We live in a time of extreme contradiction, incoherence, and confusion. While we live in the age of information, we are bombarded with bias and deception. While we witness an explosion in knowledge, we are subject to a decline in wisdom. And while we are more connected than ever before, we still feel solitary, lonely, and alienated.
In this context, there is a growing sense of our having arrived at an inflection point in our evolution as humans. This tipping point is defined by a perilous divergence on a global scale, a division of consciousness. Each of us is at our own stage on our journey, but it is clear there are diverging paths, journeys that are fundamentally different. We sense that at the beginning of this new millennium, there are those who are actively shining the light of consciousness on the world in order to transform, while there are others who remain imprisoned within the well-fortified walls of fear, ignorance, ideology, and greed.
Eckhart Tolle has written that in many of us consciousness is arising and old patterns, compulsions, and identities are subsiding. And as part of this process, some of us even experience a diverging path within ourselves, a tug-of-war that goes on inside when the old unconsciousness comes back and re-asserts itself. Many of us experience this phenomenon each day.
We know that our collective conscious evolution is the cornerstone of our overall well-being and ultimate survival as a species. But at the center stands the individual, living in two worlds, trying to make sense of all of this, still trying to understand the role he or she plays relative to the rest of the world. Each of us lives in our own private world at the same time we live in the external world that is considered common to all. The everyday world is real to us, but it is also a world of illusion. We are alone and yet we are together. This is the great paradox we encounter on our journey.
Albert Camus famously pronounced that there is no meaning to life, but at the same time, he emphatically concluded that the point is to live anyway. Walking his own existential path, he further reasoned that meaning in life comes from a certain kind of defiance, a revolt against the absurd world, and astutely defined absurdity as the confrontation between an irrational world and the human desire for meaning and clarity. But what does it mean that in one sense there is a lack of meaning to life and, in another, that rebellion is our only real and authentic purpose? How does this conclusion help us evolve in positive and productive ways?
One might argue that we are being dualistic in our realization of two worlds and diverging paths. On duality’s fateful cliff we confront the absurd while we also embrace illusion. There is one path and there are many paths. And yet, the direction is clear to many of us who are walking our own, more conscious path, where we are not afraid to live or to die, but to exist intentionally, to listen and learn, to transcend the cultural conditioning of our life and times, and to make things better.
Each day we swim in an ocean of cognitive distortion, drowning in hyperbole, hypocrisy, and hubris. We allow our personal preconceptions, belief systems, and story lines to control our behaviors and actions. Beyond a simple awareness that we are at sea on these turbulent currents of irrational and distorted thinking, what are we to do? How does one accept this reality while also rejecting it? We are told by the wise ones that mindfulness is the key. But something deep inside us tells us this is not enough. What can we do?
We can walk the Middle Way, the sacred path of the conscious warrior. The Middle Way is about an open and clear state of mind that allows one to live with paradox, uncertainty, and distortion, the hallmarks of the absurd world. The Tao (the Path) introduces us to the Middle Way, a practical, spiritual and universal approach to living and working in harmony. In walking the Middle Way, how does the conscious warrior both embrace and defy the reality of our unreal existence? How does one turn around an upside down world from the inside out?
Barbara Marx Hubbard has written that the path to wholeness, to consciousness, is full of fateful detours, wrong turns, and dead ends. Authentic human beingness is an active, messy, self-actualizing process, a state of becoming, a gradual development of elevating consciousness and transformation. As the warrior consciously evolves, he gradually breaks free from negative mental attitudes, destructive patterns of behavior, and conditioned perceptions of reality.
The conscious warrior finds peace in the absurd world but is also defiant in his own ways. He asks questions, challenges convention, listens openly and actively, re-frames distortions, transcends his own ego, and demonstrates a kind of playfulness in the face of absurdity and suffering. He shows courage above all else, a certain type of fearlessness that ennobles the spirit but not the sword, and enables him each day to face absurdity with patience and perseverance. What are some other characteristics of the conscious warrior?
The conscious warrior demonstrates presence through the power of attention, awareness, alertness, detachment, calmness, and concentration. He is able to fully focus on the present moment. Through presence the warrior fosters a safe haven for constructive dialog and is able to take focused action even when there are distractions and countervailing forces at work.
The conscious warrior demonstrates empathy through the power of humility, compassion, caring, selflessness, and grace. He is able to relate to others’ experiences, share the feelings of those experiences, and integrate those experiences into a mature perceptual framework, or mindset, a tapestry of perspectives. He creates common ground by being careful, non-judgmental and compassionate.
The conscious warrior demonstrates discipline through the power of observation, discernment, determination, persistence, and tenacity. He is able to confront the brutal facts of reality and identify practical pathways through difficult situations. He keeps an open mind without impulsive criticism or subjective judgment, but is not tempted by the rigid doctrines and ideologies of those who profess to know what is right.
The conscious warrior demonstrates creativity through the power of discovery, imagination, and innovation. He is able to create ideas, songs, paintings, essays, videos, and novels that teach and inspire us. Through creativity the warrior takes action using creative self-expression as his weapon of choice and without self-righteousness. He shows us how to expand the range of human possibility in its kaleidoscope of colors, images, words, and sounds.
The conscious warrior demonstrates unity through the power of patience, tolerance, cooperation, alignment and wholeness. He is able to develop meaningful relationships, help build a strong sense of community, and mobilize people to envision and co-create a more empowering future, while also preserving individuality. He understands the connectedness of all things.
The conscious warrior does not allow those who are ignorant, indignant, or inert to stand in the way of his journey. He has overcome his outrage at the incomprehensible nature of the world, but also understands that things must change. Through his behaviors, actions, and overall energy field, he influences the evolving consciousness of others. He actively, but carefully, challenges those on the other path. This is the true power of the conscious warrior: fearlessness in a purpose driven life lived without conventional boundaries or limitations the world of form so often places on it.
Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, once said, “When you take care of each moment you will take care of all time.” This philosophy disarms just about every injustice or discomfort that plagues us in an absurd world. Existence is revealed to us through our evolving consciousness, of being awake in whatever one is doing. Life is an adventure, and as we open our hearts and minds, our true spirit unveils itself. We free ourselves from attachments and embrace new ideas and experiences.
The Middle Way enables us to walk our path with the wisdom that things can transform, and that each of us can live an authentic life, and together, co-create a more coherent and wondrous world.
Christian M. Ellis is a leadership advisor, enterprise effectiveness consultant, speaker, facilitator, and author. His book, “The Enlightened Enterprise: Walking the Path of the Conscious and High Performing Organization” was recently published by SelectBooks, Inc. The book integrates a diverse set of domains, including behavioral psychology, human consciousness, Eastern and esoteric wisdom, and organizational dynamics to create a blueprint for the successful and sustainable enterprise of the future. Christian Ellis was educated at Northwestern University, The University of Chicago, and Duke University.