first night

10 Oct

our neighbors at Occupy San Diego

Last night, Sunday, was the first night my dharma brother M. and I camped out at Occupy San Diego at Civic Center Plaza.

M. did most of the work setting up the tent (I’m never been good with that kind of thing). And two friends, P. and A. joined us, helping us move stuff from the car (found out I’d parked overnight on a street sweeping day, and woke up to a parking ticket!).

Most of my mental energy was just focused on getting set up as opposed to really taking in where we were. My commitment right now has been just to sleep there, to offer drop-in hour long group meditation daily, and to offer interactive workshops on a number of topics to support greater reflection throughout. I’ve proposed the creation of  sub-group of the Education Committee called “Occupy Consciousness.”

The moment I showed up at Civic Center Plaza I was struck by the overall festive energy, the music, the dancing, the circles (!) of people presenting, sharing, etc. I’m still in disbelief that we have all these tents in front of City Hall. I’m a native San Diegan, but having been an eyewitness to the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and having lived in Russia ten years (and seeing all the different “nonviolent” legal maneuvers authorities there have used to stamp out dissent), I have trouble believing that the powers that be are allowing this to go on! This reinhabitation could be stopped so easily.

And seeing all these tents right in front of City Hall had me wondering if this was the beginning of the New Normal. That Formal Power will tolerate and allow this kind of peaceful public expression of dissent as a safety valve, a way of letting people let off steam. There’s something also vaguely post-apocalyptic about the whole picture.

It is a very mixed group, if weighted mostly towards people in their twenties. The woman camped next to us teaches at a community college and is deep in debt even though- as the poster attached to her tent says- she did everything right: got college degree(s) (three!), paid her student debt, always worked, never let herself get  into debt, but the mortgage crisis got her…

I saw at least one family with two small children there.

I find myself getting a little sad at another side of Occupy San Diego– there are some people who are drunk, some who are high. A few of our neighbors reported items being stolen…This has me thinking that all these “occupations” (I prefer the (admittedly awkward) term, “reinhabitations.”) are experiments in creating community. And ultimately, it’s up to each of us how we exercise leadership here.

I hardly got any sleep last night, what with the music, walking, coming and going, loud noises. Heck, when I got up this morning at 4:45am (I’m the timekeeper at my Zen Center on Monday mornings that’s why I was up so early) there were people up talking in circles. It looked like they were up the whole night!!

My hope is that we will address and come to understandings about how late we can be up and around talking and stuff; that we can come to understandings about the place of pot smoking and drinking on site. My worry is that these kinds of activities can discredit whatever we are trying to achieve here. Also, I am unsure if I am resilient enough to be in a space like this. We all need our sleep, don’t we???

I’m almost shocked at myself being here. Here I am 41, largely without work the past 5 years and dealing with depression (and just to be clear- I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault that I’m without work. That’s something for me to figure out!). Perhaps, I’m told old for all this. But the moment I heard about Occupy Wall Street, I had a sense that this must be supported. And I’ll do what I can here. I can see easily there are many, many ways I can contribute. So, while there’s a part of me that wants to check everything out– indeed there are many interesting people here. I’m going to try and take it slowly.

Our presence here has me wondering how homeless people are relating to this. It’d be good to talk to several and get their perspective. One of my (selfish) motivations in taking part in this reinhabitation is that one of my greatest fears is ending up homeless. This seems to be a great way to face that fear. The way we’re all facing it, however, is still several steps removed from the actual experience of homelessness. I’m just spending the night there overall. Using the public restroom used primarily by homeless people, standing in line to use it really was an excellent practice opportunity to look more deeply into my sense of entitlement and privilege…

And I was glad M. and I also did one thing last night we both intended– holding a public meditation circle. A few people joined us.

Also, I’d like to add how much I’ve appreciated the spirit of helping each other out. It’s still of course a community that’s forming, but a great spirit of generosity here!

I should get some pictures up soon!


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