Foundational stories: Spiritual Warriors

The Keystone pipeline resistance ended with President Obama’s denial of the pipeline’s permit. But then we began to hear about the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). In one of the most transparent, egregious examples of environmental racism, the route of the pipeline was changed when people in Bismarck, North Dakota, objected to the original plan for DAPL to cross the Missouri River just upstream from them, fearing contamination of their water. So, the route was changed to cross beneath Lake Oahe (Missouri River), at the edge of the border of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation (orange in the map below).

By NittyG – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52776844

Dakota Access Pipeline route (Standing Rock Indian Reservation is shown in orange)

That new route stimulated months of prayers and ceremonies by hundreds of Native American tribes and thousands of people.

By late September, (2016) NBC News reported that members of more than 300 federally recognized Native American tribes were residing in the three main camps, alongside an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 additional pipeline resistance demonstrators. Several thousand more gathered at the camps on weekends.[7][34][35]

Dakota Access Pipeline protests

DAPL support begins in Indianapolis

In a recent post (Keystone Pledge of Resistance) I described how Jim Poyser, Ted Wolner, and I were trained to design peaceful, nonviolent civil disobedience actions. And how we trained about fifty people in Indianapolis to participate in such actions.

A Spirit-led connection was made when Jim was talking with Joshua Taflinger about the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Jim lived near Joshua’s White Plains Wilderness Academy. Joshua wanted to know what he could do locally to bring attention to the Dakota Access pipeline. I say ‘bring attention’ rather than protest, because one of the first things I learned from those opposing DAPL was the difference between protesting and being a water protector.

Water protector was about an integral, Spiritual connection with Mother Earth, and all things human and nonhuman.

Bringing attention to the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) in downtown, Indianapolis

Jim told Joshua about the Keystone Pledge of Resistance, and those of us who had been trained to organize public gatherings and actions. And told Joshua we would be glad to support similar efforts to call attention to the dangers of DAPL. We were all excited about helping Joshua and White Plains Wilderness Academy, glad our experience could be useful.

Before getting into what we did related to DAPL, I’d like to express how working with Joshua and his wife Brandi, made me aware of the concept of spiritual warriors.


It may seem odd for a Quaker to speak about warriors. But what I mean by warriors is what Chief Sitting Bull said.

For us, warriors are not what you think of as warriors. The warrior is not someone who fights, because no one has the right to take another’s life. The warrior, for us, is one who sacrifices himself for the good of others. His task is to take care of the elderly, the defenseless, those who cannot provide for themselves and above all, the children, the future of humanity.

Chief Sitting Bull

Warriors today are forging different ways to live together, returning to Indigenous ways to live in community. Mutual Aid is an alternative to our broken systems. Members of Mutual Aid communities are working for the abolition of police and prisons. To escape the colonial capitalist system. Feeding the hungry and finding shelter for the houseless. Collecting clothing.


The following from Joshua, is another example of radically rethinking our stories.

I am inspired to share with you all more directly a post I wrote, because I consider you an established and effective nature/spiritual warrior and believe that there is a need for the perspectives shared in the attached post to be more common thought in the minds of the many.

If you feel truth from this writing, and are inspired, I highly encourage you to re-write your own version, in your own words/perspectives, and post to your network.

With the intention of helping us all wake up, with awareness, clarity, and direction.

..spreading and weaving reality back into the world….

What has risen to the surface at Standing Rock is a physical/spiritual movement. Learn how to quiet your mind. To find the silent receptive space to receive guidance. To learn to adapt and follow the pull of synchronicity to guide you to where you will find your greatest support and strength.

What I have found in my time praying in the indigenous earth-based ways, is that it’s not about putting your hands together and talking to God…. It’s about quieting and connecting with the baseline of creation, of nature. Tuning into the frequency and vibration of the natural world, the nature spirits. The beings and entities that have been in existence, for all of existence, the examples and realities of sustainability and harmony.

It’s about becoming receptive to these things. Being open and flowing with them. The spirit guides us, but we have to make ourselves receptive to feel, sense, and respond to this guidance.

Joshua Taflinger


Each Warrior of the Light contains within him the spark of God. His destiny is to be with other Warriors, but sometimes he will need to practice the art of the sword alone; this is why, when he is apart from his companions, he behaves like a star. He lights up his allotted part of the Universe and tries to point out galaxies and worlds to all those who gaze up at the sky. The Warrior’s persistence will soon be rewarded. Gradually, other Warriors approach , and they join together to form constellations, each with their own symbols and mysteries. 

Coelho, Paulo. Warrior of the Light: A Manual (p. 89). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition


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 Shambhala warriors appear.

The warriors have no home. They move on the terrain of the barbarian powers. Great courage is required, both moral and physical, for they must go into the heart of the barbarian powers to dismantle their weapons, into the places where the weapons are created, into the corridors of power where decisions are made.

The Shambhala warriors are armed only with the weapons of compassion and insight. Both are necessary. Compassion gives them the energy to move forward, not to be afraid of the pain of the world. Fueled by compassion, warriors engage with the world, step forward and act. But by itself compassion burns with too much passion and exhausts us, so the second weapon is needed — insight into the interdependence of all phenomena.

With that wisdom we see that the battle is not between “good guys” and “bad guys,” because the line between good and evil runs through every human heart. And with insight into our profound interrelatedness, we discern right action, knowing that actions undertaken with pure intent have repercussions throughout the web of life, beyond what can be measured or discerned.

Together these two weapons sustain the warriors: the recognition and experience of our pain for the world and the recognition and experience of our radical interconnectedness with all life.

Adapted from Dugu Choegyal, as recounted by Joanna Macy


The Spiritual Warrior is a person who challenges the dreams of fear, lies, false beliefs, and judgments that create suffering and unhappiness in his or her life. It is a war that takes place in the heart and mind of a man or woman. The quest of the Spiritual Warrior is the same as spiritual seekers around the world.  

www.toltecspirit.com/four-agreements/characteristics-of-a-spiritual-warrior/.


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