Have you ever been ashamed because you were unwilling to fight with someone? Have you ever felt burned out because you were unable to stop fighting? I, myself, have experienced both at times but rarely felt loved in either role.
What follows is the letter I wrote in which I finally learned to love both positions, both the "warrior" and the "guide." I originally wrote this letter to a well known psychologist who, at the time, had invited me to co-lead workshops with him. As exciting as this was to me initially, though, I began to burn out after only two workshops and struggled for months to grasp out why.
At first, I thought my burnout was coming from the long hours these workshops took, both to prepare for and to present. As logical as this idea was, though, it never actually felt true. After all, I had worked long hours for years and had often felt more energized at the end of a day than when I began. Here I was feeling drained and exhausted and completely burned out. And the worst part was, I had no idea why.
Then one morning, after spending months looking for the answer, I sat down and began to write to this psychologist, about my tiredness and about some of the difficulties I was having reconciling our two styles. Not knowing what I really wanted to say, I just started my letter with the words we each used to identify ourselves; he calls himself a warrior; I call myself a guide. To my surprise, though, as I wrote, I began to experience a great shift in myself, the kind of shift I have experienced many times before. I almost felt like the words were coming through me, rather than from me. It was as if someone else was speaking through me, revealing to me a great truth, one that had been hidden from my view all my life. Then, as I wrote, then read my words back, some unknown wound started to heal in me until finally, I had a piece of love emerge in me that has changed the way I look at how all people, men and women, resolve conflict.
What follows is the actual letter, the last draft of it that is. I include it on the site because there is no better way to introduce the ideas I learned here, the two perspectives:  seeing conflict through the eyes of a "warrior," and  seeing conflict through the eyes of a "guide."
Now, before you actually read the letter, just take a minute to ask yourself this; which way do you see life? More so, what do these two words mean to you; in other words, what do you picture when you see a "warrior" and what do you picture when you see a "guide?"
Perhaps you are already far ahead of where I was then and what you read will be an "of course." Then again, maybe you will never even have considered what I wrote about, and perhaps reading my letter will help you to feel more compassion for people no matter which footsteps they walk in.
Whatever the case, like all of my work, my hope here is that this idea can help you to become more loving, towards yourself and towards others.
A Letter to a Warrior - On Warriors and Guides
August 22, 199*
As you may already know, today is my first weekend day off in a month of giving to others; clearly, I have had way too many fifteen hour work days and I'm still exhausted.
In all honesty, though, I have felt more overwhelmed in this past couple of months than in many, many years, and despite the fact that I've grown from much of it, I'm still feeling very, very drained. And as you may have already guessed, a lot of this tiredness has come about since we met.
In fact, even as recently as in the past few days, I was painfully struggling to understand this tiredness and why it is happening now. Finally, today, I realized where most of it has been coming from. Most of it has been coming from my futile attempts to reconcile the differences between my style and the styles of the other teachers with which I have been working. Obviously, I am telling you this because you are one of the main characters in this scenario.
The heart of my realizations is that there are only two basic two types of "care givers," the type I call "warriors," and the type I call, "guides." (Even as I write, I remember being introduced to a primitive form of this idea years many ago in the book "The Urban Shaman" by S.K. King.)
My sense of "warriors" is that they are those brave individuals whom are willing to go into shock in the name of helping people. In a very real sense, they are the people who are willing to "fight for love." In fact, these people are actually the kinds of men and women who fought (and at times, still fight) in both political and religious wars; those people who are willing to, literally and figuratively, kill themselves and others in the name of God and / or Country. And in a very real and prominent sense, they still exist as the men and women who currently "police" our world.
More so (and this idea makes me terribly sad and is quite painful for me to admit), there is still, in a very real sense, a great need for these warriors, because they are the people who do what I call "damage control" for our still very wounded world. Without them, I am sure, we would all wound each other more often and more severely than we already do.
In a way, I could say it is these brave men and women who have helped us to "civilize" our world. Of course, being "civil" is clearly not the same thing as being "loving" and so, by nature, I am not one of these brave people. Not that I am not brave. But today, I realize, I am not a "warrior," nor have I ever wanted to be, because by nature, I am enormously reluctant to fight with people in the name of love. This includes fighting with you, [****]. In fact, for me, "fighting in the name of love" is an oxymoron, and for this reason, I see now that I clearly belong to the second group of helpers I mentioned, that category of people I call, "guides."
I see guides as those people who will bravely accompany the wounded into the depths of their personal hells, while at the same time struggling to keep themselves (and the wounded) from going into shock. I say they do this "bravely" because remaining conscious on these journeys means that guides experience every mental and emotional inch of these pain filled trips. In simple terms, guides, like warriors, are people who willingly suffer in order to help people heal. Certainly, it takes a brave person to do this. But the nature of the suffering these two groups of people endure is very different. Warriors suffer because they allow themselves to be blinded in order to journey into hell. Guides suffer because they remain sighted during their journeys into hell.
Why do guides willingly choose to suffer like this? Because, by remaining conscious, they gain the ability to guide wounded people to their wounds with incredible efficiency, and with much greater elegance and grace than those who must go into shock in order to withstand these painful journeys. So, because guides choose to remain conscious on these journeys, they can help people find their way out of hell, because they can see and so find the way out. This explains why guides can often help people heal in minutes what, in most cases, warriors would have taken years to heal.
Moreover, because guides remain conscious on these journeys, the wounded people they accompany experience great love wherein they previously had experienced only great suffering. They experience this love because, for the first time, they not alone in these hells, and it is this, the guide's loving companionship, which facilitates people's healing.
Here, then, is the essence of what enables people to heal; a conscious guide must accompany them on their explorations into hell. In other words, in order for people to heal their wounds, they must be accompanied by a guide or guides who are willing to remain conscious, despite the suffering involved. Why? Because only conscious guides can supply wounded people with the essential component they need to heal their wounds; wounded people need to be consciously guided out of the shock present in each of these personal hells.
In fact, these journeys, those in which people come out of shock while in the midst of a personal hell, are all that healing is and so, in lieu of such guides, wounded people can not heal except by accident. (As a side note, I see a guide's choice to remain sighted [conscious] as the essence of one of the four Buddhist divine states; compassion. Interestingly enough, Buddhists are not, by nature, warriors either.)
Do warriors help people to heal? Occasionally. But only when they themselves, for some reason as yet unknown to me, come out of shock in the midst of one of these personal hells long enough to help the wounded people to also come out of shock. The "blind" can not lead the "blind," at least, not with any amount of grace and dignity and elegance.
So, being that warriors, by design, go into shock in order to endure the suffering involved in traveling into these hells, for the most part, they are blind at the very times when they need to be sighted the most. Sadly, all warriors work hard to develop this very skill: they work hard to be able to go into shock at will and yet still be able to respond automatically with some measure of seemingly "sane" and directed energy. (This energy is the heart of what medical doctors learn to do. And I have watched you do this with me and with others, [****], over and over again. You have even thanked me for enduring it with you. And I have repeatedly, in vane, tried to tell you how it hurts me, and how I do not want to do it.)
In my heart, I believe that if warriors truly understood what they did, many would probably opt to remain sighted. Certainly, they have the courage within them to do so. But warriors, by nature, do not stay sighted, because being a good warrior and being compassionate (remaining sighted while in the presence of hell) are pretty much incompatible states of being. In fact, most warriors would argue that they need to go into shock in order to get the "job done," and there is actually some truth to this argument.
In simple terms, then, it is not a warrior's job to give and receive love. Their job is to fight so that others can give and receive love. Unfortunately for warriors and for those they try to help, this giving and receiving love happens only after the war ends.
Ironically, this is the very time when warriors are no longer needed, nor wanted. Worse yet, because a warrior's training, for the most part, destroys most of their ability to experience love, warriors are the people least likely to enjoy the love they help people to gain. Thus, for the most part, they truly do fight for others and receive very little in return. (This is exactly why therapists, police, medical doctors, and many other "care givers" burn out.)
Somehow, as I write these words, I find myself hearing the words to the old English hymn, "Amazing Grace":
"'Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fear relieved." Here, then, is the essence of what makes a healer; a healer is a person who will willingly journey into hell AND struggle to remain conscious while there despite being afraid of the suffering involved, because in the midst of that hell and suffering, they, themselves, can both help someone heal and have their own fear in some particular area of life "relieved;" forever; meaning, during the journey into hell, they can give love, and at the same time, they can receive love. In this way, they can truly receive as much as they give, and for this reason, "guides," unlike "warriors," do not burn out, unless they try to meet warriors on their own ground. Sadly, I realize, this is exactly why I have been burning out. I have been trying to be a warrior with you.
I once was lost and now am found, was blind, but now I see. Here is the essence of both wounds and healing. Wounds are literally a blindness, an inability to see consciously in some area of life. Without being conscious, a person can not experience love, and this inability to experience love is certainly the true nature of hell. Ironically, it is also the essence of what makes a good warrior and the heart of the saying, "war is hell."
Healing; meaning, coming out of hell, then, is simply restoring people's sight; in other words, healing restores people's ability to "see" consciously in some particular area of life; in effect, what is restored is people's ability to experience love in some part of their existence.
And as I write these words, I am crying, because I have been so ashamed that I have been a man who is not, nor has ever wanted to be, a warrior. Finally, I understand why.
God, learning is hard. But not half as hard as not learning.
Now, once again, work calls and I have "miles to go before I sleep.
I will continue to see you in light, [****], and I hope you, too, find the courage and desire to live your life as a guide; as a man of peace who can put down his arms and who can live this way without guilt. I expect, we will talk over Labor Day week. Perhaps, we will come to some understanding of our differences and to some state of mutual respect. I hope so. In any case, I will continue to respect you, even if we can not find a way to directly work together.
And in case you haven't guessed, writing this letter has been as hard as a trip to hell, a conscious trip, that is.
To be honest, when I wrote this letter, I never expected us to not speak again. Despite my invitation to talk though, his only contact was a brief note which in essence closed the door on our relationship.
Even so, I am grateful for the life lessons and for the understanding I have gained. I only regret it had to be at the expense of our friendship.
In the months following my letter, I sat down and wrote out what I had found were the differences between the two roles, between the warrior healer role and the guide healer role. The chart which follows contains a brief outline of what I found.
The Essential Differences Between Warrior Healers and Guide Healers