There are many trying to piece together what is occurring at the stand off at Standing Rock. Some are looking for what is coming next, complicating the storyline with questions about the Trump presidency, his ties to Energy Transfer Partners, his support of the militarization of police, and his certainty that the extraction of fossil fuels is key to economic success.
Others are content with tying up these several months into a secure and seamless bundle of information, helping us understand how this led into that and from that linear equation (the assumption is that) we can extrapolate what will come next.
Many, sorry they could not be there, are still looking for ways to support those remaining on the ground. And many on the ground are asking themselves is this the best place for me to be at this time?
Some are using this as an excuse to keep up racial tensions and blatant hatred. And by most measures, and unfortunately, the residents of North Dakota and Morton County in particular are willing to allow that strain of inhumanity to lead.
A very few have and continue to use this stand off for personal, political and monetary gain. Like hollow bamboo they strike the pose, but lack the depth of internal fortitude.
There are some (nearly 570 arrested) who are tied to this moment through upcoming trials; hoping justice is not as blind in North Dakota as the force of the police has been. This is where the cyber water protectors can play a huge role in continuing to drive social media, the court system and the “arc of the moral universe” towards justice.*
There are many rallying behind the cry for divestment from fossil fuels, and veterans asking where are we needed next? There are interfaith clergy happy to have found camaraderie with like-minded souls.
Far too many would like it to be over, either with the pipeline running through the headwaters or not. Just give us the ending, please.
Many words have been written about the “spirituality” at the center of the stand, but placed more as a footnote to be recorded in history rather than being understood as an evolutionary step for human kind.
So when you ask me what did I learn, what am I feeling, and will I return… I am wary to tie it all up in a sound bite for you.
I was drawn to Standing Rock, as many of us were, because of the prayers. I think we are a weary bunch who prefer peace and truly believe that unity formed through the intention of love will always be the most powerful of all weapons. I was pleased and excited to come upon a thread of humanity who began each day before the rising sun with an offering of gratitude. I breathed in the cold morning air and the request from Lakota elders for all to offer their prayers in whatever way together. I felt the welcome. I felt the stillness. And I felt the decisiveness of those prayers. This daily act informed my day and strengthened my knowing that this simple and humble dedication was the glue that held the camp together and allowed peoples from around the world to stand as one. The tears that flowed from me and around me, reflected the pain of denial and separation rampant in our world, but also heralded the joy of what can be.
I found myself growing in ways I had not expected. A deepening of what some may think of as “spiritual” but for me it is an acceptance of my humanity, a bit of dirt holding on to the light of the universe – until breath is no longer mine to take.
I was reinvigorated with the power of humility, as I allowed myself to learn and awaken from within. “If you have not understood that the sacred fire represents the fire burning within you, you have not learned anything at all”, one elder told us. And his words echoed “Truth” in my being.
The understandings born of the daily dedication and discipline calling forth our highest and deepest natures can never be recorded, nor can they be defined or scripted. They must be felt.
So while I will not try to stop the views and undertakings of those who are busy defining and categorizing what has happened and what will happen next, I am one hundred percent certain that our way out of this moment is found in our way “in”.
For years I have heard the question asked, “How many directions are there?” And the simple and true answer is four, east, south, west, north; the answer for the clever is six, including the earth and the heavens. But the answer of the wise has always been seven. It is in the seventh direction – within our own being – where the battle to stop the black snake is waged. That is where the warrior lives, that is where the hard work lies. For some this is a linear story that will end with the pipeline being stopped or running through the headwaters. For others it is an epic journey with multiple layers and most likely with no beginning or end.
When you hold a diamond in your hand, it is best to watch it shimmering in the sun. Trying to explain and define it will only make you miss its beauty.
For those struggling to leave or to return to Oceti: hold precious the time, hold precious the prayer and always remember: the fire is burning within you.
The fire is burning within you.
*“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.