I was listening to a podcast about The Art of War, written by Sun Tzu in 514 B.C. This is the most important and most famous military treatise in Asia for the last two thousand years, and still serves leaders and warriors today.
The text is composed of 13 chapters, each of which is devoted to one aspect of warfare.
I am a warrior now, so I thought it could be interesting to have a look into what Sun wrote for us. Here is a selection of quotes that made me think about my own philosophy to face my demons.
Part I: Laying Plans
All warfare is based on deception.
Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.
If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.
I don’t need to seem strong. I just need to believe I am, and I will become. I have permission to be vulnerable. I will seek for protection, and get renewed energies for the battles, surprising the demons. They expect me to fail, they want me to quit the fight. I have noticed that when I have faith but I accept my fears, I can thrive with them. Acting being conscious of your own vulnerabilities makes you stronger and wiser, and comforts the enemy, that will likely remove part of his pressure, overconfident of his victory. When I fear, the voices scream less, but if I just keep going, ignoring the fear and the pain, I win.
Mindfulness is a tool in this case, to know the enemy, my mind. I am seeking for my heart, my tender heart, my kind child mind, that is a just a prisoner of this war.
Part III: Attack by Stratagem
Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.
Therefore the skillful leader subdues the enemy’s troops without any fighting; he captures their cities without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy operations in the field.
I see this two previous quotes as an invitation to surrendering. Surrendering, to become stronger. A surrender leading to victory.
Surrendering takes courage. It needs faith and confidence.
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
Part IV: Tactical Dispositions
To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.
Thus the good fighter is able to secure himself against defeat, but cannot make certain of defeating the enemy.
Hence the saying: One may know how to conquer without being able to do it.
Security against defeat implies defensive tactics; ability to defeat the enemy means taking the offensive.
Standing on the defensive indicates insufficient strength; attacking, a superabundance of strength.
And a final reminder my warrior’s ego:
What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.
Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom nor credit for courage.
Reading the Art of War I accepted I don’t need to look strong, that I have the permission to be vulnerable and fail so that I can learn. Even further, that being vulnerable, allowing myself to experience emotions, can be my strategy.
Emotions and feelings, experiences, even difficult ones, are the weapons for a warrior of light, a warrior of compassion and love.
For those warriors, lost battles do not set the outcome of the war. They make the enemy rejoice with his ego. He can imagine that I gave up, that I lost, that he scares me. But war, like life, is a flowing river, and a battle will never be identical to the previous one. This repeating the tactics will only bring the illusion of a future victory. I can fail, and learn from that failure, and respond to the next attack with a new strategy, while the monsters are convinced that I can’t overcome the situation. Life, war, are situational, and repeating tactics, not allowing oneself to be vulnerable, also makes blind and weak.
I will be winning by learning from lost battles, I will be winning by responding to it with acceptance and awareness of the strategies of the ennemies, not by fear and hate.
Every second is battle for me right now, every breath, every compassionate word I say to myself, any act of self love, any pleasurable bite, are a battle with my mind. Me, warrior of light, need to assess the present, all NOWS in which my thoughts become that cacophony rain of harming words, of depressing ifs, of threatening futures. There is no model on how to recover or how to live, so every second needs a new strategy, every second needs to be sourced in the lesson from past experiences, be it lost or won battles.
It is all personal so I can’t copy other’s wars, it is all in the flow of my own life. There world is maleable. Adaptability and flexibility are weapons I need to cultivate, like other warrior sharpen theirs. I need to also be plastic to conceal my tactics and tendencies, as I need to know my vulnerabilities and those of my enemy.
We Humans are not predictable so we can’t have any fixed rule that always work. I lived (at least tried to live) following rules, following the orders of the most abominable general of all: my ego, driven by hate and fear. My ego failed. He was proud thinking he won the war, but I only defeated myself. Only my value as a person was lost.
If I want to be able to play with life again, I need to fight my ego. Fluency is the strategy that guarantees navigating through the stream of being, and in this case, predictability is a weakness, as storms are not an exact science.
It is easy and convenient to become comfortable following rules and set plans, until ultimately we rely on instinct. But instinct is not being presence in the moment, it is being oblivious to it, it is escaping from all Human experiences. Chaos is what brought us here and it is the unpredictability that makes us Humans, and that makes life worth of being experienced.
With compassion my ego, my tyrannic mind will eventually surrender and become my again, serve me instead of using it. It will release the love and the intuition, that will come back to their home: my heart.
In my war, I choose to be the warrior of light, and only compassion, gentleness, flexibility and curiosity are my weapons. That is the only art of war, and of life.