Let me tell you how my world shifted on its axis last month when I traveled to Standing Rock. The first time I set eyes on the encampment was early dawn, just as the dark was lifting. The silhouette of teepees against the pink horizon and the smell of wood fire smoke in the frigid air touched something so deep inside of me that tears started welling up before I knew what I was feeling.
As we drove into the camp, we heard the drum of the prayer circle, followed by piercing chant in an unfamiliar language. That was the moment I knew we had stepped beyond time, beyond the veil of our consensual Western, white worldview, into an alternate reality.
But what exactly was it about Standing Rock that created this alternate reality? Three things.
- In the six days we were there, I encountered no trace of cynicism. In the traditional Native American world, and hence Standing Rock, the foundation of life is prayer and ceremony.
Think about it for a minute: You can’t pray and be cynical at the same time. Every person I met at Standing Rock had an almost childlike sincerity. I witnessed no eye rolling, whispering, cell phones. There was nothing for sale, rarely a photo being taken, no talk of Trump.
Everything was now, immediate, focused on the issues. And the issue was Mni Wiconi: Water is Life! We must save Life, save our water, save our Mother the Earth.
Yes, there were daily direct actions, non-violence trainings, strategic planning sessions to counter the Energy Transfer Partners. And enormous people power—somewhere between 9-11,000 were at Standing Rock the week I was there.
But the greatest weapon in the arsenal was none of these. It was prayer. And ceremony. All led by the indigenous elders, the men and women at the center of this entire project.
- Amazingly, the white allies followed humbly, did not lead. The second clue to the world shifting at Standing Rock is radical humility. We were told as white people ahead of time: If you come, Come to help. You are not in charge. And the Elders were strong:
“Be one voice. One body, Not all doing your own thing. If you run around chaotically the outcome will be chaotic. If you are frivolous and non- respectful, and talk about things that have nothing to do with why we are here, you are defeating the cause of Spirit for all.”
Their words held. We had orders to build a camp that was loving, and that was what people did. The Elders said: No hateful speech. No loud voices, no profanities, no drugs or alcohol, no music other than that of prayer. Because all of these things would weaken the force field that was being created.
Every morning outside, 4-500 people stood for hours in prayer circle. In freezing temperatures! I found it astonishing that so many people could be so still, so open hearted, so reverent, serving one sacred purpose: To spare and to heal Mother Earth and her waters.
I wondered: Why had it taken us white folks 200 years to finally get that these indigenous people have some profound medicine for us, that their wisdom can help us live better? It took us all this time to come and sit at their feet, to bow our heads and listen.
After we left, 2,000 US Veterans poured in to Standing Rock. In an incredibly poignant ceremony, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/12/5/1607591/-Veterans-at-Standing-Rock-shock-tribe-members-beg-forgiveness-for-war-crimes-against-tribal-nations
these vets met with Indian Elders in a ceremony and recounted the many ways the U.S. military had brutalized Native peoples. And then en masse, they knelt down and apologized to the elders. These US warriors, sworn to uphold the Constitution, began the long overdue process of healing our country’s unacknowledged genocide, our first great wound.
The Elders—non-glossy, uncontrived, earthy leaders from scores of indigenous tribes. —received their apology and also gave their own. Standing Rock is the first time in history that over 300 tribes have joined together in harmony. They speak in different languages and bring with them varying customs, but they all hold a palpable connection to the ancestors and their wisdom.
- The third clue to world shifting is: Listening Deeply. One day there was an immense prayer circle about a mile and a half from camp along the Cannonball River, just under a big bluff, a sacred burial mound. Atop this bluff, a row of state troopers in their cars monitoring us through binoculars. This was nothing new. Water Protectors are used to high voltage flood lights by night, helicopters roving by day.
Some of the young Water Protectors playfully yelled up to the police, coyly prompting them to get into love. Then one of the Elders thundered from the center of the circle.
DO NOT REACT! When you react to them and engage them at their vibration you only ensure that this will continue! Bring your attention inside this circle now and be silent! Let’s listen to the sound of the Mother Earth.
Your words will not neutralize their negativity. Only the words that the Mother Earth speaks through your quietness will neutralize the negativity. We are here to bring in the voice that is so powerful that it supercedes any human voice! That is why you must be in absolute silence.
That is why the Elders are asking you to watch and listen.
I could go on and on. I know in my heart that the sacred prayers worked. And the willingness of so many to sacrifice their time, resources, and comfort, all worked. And I know now that no matter what does happen at Standing Rock, a love army has been formed on this planet and it will not back down.
If you go on line and type in LOVEARMY.ORG you will find a continuation of the spirit of Standing Rock. There’s a groundswell happening in this country, people are standing together saying no to self interest and special interests, no to the commercialization of Mother Earth and the monetization of resources. People who pledge to stand up for the vulnerable, to listen, be humble, and employ love as a sacred weapon.
My world shifted at Standing Rock. A new reality is possible when we Drop our Cynicism, Bow Humbly, and Listen deeply to the voice that is so powerful that it supersedes any human voice. The voice that pulses beneath us at all times, the voice of the Shechinah, the Mother Earth. Shema Yisroel, let’s listen to her.
The Elders teach us that we can always change. We can always choose higher ground. We can move from shallow self interest to a higher purpose. From cynicism to true prayer. From mental chaos to deep silence. From taking for ourselves to working as a whole. These are the lessons I bring you from Standing Rock: How to be a love warrior. And how to join the most exciting army that has ever existed.