Stories of Rebels

COP26: Online solidarity

My home vigil shrine for COP26

My experience of this year’s COP26 was different as I didn’t go to Glasgow. Like others, I find going to large protests challenging due to a health condition I have, and although I have kept trying, I made the decision for COP26 to stay home.

My usual tendency is to want to be in the thick of things, up front holding the banner, showing my love and commitment through being right where it matters. Instead I found  myself on my sofa in front of my laptop, when the main action was hundreds of miles away.

I had offered to help out with the Faith Bridge online vigil, which ran alongside the in person vigil in Glasgow. Two colleagues had already put in a lot of work, and I joined the team just a few weeks before the conference.  As is my usual style I hadn’t thought much about it, just thought it seemed a good option as I wasn’t going to Glasgow but still wanted to be involved.

So it was actually a surprise to discover what I did: a tremendous sense of solidarity with people of all faiths – people moved by a deep care for the earth and humanity, based on timeless lineages of spiritual practice. Somehow, by having the time and space to witness this in others, these qualities opened up more deeply in me, in a way I haven’t experienced so fully before.

Taking part in the online vigil was full of treasures – sitting in silence with others on screen, each in our own homes, witnessing all the hard working rebels in Glasgow in the cold and rain sitting on the road side, listening to Muslims reciting Quran verses on stewardship of the earth, lighting candles for future generations, zooming in at 3.30am for an all night vigil,,,. It brought to life in me a sense of kinship, and of  the critical importance of giving and receiving support in these momentous times. So rather than it being about “me” “being an activist” and “doing” lots of things (all of which are of course valid and necessary), in this experience I was part of a larger circle. Offering my prayers, presence and deep appreciation, and trusting that that too makes a difference.  

Wendell Berry says it well: “protest that endures I think is moved by a hope far more modest than public success: namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one’s own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence”. And I would add – alongside one another. 

By Abbie who is a member of XR Meditators and XR Buddhists

meditating Inside Barclays Bank

by Kaspa

Three people sit in meditation wearing placards  that read: Barclays the Ecocide Bank.
Meditating inside Barclays Bank in Glasgow during the second week of COP26.

The Barclays bank security guard was loud, flustered and very quickly asked us to leave. Adrenaline surged through my system. Three of us were sitting in silent meditation. We ignored his words and kept sitting quietly with our eyes closed. I heard one of our police liaisons trying to reason with the guard, and then another voice joining in. I half-opened my eyes. This new voice was a police officer in a bright yellow jacket. How had I got here?

“Would anyone like to sit inside the bank?”
I tentatively raised my hand. Two other people put their hands up as well. Okay, I said to myself, I guess I’ll be sitting inside the bank.

Barclays bank are the biggest investor in coal in the UK, they are the most invested in fossil fuels of any bank in Europe and 7th in the world. Since the 2015 Paris agreement they have invested $145 billion in fossil fuels and despite having net zero goals in 2020 their investment in fossil fuels was higher than in 2019…

It’s clear we need an immediate end to fossil fuel extraction, and the environmental and human cost of continuing to use them will be devastating.

We were planning to mindfully walk to the bank, to sit outside in meditation with our banners and placards which read, ‘Barclays the ecocide bank’, and to hand out leaflets and talk to passers-by. If some of us agreed to sit inside the bank it would probably increase the visibility and presence of the protest.

Despite knowing all of that I was ambivalent about ratcheting up the tension by arriving just before the main protest and sitting inside the bank.  Lots of positive change throughout history has come about through non-violent direct action – I know that there is value in creating the right amount of disturbance and yet I was wary.

Satya and I had decided to go home a day earlier than planned, and getting arrested would put a dent in those plans, I wasn’t sure of the value of arrest as protest in this context, I was simply tired after a few long days of demonstrating in Glasgow and knew it would be both jangling and exhausting.

I had a mix of reasons for wanting to act. From all of the very good arguments of the value of NVDA and protest, to wanting to feel useful, to competitive parts of me that compare me with other activists, to the parts of me that are flabbergasted at continued investment in fossil fuels and business as usual.

Taking all of this into account I had raised my hand.

In the bank our brilliant police liaison (a demonstrator trained in speaking to the police) continued to talk to both the police and the security guard. The police were asking how they could trust we really were peaceful, and they were letting the liaison know that we were now trespassing as we’d been asked to leave.  And yet, they weren’t rushing to speak to us directly. I half-opened my eyes again. There was a police van outside now, and a whole crowd of officers, and a crowd of public, and a dozen or more other XR Buddhists sitting in meditation outside the bank.

I don’t know how much time passed. A few minutes perhaps. It felt both longer and shorter. How long could we continue to sit without risking arrest, I wondered? How much use was it to increase the drama of the protest by being here?

None of the three of us inside wanted to be arrested today, we’d each said that we’d ignore requests from bank staff for us to move, but would move when the police instructed us to.

The police convinced the liaison to pass on the message that we were now trespassing and that it was an offence to stay once we’d been asked to leave.

I stood up and had a chat with the officer. He very slowly ushered me to the door, and I sat down outside with the other XR Buddhist protestors.

We sat for another half an hour or so. I focussed on my breath, and occasionally noticed people chatting to Satya and Joe who were handing out leaflets. Some of them agreed to change where they banked after reading our leaflets filled with facts. One or two were upset with us for being there at all.

Slowly most of the police left.

As my nerves calmed I was able to unpick some of my different emotional responses to that encounter. Anger and frustration at the bank, gratitude for those sitting with me both inside and outside the bank, fear of conflict, fear of an escalation into physical violence (later I learnt one of our police liaisons had been pushed by the security guard), gratitude to the earth for supporting me, for my body for continuing to breathe, for the teachings and traditions and practices that allowed me to remain more or less steady.

The bell rang, signalling the end of meditation. We bowed, gathered up our banners and walked in mindfulness and silence away from the bank.

Later, away from the protest, as my emotions began to settle I noticed a deep well of grief for what we have lost already, the acute personal pain of the Earth’s suffering that was lodged within me, and a deep sense of connection to both the Earth and the XR Buddhists I had shared the day with.

Trancending the Inevitable

By Dayamay Dunsby

Protesters standing in the rain, carrying a bright yellow/green banner which reads 'XR Buddhists UK Love and Grief for the Earth'
XR Buddhists with their banner at the beginning of the Climate Collation march on Sat 6th Nov.

If you don’t stand for something – you’ll fall for anything.

This popular culture maxim never seemed more appropriate than it does in these increasingly turbulent and devisive times. It may sound a bit old and overused but, in light of the current state of things, it actually bears quite a fresh significance.

I spent several days in Glasgow this week, showing my support for Extinction Rebellion in their efforts to maintain scrutiny and political pressure on our world leaders, who seem to require the proverbial rocket up their backsides in order to even seem like they’re doing anything of any consequence towards the existential threat that we’re facing.

The mood in the city felt quite surreal at times. Maybe the effects of a transition for many, from a low level of awareness of all things Climate Change, to an increased presence of the matter in the press, making it all the more difficult to turn away from and maybe enhancing the sense of confusion and frustration that still surrounds the Covid fiasco. The people were mostly very sweet and helpful, and maybe a bit bewildered and overwhelmed by the sudden increase in the intensity of the shift that we’re seeing. I have certainly felt, at times, a decline in my own sense of general wellbeing as a result of being confronted with the prospect of such an uncertain future.

However, it is interesting that when we take some kind of action to address a problem that concerns us, our perspective on it can change and it can somehow, all of a sudden, seem much less daunting. I’m thinking of the Climate Emergency as a primary example here, but have experienced this effect on many occasions in the past. The impact of horror and misery diminished in the face of the kind of courage and humility that transcends our selfish interests and somehow penetrates to the heart of the problem.

In this context(activism), it felt like being removed from the sense of impending catastrophe and somehow placed above it, so as to be able to perceive it from a relative vantage point, thereby reducing its impact without negating the seriousness of it. This effect may be as simply explained as the idea that ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. 100,000 people united in the spirit of a single cause is a much less daunting prospect than trying to tackle it alone or in small numbers. But that alone doesn’t really seem to speak to the feeling that I had as I marched through the rain soaked streets with my colleagues and friends along with thousands of complete strangers.

In reality, I never felt closer to the weight of the problem. In fact, in a certain sense, it felt amplified by being in the city, so near the beating heart of commerce, bombarded by the super-cynicism of the heavy hitting profiteers, all falling over themselves to hijack the Climate Change bandwagon and convince us all that their product will be the one that makes a difference, that plucks us from the jaws of certain death as we blindly and apathetically consume our way towards disaster!

Without the unifying effect of the XR brand of activism, I might actually have been overwhelmed by these more spiritually corrosive forces and resigned to playing the victim instead of actually standing up and claiming my rightful place amongst those who commit to challenging the status quo and staying on the right side of history.

Although this level of deceit is disturbing and, in some ways inspiring for me, it probably has a more trivialising effect for a large chunk of the population, who still have little or no sense of the devastation that awaits if systemic change is not immediately implemented. They are as likely to swallow the commercial greenwashing as they are the wanton fallacies that are being spouted by our crooked leaders, who seem to be just trying to bide their time until the story dies down, so they can get back to promoting business as usual.

We heard of a certain high profile, international business that was advising its clients that 2-3 degrees of global warming would be good for their profits, and the sooner we get there the greater the gains. This mentality highlights the naivety, cynicism and misunderstanding at the heart of the problem that we face; Which is only worsened by politicians such as Boris Johnson, who is world renowned for his lack of integrity, claiming Climate Leadership and thereby undermining the authenticity of the whole business!

You might be detecting a hint of anger and skepticism in the tone that I am writing with, but I also, believe it or not, hold out a certain amount of hope for a different future. It may be radically different from the greener and brighter future that we are being promised by the powers that be, but I still firmly believe in the resilience and beauty of the human spirit. And that, there will always be a strong current of love and hope at work in whatever survives and emerges for the prospects of posterity.

As a Buddhist I feel very lucky that I get to depend more on the qualities of my faith, that are not conditional upon societal prosperity, than to have to place all of my hopes and dreams on a system that was always doomed to failure.

Namo Amida Bu.

Dayamay Dunsby is a member of XR Buddhists UK and a teacher at Bright Earth Buddhist Temple

I’m in Court Tomrrow

By Satya Robyn

a young child sitting in bright sunshine in an old photograph from the 1970s
Satya as a toddler

Dear Earth, I’m in court again tomorrow.

Who’d have thought that this sweet little scrap would end up breaking the law. I was always such a good girl, talking-too-much-in-class aside. I worked so hard at that. I still do.

Tomorrow I will tell the judge that I am guilty of breaking the law. I will also say that my conscience is as clear as a mountain stream. I will say that your health is more important to me than our legal system, dear Earth. I will say that all else has failed, and that it is now time for us to speak up with louder voices. With nonviolence in our hearts. With great courage.

I will hang out with Gandhi on the train*. His closest followers trained for 15 years in his ashram before the Salt March. They practiced steadiness, non-reactivity, discipline, patience. They practiced love.

My path is lit by them. It is lit by Martin Luther King. It is lit by those who have placed their soft bodies onto motorways, over and over. I am trailing behind, so far behind, but the light is clear.

We must bring everyone along with us. Those who are causing harm must be stopped from causing harm, of course. And, they must come along with us somehow, sharing your lap with us, darling Earth. How is this possible? How is it possible not to react to violence? How can we continue?

One step. Another. When we’re tired, others will carry our bags. Others will feed us cake and hear our tears. Another step. Don’t forget to listen to the birds along the way. Can you hear them?

You’ll be with me tomorrow, dear Earth. Holding me up, as always.

With much love, Satya ❤

*The Gandhian Iceberg: A Nonviolence Manifesto for the Age of the Great Turning by Chris Moore-Backman

Stepping into active hope and holding fear at bay

Meditators including Tamsin at Barclays HQ on the 27th August

Reflections after joining the Barclays HQ action August 27th Canary Wharf London by Tamsin Bishton.

It’s mid August and I’m trying to work out how I’m going to get involved in the Impossible Rebellion. I’m not new to XR or rebellion, but the fear and the way it is influencing my connection to this Impossible Rebellion is. My heart is telling me I need to take part. It is my intention to take part. But the fear keeps whispering in my ear … It’s been months since I’ve been on the streets. It’s a year since I was at the last rebellion in London. Things have been so challenging since then. The police seem harder now. The risks feel greater. I’m stuck.

My friend and fellow mindfulness teacher Abbie invites me to join the XR Buddhists’ action at Barclays HQ and it is exactly the direct connection and invitation that I need to help me step out of my frozen state. Yes. This is something constructive I can do with my fear.

I arrive at Canary Wharf with my husband (there for morale support and to help with outreach) feeling lighter than I have done in weeks. I have found that once you see the climate and ecological emergency, once you really let it in and feel it, it is impossible to shut it out again. Sometimes I am able to carry it with me in a spirit of “active hope” as Joanna Macy terms it. But at other times the grief is almost overwhelming. Through this last 18 months of pandemic and isolation the grief has often won out over the hope for me. So noticing my lighter heart as we sit on a bench and wait for others to arrive, I feel gratitude starting to bubble up. 

I’m new to XR Buddhists and this is my first meditation action of this kind. I’m always in awe of the spirit of comradeship, kindness and shared purpose that flows from person to person during XR actions. It’s wonderful to meet this spirit again as, slowly, the pairs and individuals, dressed in black, looking for each other in the young Jubilee Park, recognise each other and form a group with quiet dignity and a few smiles of recognition.

We don’t know anyone else, and my friend Abbie is taking a well earned rest from the rebellion so isn’t here. But within minutes we’ve been greeted kindly, have shared some stories and connected with people. The sense of welcome is generous and compassionate.

Joe’s holding of the group, his hosting and preparation for the action, is so moving and warm. I share my heartbreak about the climate crisis, and what inspires me about it too, with my walking partner (who it turns out is from Brighton like me – small world) in the preparation space. I listen to her words about the same things. For the first time in a while I am really letting myself feel it. And the opportunity to have a real conversation like this with another human being feels so precious. And too rare.

It’s strange how my fear – which had been strong and commanding even the day before – just evaporates. Even though the police presence is very visible and noisy with lots of walkie talkie jabber, as I tune in to my breath and the movement through my body as we slowly begin to walk from the park to Barclays, what I notice is calm, sadness, purpose and relief. 

I listen to the wind blowing with some force around the base of the towers all around us. I hear the talk on the radio. 

“They are setting off walking” [crackle] [beep] [crackle] “Walking … they’re walking very slowly.” [beep] [crackle]

I almost laugh out loud.

Sitting in front of the Barclays building with my fellow meditators and the blackbirds is like coming home. I don’t know how else to describe it. As we are guided to raise our hands and practice the fearless Abhaya mudra – right hand held up as if to hold hate, greed, destruction, chaos, hopelessness at bay – then later touching the ground and calling on the earth as witness, I experience a flow of energy and warmth through my body even though the wind is blowing cold and my arms are bare.

I think about my privilege. I can take an action like this with a reasonable certainty that my physical safety is assured and that if I’m arrested my legal rights will be upheld in the end. And I know this is a privilege of my white skin and my class.

My mind moves to thoughts of what our fellow rebels might be doing on the other side of the river. I know the plan is to highlight the story of the blood money that has blighted our world and the lives of black and brown people through centuries of exploitation and violence. I send my sense of fearlessness and this energy that seems to be flowing up from the ground into my body outwards towards them across the river. I think of what this river flowing past us has seen. The goods, the plunder, the human cargo from around the planet.

When we’ve finished meditating and are about to walk back to the park, I try to look up to the top of Barclays tower. It’s not the tallest building at Canary Wharf, but I still can’t quite see the top. The glass reflects back, impenetrable. Are there people there inside? Was anyone watching? Does our meditation, our plea, our desperation to try and make people with power make different choices – does any of it make any sense to them?

On the train home I continue to tune in to the spirit of fearlessness that’s flowing through me. I’m so grateful to the people who organised the action, who held us and guided us, and to the life situation I find myself in which means I’m able to take part. I know fear will be back. It’s an unavoidable part of stepping up to the reality of this terrible, inescapable emergency we’re all facing. But I’m certain that active hope will be here for me too. That’s enough.

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: becoming an activist

By Jed

a crowd of people are walking on the road. One man dressed in a white 'forensic suit' is carrying a yellow flag and making the v for victory sign with his other hand
Jed (in white) at the march in Dublin

I would like to say what brought me here to this point in life as an activist.

I was waiting in Grafton Street (in Dublin) on the 10th of October 2019 for my girlfriend to pick me up when a lively crowd came marching by chanting about the Environment.

Straightaway I joined the march and the rest is history. My girlfriend found me a couple of hours later and helped me make my glorious XR blue flag for the second day marching. 

It has always been important to my own well-being to actively help when I see help is needed. Deep-seated feelings from a childhood of seeing people being bullied at school and finding the courage to stand up for them in their time of need. The realisation afterward of forging respect, trust, and friendships.

Earth is my friend, I have played in the soil, I have eaten food that has grown from it, I have walked and slept on it, drank from its water, and had my first kiss and surely will have my last kiss upon on it. Every time I breathe in the air or sing and hear the notes I feel connected to it. I have held my children when they were babies and had them gaze at the stars and promised them that I would fight for their future.

A group of people marching in the street. Front and centre a wide blue flag that stretches across the whole street. Other people are carrying blue flags and white flags.
Jed and other rebels on the way to O’Connell bridge

As a young Entrepreneur, my mission was to help the Earth somehow to recover from the scars of Human behavior upon this Planet, which for some strange, selfish reason, we call ‘ours’, as if we own it.

As the Project Director of my renewable energy company at the time, I attended a meeting about climate change Earth Summit ‘ET 2001’. I managed to prove that the British Government didn’t have their facts straight on climate issues after I asked a few questions to test their knowledge about which energy sectors were mostly endangering our air quality at that present time. Their figures were out of date and so they were concentrating most efforts on the wrong sector, as the population had exploded and Industry had shifted. 

One example of the ‘Bully’ is: Thermal energy projects were being blocked by the British Government and no one had the voice or money to fight them.

I am now a singer-songwriter in Ireland and hope to get the message across within my writing and singing, but alas, currently face the fact that the Irish Government has a say in what may and may not be heard on the radio stations. So I have a new battle against ‘censorship’ against the freedom of expression and speech. 

‘How The Day Can Change’ written during Lockdown 2020 which without being too obvious for the censors is trying to portray the struggle we have ahead of us/

May we long keep up the good fight against the Environmental and Censorship Bullies upon this Planet. 

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