Enlightenment is a group effort.

I should tell you that I didn’t just get back from a week of protesting and fighting for justice at Standing Rock. I was on a meditation retreat, a retreat during which I arose with the sun for morning prayers and walked in mindful prayer the rest of the day, while chopping and serving food and building yurts that will keep healers and families warm and dry during winter. Just like a meditation retreat, I listened to the elders and worked alongside fellow aspirants, my brothers and sisters dressed not in robes, but in uniforms of puffy jackets and sturdy boots. Just like a meditation retreat, I began to let go of expectations of who I think I am and why I’m here. And just like a meditation retreat, my mind wandered but returned again and again to that still place inside my heart.

During this meditation, I awoke to the true nature of my being. I experienced the interconnectedness of all of creation and took my place in the web because when you know it and feel it, how could you choose anything else? There were no phones or screens to distract me from my work. And what is work? This”work” is not my job, not an expression of my capital or the way in which I have been pressured to prove my worth in an oppressive system. By “work,” I mean the way I say thank you to Mother Earth, the Source of all, who supports my bodily existence, to the flora and fauna who are my neighbors, to the communities of humans who nourish my soul and revive my beating bleeding heart again and again. And I say thank you by becoming more and more of who I am, which is in fact simply made up of all of these things, from the air I breathe to the worms that till the soil that grows the food I eat to the friends who teach me and move me and hold me. I am because you are. I bow in gratitude.

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