How would you define Occupy?
Occupy London was a spontaneously arisen space of conscience, humanity, solidarity, communication, and a place to be free. It gave me energy, inspiration, creative opportunity to offer my best conscious efforts, together with others, to express essential human values. We faced challenges within and without. Occupy was joy, struggle, hard work, and a real-time educational intensive in many things. To be part of Occupy was to be constantly around people whose core aims and ethos were peace, truth, justice and the wellbeing of all life, however diverse our views and styles of working towards those aims.
What were you doing before Occupy?
I was painting, being a Buddhist and meditation teacher, and recovering from some intense personal suffering. I had a resilient spirit with quite deeply held values, and I was ready for something to inspire my active passion for life again.
Why did you participate in Occupy?
I was inspired to get down to St Paul’s as soon as I heard about the occupation. I thought I would try to contribute something – I just turned up with a bag of paints and brushes. I painted a banner as soon as I got there – my painting skills were useful. I offered what I had… who I am… that was the joy of it for many of us I think. Our skills and energy could come together in new and meaningful ways.
What impact did Occupy have on your personal life?
Galvanising. It was very absorbing at the time. Occupy gave me a sense of connection, being engaged with others daily and sometimes very intensely, in a creative, fluid, open and meaningful way. It gave me energy, inspiration, opportunity, faith in humanity, and joy. To be part of Occupy London was to be among others whose core aim is peace and the wellbeing of all life, and this was being actively and directly expressed and explored on a daily basis. I met so many people. My nearby flat was offered several times as a place where tent dwellers could come for a shower. I started making banners in my living room and working with larger groups sewing banners in the camps. I went to the occupation almost every day whilst working part time teaching meditation in the City. I got up at 2am to cycle to Finsbury Square and help keep things peaceful on the night of the final eviction. My heart was with Occupy from beginning to end. It was a context in which I grew stronger in the best of who I am.
Did Occupy change the ways you think, feel and interact with the world? If yes, how so? What do you feel that you learned (or unlearned) that was unique to Occupy?
Yes. Most of all, Occupy gave me a sense of freedom, possibility and potency. It brought out the best in me. There was immense opportunity to respond to events, in the present and in person, together, as they arose. We took up a prominent place in the City of London and remained present and visible for a length of time that I couldn’t have imagined would be possible at the beginning. It was powerful. I learned how much can happen right here and now, when goodwill and truth come together, amongst people of all kinds of backgrounds, communicating and working together in the moment. I also learned how challenging and frustrating this can be! Remembrance Day, 11th November 2011, is a strong memory for me: I worked with Ronan and others to coordinate and quietly lead a candlelit Peace vigil in front of St Paul’s Cathedral, with powerful speakers for peace including Kate Hudson, founder of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Ben Griffin and Matthew Horne of Veterans for Peace, and Chris Nineham from the Stop the War Coalition. We read the names of many, (not all), of the soldiers and civilians who had been killed in war in Afghanistan: grandparents, children, mothers, fathers. This heartfelt event happened quite early on in the occupation and was organised literally within a few days: people were responding so immediately to the cause. We did our utmost to ensure the camp was respectful of the veterans who came to St Paul’s for the Remembrance ceremony in the Cathedral: including sewing a huge banner with poppies which faced the cathedral, and making lots of red and white poppies which were placed on tents on the day. We observed the two minutes silence in a graceful circle that morning. We were for sure being the change we would like to see in the world. Matthew Horne and myself attended the cathedral service. I can bear witness there at least as many tears and prayers for Peace in the Occupy circle as there were in the Cathedral.
What impact do you think Occupy has had on the economic and political situation?
Given the current political and economic situation, what is your view on what people can do to bring long lasting systemic change?
I think it comes down to a kind of relentlessly practical spiritual activism to effect real change. We all have to start where we are and have faith that we ARE the change. Recognise the reality of our interconnectedness. Walk the talk ourselves. Be generous, patient, practice ethics. Encourage and support others to reflect on the common good and do the best they can for the benefit of themselves and others. Give our energy to what is for the benefit of all, don’t waste energy pursuing things that don’t bring lasting happiness. Meditate and work on our inner views too, deepening our understanding and heart intentions as well as working in our outer lives. Keep on getting wiser. Love our neighbours, and our enemies. Live our lives in harmony the best we can, learning and working together for the benefit of all. Kindness is never the wrong thing: it brings happiness in forming the intention, doing the action, and seeing the results. This may sound fluffy but it’s absolutely not. This is hard graft: seeing clearly and acting right is a lifetime’s work. Nothing can stop us when we make this resolve. We don’t need to know how long it will take or how fully it will transform the world: we just do it, directly in our own lives, in our work, in whatever fields we have influence. Patience, courage, keep the faith. Doing the right thing is its own reward.
Before Occupy, were you involved in activities related to the reasons why you participated in Occupy? (Activist groups, campaign groups, media platforms, volunteering, research, etc)
Buddhist practice and a bit of volunteering: Friends of the Earth
Are you still involved in activities related to the reasons why you participated in Occupy? (Activist groups, campaign groups, media platforms, volunteering, research, etc)
Buddhist practice, CND, 38 Degrees
Are you still actively working or engaged with people that you met through Occupy
What kind of activities are you doing together?
Friendship, and parenting. 🙂 Occasional marches, meetings etc.