As I cycle towards Parliament Square, fond memories of past vigils come to mind- particularly of a chilly february morning at the lent interfaith vigil, and of the rebellion vigil.
When I arrive at the Vigil, there are 8 of us, some familiar and some new faces. This is the first Friday for this vigil, but a group called ‘Westminster Rebellion’ is organising a rota so that different XR groups are present at parliament every day the parliament sits, until COP26. Originally COP26 was supposed to happen this November in Glasgow, but then it got postponed November 2021 at the beginning of the pandemic – the conference centre in Glasgow is now a temporary hospital on stand-by for people suffering from Covid.
But back to Parliament Square. The faith vigil, which is happening mostly online at the moment, is being held in front of Westminster on Fridays, and today I am part of it. After freezing in February, I have come prepared this time. It turns out my many layers are not needed as it’s actually a mild day, the sun is coming out for a bit to greet us, it seems.
Sitting there we do attract some curiosity from passers-by. Some people are walking past, slowing down, looking. When I am not meditating I am trying to make eye contact. A few are stopping to talk to us, either in support or because they have questions.
I am actually doing a good chunk of meditation that afternoon, then I take a break and get into a conversation with a fellow vigiler. We talk about how this is different to meditating for example in front of a police line at a roadblock. Is this an effective action? We are not causing disruption today, but we are working with our minds in meditation, and sending a powerful signal – about unity as an interfaith vigil, and about the importance of acting on climate change.
I think for a while I used to run away from interfaith things, weary of difficult conversations about past and present injustices. But I have come to realise that people that are part of a faith or spiritual tradition often have a kind of superpower. At least that’s how I think about it now. Our actions come from a place of very deep conviction, or faith, and we also have the power of being part of a community. And when we come together, we do send a powerful signal of unity in divided times.
And then COP26. People say a major factor will be the next US government. But that’s not within my sphere of influence, so I keep focussing on what I can influence. And that’s why we sit here and meditate. And protest. And have conversations.
Reflecting that night at home I am being reminded of a sequence of offerings sometimes used for the mandala offering practice.
The outer offering, what other people can see, is us sitting there outside Westminster – a reminder to the government to act on climate change.
The inner offering, my sense experience, is one of calm and non-violence.
The secret offering, what this means to me, unity and non-separation.
May all beings be happy.
Katja is a member of XR Buddhists