I am the 99% (and the 1%)
Why occupy your heart?
‘Occupy your heart’ keeps popping up in my social media streams. For every ten images and links to articles about protests in Wall Street (and at St Paul’s in London, and all over the world), I get one telling me to occupy my heart. I don’t know if the poster intends me to occupy my heart instead of the streets, but I’m in favour of a both/and strategy. Why? And what does looking deeply into your heart reveal?
Buddhist psychology is based on the very simple principle that I am affected (or conditioned) by the world, and the world is affected by me.
If I want to change I can either ‘work on myself’ or I can move to somewhere where it’s easier to be who I want to be (like when I moved into a Buddhist community, for example). Changing the world around me leads to a change in myself.
If I want to change the world I can get out onto the streets or I can work on myself, knowing that the world is affected by me.
If I only take to the streets, the danger is that my protesting becomes clouded by anger that leads to unskillful actions.
If I only work on myself, the danger is that no-one witnesses my change of heart. I do believe that the love we put into the world stays in the world, and dwelling in love is a powerful action which spreads into the world. But how much will one person’s change of heart in a small town in rural England affect politicians and bankers in high places?
If I decide not to protest until I am ‘enlightened’ I’m never going to get out there. Not in this lifetime at least.
Occupy your heart and occupy the streets
When I look into my own heart, there is anger on the surface – that people are losing their jobs, and homes, and that we are part of a system which sends wealth to a small few. When I look deeper there is sadness, for all those people affected by this financial crisis. And sadness for those perpetuating the crisis, stuck in a cycle of greed. I am sure they are not truly happy, even with all the filthy lucre in the world.
When I really look deeply into my own heart I also see that same greed in me. I am sure people around the world suffer because of my wanting. Perhaps given the right opportunity and the right family it would be me up there in the 1%, greedily lining my pockets with your money…
It is with all of this in my heart that I say: I am the 99% (and the 1%).
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