Berkana Blog

My Personal Journey into Warriorship

by Margaret Wheatley on February 7, 2017

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 and now it’s become the title of my newest book. 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 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. Learn more.

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