Stories of Rebels

Staying open

By Paul

Paul as a Green Spirit featured in The Economist

I found myself at the October Rebellion emerging fresh out of a profound  experience at Buddhafield Festival.

At the festival in July I had engaged in Joanna Macy’s “Work that Reconnects”, and having set an intention to  “tussle” with Mara in the Going Forth part of the Spiral a penny the size of the London Eye dropped and I realised that the Mindfulness work I had been doing with International Corporations over the last 20 years  was simply not working in a world on the brink of Ecological melt down.

I discovered that my attempts  to influence business leaders to really embrace sustainability was not going to do the urgent  job needed, and the organisations I truly thought could be part of the solution had become a big part of the problem.

It was time to let go of this work, and more importantly in order to do the work I was being called to do, to  abandon the income that came with it.

That set  me free to embrace XR and its Vision and values.

After a few days at the Ocotber Rebellion, despite  enjoying being part of the  crowds of beautiful people , marvelling at  the silence of the  London  streets, and indulging in  the joy of the Samba bands , I started to feel a little bit like a tourist.

It was time to commit.

So I contacted my affinity group and announced myself “arrestable.”

This was a huge commitment for me and the feeling that came with it is difficult to describe, but it had  a distinct flavour of letting go of self and of fear, and of purpose and  joy.

Then unfolded a saga of waiting….. and waiting…. and waiting.

In that time I felt truly held by the Bodhisattvas around me. They were caring for me, looking out for me, and protecting me.

In the end, despite receiving the requisite 5 warnings, the police changed strategy at the last minute and I (and a few others ) were left, a  little confused and slightly bereft.

I imagine it might be like working up  to a blind date where the actual date didn’t show up  in the end.

By the time the massive Samba band arrived on the scene and surrounded we arrestables, it was obvious that arrest was not going to happen.

But the story didn’t end there.

I was due to attend  a family event in Liverpool on the Friday night, and so on my last day the one thing I wanted to avoid was being arrested. I headed for Trafalgar Square with an intention I often use which is “stay open to possibility.”

 My call was answered within minutes. Ping went my phone, it was Chrissie a very good friend, and part of an XR group in South Devon.

“Hi Paul Are you around?” She asked.

“Hi Chrissie, I am actually, what are you up to?”

“ I’m at the Church in Waterloo, can you get round here, straight away, we need a hand “?

“ Ok, I’m on my way”

I arrived and found Chrissie with a few Green Spirits and lots of Red Rebels.

Without really having lots of time too think it through within the hour I was fully dressed and in procession with the Reds and Greens. Over the next 5 hours I experienced one of the most profound meditation experiences that I have ever had in my 26 years of practice. Providence had moved in big time, and Goethe’s words have never been truer.

Next week in London, at the 2020 Rebellion I will endeavour to  be mindful and to “stay open to possibility at every opportunity”!

With love and solidarity,


Paul is a Trustee at Jamyang Buddhist Centre, he has studied with many teachers, and most recently with Stephen Bachelor, on his Secular Buddhism programme at Bodhi College. He regularly offers Mindfulness based courses for both activists and the wider communities. He no longer offers work to Corporations. All is work is given freely.

First, do no harm

By Katja

First, do no harm.

Not doing harm is the first precept or training principle in Buddhism. Not harming is also part of the Hippocratic oath that was part of my training as a doctor.

But what does it really mean to not harm? For me personally, it means being ethical and truthful to those around me. It means not eating meat. It means trying to live a simple life. 

Nowadays my work is more about the health of populations rather than clinical work with individuals. And here not harming is much broader. Harming is continuing a system that destroys the planet we live on and is our basis for life. Harming is continuing the traffic that creates the pollution that gives young children asthma and kills people in my city. Our continuing addiction to fossil fuels and consumption in general is harmful. And not telling the truth about the possible catastrophic consequences of climate change is harmful too. 

That’s why I joined XR. I don’t like causing inconvenience or blocking roads or even standing out. In fact, I have spent lots of effort on blending in as best as I can, first as a working-class person at college and uni and then as a foreigner in the UK. But after years of making personal changes and campaigning in less obstructive ways, I feel non-violent civil disobedience is the only option left.

Last rebellion there was one day after the protest had effectively been banned where we were marching and I really felt intimidated by the amount of police. Police standing on the side of the road, police on horses, police in helicopters. I must have looked terrified when a fellow rebel saw my tears and was kind. That helped me to go on. I felt fear but I also felt intensely connected to my values and this community of like-minded people. For me its really important not just that I protest but also how, and I am glad to have found a way with XR (and XR Buddhists) to stand for what I believe in and hopefully make a change – avoid harm.

Katja is a member of XR Buddhists

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The valuable gift of COMMUNITY

By Joseph Mishan

Joe meditating in front of a police line

Actually what stays with me from the April 2019 rebellion when this photo was taken (that’s me sitting), is not the lines of police, the arrests or even the powerful meditations I engaged in. It was the experience of community. I have never before been a part of such closeness, passion and just overall love and good-will in any community or group. It is this that has endured in my memory and heart; and  have heard this echoed by many rebels after each rebellion.

The Buddha’s response to his cousin Ananda’s suggestion that the sangha was ‘half of the holy life’ was to say “do not say so Ananda; the sangha is the whole of the holy life.’ I feel greatly privileged to be part of the XR and XR Buddhists community; it has helped me – perhaps forced me –  out beyond my small sense of self, into a profound sense of interconnection with others and with this precious planet of which we are all part. This is an incalculably valuable gift.

Joseph Mishan is a mindfulness teacher in the Vipassana tradition, a psychotherapist and the coordinator of Dharma Action Network for Climate Engagement in London and a joint coordinator of XR Buddhists UK. 

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Preparing for rebellion

Satya writes for Buddhistdoor magazine:

“In five weeks’ time I will be traveling from our small rural town to London for a fortnight of rebellion. I will probably do some things that are illegal. I may get arrested. I heard anecdotally last week that those willing to be arrested are often supported by their faith. Is that true? How did I get here again and, as peace-loving Buddhist, why am I planning on causing disruption?”

Read the article here: Preparing For Rebellion

Satya is co-coordinator of XR Buddhists, a Buddhist priest, a psychotherapist. & writer.

Why I’m rebelling

By Kaspalita

Kaspa sitting with XR Buddhists

Over the past year I have been experiencing a great grief for the natural world. I read about the collapse in dolphin numbers around the UK, or see images of floods in Bangladesh, or imagine what the future might look like and I am upset. We have lost so much already, and if we continue with business as usual we will lose so much more.

The government make some concessions to a greener future, but don’t take the obvious and necessary action of stopping burning fossil fuels right now. Without that, everything else won’t make much difference.

So I will take to the streets.

I know that how I protest and demonstrate is important. If I want a future that cares for the whole world, my actions must also be grounded in care. This is why I love turning up with other Buddhists.

We ground ourselves in peace. As we are protesting we are also showing that there is another way to be. In a society propelled by greed, our practice anchors us in love.

Kaspalita is a Buddhist teacher, psychotherapist and member of XR Buddhists

Magical Moments

By Naomi West

Naomi is now a member of the red rebels

[The October rebellion was] a chain of such magical beautiful moments; that all together, made up one of the most life affirming and precious moments of life. I remember turning towards George (my Jersey companion), in the midst of a small crowd at Millbank by Westminster; we were singing, sitting, sharing together, amidst myriad shifting forms of spontaneous creativity and diverse people. We looked at each other with an expression of knowing that we were thinking the same. He was the one to say out loud, “This is what life’s about”. There is something very special about community in shared participative creativity, and this rebellion was full of it.

Naomi is a member of XR Buddhists, XR Jersey and since the October rebellion has joined the Red Rebels.

Meditating on the front line

My name is Abbie, I’m 44 and I live in Brighton. I work in a mental health service. Like most of us I have been concerned about the Climate Emergency for decades. I recycled, refused to have a car, got green energy…  However, it was when environmental activism and my Buddhist practice came together that my feet took to the streets. I heard a talk from one of my Buddhist teachers Yanai Postelnik from Gaia House, just before the April Extinction Rebellion event. Yanai talked about his frustration with the lack of progress around environmental issues, and of how he overcame his own fear and joined climate demonstrations: using the symbol of palm outstretched, “Abhaya” in Pail, a gesture of the Buddha. This resonated with me, as someone with a history of problems around anxiety. Yanai also talked about the spiritual crisis we are facing, and how activism was a deep expression of our Dharma practice, a gesture of our commitment to love and truth.

So I joined the April Rebellion in London and was deeply moved by the courageous actions and loving atmosphere that I found. I then became part of XR Buddhists, feeling particularly drawn to meditating at the frontline of protests: this to me was less about trying to secure a particular outcome (although of course this is crucial), but a way of bearing witness to this pivotal moment for humanity, a prayerful action, carried out with others. In the words of another of my teachers Rob Burbea “Opening to the pain of what is going on in the world in all its confusion and complexity, in a celebration of human togetherness”

If any of this speaks to you, I would encourage you to get in touch with your local XR group, or come join XR Buddhists, you would be most welcome.

Abbie is a member of XR Buddhists and Brighton XR Meditators

Being a Rebel

By Satya Robyn

Satya being arrested during the October Rebellion

Being a rebel feels like a natural consequence of living as a Buddhist. The Buddha wasn’t afraid to speak up against the culture of the day – peacefully and with strength – and that’s what I see Extinction Rebellion doing, in a time of great crisis for our sacred Earth. I was arrested in October 2020 but this was the least of the week I spent with other rebels – walking in meditation through the chaos with my fellow Buddhists, joining with those of other faiths and singing ‘Amazing Grace’ together on the bridge, sitting quietly beside a young girl locked into a bath-tub. We achieved a lot that week – the public conversation about the climate was different once we’d finished – and it’s time to remind Parliament that we mean business.

Locked on

By Yogaratna

Yogaratna locked on

I felt very happy to take part in this action protesting against the fossil fuel corporation Schlumberger, and the £150m bailout recently given to it by the UK Government.  I always feel a little nervous and irrationally guilty about risking arrest.  And the D lock round my neck for 4.5 hours was a little uncomfortable!  But I did some good meditation, and felt very cared for and supported by my fellow protesters.

Three generations of rebels

By Peter Clare

Peter’s son and grandchildren

I joined the October 2019 Rebellion in London as a reaction to the existential crisis we face.

Being part of the Rebellion was a joy, it was just like being with family. Knowing this we joined the Manchester Rebellion as a family. John shares our belief in the need for action in the face of the twin crisis. Stan and Rudi came along because we told them they would enjoy it – and they did. The Manchester Rebellion felt even more like being with family. Stan and Rudi were spoiled by all the kind, loving people we mixed with. Rebellion means many things to many people for us it means belonging. Belonging to a diverse non-discriminating community. We listened to talks from Amazonian Indians and conversed and were entertained by fellow Northerners. Rebellion is a taste of what the world could be like, an amazing sense of togetherness.

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