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Mudra meditation at barclays

At the Barclays action on the 27th August 2021 Shantigarbha led XR Buddhists in a mudra meditation which was developed with Nick and Joe. The spoken words are reproduced below. In the action the words were accompanied by the actions of the blackbirds, seen behind the meditators in the photo above. You can read Joe’s account of this action here.

Mudra Meditation

As I ring the bell we bow to the Earth.

We sit in meditation together in alignment with our practice tradition, in support of all people and all species on the Earth who are facing hardship or threat of extinction in the face of the climate and ecological emergency.

We raise our right hand in the fearless Abhaya mudra. By doing this we express our fierce determination to protect and defend all beings from the harm that is threatened them by the actions of Barclays bank and much of the banking sector, which is funding fossil fuel extraction and projects across the world.

We express our determination to protect and defend all people and species afflicted by oil, coal and gas projects. To bear witness and to stand against corporations who support and fund projects that lead to the contamination of our precious water and air. And we pledge to protect and defend those whose land has been colonised for fossil fuel exploitation. And to stand with those who do not have the resources to protect themselves.

We stand firm in the face of this threat by opening our hearts to our love of the world, the preciousness and beauty of all life.

Lowering our arm we feel our groundedness with the Earth, and our connection with our breath which is also the breath of the Earth.

Touching the Earth with our right hand we call upon the Earth as our witness, we call upon the Earth as our witness that we, representing all people, are part of the intimately interdependent web of life on this planet.

We touch the Earth to acknowledge our mutuality with all life. To acknowledge that which harms others harms us all.

The Buddha-to-be called on the Earth to be his witness on the eve of his Enlightenment.

Now we call on the Earth to witness our right to being here in the fullness of ourselves as part of all life, and the right of all people and species to a life free of contamination and colonisation.

Withdrawing our hand we feel our groundedness with the Earth, and our connection with our breath which is the breath of the Earth.

Opening our eyes in a soft gaze, we awaken to clear seeing. We see the truth of the pain and harm being inflicted across our world by Barclays Bank and the banking sector, which supports projects that make profit for the few and suffering for the many. We awaken to the reality of death, and so we see the preciousness of life. We awaken to the suffering of those who have been seduced by the promise of money and power. And we acknowledge the power of this seduction in our own hearts and the dominance of this in our culture. We acknowledge how we have personally benefitted by the use of fossil fuels and we hold this reality. We do not turn away.

Closing our eyes again we remember our groundedness with the Earth, and our connection with our breath which is the breath of the Earth.

We hold our hands together in front of our heartsin the ancient mudra of devotion and salutation. In our imagination we hold the Chintamani, the wish-fulfilling jewel, to our heart. This jewel represents Enlightenment, the potential for collective Awakening. We send our blessings our care and love to all beings who are suffering as a consequence of our industrialised society’s relentless hunger for oil, which is supported by Barclays and our financial sector. We send kindness and care to human and non-human species being devastated by fossil fuel exploitation in the Boreal forests of Canada, in the vast coal mine in Columbia, and in the areas of the USA blighted by fracking.

Releasing our hands we remember our groundedness with the Earth, and our connection with our breath which is the breath of the Earth

As I ring the bell we bow once again to the Earth.

May all beings on this beautiful precious blue green planet, our home, be free of suffering. May all beings flourish once again, free of the taint of pollution and harm. And so with love and pain in our hearts we meditate together…

You can order Shantigarbha’s new book on climate change “The Burning House: A Buddhist Response to the Climate and Ecological Emergencyhere.

Rebellion Report – Andy

Andy meditating on day one of the #impossiblerebellion in Trafalgar Square

It was my second day at the rebellion. Up to now I had been engaged but not emotionally. The action at BP HQ changed that, because of the thoughts it stimulated during the meditation.

I have developed the habit of meditating on the four immeasurable thoughts during actions, somewhat as follows:

  • May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes. May I myself bring them to happiness and its causes. Please Gurus and Deities, bless me to be able to do this.
  • May all sentient beings be free from suffering and its causes…etc
  • May all sentient beings abide forever in bliss and its causes…etc
  • May all sentient beings abide in equanimity, and its causes…etc

As I started to get into this meditation, I began to think about who the sentient beings involved in BP include. I began with the CEO, maybe sitting in a big office at the top of the building; then all the others in the company involved in making decisions; then the shareholders, investing in order to get a return; then the motor industry, continuing to produce vehicles that consume the petroleum; the construction companies who make the roads; the politicians who facilitate this whole process through decisions about taxation and planning policy etc; and finally, we the public, who wish to travel from A to B.

As I took the thoughts deeper, I reflected on all the karma (action) of creating the causes of mass extinction through the creation of carbon emissions through using petroleum. I reasoned that if people are ignorant of the consequences, as many of us were in the past, then the karmic consequences aren’t so great. However, now we all know. Everyone from the CEO down knows. So, like it or not, all involved in the process are creating the karmic causes of killing on a wide scale.

The Buddha taught that the karmic results of killing are several – rebirth in a lower realm; when born a human, having the tendency to kill again or experiencing being killed; and living in a place with much violence and lack of resources.

What about knowingly generating the causes of mass extinction?

Not far into this train of thought, I started to break down in tears. It happened a few times during our half hour of meditation. At one point I opened my eyes and saw the most beautiful huge trees opposite, in St James Square. This triggered a further burst of tears for all the forests and their inhabitants destroyed by warming.

As I said in the debrief after, I find this unbearable, when it pierces my inner defences. Meditation has the capacity to do this.

I am now going into retreat for five weeks. I will revisit these thoughts and feelings during the retreat, I am sure. For me, this is the benefit of being a Buddhist, that one has a method for facing and working with the grief of the unbearability of what is happening.

The situation calls for the most powerful compassion. Compassion is the basis for action. Whatever action we take, based on such extraordinary compassion, will have a powerful impact, because the mind is powerful.

Andy has been studying, practising and teaching Buddhism within the Gelug Tibetan tradition for 40 years. He joined XR in 2019, and is active in his local XR group in South Somerset.

Barclays, Buddhists and Blackbirds

The Barclays HQ action August 27th Canary Wharf London: by Joe Mishan

As I exit the station at Canary wharf with my friend Elizabeth to join the others in the  park, I notice with alarm a rather generous scattering of police; I immediately know that we have been rumbled. I am carrying a banner which is a bit of a give away I have to admit. A minute after sitting down in the park with the early arrivals for the action, the various exits to the park appear to be secreting police and security, some of whom amble casually toward us. I explain we are an XR Buddhist group and that we are constitutionally quiet, and have no intention to break anything; that we will be meditating in front of a bank in an undisclosed location. The police listen doubtfully, issue warnings about damage to property and general misbehavior before sauntering away to form an amphitheater of yellow jackets as we slowly grow in numbers. 

I am gladdened to see so many of us: about 36 Buddhists some of whom I have not seen for some time. And a group of the newly formed Blackbirds who are joining us with their bird-voices and movement as a backdrop to our meditation. 

I ask the group to pair up and to reflect on the impact of the climate crisis; what breaks our hearts? What inspires us? As I’m standing in the centre of the group amid the murmur of voices, a heavily uniformed policeman approaches me and says that since I don’t have a partner he is willing to hear my reflections! This is a novel situation (which is in no XR training manual as far as I know) and I’m aware of an instant conflict between curiosity, and eagerness to take up the opportunity to see what happens – and suspicion and hostility. I decide on the former course of action, and tell him about my deep concern for my children, how my early life primed me for sensitivity to harm to the natural world, and my guilt at my contribution to the crisis. He seems attentive in a somewhat distant way. He declines to reciprocate though, saying that he is not allowed to share his opinion whilst in uniform. He does tell me however that he’s been in uniform  – the army and the police – since the age of 17. I suppose I will never know what his intentions in approaching me were: and I wondered also whether he really knew what they were himself.

We form a column to exit the park. Our placards read: ‘Barclays: the Ecocide Bank’ under a picture of the Earth on fire. It’s pithy and in yer face: and also true. Barclays is the highest investor in fossil fuels in Europe. Since the Paris agreement they have poured $145bn into fossil fuel projects around the world, and despite net zero promises there is no sign of them slowing down. We set off in a slow meditation walk to the deep resonance of a single drum-beat. The sound echoes eerily off the glass and concrete of the streets. 

Canary wharf is in my experience a uniquely dehumanised, de-natured place. There is something almost sinister here: a place of rigid angularity, every centimeter privatised, claimed and conquered by the corporate dollar. Gleaming surfaces occupying the vertical and horizontal planes. It was into this arid place that our march took us: the slow heartbeat of the drum echoing the heart-ache of all we have lost in the name of profit.

On reaching the towering bulk of Barclays we were greeted (or intimidated), by the sight of more than 40 police lining the edges of the roads, backed up by metal barriers. Such is the mobilizing power of meditation. We were granted a place to sit at a safe distance from the front doors of the building and we settled onto our places. I was handing out leaflets to the few passersby and was privileged to witness the soft insistent power of lines of meditators sitting in stillness. It was in intensely moving experience shared, so I heard later, by the head of security at the bank. 

Shantigarba began the guided meditation as the Blackbirds gathered behind us, performing bird-language curiosity at the unusual stillness of these humans, and then joining in in appreciation with vocal calls and postures which echoed and amplified. The meditation moved through four mudras; the fierce abhaya mudra, the Earth-touching mudra, calling on the Earth to witness our belonging to web of life, then an invitation to open the eyes to see clearly into the pain being inflicting on the Earth. And finally in anjali, the meditators bowed to the Earth and sent kindness and well-wishing to all beings blighted by the impacts of the fossil fuel industry.

As I watched the silent synchronicity of movement flow across the lines of meditators, the grief I had been feeling all week broke through again. It was intensified I think by the unyielding immobility of the police ranks, the locked and closed doors and the empty glass windows of the building behind them. My grief was the grief for the lost heart of humanity; lost beyond reach in a labyrinth of greed and delusion. 

After the sitting meditation we walked again in slow procession back to the park to gather again and read the Buddhist Declaration of Interdependence. It was good to be back under the few trees in the park again, their generous shelter and reliable presence. 

At this action, like so many others, I was reminded of the exceptional grace and power of our faith and its expression through meditation. I felt honoured to be part of this Sangha of Buddhist activists which has such heart and courage in it. 

Thank you to all who took part, and a deep bow to the Backbirds who have flown into our hearts like a blessing. 

Namaste to all

Joe Mishan was one of the original co co-ordinators of XR Buddhists and is pictured below.

Being Married to a Career Criminal

or Watching the Impossible Rebellion from Afar

By Kaspa Thompson

Two rebels are kneeling in the road, two are sitting on chairs,. They are making the prayer gesture (anjali). They are surrounded by many other rebels.
Occupying the Road near Covent Garden

Satya was released from a police cell yesterday afternoon, after her fifth arrest for climate protesting. This week she’s marching, singing and sitting in the road with thousands of others in London for Extinction Rebellion’s Impossible Rebellion.

I’m here in Malvern, walking the dogs, seeing my clients, running practice sessions at the temple and sharing videos and pictures of the Impossible Rebellion online.

On Monday I spent an hour and a half working out the subtitling software to add words to a two minute video that Joe sent me first thing that morning.  I was keeping one eye on social media for news of the Rebellion. Satya hadn’t taken her phone into the city and was expecting to get arrested first thing.

I’ve been to a London Rebellion before, as well as to actions in other places (like the G7 demonstrations in Cornwall). I’ve been arrested once, and I know that there are Rebels looking out for you when that happens. I know that someone from XR will meet you when you’re released from the police station at any time of day or night. I trust the other people there, and I trust Satya and still there was an anxiety in not knowing what was happening.

When Satya went to her first Rebellion in London in October 2019 I was again at home. That week I was glued to live-streams on social media, frantically trying to work out what going on. I was a novice rebel then, with no in the street experience and no way of imagining what it was like to be there.

That year I was massively affected by all the negative comments on social media. It was distressing to read them all, I became fraught and I carried on reading them.

This year they’ve hardly affected me at all. What’s changed? Two things: one, I have had on the ground experience at Rebellions and while I’ve been out in the streets the majority of ordinary people were supportive (we received a very warm welcome into St. Ives earlier in the year, for example); and two that the climate crisis has become so obvious and the effects of extreme weather so profound that it is simply impossible for me to do nothing and maintain any sense of integrity.

Both of those reasons made it a little easier to not know what was unfolding for Satya as well. At lunchtime on Monday I got a text from a stranger’s phone. They said Satya was fine and hadn’t been arrested. Later that afternoon there was another text from a different phone, Satya was sitting in the road and expecting to be arrested soon. Then there was no more news until yesterday morning. As soon as I woke up I saw the message on my phone: Satya was arrested at 9pm and checked into the station at 2am, she would probably be out in the afternoon.

When I got a message from Satya herself yesterday afternoon there was a big sense of relief. I released a breath that I hadn’t realised I was holding in until that moment.  That relief was followed by a surge of pride and of not optimism exactly, but a feeling of being pleased to be part of a movement that is trying to create change.

My heart feels full when I think of all the rebels in London, and especially when I think of the XR Buddhists, taking their practice out into the world. I’m looking forward to seeing them in person on Sunday, and I’m looking forward to continuing to act.

There’s a slogan I see flying on flags at XR demonstrations, “Deeds not words.” It comes from Emmeline Pankhurst and is often used by XR’s FINT* community. It’s often aimed at world leaders, but I have taken it to heart myself. Sometimes taking action eases my despair, sometimes taking action gives me hope that things can change for the better and it always leads to a sense of greater integrity and greater embodiment of my Buddhist practice. In the face of such suffering, how can we do nothing?

*Female, Intersex, Non-binary and Trans

Kaspa Thompson is a Buddhist Teacher, psychotherapist and currently co-coordinator of XR Buddhists.

Rebel Stories: Grappling with hope & making connections

By Mikey

Banners reading Our Amazon hang from the plane trees in parliament square. There are protestors in the trees but they are mostly hidden.
Demonstrators in the trees at Parliament Square

I’ve been to two Rebellions. The first time I went as a steward, and didn’t know anyone. Stewarding was my way of dipping my toe into the world of activism. I was present, but most of my job involved telling tourists which way Buckingham Palace was, rather than bringing down the systems of power and finance which perpetuate the climate and ecological emergency.

The second time I came as part of XR Buddhists. I crossed the threshold of arrest. I helped to organise a mass meditation in Trafalgar Square. Working with others, I helped publicise what we were doing on social media. But the moments that stuck with me from that Rebellion weren’t the big semi-planned ones, they were the spontaneous ones.

One morning towards the end of the Rebellion we were meeting for a check-in in Parliament Square. I was still processing my arrest and night in the cells. This Rebellion had happened with London fairly empty (due to COVID 19) and I worried we hadn’t reached as many people as we might have. Sometimes in the middle of actions, I can feel fretful about whether anything is changing. All of that was swirling in me as I met with a few other XR Buddhists that morning.

Parliament Square was almost empty, there were a few people around for the Faith Vigil. And up two trees there were a couple of brave protestors who had been there for days. Police officers stood around at the base of the trees. It was an attempt to isolate the protestors in the trees, to make it harder for people to communicate with them and to send things up to them. And so we chose to sit among the trees, among the indifferent police. It felt a bit awkward going and sitting among the police. Even though I know there is no reason I can’t meditate under the tree, I was still very conscious of the police presence. We sat there, and connected with the trees, with the ground, with the activists above us who had spent the night on their own, in front of the Houses of Parliament. 

After sitting for a while, Joe suggested we could call up to the occupied hammocks and offer some words from Joanna Macy. One of the protestors looked out over her hammock and said she would like that. So we mic checked this quote up to her:

“This is a dark time, filled with suffering and uncertainty. Like living cells in a larger body, it is natural that we feel the trauma of our world. So don’t be afraid of the anguish you feel, or the anger or fear, because these responses arise from the depth of your caring and the truth of your interconnectedness with all beings.”Joanna Macy

It was a beautiful moment. She told us we had made her cry. It was a moment of connection with someone we could barely see, but a way of recognising the pain and hope that we felt. I wished I could have given her a hug, or some hot food and a good coffee. But we did what we could.

To come to a Rebellion is to grapple with the hopes, the grief, the anger, and the attachments we have to change. It isn’t always easy. But it offers an opportunity to connect with others in big and small ways. That can be powerful.

Mikey is a member of XR Buddhists UK

Rebel stories: A movement of prayer

A person dressed in black sits in meditation wearing a placard which reads: Barclays the ecocide bank.

Next to her is a sign asking: Does your bank fund the climate crisis and listing the amount invested in carbon by banks in 2020

Barclays 27 Billion
HSBC 23 Billion
Santander 9 Billion
Natwest 2 Billion
Lloyds 2 Billion
Abbie meditating outside Barclays

My name is Abbie, I’m 45 and I live in Brighton.

Humanity has reached a crisis point, and the actions we take this year and in the coming years are critical.

The words of one of my late, beloved Dharma teacher’s Rob Burbea, sum up why I became involved with XR Buddhists, and the purpose of the actions we carry out together:

a movement of prayer….to stand in alignment with a deep truth no matter what the outcome…. A desire to be present at a time in history that feels extremely pivotal, and to be there, to bear witness to humanity at a crossroads. Opening to the pain of what is going on in the world in all its confusion and complexity, in a celebration of human togetherness

Abbie is a member of XR Buddhists and XR Brighton Meditators

Rebel Stories: Pavement meditation

A line of people sitting in meditation posture, in black clothes, wearing 'in love and grief for the earth' placards.

Their hands are in anjali (the prayer gesture)
Shantigarbha leads a mudra (gesture) meditation outside the Bank

The traffic roared in front of us, punctuated by periods of blissful quiet when the crossing lights turned red. 

We were meditating in a line on the pavement outside the oldest purpose-built Barclays Bank on Fleet Street, in the heart of London. 
There were moments of concentration followed by distraction and confusion about the number and direction of different sounds.

Feelings ebbed and flowed: relief to be out on the streets again, doing something to bear witness publicly to the Climate and Ecological Emergency. Moments of deep peace. Curiosity about the police officers chatting to a rebel in front of us. They seemed friendly. Wanting to be safe, and at the same time, wanting to be heard for my urgent concern for impacts on the welfare of current and future beings. 

Shantigarbha is author of The Burning House: A Buddhist response to the climate and ecological emergency due out next month. 

Rebel Stories: Drumming Activism

By Les

Les with his drum

In my occasional climate activism sometimes I sit quietly. Sometimes I make a noise, drumming with a Samba inspired band. It’s been interesting observing the feelings that arise in these two very different approaches of resistance.  With quietly sitting in the ‘wrong place’, anxiousness arises for me from the feeling of vulnerability but this is calmed by holding the reasons for protest in my heart, the suffering of others and the faint hope that change will come.   

With samba drumming the same reasons drive me,  although anxiousness here is less about vulnerability rather than will I keep time and do I know the tunes!  It’s hard to keep up with the youngsters but the energy from the music and the friendly tribal connection and common goal to reduce suffering fuel me.  

It was even more interesting to be asked to drum, albeit slowly, with the XR Buddhists.  We gathered at the start of the day at South bank and watched Ben Okri’s amazing grass art (‘Can’t you hear the future weeping?’) get floated on the Thames.  Then we came together in a grounding practise with an exercise to focus why we were here,  a huge friendly Krishna from Montreal joined us for a while and kindly shared food from his pedal trike with us. 

We, about 15 of us,  set off in single file,  a very slow silent procession all dressed in black each bearing banners about Barclays Bank along much of Fleet Street.  I was at the back beating the drum slow and loud.  The sound really reverberated between the lovely old buildings and many came out of shops, offices, pubs etc. to see the strange procession,  some stared blankly,  some smirked,  some smiled approvingly,  some shouted ‘get a job’, or ‘save the Whales’ etc.  I had figured there may be some distractions so quietly chanted in my head to help keep time.  I chose to use the mantra “Oṃ Āḥ Hūṃ Vajra Guru Padma Siddhi Hūṃ” striking the drum good and hard on Om partly because the length suited the timing but also because it had personal significance for me.  I could say a lot about the mantra but roughly it’s about bringing body speech and mind to the guru Padma who brought Buddhism to Tibet.  The Vajra word means thunderbolt but also compassion.  I imagined my beater striking down on the drum like a thunderbolt,  it certainly felt that loud.  I hope that some could sense the compassion that brought us there that day. 

 We spread out and sat meditating quietly with our banners both in and outside of Barclays Fleet Street branch.  The police showed lots of interest but eventually let us be.  I imagined it must be uncomfortable for the bank staff,  needing a job,  bills to pay,  kids to feed,  but with us there highlighting their employers relentless support of ecocide. Many public took leaflets and chatted with our outreach folk,  some hurried past annoyed.  I feel uneasy annoying folk,  but then see the increasing reports of climate breakdown.  The suffering that brings is here now and long endured in the global South and much more of it ahead so I will quietly, non violently but sometimes loudly keep challenging this broken system.  

Sadhu

PS: I bank with Triodos 🙂

Rebel Stories: Bank Action

By Elizabeth

Walking meditation to the bank

In June I took part in Barclays HQ Action.

We met in the space outside the Tate Museum. After introducing ourselves we had a short grounding meditation and then walked to the top of Fleet Street. There we donned placards with motives depicting how  Barclays Bank’s investments cause ecocide. We proceeded down Fleet Street to a slow drum march which was very moving.

On arrival outside the first Barclays Bank to be opened in the UK 3 rebels sat inside and 6 on the street outside. One rebel lead us with a mudra meditation and we sat for half an hour with one person doing outreach.

After the action we continued our March to a quiet park near the Thames and did a short Regen exercise.

I would definitely take part in this type of demonstration again

Living in a time of ecological and social crisis I am aware of the need to be an active part of a movement seeking to change lifestyles and the economy to being sustainable and life affirming. For me Extinction Rebellion is the international movement that can support these changes.

Arrest report: September 2020 Rebellion

I shut down when I was arrested. I closed my eyes and tried to find some part of me inside which felt stable, while I was carried by officers through Parliament Square.  I could feel my jeans slipping. The officers put handcuffs on me because I wasn’t cooperating. At one point they put me down and told me to pull up my jeans, something I struggled to do while disorientated and with my hands cuffed in front of me.  Someone yelled out ‘throw them in the bath, they are all dirty’, and the police officers (who very much were fed up with carrying me) kindly told me to ignore it.  I was numbly aware that it was possible one of my civil service colleagues might see me ignobly dragged through Whitehall. 

I was asked to be searched, which I agreed to. The officers found a note I’d written asking for someone to call my partner if I was arrested.  A legal observer following me asked if I gave permission for them to take the note. I was so grateful to connect with someone who was on my side.  He took the note, and followed me. By this time I’d agreed to walk, but still mostly had my eyes closed. I can usually navigate my mild autism quite well but I felt it keenly during this period.  We eventually arrived at a police van down by the Foreign Office where I saw Kaspa and Satya. I was in too much shock to have a conversation, but their gentle chatter between themselves and with the officers helped to slowly calm me down.  Orientate myself.

We waited for a long time before setting off in the van.  I was still handcuffed and can remember feeling quite sick, through a combination of nausea, dehydration and shock.  Kaspa and Satya were offered water, I was not, and didn’t quite know how to ask for it, or how I would open the bottles while I was in handcuffs. So I watched the businesses go by and tried to note their names as a way of keeping my mind occupied. I could hear Kaspa and Satya chattering about family visits in the background and tried to leach some of their purported nonchalance.

We arrived at Lewisham police station.  We sat on benches outside the custody suite, they were the sort of benches I used to bunny hop over in school gyms. I was cold, and eventually managed to ask for my hoodie after I’d seen other people asking for things from their bags, which led to them finally unhandcuffing me. That helped unlock some of the mental paralysis I’d been feeling.  I sat next to Satya and overly conscious of not having any XR related chat grilled her on Pureland Buddhism which she gamely fielded. 

I was taken inside for processing.  I was very thirsty by that point, I hadn’t managed to ask for any water.  Asking for things made me feel vulnerable. Being processed was an odd mixture of deep concern (was I okay?  Did I have any injuries to report?  Did I have any mental illnesses? Had my rights been explained to me?  Would I like to take this booklet away to read more about my rights? Of course they could get me some water!) and being treated like an object – particularly when it came to being searched and having my fingerprints and DNA taken.  The custody officer had obviously been on some training as when I told him my title was Mx and explained it was a gender-neutral honourific he asked if I wanted to be searched by a male or female officer (presumably no non-binary officers were around…)

Eventually, and sort of blissfully, I was taken to my ‘cell’.  I can remember doing my NVDA training in Islington ages ago and discovering that in the UK you got your own cell when arrested rather than the more American style ‘drunk tank’ experience. I think that was the first time I thought that maybe I could get arrested.  Eventually, a vegan meal and orange squash appeared as well in the cell.  I was mostly preoccupied by the fact that there wasn’t any toilet paper.  Why wasn’t there any toilet paper?!  Was this on purpose?  Did we not get any?  It took me hours to convince myself that they must want you to ask for it, and that would be an okay thing to do.  Eventually, they took me to make a call to my solicitor and at that point I tried to ask for it as casually as possible and it turned up in my cell five minutes later. 

I couldn’t sleep in the cell.  The blue waterproof mattress wasn’t very conducive to comfort.  Someone was banging on their door.  There was a stencil on the ceiling saying ‘protected by Smart Water’.  What did that mean?  It conjured images of Jennifer Aniston protecting my cell.  I meditated a little. I read aloud from the Thich Nhat Hanh book. 

At some point in the early hours, I was told I would be released.  It’s very dangerous in Lewisham at this time of night, I was told by the officers.  You can stay in the police reception if you want.  I still felt adrenalised and a little numb. Eventually Kaspa and I with another rebel managed to get a taxi back into central London and I was able to jump out when the taxi met the Thames. We were told Satya wouldn’t be released for hours.  This turned out to not be true. 

It was an odd experience walking back along the Thames to my accommodation.  There was a full moon. It was a stretch of the river I knew well. I had many happy times at the National Theatre, at the BFI.  I could see the Houses of Parliament across the river. I could see my first workplace when I started in the civil service. Below that big moon it felt like my life had come to a turning point. 

This whole process has been a difficult one for me. And yet I’m also grateful for many things.  That I could take part in actions without expecting to be treated badly by the police, that I didn’t (in the end) lose my job because of my activism, that I’ve had legal support from XR, and that Kaspa and Satya were there with me. Being in a situation that is more likely to lead to arrest is not possible for everyone. 

The following morning I saw photos of my arrest. I’ve always had a difficult relationship with my body, I hated being photographed and yet I shared those images with everyone I knew. I was proud.