Sunday, October 9, 2011

Zen Practice in Action

The word brought up visions of invasion, people marching in to take over. I also saw a consciousness of us holding down specific territories (turfing) that seems to persist as the way to conquer. Then I wondered about the consumption of our attention and time being occupied leaving little energy for us to find ways to feed and house each other. How are we going to survive the mess we are all in?

The paragraph above is from a post by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel's blog, an excellent blog worth taking a closer look at by the way. I feel she brings up some great points about the choice of the word "occupy," which also has triggered many indigenous activists and their allies as well, given the legacy of the past half millennium.

Having spent significant time now this weekend either at our "Occupy" protest in Minneapolis, or discussing it with people in other places I've been at, I believe there is both the possibility to transcend that word, and also to be hindered by it. While it's "just a word," it's also a powerful reminder, really, of how the entire continent of North America was "settled." How our commerce, governments, and other social structures were shaped.

Yesterday afternoon, I started seeing bright yellow signs with the words "Occupy MN (Minnesota)" on them. They were peppered amongst those on the marches through downtown, and were handed out to people in the plaza. I had this moment of deep aversion upon first seeing them. Followed by a sense that the word itself might perhaps become a point of public "practice" - to use Zen talk - that in coming together under what might be considered old paradigm languaging, perhaps - if this lasts long enough, that language could serve as a pivot point to a new approach and way of going forth. Already, people are writing articles and making videos speaking about the interconnected web of diverse interests present in these gatherings, and how the lack of centralized power, and a single controlled narrative is a strength. Something I agree with, and also recognize as being befuddling to anyone who is still wedded to the current mainstream.

Furthermore, I can feel my Zen and yoga practices getting tested. In every conversation, and non-conversation. In how I write. In what I choose to do, and not do. Today, I woke up with a head cold and decided to mostly rest. And yet I felt the tug to be "down there" - at the protests - and recognized some old patterns behind that tug, such as the need to "prove myself," and to "sacrifice my health and well-being" for "the good cause."

And it wasn't like I did nothing in relation to the movement unfolding before us all. I spoke to several folks at my Zen center about what's going on, partly prompted by the fact that someone saw me being briefly interviewed on local TV about the protests. I'm writing this post now, and filled my Facebook page with articles and photos. And I even debated a friend online who is a staunch Democrat and thinks the whole Occupy Wall Street "thing" is basically a "naive," "muddled" outcry.

Even looking at that list, none of it was required. I didn't "need" to do any of it. It mostly just happened organically, starting with the morning conversations and flowing into the rest of the day.

Odds are that this burst of action/activist energy I'm experiencing will ebb and flow just like the movement, and all movements do. Learning to remain open to and riding this is something I don't recall experiencing when I did social action work in the past. (This blog, for example, will not become "an Occupy movement" blog - which is probably a huge relief to many regular readers :) And yet, I can feel how all the writing and thinking I've done on this blog over the past few years in relation to spiritual practice and social action are informing how I am right now, in this moment.

In other words, it's palpable all the practice that's been done. It helps me see the underlying potential of a grassroots social movement without attaching too much (I won't lie- I'm not completely unattached) to any outcome.

May you all be well.

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