A Path for Warriors for the Human Spirit
My personal journey into warriorship
Who do we choose to be in service to this time? I have asked this question of thousands of people in many different places for the past few years. It’s a question I had been asking myself for many years, as I struggled to discover ways I could serve that also would give me the ability to persevere.
Now, after many decades of working in the world, I have declared my answer to this question by naming myself a Warrior for the Human Spirit.
I felt the need to become a Warrior for the Human Spirit as I witnessed what is happening to people in organizations, communities and nations everywhere.
In too many places, people just don’t matter.
Our great human capacities of generosity, caring and creativity are ignored or denied.
And people themselves don’t remember their own capacities as they withdraw into fear, aggression and self-protection in response to this frightening time. Too many leaders grasp for control and self-interest, making short-term decisions that destroy both human potential and the future.
My initial response to this increasing degradation of the human spirit was to work harder, to speak more insistently, to write in a voice of warning–but this only led to exhaustion and despair.
Often I was overtaken by disabling emotions of anger, grief and sadness.
As I talked with many people, I learned that these were common reactions.
And I discovered a community of people intent on doing good work, trying to keep their hearts open, wanting to make a meaningful contribution, aspiring to stay and be of service even as situations became increasingly more difficult and disheartening.
Caught in these emotions and witnessing things disintegrating at an increasing pace, I became aware of the role of warriors.
Throughout history, they appear in many cultures, always as a small group of people who commit themselves to defending the kingdom, the faith, the tribe. They train with great discipline and diligence to develop their skills which they willingly offer in selfless service.
I studied the role of warriors in Japan, India, Tibet, among Native American nations and in the U.S. military. It became clear to me that this was the role I knew would benefit myself and the community of people I had discovered.
My own warriorship has been grounded in the lineage of Chögyam Trungpa.
With unswerving dedication, he declared the need for warriors to come forward in service to this dark time, and created a secular path of training.
Within that lineage, my beloved teacher, Pema Chödrön, directed me to a deeper level of practice.
After several years of disciplined effort, I am learning the profound benefits of following this path.
I am learning how to deal with the overwhelming emotions of grief, sadness, anger and depression.
I am learning how to work with my mind and respond more sanely in situations that previously triggered my ego.
I am learning how much discipline, diligence, and support are required to develop these life-saving skills.
I am learning that I stand on the shoulders of warriors throughout time who have trained to be of service. And as a consequence of what I’m learning, I feel increasing devotion to the human spirit.
A Path for Warriors for the Human Spirit presented here draws on many different traditions of warriorship, not just my own lineage.
It reflects the experiences and teachings that I found of benefit as I claimed this new identity and began learning the practices and skills necessary to keep me fully engaged with the world with an open, breaking heart.
I don’t know what the future holds for our world, but in the present moment, I am deeply satisfied to be a warrior and committed to further training.
I invite you to explore the Trainings that are described here to discern whether walking on to the Warrior’s path would support you to serve the world at this time.
The Need for Warriors
An ancient Tibetan prophecy predicted our time:
“There comes a time when all life on Earth is in danger. Great barbarian powers have arisen.
Although these powers spend their wealth in preparations to annihilate one another, they have much in common: weapons of unfathomable destructive power, and technologies that lay waste our world.
In this era when the future of sentient life hangs by the frailest of threads, the kingdom of Shambhala emerges.”
The kingdom of Shambhala describes an enlightened people, whether as fact or myth, from many centuries ago.
The Warriors emerge when they are needed, prepared to serve armed with only two weapons: compassion and insight.
They are well-positioned, working within the halls of power, so they know how these systems work.
They see clearly how the practices and ambitions of these systems are deadening the human spirit and threatening all of life.
The Warrior tradition is found in many cultures, focused on either defense or peaceful service. In Tibetan, the word for Warrior, Pawo, means one who is brave, brave enough to never resort to aggression or fear to accomplish their purposes.
In all traditions, Warriors are a highly specialized group of people who are devoted to selfless service, who train with discipline and diligence to develop their skills, and who band together as a community.
Warriors for the Human Spirit train in service to people, to support our best human capacities of generosity, compassion, altruism, curiosity, creativity, caring.
At this time, when the systems of power either ignore or debase the human spirit, we train to develop the skillful means for people to recognize their innate goodness, which has never waned and is always available, no matter the external circumstances.
We do not train so that we can fix, reverse or change these systems.
We train to be a confident and cheerful presence so that individuals and communities can remember who we humans are and rely once again on our best qualities, no matter how difficult the external environment. Throughout history, the Warriors have appeared when they are needed.
Now it’s our turn.
Who are the Warriors?
A Warrior is simply a decent human being who aspires to be of service in an indecent, inhumane time.
We want to be of service without adding to the confusion, aggression and fear now so prevalent, so we train ourselves well and form as a strong, supportive community. Through discipline and dedication, we develop our confidence, skillful means and compassion.
We learn to see clearly into the nature of reality, and practice with enthusiastic perseverance to cultivate our own wakefulness.
Warriors do not leave the scene. Our commitment is to stay engaged with those in power, to work inside our communities and in our families.
We are committed to act in ways that make it possible for people to experience their human potential.
We aspire to be a discerning, compassionate, sane presence in the most difficult circumstances. Yet we also realize that no matter how much mastery we have attained in our professional and personal lives, we need different skills and perspectives to meet the ever-increasing challenges we face.
This is why we dedicate ourselves to Training. As Warriors, we joyfully offer our compassion and sanity:
We have unshakable confidence that people can be kinder, gentler and wiser than our current society tells us we are. We rely on human goodness and offer this faith as a gift to others.
We offer ourselves not as activists to change the world, but as compassionate presences and trustworthy companions to those suffering in this world. We embody compassion without ambition.
Our confidence, dignity and wakefulness radiate out to others as a beacon of who all humans are.
Our confidence is not conditioned by success or failure, by praise or blame. It arises naturally as we see clearly into the nature of things.
We create an atmosphere of compassion, confidence and cheerfulness with our very presence.
We create a good human society wherever we are, whenever we can, with the people and resources that are available to us now.
We rely on joy arising anywhere, knowing it is never dependent on external circumstances but comes from working together as good human beings.
We encounter life’s challenges with a sense of humor, knowing that lightness and play increase our capacity to deal with suffering.
Training as a Community of Warriors
The Intent of the Training
This Training is designed to form our identity as Warriors for the Human Spirit, provide us with the skills required of this role, and create a strong and supportive community of companions whom we can rely on far into the future.
This new identity either strengthens us to do our present work or supports our discernment to find new work.
Wherever we choose to use our Warrior skills, we remain actively engaged in the world, supported by new capacities and a strong community, in dedicated service to the human spirit.
Training as Warriors for the Human Spirit: Content and Community
Developing self in the context of community. Warriors need the strength of a community even when working alone.
Only with a trustworthy community do we develop the skills and perseverance to withstand the loneliness, criticism, setbacks and failures that are part of this path.
Warriors need to know that they can call on each other at any time, that without question they will be there for each other.
Therefore, the Trainings emphasize both content and community. Warriors develop their individual strengths and capacities as a member of a skilled, strong community.
There are three major components to this Warrior Training (all three are taught and developed at each Training):
1. Developing a stable mind. Only by learning to know our own minds and our habitual patterns do we gain control of our responses and learn to trust ourselves even in the most challenging situations. The Training includes meditative practices that:
Develop keen awareness of ego’s hold on us
Develop insight into the true nature of self and reality
Develop the capacity to respond with intelligence and compassion rather than reacting from a place of fear or anger
Develop a joyful mind free from doubt
Embrace sadness as the path to an open, peaceful heart
2. Forming the identity of Warrior for the Human Spirit. This new identity requires radical shifts in how we view the world and our role at this time. The Training focuses on practices to:
Develop a clear and coherent world view that can inform our choice of actions
Cultivate a sense of devotion to the human spirit
Free ourselves from attachment to outcomes
Free ourselves from the ambush of hope
Develop confidence in ourselves as trustworthy Warriors in the world
Discover our right work and engage in it wholeheartedly
3. Developing a repertoire of skillful means. Warriors need to act with intelligence and discernment as we offer our work in the world. The Training cultivates foundational skills that teach how to:
Develop pure perception freed from personal filters
Exercise power free from aggression
Work with opposition and conflict as a natural consequence of interdependence
Transform the energy of strong emotions into wisdom that informs sane action