them as habits. He is blessed with the eye and timely wisdoms of his Guide to carry him through this deeply personal and inevitably painful transition.
When he fully knows himself, he has no more habits. He can then, if he wishes, go back and enjoy for its own sake the object of a former habit. He will experience it differently this time, because something that rules some-one cannot be fully fathomed or enjoyed.
Fate and accident have no play in the fortunes of the Guardian. He assumes responsibility for his own life and guides his own destiny. He takes pride in the fact that he is ever alert and in control, ready for any contingency. Having to rely upon his senses, which he has developed to a high state of acuity, he will not consume an intoxicant or other alterative that will compromise his readiness (more in the Alterants chapter of Book H).
He is always conscious of his surroundings, constantly observing. A Civilized Person who speaks with him may think he isn't being attentive to the conversation, because he will not maintain eye contact—he keeps looking around. He is actually very involved in the sharing with his guest, while at the same time he is sensitive on another level to the flow in which he is immersed. His training has taught him to be ever conscious that he is part of something greater than himself, so he is not willing to miss a moment unaware.
Holding awareness through the transitions of the sleeping and awake states seems an impossible task to many, but it is actually quite easy to accomplish when done after the steps through emotions and habits have been taken. The training method is covered in the Sensory Attunement chapter.
A Guardian can be awakened at any time and have immediate composure and a precise sense of place. He will be alert and attuned to his environment, no matter if he was just falling asleep, waking up, or in his deepest sleeptime. He does this by holding on to sleeptime while he is awake, and holding on to awaketime while he is asleep. He is a totally functioning being, having the Powers, Gifts, and awarenesses of both dreamtime and awaketime at his constant disposal.
A Guardian's service and loyalty to the Greater Good supersedes his commitment to his own People. If ever there is a conflict between the two, he is bound in honor by a powerful pledge to first serve the Greater Good. Even if it appears that he is hurting his People in doing so, he knows that the Greater Good will, in the ultimate, also serve the best interests of his People.
The bond between Guardians is one of undying honor, trust, and service. Guardians of different language and locale regard each other as brothers when they meet, and often they assist each other in their missions. Their bond sneers at the transitory nature of friendships as we know them; it lasts till the life of the flesh walks into the life of that which it next becomes.
Because of the uniqueness of their calling and lifestyle, because of the edge of reality on which they walk, Guardians share a comraderie which draws them together. Hence the formation of Guardian societies. Here the full Power and awareness of the Guardian's Path can be shared with the only others who can feel and breathe it with the same heart.
Contrary to popular Civilized belief, Guardian societies are not secret (nor are those of Healers). In the same way that the mechanics of a healing may be considered miraculous because they cannot be grasped by one who is not initiated into the art, so the way of the Guardian seems mysterious to non-Guardians.
Honor in Conflict
Although a Guardian may be a master of potentially lethal arts, he is seldom a soldier. A soldier serves the self-interest of some individual or group; a Guardian serves the Greater Interest, the Mother-Life, not favoring one life or interest over another. It is only in the Civilized Way that a person is trained primarily to do war.
Battle may or may not play a role in the Guardian's life; if so, it is usually a minor one. Combat training and readiness is part of his Apprenticeship, but not as it exists in the popular stereotype. It has more depth and dimension than just physical combat; he is also trained to do battle against the emotional, psychological, and spiritual threats to his People.
A Guardian treats his adversary with courtesy and respect, no matter how intense the conflict. He does so primarily in honor of the spirit within his adversary, which is also the spirit that dwells within him. He is also aware that having the same Mother, they are brothers.
In fact, he does not have an adversary as we understand the term. His spiritual Path has walked him beyond the dichotomous perspective of this and that, black and white, god and devil. He walks within the realm of Circular Consciousness, where spirit wears no banner and is cloaked in many hues.
He knows that Spirit has many eyes and many hearts in all the forms within which it dwells. And he knows that they all see and feel things in different ways at different times. He knows the seasons of his own eyes and the storms of his own heart and awaits the Balance in their coming and passing before he acts. In the walking of his Journey, he has found that no one person has the clear perception of Spirit, because that which dwells within every person is the same Spirit. This is Beauty, and he honors it.
He has found that like begets like, that he will receive as he gives. He will be bathed within the respect he bestows upon his adversary, whether now or at some future time, whether by this adversary or another. As the Circle is ever lapping itself, he may find at their next meeting that he and his adversary are walking together. If that be so, he can hold his head high and greet his brother in pride, knowing that even in conflict he gave his brother nothing but praise and Honor. Besides empowering his character at the time, he is now in turn empowered because his former adversary is free to join him in Honor.
A Guardian is grateful for his adversaries; he does not bemoan or blame them for the difficulties they have brought him. In fact, the more challenging the adversary, the more blessed he feels he is. He has been deemed worthy of such a powerful test and welcomes it. He cries for this Dance that is the reason he walks the Guardian Path. Aware that everything has a purpose, he knows that he will not be given a task beyond his capabilities.
There is no win or lose, as the lessons of the challenge go to both, Honor and pride belong to both. The loser is grateful that he has not been belittled with a weak adversary and is proud that he has been sent one of such Power as a teacher. He will sing in praise of his opponent and gift him for the lesson given. The winner is humbled by being chosen to prevail and takes no advantage beyond that which is his goal and task. Both know that their reason for being is to honor and give service, and both know that they are doing so in winning and losing.
Essay taken from the book "Journey to the Ancestral Self", used with permission of copyright holder, [www.teachingdrum.org Teaching Drum Outdoor School].