I am not free until we’re all free.
I was first introduced to term Bodhisattva when I read The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron for the first time when I was about 21. A Bodhisattva is on a path to liberation but that liberation does not make them immune to the mess of life and death, despair and defilement, and all the other splendors of the human experience. Their path is one for the sake of all beings. Their enlightenment comes as all beings attain enlightenment. They stick around for us. The Bodhisattva comes back again and again to this grueling pool of suffering, in service, training as a warrior for the freedom of all beings.
This touched so far into me it moved through the lifetimes of lineage right back to being’s first breath. I’ve never connected to liberation as a solitary mission. I’ve never felt compelled by a spiritual practice that calls me to go within without offering out. Yes I will sit in still contemplation; yes I will wrestle with my monkey mind to touch no-mind. But if I’m not in the dirt of the world, if I’m not in the mess of relating, if I’m not getting down with my fellow humans for the sake of our collective stepping up and out, I feel like I’m dodging something. The mission of the Bodhisattva with its far reaching compassion and service to others just feels obvious. We’re in it together.
Meditation is where we train, not where we attain. Having a solid meditation practice gives more space between reaction, compulsion and habit. So we can inhabit. It gives us the body to be able to show up open hearted and present for the real training. Life. Spiritual practice is not something we show up for 20 minutes or an hour a day and then go blindly through our life. It is the root, the ground from which an ongoing moment to moment practice gets to flourish.
There was some serious Bodhisattva shit going on at the Crossfit gym today. Since being bored is a special kind of hell for me, I continually hurl myself from one challenge to another. At the beginning of the summer I felt ready to up my fitness game and started going to Crossfit. It’s intense. Like everyone is always complaining about how sore they are intense. Seriously, there’s a whole culture built around it. Warrior intense. Vomit in your mouth intense. Walk my bike home because I can’t lift my leg over the frame intense. Not even a little bit boring. I have to keep taking a break from typing because I can’t hold my arms up intense. And every move I do is modified.
So we’re rounding the end of our workout, there’s only a few of us who aren’t done. Our coach and all who’ve finished are cheering us on. I finish. One girl left. She’s doing ring dips and is almost done, but doesn’t quite finish the move. The coach gives it to her but she says no. She’s going to finish and she’s going to finish right. I think of all the corners I’ve cut, slight ways I’ve sold out on myself. I’m moved. She’s a warrior. Then she has a round of burpees to do. Remember high school gym class? They still suck that much.
The rest of us are done right? The rest of us have just given everything we had, we sweat, we pushed, we hit it. We’re home free. Guess again. The coach yells…
No one is finished until everyone is finished.
And there we all are, doing burpees right next to her, one after another after another. I think I heard her mumble an apology, but there wasn’t a person there who didn’t want to be doing those alongside her. Not a grumble. Not a single ‘this isn’t fair’, ‘I did mine’, ‘not my job’, ‘not my problem’. I could feel emotion rising up in me. The collective field of support, camaraderie and community deepening. We’re not done until she’s done. We’re not free until she’s free.
That’s Bodhisattva in action in the real moments of life. That’s true humanity. There is no ladder we need to reach the top of before another. There is no race against. The race is for. For you, for me, for all of us. I am not at peace until we’re all at peace. You haven’t arrived until we’ve all arrived. We aren’t liberated until ALL are liberated.
So let’s all act like it.