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Warriors For the Human Spirit: Finding Your Path of Contribution in a World Out of Balance

Margaret J. Wheatley is one of my heroes. At a time when many people are afraid of the truth, she tells it like it is. At a time when many people want to run away and hide, she invites us to step into our true warrior spirit in the tradition of Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa. In my book, The Warrior’s Journey Home: Healing Men, Healing the Planet, I quoted Trungpa:

            “Warriorship here does not refer to making war on others. Aggression is the source of our problems, not the solution. Here the word ‘warrior’ is taken from the Tibetan pawo which literally means ‘one who is brave.’ Warriorship in this context is the tradition of human bravery, or the tradition of fearlessness. Warriorship is not being afraid of who you are.”

            In her powerful and hopeful book, Who Do We Choose to Be? Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, and Restoring Sanity Wheatley says,

“My aspiration is for you to see clearly so that you may act wisely. If we don’t know where we are, if we don’t know what to prepare for, then any path we choose will keep us wandering in the wilderness, increasingly desperate, increasingly lost.”

            I received my own awakening to the warrior spirit in 1993 at a Men’s Leaders’ Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, sponsored by Wingspan Magazine. As part of the conference offerings we were invited to participate in a traditional Native American sweat lodge ceremony. In the 4th round when things got so hot in the lodge that many people had to get out, I was transported into a vision where I saw the sinking of the Ship of Civilization and the launching of Lifeboats for freedom.  

            Most of those on the ship wouldn’t believe the ship could sink, denied the truth, and went under. A few people, who believed the truth of their senses rather than the propaganda of the ship captain, escaped in lifeboats, banded together, and created a new, more sustainable, world.

            Over the last thirty years this vision has guided my life. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned:

  • “Civilization” is a misnomer. Its proper name is the “Dominator culture.”

            As long as we buy the myth that “civilization” is the best humans can aspire to achieve, we are doomed to go down with the ship. In The Chalice & the Blade: Our History Our Future first published in 1987, internationally acclaimed scholar and futurist, Riane Eisler first introduced us to our long, ancient heritage as a Partnership Culture and our more recent Dominator Culture, which has come to be called “Civilization.” In her book, Nurturing Our Humanity: How Domination and Partnership Shape Our Brains, Lives, and Future, written with peace activist Douglas P. Fry, they offer real guidance for creating a world based on partnership.

  • There is a better world, beyond civilization.

            When I was given the book Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn,I got a clear sense of the two worlds that are competing for our attention: A world where hierarchy and dominance rule (Quinn calls it the world of the Takers) and a world where equality and connection rule (Quinn calls it the world of the Leavers). In his book, Beyond Civilization: Humanity’s Next Great Adventure, he asks, “What does saving the world mean?”

            Quinn goes on to say,

“Saving the world can only mean one thing: saving the world as a human habitat. Accomplishing this will mean (must mean) saving the world as a habitat for as many other species as possible. We can only save the world as a human habitat if we stop our catastrophic onslaught on the community of life, for we depend on that community for our very lives.”

  • Humans are not doing a very good job becoming sustaining members in the community of life on Earth.

            Thomas Berry was a priest, a “geologian,” and a historian of religions. He spoke eloquently about our connection to the Earth and the consequences of our failure to remember who we are.

“We never knew enough. Nor were we sufficiently intimate with all our cousins in the great family of the earth. Nor could we listen to the various creatures of the earth, each telling its own story. The time has now come, however, when we will listen or we will die.”

  • The truth is that too many of us haven’t listened and too many of us will die. So what are we to do?

If the history of the many civilizations that have come to dominate the Earth over the last 6,000 years is a guide, most people will choose to “eat, drink, and be merry” and go down with the Ship. A few of us will be called to a different future. In her book, Who Do We Choose to Be? Margaret Wheatley reminds us that

“The Warriors arise when the people need protection.”

The last chapter of Who Do We Choose to Be? is titled: “Warriors For The Human Spirit: It’s Just Our Turn to Serve.” She says,

“As Warriors for the Human Spirit, our only weapons are compassion and insight. We refrain from using aggression and fear to accomplish results. We choose to stand apart from the current destructive dynamics and create good human societies wherever we can, Islands of Sanity. We know we are only a small minority, the few people who answer the call and prepare themselves to persevere and protect what is most valuable, what must not be lost.”

  • The hope for those committed to a meaningful future is to join the movement to restore sanity.

I recently did an interview with Margaret Wheatly about her new book, Restoring Sanity: Practices to Awaken Generosity, Creativity & Kindness in Ourselves and Our Organizations. You can watch it here. 

“Why wouldn’t I dedicate a book focused on awakening the human spirit to all of us, eight billion spirits and counting,”

says Wheatley. So I do.

She begins the book with a quote by Marvin Weisbord, author, consultant, and Organizational Development elder. “I used to ask, ‘What’s wrong? How can I fix it?’ Then I realized the right question was: ‘What’s possible and who cares?’

This is a very powerful truth. Many of us who have been working to make the world a better place have broken our minds, hearts, and souls trying to fix what is unfixable. With wisdom (and age—I turned 80 last year) some of us have concluded that there are some things that humans have done in our woundedness and ignorance that cannot be fixed.  

Many of the changes that we have brought about, including the destabilization of the climate, are not reversible. We will have to live with the consequences. But that does not mean there is nothing we can do. Here’s what Meg says to those who are ready to hear the truth and feel called to do something constructive:

“The perfect storm is here, created by the coalescence of climate and human-created catastrophes, insatiable greed, fear-based self-protection, escalating aggression and conflict, indifference for the well-being of others, and continuing uncertainty.”

She goes on to say,

“As leaders dedicated to serving the causes and people we treasure, confronted by this unrelenting tsunami, what are we to do? My answer to this is also stated with full confidence: We need to restore sanity by awakening the human spirit. We can only achieve this if we undertake the most challenging and meaningful work of our leader lives: creating Islands of Sanity.”

In the rest of the book, you will learn the practices necessary to join us in becoming Warriors for the Human Spirit. As my long-time friend and colleague, Clarissa Pinkola Estes says,

“Mis estimados queridos, My Esteemed Ones: Do not lose heart. It is hard to say which one of the current egregious matters has rocked people’s worlds and beliefs more. Ours is a time of almost daily jaw-dropping astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.
“You are right in your assessments. The luster and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking.
“Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is – we were made for these times…”

For those inspired by the call to come together, Margaret Wheatley explains,

“An Island of Sanity is a gift of possibility and refuge created by people’s commitment to form healthy community to do meaningful work. It requires sane leaders with unshakable faith in people’s innate generosity, creativity, and kindness.”

If you’d like more information about Margaret Wheatley’s books, warrior training, and current thinking you can contact her at

If you would like to learn more about my own books, training programs, and current thinking, you can contact me at  

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