The Spiritual Warrior: A Life Without Armor
My Mission Statement: I have a compelling desire to share my Spiritual Warrior message with others. I connect with people who want to explore who they really are, what keeps them from reaching their full potential and are willing to thrive.
And most importantly, I want people on this mission who are willing to be open, courageous and vulnerable in order to explore with other like-minded people how to now be fully aware of and how to manifest their true Spiritual Values, Principles and Practices by practicing authentic actions on a daily basis.
My mission is to support and empower motivated people, to transcend their challenges with health, chronic pain, addiction or illness so they can experience extraordinary health, deepen intimate relationships and do what they love with commitment, discipline and focus.
Developing a clear vision was the first step in creating The Spiritual Warrior: Life Without Armor Journey. My vision was revealed through some internal soul-searching I did around the writing of my life story – something I had not done for many years. I discovered a life-changing decision I made at age five where I began to develop a psychological/emotional suit of armor designed to keep me safe.
As I journeyed through the written words of my life, I realized that my life story could be helpful for those warriors still living inside their own suits of armor…-Stephen GrinsteadAs I wrote about my life, I started to notice when and where I hit the proverbial brick wall that stopped me in my tracks. The armor I diligently built and reinforced was actually keeping me trapped. I made a decision then and there to let it all go. I realized that over 35 years ago my Spiritual Warrior was going through a birthing process.
That birthing process started when I moved from Colorado to California and met Sensei Richard Kim. He taught me, and I learned to love, a much more peaceful and compassionate martial art which was the direct opposite of the one I had practiced up until then. I made the decision then to let go of my anger and violence so I could tap into my spiritual power. My armor of alcohol and pain pills that I took on a very frequent basis was the next layer to go. I was ready to develop true spiritual values, principles and practices.
As I journeyed through the written words of my life, I realized that my life story could be helpful for those warriors still living inside their own suits of armor – armor that prevents them from experiencing true freedom in every area of their life.
My vision is to create a sacred place where people can come together to get down, get real and get growing by being vulnerable and sharing their story with trusted Spiritual Warrior Brothers.
My intention springs from my desire – to be of service to the Universe and be fully engaged in my life.
My intention is to live my life without armor by using Spiritual Values, Principles and Practices and let go of my confining and limiting armor.
Introducing the Spiritual Warrior Journey
For most of the first half of my life I didn’t even know I was “Armored Up.” At that time, I needed to protect myself from a number of painful realities, so I developed coping strategies and defenses. As an adult, I realized this psychological armor helped me survive significant trauma and other problems. I mistakenly believed this armor kept me safe, but in fact I was trapped.
My hope in sharing some of my story is that you will recognize whether or not you are wearing a protective suit of armor that might not be serving you anymore. My path has been one of progress, not perfection as my old armor still pops up after almost 35 years on my Spiritual Warrior Journey. The difference today is that I am much more aware and can make proactive amends very quickly for any harm I may have caused while armored up.
This armor did not develop overnight. As you’ll see it took many years to build a full suit of armor – a titanium one at that. This armor served me well, but as I later learned it was very challenging to take off. It was important for me to develop an awareness of how it developed and what purposes it served. Not only that, if I did need to protect myself, what was a healthier way of doing it?
I want to share my experience, strength and hope, as I believe there are too many people in our culture who are “armored up” and not experiencing an extraordinary quality of life that is possible. I learned to replace my armor and offensive weapons of anger and violence with Spiritual Warrior values, principles and practices – and so can you!
The Early Years of Armor Development
Most of our armor starts developing at a very young age. To help you understand this process I’d like to share some of my story with you.
My mother had nine sons in a fourteen year period and no twins – I am the oldest. Two of my brothers are born premature and die shortly after birth. My father, a construction electrician, followed in his father’s footsteps. He is also an alcoholic who can be very violent and sometimes abusive with his children.
My early struggles in life that led to developing my first suit of armor began with a decision I make at five years old. I’m on an exciting fishing trip in the Colorado Rockies with my dad and his buddies at a place called Pauline Creek, close to Gunnison Colorado. I’m having such a great time and finally getting a lot of special attention. One of dad’s buddies is chasing me with a snowball. I’m running and laughing like a maniac and in my attempt to get away, I jump off a cliff.
I decide I will never ever risk sharing my pain again – physical or emotional – because I need to be a real man and make my daddy proud.-Stephen GrinsteadI’m down at the bottom of this high rock face (high for a five year old), crying and holding onto my sprained ankle. Dad rushes over and at first I’m relieved as he checks my ankle, but his next words stun, shame and paralyze me, “You’re not hurt that bad so quit crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” His next comment solidifies my decision about vulnerability, “In this world you have to be tough Stevie – real men don’t cry.”
I decide I will never ever risk sharing my pain again – physical or emotional – because I need to be a real man and make my daddy proud. I start to build my first suit of armor and begin hiding who I am, what I feel and what I need. I reinforce it over the next twenty five years – a hardened leather body suit that I mistakenly believe is protecting me, but I don’t see the barrier building between me and other people.
I wonder how many men (or women) can identify with this type of scenario and the decision I made. Situations, words, people, and actions may be different, but the majority of men in our society receive similar messages from the day they are born about the need to be tough and self-resilient. Self-defeating decisions are often made as a result of interpretations about a perceived hostile environment.
Let me be really clear here – often these early defenses help us survive very toxic situations. I would never suggest that anyone drop their armor without having something in place that will serve them in a healthier way, such as Spiritual Values, Principles and Practices.
Sometimes We Add a Chemical Assist to Armor Building
I have worked with thousands of people since starting my personal journey in January of 1981. Most of the people I worked with used alcohol or other drugs – including prescription medications – to reinforce their protective armor. This was certainly my experience when at age twelve I’m knocked down playing sandlot football – I hit my back on a concrete post and it hurts like hell. I’m rushed to the emergency room and injected with pain medication that stops the pain and I’m sent home with a prescription. I didn’t know it at the time, but those pills would become the next layer to strengthen my already sturdy suit of armor.
Not only did the pain pills stop the physical pain, they also eased my emotional distress. That, along with the addition of alcohol, added more layers to my developing armor. It’s so strong now, like a Kevlar suit of armor and nothing can get in, but what I don’t realize is that I can’t get out either.
Finally, This Is It, Becoming A Real Man! – Or So I Believed
Many men search outside of themselves for whatever will help them to feel like a “real man.” For some of us, it’s becoming physically active and excelling in sports. For others, it’s becoming the “tough guy” and getting into a lot of fights to prove our manhood. For others, it’s living in a fantasy world of our own creation reinforced by what we read, see on TV, at the movies or in the media.
I engage in sports, but get injured a lot and end up getting more pain pills – which I promptly mix with alcohol. I also start running with a tough crowd, getting into fights and other trouble.-Stephen GrinsteadI constantly refine my suit of armor during my adolescent years, as more pain and trauma play out in my life. I don’t fit in well with the guys – except the ones I drink with. I’m very shy around girls and am constantly put down. I engage in sports, but get injured a lot and end up getting more pain pills – which I promptly mix with alcohol. I also start running with a tough crowd, getting into fights and other trouble.
I graduate high school but told I’m not college material, so don’t even bother to apply. Instead, at eighteen, I decide to be a real man and make dad proud by becoming an electrician, just like him. I continue to strengthen my Kevlar Suit of Armor with pain pills and alcohol. I perfect my verbal offensive weapons, reinforced with anger and violence.
Some men join the military to feel like real men – I chose this as well and join the United States Marine Corps at nineteen– the ultimate real man scenario. I learn how to be a powerful macho man in the Corp. I learn that pain is just weakness leaving the body. I learn how to step back from my fear and not let it control me.
My armor is a bulletproof Kevlar suit from head to toe, reinforcing my sense of invulnerability. I take it to the next level and learn a very violent style of Combat Karate with the theme of Kill! Cripple! Maim! And Survive! I develop some extreme offensive weapons and now live in a Titanium Suit of Armor. I could really hurt people with ease and feel even more powerful.
For some men, finding that perfect relationship where we can play out the hero fantasy and take care of “damsels in distress” is what it means to be a real man. I’m nineteen years old on leave from the Marine Corps and jump into an extremely dysfunctional relationship with a very wounded and needy woman. I ignore all the warning signs that this is not a good idea, but I want to be a real man, so I marry her and rescue her from her dysfunctional family.
I know that, for many men, this is an all too familiar story.
Part Two: Next week, in part two of Spiritual Warrior: A Life Without Armor, you’ll discover there is a time to shed our armor and learn how we can thrive in the world without its “protection.”
Image Courtesy of Unsplash/Jeremy Thomas