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#OccupySamsara: What People See at OWS

Occupy Wall Street can look like many different things to different people.  It can look inspiring – wow, here are at all these people trying to do something positive for the world!  Or it can look frightening – ew, what a bunch of no-good dreamers vandalizing a nice park in New York’s Financial District.

To a passerby on any given day, at any given time, the scene may look like a flea market, a demonstration, a rave, a shouting match, a prayer circle, democracy or chaos.

Sure, the current tent city incarnation of Liberty Plaza (formerly known as Zuccotti Park) may look unkempt, and maybe it's time to make a cardboard sign: “Pardon our appearance / We are trying to change the world”. 

Revolution is a messy business.  Cleaning up corruption and broken systems is a painstaking process which we are only just beginning.  Perhaps it’s more accurate to call what’s happening an evolution rather than a revolution.  It’s a consciousness evolution and this is just the beginning. 

Going down to Wall Street and seeing for yourself what the occupation looks like may bring up feelings of awe, fear, respect, admiration or anger.  It certainly looks different from the sanitized version of reality that we see in advertisements where the characters are airbrushed to smile blemish free and every problem can be solved with a purchase.  From the capitalist point of view – what good are people if they are not active consumers?  In other words, in the buy-sell culture we measure a person’s worth by how much he or she spends.  And whatever else the occupiers are doing in the park with the chants and slogans it is decidedly not shopping.

What’s happening here in New York, around the country, and on plazas all over the world is people are waking up. 

The other day when I was meditating by the Tree of Life a passerby was yelling “You are all lazy.  Go home!”  But if we were lazy we’d be watching TV or playing video games in our parents’ basement.  That is precisely the point: we are tired of being lazy.  We are tired of being tranquilized by legal narcotics of movies, television and alcohol.  We refuse to be pharmaceutically lobotomized into submission.  We are no longer willing to bust our asses working some dead-end job just so we can afford the material objects we supposedly crave which were manufactured in China likely under human rights abuses. 

We are the 99% and our purchasing power is enormous.  Bringing consciousness to how we spend our money is challenging.  The idea of consciousness in finance is also incredibly frightening to the 1% who depend on our dollars for their exorbitant salaries and bonuses. 

What if – instead of spending hundreds on meaningless toys and presents for the holidays American families made an effort to educate themselves and each other about sustainability, alternative energy, and local food growers?  What if we went out, met our neighbors and asked them how things are going?  And what if we really listened to each other?

The shift is happening, and it is a shift in consciousness.  What feels like a crisis is actually a signal that a new world is on its way.  There will be pain, there will be misunderstanding, and yes – there will be suffering.  But if we can learn to listen to each other, support each other and ask for the help we need then a new world order truly is possible.

The solutions will not come from those at the top.  If they had solutions we would have heard of them already.  No, the real answers will come from the ground, from the trenches of this global movement.

Imagine a world where young parents don’t have to worry about how they will feed their baby daughter.  Imagine that instead of going begging on the street those who are in need can come to a Help Center and they will be listened to, food will be provided, as well as medical care, and housing.  A human being needs deceptively little for survival: good food, clean water, adequate shelter.  Imagine there was a way for us to provide those basic necessities to 100%, yes to all the 7 billion souls on planet Earth.  The truth is that there is enough food for all of us, enough water, enough shelter from the elements. 

Make the leap and imagine. Basic human needs are met.  Then we move on to the other necessities like health care, which includes wellness care such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, as well as the traditional western modalities of medicine, dentistry, psychology, etc.  And what would happen if we guarantee every child access to quality education from preschool to graduate school?

A better world is possible, a model based on cooperation rather than competition.  No – it will not be easy, not since we’ve all suckled at the teat of rampant consumerism for so long.  No – it will not be easy because we have been brainwashed into believing that we have no choice in any of it.  No, my friends, my brothers and sisters, it will not be easy… and that is why we need each and every one of us employed, unemployed, or under-employed to ask yourself: what is MY dream for a better world, for a joyful human family? What is one thing that I can do to realize that dream?

Once you answer those questions you’ll be surprised by all the help that will come your way in realizing the vision.  Each one of us has something vital to contribute to the conversation, to the debate, to the OWS movement, and to the future of all humanity.  It starts now.

 

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#OccupySamsara is a column dedicated to the heartfelt yearning for all sentient beings to be safe, happy, healthy, and free from suffering.  Samsara is a Sanskrit word used by Buddhists to describe the cyclical nature of our own and societal suffering and dissatisfaction.

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Photo credit: Olga Timofeyev

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