Monday, October 17, 2011

Homecoming & the Shortlist of How to Be Part of the Occupation Without Occupying

I always get a little transition ennui when I first return home from anything intense, as much as I do love to go home.  One of my favorite books is by Robert Housden, 7 Sins for a Life Worth Living, and the sin fin is “The Pleasure of Coming Home.”  

"Surely we owe it to ourselves to make a home, whether on our own or with another, that is a reflection of the best of who we are.  This is home as sanctuary: a reflection less of our budget than of our intimacy with ourselves," he says.  ..."At home in your own skin, it is more likely you will feel at home, not only with your intimate others, but also in the world.  This intimacy is the real heart of a physical home.  Whatever it is that is precious to us -- in my case, the cat, the faded rose armchair, and the cherished Persian rug -- combines to evoke a presence uniquely our own."  

I agree in so many ways: I love my soft blue organic sheets on my inherited, scratched dark wood bed, especially if my kitty cat is curled up on my lap; I love knowing the best place to get a mocha within walking distance; I love passing people that I know on the streets who’s names I also know even before I get within eyesight of the signs. 

But still, coming home from DC was a rough landing for me.  Going on an activist interlude somewhere far away is a lot going on a spiritual retreat on the mountain: it’s so easy to be totally focused there and totally committed to the work at hand, without the distractions of paltry things like doing the laundry and paying the electric bill and the sudden realization that the work you do for a living does not give you nearly as much satisfaction as that which you do from your heart, from a sense of the world changing beneath your feet in all of the ways that you have so much longed for without daring to believe it would ever happen. 

The last couple of days I have spent on a pendulum between being at home, avoiding work and folding the laundry, and at Occupation Oakland, which is a vibrant encampment at what was once called Frank Ogawa plaza (now renamed Oscar Grant Plaza, after the young man killed by Bart Police last year).  When I go to the occupation, I feel alive and on purpose, even though I’m still navigating the organizational structure and trying to figure out what is the best way to invest my time (setting up an herbal apothecary for the wellness area?  Working on facilitation?  Doing workshops through the free school?  There are so many -- too many -- wonderful choices!). 

I’ve slowly shifted away from trying to tackle the practical matters of my home life, which essentially entails staring off into space and then feeling angry at myself later for not getting anything done, and now am using my life at home to ground into my spiritual practice and care for my body, which was hard-hit by too much caffeine, gluten, and not enough exercise in DC.  In fact, I had even stopped taking my herbs and vitamins, which is ridiculous, because it only takes about fifteen seconds a day to do.  Like a woman madly and freshly in love, I threw everything to the wind in order to take up being a revolutionary, and now that the Occupation is starting to feel like more of an established relationship I’m coming to realize that in order for it to be sustainable, I need to come down to earth a little.

Coming down to earth, like with any new relationship, brings with it a little sense of let-down and frustration.  Why can’t I forget rent, forget bills, forget student loan debt, and just live out on the plaza with my comrades and my sexy revolutionary lover?  Well, for one thing, he’s plopped right back into his work routine without so much of a hiccup, and isn’t available for full-time occupation. 

Even so, I could do it, but it would mean major setbacks in many of the goals that I’ve been developing for the last year or longer: my herbal studies, my magical teaching and studies, my poor untended wilting garden, planning our handfasting this summer, my collective household that finally has reached a stable and pleasurable era.  And many of these things are radical and world-changing in their own right.  So, no, it seems like its just not in the cards for me to hang it all up on a coatrack and run off to a life of brightly-colored banners and bullhorns.  Which I’m sure many of you understand, perhaps even more deeply than I, because I’ve read your wistful notes and know how deeply many people want to be involved but simply can’t see how its possible without giving up on the other things that we love in our lives.

So, what is a girl (or boy or they-person) to do?  Well, there’s always facebook and twitter, of course.  There’s petitions and calls – which obviously work, as evidenced by the fact that on Friday when the mayor of New York swore he would shut down Occupy Wall Street -- well, he didn’t, and I highly doubt its because he simply had a change of heart. There’s short shifts of volunteering down at your local occupation and donations from their wishlists.  There’s many things we can do without having to give up our daily schedules and the dreams that we’re trying to personally manifest for ourselves.

But that’s not all, is it?  I can’t help feeling that what many of us who aren’t full-time or even part-time occupying are doing is waiting.  There’s this feeling that if or when this thing gets big enough, we really will throw it all to the four winds and say fuck all and get down there into the streets and not look back because we’re fully invested with heart and soul and choosing to align our lives around hope for a better world and faith in it’s manifestation.  Or perhaps, like many of the current occupiers, our daily lives and all that make them up will finally be so degraded that it actually feels safer and stronger to be there in the streets with our compatriots than the alternatives.

So, here’s the bottom line, good-people: I don’t know what to tell you.  If we don’t all get out there into the streets, it’s not going to get big enough that it makes it safe for us all to be out there in the streets.  And the other things that we’re doing with our lives are important.   There you have it.  It’s a conundrum. 

All I can really say for myself is that I’m going back down to Occupation Oakland today.  While my brain continues to whirl around and around in this tizzy, my body releases its low-grade constant anxiety when I’m there and my heart feels full and warm. 

How to be part of the Occupation without Occupying – The Shortlist
  1. Tell Your Story: Much of this beautiful movement is based on personal involvement and personal accounts of the way that the collusion between big-money corporations and the ultra-wealthy and our government has affected us.  Make a sign, head over to your local occupation and hold it up for a couple of hours on the street corner.  Oh, and make sure you talk to the folks around you about their stories, too.  You may be astonished at how many common threads weave throughout our different tales from different walks of life and different parts of the US.
  2. Volunteer Your Skills: There are all kinds of skills that are extremely useful to our movements, from medical support, to cooking, art for banners, facilitation of meetings (that’s a biggie!).  Recently I saw a mending workshop at Occupy Oakland where people learned to repair their clothes and tents! So, even if you can’t occupy, take a little time to volunteer the beautiful skills you have cultivated over the years.  Whatever they are, I bet they are a valuable contribution.
  3. Spread the Word: If you see or hear something that touches you, send it along your social networks.  But perhaps beyond that, talk (in person) to people you know about what’s happening.  Start conversations about what it is we’re doing, where it may be going, and how you see it growing and what the challenges are.  So keep doing your facebook posts, tweeting, and talking. 
  4. Take Your Money Elsewhere:  Novemeber 5th is Move Your Money day, where folks around the world will be closing their accounts at major banking institutions that have refused to pay their taxes and have continued to foreclose on people’s homes after being bailed out by the taxpayers, especially Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase, and Citibank.  For more information, check out this article. For proof that this is truly a revolutionary act, check out this video and this one -- very powerful stuff.
  5. Pressure the Politicians: Letting the politicians and police know that you are watching what’s going on, you care, you vote, and you don’t agree with violent tactics on non-violent protestors is invaluable.  Perhaps especially if you’re not the rabble-rousing type, aka, the choir that activists usually preach to.  The safety of those who are camping and organizing may very well be in your hands.
  6. Donate: money, food, medical supplies, etc.  Your local occupation probably has a wishlist, maybe even online.  Check it out and bring what you can.
  7. March: many Occupations are organizing marches that folks can attend with little or no risk of arrest (depending on the circumstances, such as whether or not they have a permit).  Marches are often very safe, very visible ways of showing your support – especially if you can get your teacher’s group, workplace, or knitting group to march with you. Again, making it obvious that the 99% really includes many folks who aren’t the usual suspects out there in the streets is so helpful.  Veternarians for VA Benefits!  Yogini’s for peace and prosperity!  This Local PTA supports schools – so get those banks to pay their taxes already! 
  8. Send Your Love: either with a smile, with a batch of cupcakes, by lending your massage skills, going down and playing music for an hour, writing a supportive email, prayer, etc… as these occupations continue, I’m witnessing a lot of folks getting burned out – especially folks who can’t sleep at night because of the police coming through and waking them up!  Sending love, in whatever form, is really helpful for keeping our spirits up and dedication strong.


  1. Another great post! I am so proud that you are doing more than your share to intensify this divine energy of transformation. In the process, you are inspiring people you don't know as well as those you do.

    Love, Mom

  2. Mom's right (as usual!). Here's kudos from one of those people you don't know, saying that your posts make it all come alive, integrated deeply into the heart/soul. Many thanks.

  3. Awww, ma... that actually made me cry. Thank you!!


  4. Riyana- your hard working feet are often on the right side of the river and I thank for that work. But here your words are the bridge that can help many of us over the river to join you. Keep writing..its fantastic.