Occupy Heartbreak

November 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

This essay was originally published on The Under 35 Project under the title Heartbreak and Revolution.  A version of this piece appears in the January 2013 edition of Shambhala Sun Magazine.

Margarita M.It’s a windy October Wednesday afternoon and I am heading down to Liberty Plaza to meditate at the Occupation of Wall St.  My heart is bruised, raw… I feel an ache in the center of my chest, a lump in the back of my throat that I can’t swallow away.  It hurts and it hurts and it hurts.  The one I loved and trusted has kicked me to the curb.  There were words.

“This is not working for me, and please don’t take it personally.”

Ouch.  This silly heart, she breaks so easily.  I should be used to it.  How many times have I nursed this frivolous risk-taker of a heart this year?  Four times?  Five?

Each occasion feels a little different.  A new dimension of heartache unfolds inside me.  I breathe and practice noticing as drops of blood congeal, harden into scabs, then fall away leaving faint scars on the sensitive skin.  I take comfort in impermanence.  Knowing it will not hurt like hell forever.  I do not ask too much of myself right now.  No need to finish that short story just yet.  Editing the book proposal can wait.  I celebrate the small victories: taking a shower, hearing the loving indignation in a friend’s voice, enjoying a walk with my sister.

My pain is real, and the struggle of the Occupy Together movement is also real.  So I’m taking my aching heart, my eyes puffy from tears, my ambition, my yearning for unity and for justice, and I’m taking the 4 train down to the Financial District in Lower Manhattan.  Who knows what will happen.  It’s a daring escapade, another day another risk in opening to what is, to reality, to the dharma of the here and now.  It’s magic and it’s heartache, sharp, tangy, sweet, spicy and real.

Why do I go?  Because I care.  How do I know? Because it hurts.  Tears spring up for the 99%, for the 1%, for myself, for humanity, for farm animals, for lonely companion animals, for endangered wild animals, for fish in the sea, for birds free and captive, for the planet.  Our Earth is torn up, beat up, tender, raw, hurt, angry, and yet remains unconditionally loving in this magnificent present moment.  Life on Earth is arising, poignant, intense, bored, sleepy, stoic, neutral, passionate, cold, aching, soft, poor, wealthy, able, unable and true for all seven billion of us.

There is much noise all around in the park.  This small sea of humanity ebbs and swells with the hours and the weather.  Here at Occupy Wall Street we don’t need electricity and high-tech equipment for communication.  We have cardboard signs.  We have the People’s Mic.

“Mic check.”

“Mic check.”

“Daily meditation…”

“Daily meditation…”

“…starts at 3:30…”

“…starts at 3:30…”

“…by the Tree with the Shrine.”

“…by the Tree with the Shrine.”

“Join us!”

“Join us!”

“Thank you.”

“Thank you.”

A small group gathers.  We sit on zafus, cushions, towels, yoga mats, cardboard, or a donated blanket.  We settle, feeling the assurance of gravity, that ever-present grounding force.  The facilitator begins with a short Shamatha meditation.  She encourages us to anchor our attention to the breath.  The noise is almost deafening, from the cars and trucks, from the tourists snapping pictures and shouting in all the world’s languages, from the protestors, from the random assortment of passer-by.  We sit, and we breathe. As more people join in our small group grows in number.

The bell chimes sing out signaling the end of this meditation period.  After a brief stretch we sit again. The facilitator lead a Loving Kindness Meditation.  We bring to mind a loved one and repeat the phrase “May you be happy.”  Then we wish happiness for ourselves.  We move on to a neutral person, then a difficult person, or group of individuals.  “May you be happy.” We include all of the Financial District in our wish for happiness, then all of the United States, then all the world.  We gather all beings everywhere in our circle of loving kindness.

The sound of the bell is faint amidst the din of drumming, talking, and laughing all around us. After the meditation we can get up and stretch.  There’s time for discussion.  I don’t say anything but my heart feels light, fresh, renewed, strong and steady.  I’m ready once again to face the world with all its suffering and injustice.  There’s pain there, both personal and societal, and I can feel it fully without drowning.  Each moment is vibrant with possibility, precious, unique.  We are all in it together.  There is much to be done, and somehow that actually feels encouraging.


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