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#OccupySamsara: 99+1 Meditation at Liberty Plaza

Yesterday was my turn to lead the daily meditation so I got to Liberty Plaza around 3:15pm.  There were two lines of police barricades all around the park but I was already used to it.  I walked around till I found the sanctioned enterance guarded by seven private security guards in yellow jackets and walked in. 

During my subway ride down I'd made a sign and having it really helped.  It read very simply: "#OWS Meditation @ 3:30 at The Tree of Life. <3  99 + 1  <3 " I walked around the park and invited folks personally to come meditate. 

"We'll be doing loving kindness meditation for the 99 percent and the 1 percent.  Because we are all in it together.  Please join us by the Tree of Life."

Several were interested.  When I got to the tree I saw that Michael the Shrine Guardian had already set up a sweet little shrine all the way around the base of the tree.  This tree had survived 9/11 and last week it lived through the eviction by the NYPD that trampled over the First Amendment rights of the Wall St Occupiers.  It used to be a beautiful robust shrine which included religious relics and sacred objects donated by believers of all stripes.  The old shrine was gone.  Michael had salvaged several items and now carried the portable shrine in his duffel bag to set up and take down daily.

We announced that meditation will be starting in a few minutes and I stood with my cardboard sign up for  few minutes inviting the passer-bys to join us.  As usual there was one jerk who made some smarmy comments from the other side of the barricade, "You are so beautiful.  Are you single?  Can I meditate with you?"  My response was civil but curt.  "Thank you.  That's not what I'm here for.  If you would like to try meditation you are welcome to come in and I will provide instructions."  He did not come inside the park.

By the appointed time there were about fifteen of us gathered around the Tree of Life.  I started the group with stretches to loosen up the body.  Then we sat and I gave basic instruction in grounding attention in the body and mindfulness of the breath.  After fifteen minutes we took a stretch break.  Then I facilitated the loving kindness meditation, we generated the feeling of warmth in the hart, then brought up the image of oneself and repeated the phrases, "May you be safe.  May you be happy.  May you love and accept yourself just as you are."  One by one we brought to mind the benefactor/teacher, a neutral person, a difficult person, then expanding the circle of compassion to include everyone in Zuccotti Park, the OWS protesters all over the world, the 99 percent and the 1 percent who deserve our care and compassion.  We wished safety, happiness, love and acceptance to all beings everywhere.  At the end of the practice we took a few minutes to rest in the warmth of the heart center.

I asked those who'd participated to share their experiences with me. One young lady volunteered immediately, "That was wonderful.  I feel so zen, so peaceful now.  This is my first time here and I never expected to do meditation.  I feel so good now."  I thanked her for her presence and we hugged.  She said she would be back again for meditation.

Next I spoke with a young man whom I recognized as a long-time occupier.  "Thank you," he said. "This was very meaningful to me.  I am working on staying on the path of peace.  Even as I'm getting hassled by the cops and arrested."

"That's true wisdom," I offered encouragment for his efforts.  We spoke about the 1 percent, and specifically about Mayor Bloomberg deserving our compassion.  He's not happy.  His world is crumbling.  We, the people, are rising up.  And he's on the wrong side of history.  We talked about how inspiring it is to have people come out and talk to each other instead of indulging in habitual patterns of mass entertainment which only serves to keep us subservient. 

There is a lot of work to be done but here in New York, in public plazas all over the US, in living rooms and kitchens all over the world, we are finally talking about issues of economic inequity, classism, corruption, and environmental irresponsibility.  Questions are being asked.  Solutions are sure to follow.

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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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Top photo credit: Olga Timofeyev

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