Invoking the Warrior’s Bow at elephant journal.

Via Dr. Katy Poole
on Jul 28, 2012
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“In bowing to each other, we honor the inherent bravery, gentleness and wakeful intelligence that each of us can experience personally.” ~ Naropa University Student Handbook


My first day teaching at Naropa University was “Transgender Day,” but no one told me. It was also the day I discovered the “Warrior’s Bow,” which my students offered me at the start of class.

My training as a graduate student at a predominantly left-brain institution prepared me for neither.

As an academic, I rose up among the good old boys where an argument was a “roll-up-your-sleeves” thumb-wrestle between the great and not-so-great minds held in windless conference rooms. Mud was slung. You got dirty, but you went out for drinks afterward and laughed about it.

And I certainly never bowed to my doctoral advisor—though we did hug ferociously at my commencement. The thought of offering a respectful acknowledgment of my intellectual opponent before we got into it never occurred to me in all my years wed to secular education.

At Naropa, however, it was all mixed up. Girls were boys and boys were girls. And they were insisting that I “bow” to them before I began my instruction and after I made my final point at the end of class.

One girl-boy with a cucumber in her pants (who ironically must have felt how awkward that first day was for me) tore a page out of her student’s manual before exiting the classroom.

“This might help you,” she offered. “It’s called the ‘Warrior’s Bow’ and we always do it here before and after class.”

The “Warrior’s Bow,” I read, “is a way of acknowledging and honoring the qualities of warriorship that each of us has the capacity to express and to share with others.”

“So true,” I thought to myself. The feeling to respond is aggressive. A fighting fire rises up inside. You just want to slay someone’s ideas with the sword of your more brilliant thought. Or worse—you want to tear their eyeballs out for being so incredibly stupid and naive.

And then I read more:

“The emphasis is on bravery, not on warfare, because the warrior understands that aggression is actually the result of cowardice.”

It takes a lot of bravery to express an opinion, to publish your views for all eyes to see. And it takes a similar bravery to refrain from tearing that person down because what they wrote seems to you so incredibly stupid and wrong.

It seems to me that here at elephant journal, we could use the same kind of bravery when we write and respond to others.

Instead, what’s taking place in the comment section of late is like an episode on The Jerry Springer Show—an ugly and defeatist display of cowardice—which squelches the purpose of evolutionary and mindful discussions that many of us look to elephant to engage in.

It takes more courage to bow first to the writer who you think is an absolute idiot-stupid-jerk, than to lambaste them with hateful, aggressive and outright unproductive rebuttals for being so.

It was hard for me to bow to my students who I felt for the most part were narcissistic, self-absorbed and spoiled brats. But somehow it made me a more powerful teacher. It made me see them as more than just narcissistic, self-absorbed and spoiled brats.

It’s like the ritual of bowing down in Hindu temples. As you bow to the deity, the priest places a silver crown on your head. You become regal and royal the more you surrender your ego.

And it’s like the real meaning of Namaste (and not the flowery stuff embroidered on wall-hangings).

Na-ma is “no mind.” No instinctual and reactive mind, that is. Namaste means: “I bow down to you.” I let go of my need to be right, to be self-protective, and to be isolated in my limited worldview.

I’m willing to see only you—te. I’m willing to be informed by your presence. I’m willing to bow down to you.

I think if we as readers and writers here at elephant adopted the “Warrior’s Bow” before we offer our dissenting opinions, we’d really encourage a different kind of communication—one that’s productive, compassionate and evolutionary.

And so I bow to you, my gentle and not-so-gentle readers in the spirit of respectful contemplative dialogue. Namaste.


Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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About Dr. Katy Poole

Katy Poole, Ph.D. helps yogis who have a thirst for deeper experiences of samadhi discover it in Sanskrit, which is not a dead classical language that only geeky academics who hang out at Berkeley or Harvard can decipher. Rather, Sanskrit is a vibrational technology with which to enter higher states of consciousness. It's the gateway drug that causes addiction to effortless meditation. And it aligns your biorhythms with the pulse of nature at its source. Dr. Poole offers a free online introduction to Sanskrit video course that you can access at her website:


25 Responses to “Invoking the Warrior’s Bow at elephant journal.”

  1. Tamara says:

    Thank you. Beautifully put and oh so true.

  2. Mamaste says:

    Lovely Katie. Well done.

    Just intro'd on FB to: WOW & Yoga.


  3. Harleigh Quinn says:

    " Namaste means: “I bow down to you.” "

    Nothing else.
    That's all it means.
    Anything that follows that line is "…flowery stuff embroidered on wall-hangings…."

    I will just leave that there, at that, nothing else added.

  4. Harleigh Quinn says:

    And, question:

    It takes more courage to bow down to the writer, or does it take more courage for the writer to accept criticism?

    I did creative writing and literature, and I am pretty sure it is the LATTER, not the former.
    I remember an article on EJ that asked the question of whether elephant journal writers were writing to fulfill their own egos.

    I am going to say "YES!!!"

    This article alone seems to say "the author is god and you best as well recognize that!!"

    When did commenters with differing opinions, not utilizing profanity, become vassals and serfs to the aristocracy that is the "writer"?

    The first thing anyone learns in any writing or journalism class is how to accept criticism, in ALL its forms.
    It is necessary, in order to take a step back, to see if the opinion written is correct, in order to achieve "growth" as a writer.

    I am truly having issue as to how that basic premise to writing has now being placed under the same umbrella as "judgments"

    It is as though, just as is attempting to be done with the ability to make decisions from the data available (judgment) , we are also attempting to state others are not allowed to have RESPECTFUL opinions (yes, I read the comments that provoked this article, and am hard pressed to find what was disrespectful within any of them, except that they disagreed with the author….)

    Is yoga, buddhism, and EJ now becoming a 1984-ish police state?

    I am beginning to wonder……

  5. Katherine says:

    Thanks for your thoughts. Do, however, be careful with "girl-boy" and vice versa. It's a derisive term, and very hurtful. I suggest you be more sensitive to transpeople.

  6. Nancy says:

    There's a difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism. Constructive criticism is respectful — it points out things that are incorrect or incomplete or potentially misguided without making global statements about what an idiot the writer is or inferring intentions. Destructive criticism seeks to attack the writer, not the ideas. By acknowledging the basic goodness of the person — the writer, the student — you then can judge the idea or the technical skill or the analysis without invalidating the humanity of either the writer or yourself.
    I think bowing is a lovely practice, one that sets the intention to see that you are working with a person, not your idea of a person.

  7. paula says:

    Thank you for that beautiful definition of namaste. People should know the meaning behind a symbol that is being displayed so prominently in our culture.

  8. Katy Poole says:

    Thanks for your reply, Harleigh. And no, I did not say "the author is god and you best as well recognize that!" I think you're reading into something that isn't intended nor stated. That's making an assumption. And as the author of the article, I can tell you that your assumption is incorrect. I welcome dissenting views and I appreciate yours.

    I meant that when dispensing criticism we (as writers and commentators) be mindful of writing damage personal attack in response to ideas we don't agree with. It's one thing to take issue with someone's ideas an present constructive counter-arguments and another to spew out hateful and derogatory character assassinations because you disagree with what they say. And that kind of stuff is going on far too often here at elephant to the point that we're missing the point.

    Having said that, I welcome all criticism that helps me grow and expand my perspective. And as I said, I appreciate yours.

  9. Katy Poole says:

    Thank you, Katherine. You are correct. And if I were writing about "real" transgendered people, I would have been much more sensitive. These were kids dressing up as transgendered people, which had a point to spread awareness, but it was kind of ridiculous at the same time. I think that's what was behind my "flip" tone. Thanks for making me aware.

  10. Katy Poole says:

    Actually, Sanskrit words have a lot of depth behind them. There is no "simple" definition for any expression in Sanskrit. Namah means "no mind." It means to surrender. What are you surrendering of your mind? What part of your mind? There are multiple levels of mind. Manas is what is being surrendered here. Not buddhi, which is discrimination. Not smrti, which is memory. Not cit, which is consciousness. Instinctual, reactive mind—which is manas.

    And yes, it ultimately means "I bow down to you" in English. What's the implication of that?

  11. Katy Poole says:

    Just as P.S., Harleigh. Why don't you write some articles for elephant? It's not an elite club of egomaniacs. Anyone can contribute here. And since you seem to have some insightful things to share, I think it would be valuable—especially to elaborate your point about yoga, buddhism and ej becoming a 1984 police state. It seems an interesting idea to pursue.

  12. Harleigh Quinn says:

    I do write for elephant.
    I have not as of late, but I have in the past.

  13. Harleigh Quinn says:

    My implication is that the simple non contrived definition was offered and stated, and then contradicted in the next line.

  14. Harleigh Quinn says:

    And I am stating that as not only writers, but also as so called (westernized) buddhists, we should be able to accept ALL criticism, as long as it is concerning the subject matter and does not have profanity, without it affecting any false ego or false pride we are not supposed to have.

    I find it interesting that in the westernized buddhism and yoga circles we tell everyone to "let it go"…..UNLESS IT'S US.

  15. Thaddeus1 says:

    Could you provide a link to some of your articles? I've done an elephant journal and google search and nothing comes up. I found a lot of comments, but no articles. I would interested in reading some of your work. Thank you.

  16. Harleigh Quinn says:

    You will not find them under that name.
    I write under my REAL name.
    "Harleigh Quinn" is a pseudonym I have used for over 22 years now.
    Send me an email to [email protected] and I will send you my real name.
    I do not publicly conflate the two.

  17. Katy Poole says:

    Fair enough! But I promise I won't embroider it in neon on black velvet. 🙂

  18. Katy Poole says:

    Actually, I have an issue with this revelation. If you're going to critique writers, you should use your real name. It's so easy to hide behind a pseudonym because you're shielded from personal attack—and of course it makes it much easier to share controversial views because no one knows who you are. Why don't you stand directly in the fire?

  19. Harleigh Quinn says:

    It's actually an open secret to whoever has been following my critiques on EJ for the past year or so.
    I have recently decided to go back to maintaining the separation.
    If you would like my real name, the same option is available to you as well.

  20. Katy Poole says:

    Yes, so true. It's much harder to let it go when your own ego is on the line. That's the fire of criticism. And it stings. Bad. No one likes it. So we make all kinds of mistakes and look like idiots in our lame attempts to deny it. Or cry in the corner about it. Construct platitudes to defend it. And then shield it once again by making proclamations like "it's all good."

    Maybe personal attack is a good thing in the end. What "person" is there to attack? To defend? Maybe insistence on polite, intelligent and respectful address is just ego-defense. Is that what you mean?

  21. Harleigh Quinn says:

    I would say "Interesting that you didn't as WHY I have this other pseudonym and maintain the separation", but it's not, because I know why that was not the first question, though it SHOULD have been.

  22. Respectful opinions are always welcome. Bashing of the author, other commenters or those not on the site is not okay. We moderate very lightly and allow comments most sites would delete. Many sites don't even allow non-registered users to comment.

    Let's keep it respectful please. Respect doesn't mean we all agree. It does mean that we don't start in with name calling and ad hominem attacks on the author/commenters.

  23. Harleigh Quinn says:

    NONE of which occurred in the thread in question, yet people were called out for having done so.
    I keep all the intense debate notifications I get in a separate email folder on my Mac.
    So, in the end, to me, this amounts to ego stroking and ego protection.

    Of course, that is just my opinion.

  24. paul says:

    I am a little disappointed this article is not about Arjuna, and moreso that I can't think of a decent metaphor to make it so (something about arrows at friend and foe, setting aside the the bow not meaning we've abandoned it). I don't think the lack of respect, perceived or real, has as much to do with the opinions expressed in a particular article, but more the personalities responding (namely the handful of "regulars") and the particular agenda each brings to every comment they make, from which they argue the article's betrayal (or support) of their particular cause. This isn't something particular to ej, but it is pronounced here. I don't know that it stifles other expressions (except for those unprepared for battle) but I don't see it encouraging them, as they are not questions but announcements (like this), saying (not asking) agree or disagree (let alone being closed to differing opinions). Thanks for the article!

  25. Harleigh Quinn says:

    Thank you.
    That is precisely what I have been attempting to say.