Finding Balance: The Warrior and Healer Within You

I’m just going to throw you right into this.

Imagine for a moment that you’re hanging off a cliff. Your feet, dangling in the air, rocks crumbling under your fingertips, your grip so tight your knuckles are turning white. Looking down, all you can see is darkness.

Then, you turn your head and see that someone you care about is going through the same thing. You want to help, and you might even try, but you barely have enough energy and strength to hold yourself up.

For many people, life might feel a lot like this.

You want to pull up your loved ones.
You want to help your community.
You want to be more and do more, but it feels like you can’t without losing that grip.


The Warrior and the Healer

A couple of months ago, my uncle told me a story of my great-great-grandfather. I’ve heard stories of him my whole life, but this time it made me understand what the story really meant.

When my great-great-grandfather was alive, he was the lonko (Chief) of our community. Together with other warriors in our community, he fought against the state to protect our people and land.

Now, in a culture that only praises and celebrates the traits of a warrior, this would probably be the one and only focus of who he was. But not for our family.

My uncle said that whenever he returned on the back of his horse, he would walk inside our family home and lean his spear and a weapon he had won from the enemy against the wall.

It was like a silent announcement that at that moment, the fight was over. Because in his home and community, he was not a warrior. He was a father, a grandfather, a teacher, a listener, a person enjoying the gift of living.

Every morning he rose early with antü, father sun. Barefoot he walked outside to enjoy the touch of dew against his feet, and when finding a flower, he carefully placed it behind his ear. For hours he wandered around the foothills of the mountain and inside the forest. Children would follow to hear him teach about the living beings that share our home in meli witran mapu, the land of four directions.

Whenever his wife and daughter, my great-aunt Maria, the shaman in our community, would speak, he would sit in silence to listen and learn.

The way he lived reflects the importance of balance that we as Native people always strive for.

He honored both the warrior and healer within himself, and it’s something I’ve seen my family live by, like an unspoken lesson, for generations.


Honoring the dualities in our life

As a child, my mother always encouraged me to feel my joy and pain equally, She never tried to stop or control, instead, she gave me space and time to go through each experience.

No matter how much we want to, we can’t avoid grief, sorrow, and pain. But that doesn’t mean we have to live with it forever.

In the dominant culture, people have confused suffering with strength. That the more pain you can hold onto, the stronger you must be.

And the less you prioritize your health and wellbeing, the more you’re considered a good partner, parent, friend, or member of your community.

In this society, people have not only accepted pain and suffering, but they treat it as a badge of honor.

They think that the only way you can survive in this world is as a warrior, but being a healer to yourself is just as important as being a warrior.

If anything, healing makes the warrior stronger.


Ending the Battle

To allow ourselves to heal and find joy in life means we’re not wasting our lives just endlessly fighting a battle.

Subconsciously or not, some people believe that healing will make them lose their strength and fire. That it will make them seem selfish.

Joy is mistaken to mean that you no longer care about others who are suffering and that you’ve turned your back on them.

I notice this especially from those like my own family, come from communities that are struggling. There’s a lot of guilt involved when we feel like we have it better than others.

But to unite in suffering will help no one.

Healing is what gives us the strength and energy to not only pull ourselves up from that cliff but pull others up with us.

As Mapuche and Native people, we are taught that each person has a responsibility to seek the teachers and knowledge that they need for the sake of balance in our community.

When we find this balance between our warrior and healer, it makes it possible for us to show up for each other and help our communities grow.

So no matter how much you want to show up for others right now at this moment, make sure you pull yourself up before you offer anyone your hand.

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  1. Kendra Gardner says:

    This is amazing and it describe the path I would like to travel on. I just got into my Native side. I’m Creole. I never learned my Native side and in search of an Anutie, Uncle, or some Elder to teach me the way of the Red Road.

    • Mandy Martini says:

      Sorry for the late response, Kendra. I hope you’ve been able to connect and learn more about your Indigenous roots 🙂

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