Warriors for the Human Spirit

Training to be the Presence of Insight and Compassion

We need leaders who recognize the harm being done
to people and planet through the dominant practices that
control, ignore, abuse, and oppress the human spirit.
We need leaders who put service over self,
stand steadfast in crises and failures, and
who display unshakable faith that
people can be generous, creative, and kind.

Margaret Wheatley

Warriors for the Human Spirit are leaders, activists, and citizens who want to make a meaningful contribution in this time of increasing assaults on the human spirit and all life. To serve well, to be effective with their energy and influence, they train with discipline and devotion to refrain from fear and aggression and to embody the best human qualities of generosity, insight and compassion. They are already skilled leaders and activists: they know how to create engaged and productive workplaces and healthy communities. They know how to advocate for their causes and to work well in networks of diverse people. Yet their hard won skills and valuable experiences are not enough in this darkening time. A different category of skills and capacities is needed so they can act wisely and well, persevere, and use their influence and power to offer sane, life-affirming responses even as threats to people and planet intensify.

Warriors for the Human Spirit are awake human beings
who have chosen not to flee. They abide.
They serve as beacons of an ancient story that tells of
the goodness and generosity and creativity of humanity.
You can identify them by their cheerfulness.
You will know them by their compassion.
When asked how they do it they will tell you about
discipline, dedication and the necessity of community.

Warrior in Training

Who is a Warrior?

A Warrior is 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 situations and practice to cultivate our own wakefulness with enthusiastic perseverance.

Warriors do not leave the scene. Our commitment is to stay engaged with those in power, to work inside our organizations, communities, and families. We are committed to act in ways that make it possible for people to experience the fullness of their humanity, no matter what is happening. We aspire to be a sane presence in the most difficult circumstances. And 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.

Throughout history, and in most cultures, warriors appear as a highly specialized 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. As Warriors for the Human Spirit, we cultivate unshakable faith in people’s capacity to be generous, creative, and kind, even in the worst circumstances. We know we are taking our place in a long lineage of brave people who always appear when the people need protection. We also recognize that within our own families and traditions there have been many brave warriors from whom we have benefitted.

Now, it’s our turn.

A Warrior is a person who has the courage
to face the dark forces threatening our world
and to grieve for what is being lost
especially for future generations.
Her insight into the present world situation energizes her,
deepens her compassion for those suffering from oppression,
and motivates her to live in a way which
brings peace into each situation she encounters.
She is strengthened by comradery with her fellow warriors.

Warrior in Training

How the Warriors Train

There is no other way to prepare oneself
for the difficulties, tragedies, and insanity
that will continue to escalate.
We can’t change this world,
but we can change ourselves
so that we can be of service to this world.

Margaret Wheatley

A Warrior’s primary intention is to be a peaceful, compassionate, and uplifting presence in situations where there is conflict, anger, loss, grief, fear, stress. To develop compassionate abiding and clear insight, Warriors train with discipline in four core areas:

1. Stable mind. The preeminent warrior skill is to be awake and present, to trust ourselves in difficult situations, and to be of true service. To be this for others, we must know ourselves. We need to be aware of our reactions—physical, emotional, mental– and how they color our perceptions and actions. We need to be able to respond rather than react, to be aware of those situations which trigger us, and to gradually reduce our reactivity. These skills are a direct result of meditative practices, where we learn to watch our thoughts rather than be controlled by them. With practice, we become more open and patient, no longer victims of our reactions. As we develop the capacity to pause, to consider what response best serves, we become ever more useful to others when they are caught in strong emotions and confusion.

Meditation practice and instruction play a central role in this training. We practice together morning and late afternoon in the retreat gatherings. We practice together in our small groups and Zoom calls. We require a personal daily meditation practice while in the training program.

We also support developing a stable mind with physical practices that synchronize mind and body–Qigong and/or Tai Chi.

2. Direct Perception/Clear Seeing. Every one of us constructs a world and then lives inside our personal creation. Without training, we cannot see the richness of information that the world offers us. With practice, we learn to experience moments of direct perception, free of our filters and bias. As we take in more of the world, our habitual filters lose their grip. We see with greater clarity and we also experience the world’s innate beauty and luminosity. Our actions become wiser, our compassion deepens, and our commitment strengthens.

3. Skillful Means. Most leaders who train as warriors are familiar with a variety of good tools, such as systems thinking, conflict resolution, constellation work, critical thinking, Art of Hosting processes, etc. In Warrior training, we amplify and strengthen these processes with our capacity for direct perception and the increased information we have available to us. As we work with any process, we are committed to remaining vigilant for when aggression and fear arise–ours and others. We train so that we can offer an atmosphere of confidence and possibility. Through how we act, without naming it overtly, we want people to feel our presence, to know that there’s a warrior in the room.

4. Community. We train in community rather than as individuals because we know we need one another. We need to be able to call on one another for support, consolation, ideas, and humor. We aspire to achieve the level of commitment to one another described by General Sherman in a letter he wrote to his superior General Ulysses S. Grant at the end of the Civil War. He reflected on why they had won the war: “I always knew you thought of me and, if I got in a tight place, you would come if alive.”

Community is created through the structure of the program in large retreat gatherings, in monthly small group video calls (via Zoom), and occasional all Warrior Zoom calls. Also, Warriors themselves organize into interest groups and accountability partners. These multiple means create deepening relationships and the trust that “if I call you, you will come.”

For some time now I have felt alone and unsure about
whether I can continue my justice activism;
I know it is time to make a shift and I long to do this with others
in a supportive, trustworthy, sustained community.
I believe we are consoled and strengthened by being together, and
I am committed to staying in the world as a spiritual warrior.

Warrior in Training

Design of the Training Program

Between October 2015 and June 2017, three cohorts completed one year of training: 81 people from 19 different countries, ranging in age from 35 to 86. This next program is based on experience with these first cohorts: it is designed to be more intimate, focused, less costly financially but requiring more time and dedication of effort. It also engages those who completed the first trainings and are continuing on in a facilitator/guide role.

The initial training occurs over eight months, with two primary elements:

  1. Two group retreats of entire cohort: month one (5 days), month eight (6 days).
  2. Small groups of five meet at least once a month via Zoom video calls for two hours/month. These groups follow a set curriculum for study and contemplation. They are facilitated and led by Warriors who have completed their first year of training and are participating in advanced training with the core faculty.

2018: Two Cohorts

  1. Crestone Colorado, Blazing Mountain Retreat Center blazingmountain.org
    Session One: March 15th arrive – March 22nd depart (Six days, seven nights)
    Session Two: October 18th arrive – October 25th depart (Six days, seven nights)
  2. Tuscany Italy, Abbey at Spineto  www.abbaziadispineto.com
    Session One: April 28th arrive – May 4th depart (Five days, six nights)
    Session Two: November 8th arrive – November 15th depart (Six days, seven nights)

The commitment to learn to cultivate a breaking heart surrounded by community
is a level of vulnerability, surrender and commitment
I am eager to bravely face.
My definition of Warriors is that we cultivate the courage,
through sustained discipline,
to bear the enormous tragedy we are facing in the world today,
while at the same time bearing the enormous beauty of everything humans can be.
Warriors are committed to cultivating the right conditions for
true humanity to arise but are completely free of ambition.

Warrior in Training


Core Faculty, all programs:
Meg Wheatley, Jerry Granelli, Ulrike Ebert

Guest Faculty:
Crestone Colorado: John P. Milton
Tuscany Italy: Chris Grant, Richard Olivier