Caroline Contillo brings her Buddhist meditation practice to Occupy Wall Street Meetings.
Shot by Jackie Snow and Jenny Marc
Edited and Produced by Jackie Snow
Caroline Contillo went to Occupy Wall Street on a whim. After staying the night with the help of some friendly anarchist, Contillo knew she found a call to action. Contillo grew up in a political family, with her father a judge and grandfather a New Jersey state senator, and had been politically active for much of her life. She had lost her enthusiasm, however for activism after years of feeling like it wasn't accomplishing anything. Occupy Wall Street, with its community at Zuccotti Park and its lofty goals that would benefit everyone, reignited her passion.
In the years off from activism, Contillo had picked up Buddhist meditation. Her practice led her to getting involved with the meditation group, where she thought she could do the most good. The group members would go to meetings and offer to try and level off any tension before the meetings started.
And there's been a lot of tension while Occupy was in a state of hibernation during the winter and while they prepared for May Day. Without a camp the movement seems to have lost direction. The frustrations of keeping the movement going has caused infighting. The occupiers involved with the meditation group have tried to help keep meetings calm by bringing their mindful practice. Contillo has started going to the big meetings to do these so called "groundings" herself. Occupy Wall Street inspired Contillo to care again and she's doing all she can to help it survive.
You know I had gotten really jaded about political action, I'd been really politically active when I was in high school and then in my early 20s. And I always ended up getting burned out. It always seemed really frustrating. I didn't necessarily feel like part of a community. I felt like an angry person who met up with other angry people and we occasionally tried to get stuff done.
My Name My Name is Caroline is Caroline
Occupy was a completely different experience for me. I had gone down there and been kind of an observer. I studied cultural anthropology in school so I've always had this inclination to be a little on the outside of things and just watch and document but after the eviction i was just like incensed. Like I couldn't just watch anymore.
I don't want to call this a meditation I don't want to call this a meditation. I want to call it a grounding. I want to call it a grounding.
The meditation working group is like an occupy specific group of meditators from all different meditations backgrounds who are kind of working on how best our meditation practice could benefit occupy in general.
The big projects we've been working on is we've been calling them groundings exercises.
It's a form of meditation. It's kind of just sitting or standing for three minutes and kind of getting in touch with your body.
Cause I'm stoked as hell Cause I'm stoked as hell To be on this ground To be on this ground At Liberty Plaza At Liberty Plaza
I think that the park was a grounding thing when people were camped in it. umm so without that whats grounding people and i think that kind of has to be other people who are kind of -. its kind of like a hey hey lets focus why are we here what are we doing.
I would like us all to get on the same page I would like us all to get on the same page Checking in Checking in About why we occupy About why we occupy So lets take three minutes So lets take three minutes To occupy our bodies To occupy our bodies And check in with our minds And check in with our minds
I don't know how to say this without sounding really trite it just kind of opened my heart back up to political action
I met Caroline when I was at a bar in Brooklyn. She and another girl were standing awfully close to my husband, so I went over to introduce myself. My husband, who prides himself at being my wingman for story ideas, introduced her, smiling broadly, as an Buddhist Witch Occupier who does meditation at meetings. I was the one standing awfully close, asking her dozens of questions about being a Buddhist Witch meditator at Occupy Wall Street.
I had been going to Occupy events since day one and thought I had met all the characters there. A recently unemployed publishing world guy who started a business covering Occupy. An activist from Chicago named Ketchup, who was later tormented on The Colbert Report. Caroline proved to be a new one.
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