Ethan Nichtern is the founder of The Interdependence Project, a grassroots movement bringing the principles of meditation and interconnectedness to the arts and activism. A student of Sakyong Mipham and a senior teacher in Shambhala Buddhism, he regularly leads meditation groups in New York City and around North America. He is the host of the popular podcast "21st Century Buddhism."

Nichtern uses the term "commute" to refer to the many ways in which people move randomly from one relationship to another, from one job to another, without much reflection or joy in what they are doing. These commuters do not feel at home and hence they are very unhappy campers.

Nichtern offers an alternative story:

"Life is no longer about just trudging onward toward oblivion. In this alternative, empowered narrative, the passage of time starts to represent spontaneous opportunity. Every day is new, every moment is fresh, every relationship sacred. In this story, no one is ever doomed. 'Now' is always the moment of creative potential. In this alternate story, we are awake."

In contrast to the spiritual emptiness of materialism, Nichtern talks about "Awake-ism" whereby a person seeks to live in the present moment, to operate from a heartmind perspective, to adhere to the five traditional contemplations of conduct in everyday life (promoting life, generosity, truthfulness, sexual responsibility, and responsible consumption), to practice meditation and compassionate action, to dissolve the walls that separate secular and sacred, to overcome any attraction to the three poisons, and to do whatever it takes to contribute to a more enlightened society.