Sunday, November 11, 2007

Reflections on the Trader as Warrior

In his book Shambhala, The Sacred Path of the Warrior, Chogyam Trungpa lays out a vision of living life as a warrior. His definition of warrior surprised me. He said, "The key to not being afraid of who you are. Ultimately, that is the definition of bravery: not being afraid of yourself" (p. 28).

Later, Trungpa explains, "The warrior, fundamentally, is someone who is not afraid of space. The coward lives in constant terror of space. When the coward is alone in the forest and doesn't hear a sound, he thinks there is a ghost lurking somewhere. In the silence he begins to bring up all kinds of monsters and demons in his mind. The coward is afraid of darkness because he can't see anything. He is afraid of silence because he can't hear anything" (p. 155).

I suspect that Trungpa would see many of the things of our lives--from TV to iPods to cell phones to food and drink--as the space-fillers that maintain our cowardice. In space--silence, darkness--we are left with nothing but ourselves. If we are afraid of who we are, we will frantically seek to fill the space, running ever further from ourselves. But warriors derive strength from tuning out the space-fillers they get closer to who they really are.

In the Japanese tradition of Morita therapy, people stay in their bed and refrain from any activity, day after day. For a while, they catch up on sleep and daydream, but eventually they become bored. After a while, the boredom passes, and they begin to reflect on themselves and their lives. They come to terms with issues that had long been put aside. The whole of therapy consists of doing nothing. It's about contacting space, finding the warrior within.

Ironically, the self we flee from often is not the bad self, but the very best within us. We are afraid to face our potentials, how far we could truly come. This is what makes the warrior: the willingness to face that chasm between the real and the ideal and forge a bridge from one to the other. It takes a certain bravery to sustain the look into the chasm, even as one builds bridges.

We enact our warriorship or cowardice each trading day. Markets move, and it is only in space--the silence of our minds--that we can be open to what they are doing. The cowardly trader, in constant terror of that space, fills it with fantasies of what the markets might do. Thus it is that the cowardly trader fails to take trading signals, gets out of trades prematurely, or lurches into trades where no signals are present. The warrior trader, in Morita mode, engages in the doing that is not doing: silently observing each piece of information until the time is right for action, then letting positions go and do their thing.

So much of bad trading amounts to cowardice. So much of success amounts to sitting and doing nothing and feeling grounded in that space.


Devotion to Development