newsletter logo: Sangha Reflections

We Sang As We Walked

By Susan Hadler

peaceful protesters at the White House

We sang as we walked, “Peace, Salaam, Shalom.” I sang to Abdullah Abdul-Majeed Al-Shadoon as we walked down 16th Street toward the White House. His name was given to me at the church where we gathered on Monday morning. I wore his name around my neck. Abdullah Abdul–Majeed Al–Shadoon was 26 years old when he died on April 22, 2003. A beloved son, a brother, a friend, maybe a father. I sang to Abdul and I sang to my father who was 25 when he died in April of 1945 in WWII when I was an infant. I sang with the mothers and fathers walking with us whose children were killed so recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. I sang with everyone who knows there are better ways to resolve conflicts than killing. We walked together with our knowledge of war and our message of peace, clergy and lay people of all faiths, code pink women funny and serious at the same time, anarchists dressed in black, Buddhists monks accompanying our steps with drums, brothers and sisters from Alaska to Florida. I walked with the Buddhist affinity group and was so thankful to be part of a community practicing walking, singing, sitting and breathing peace. We walked with the larger Sangha gathered to hold in mind and heart the names of all the dead in the war on Iraq and to present those names with a letter to President Bush as a plea to end the killing and use our resources for helping people live.

We sat down in front of the White House. We did not move when the police told us to leave. We sat peacefully, joyfully. We shared food and water. We were not alone. Our Sangha supporters across the police barrier, Bob and Maia and Bill and Ben and others sent water and smiles.

The police moved in and picked up Cindy Sheehan whose son was killed in Iraq and carried her to a paddy wagon. They arrested people in batches, handcuffed them, sent them into paddy wagons, and drove off. Those of us who were left sat on the curb and sang peace songs to Mr. Bush and the White House and Congress and to each other. We meditated and we smiled. Walking. Sitting. Singing. Smiling. This is our practice and our practice nourished us and gave us strength. I felt solid and happy and free. The atmosphere within and around us was peaceful, dedicated, generous.

Our turn came. Our Buddhist affinity group stood in a row with our hands on the shoulder of the sister or brother in front of us. Each step was a step for peace, a happy step. When it was my turn I smiled and bowed to the young police officer. I put my hands behind my back, turned around and he attached the handcuffs. Prisoner 5-168, I entered a D.C. Metro Bus borrowed from the city due to the unexpectedly large number of people being arrested, 370 in all. A Police escort led the bus to the park police headquarters in Anacostia.

Our bus was our jail cell for about ten hours. And we were a joyful group of 48 women of all ages and colors and sorts singing, talking, sharing stories and encouragement. We helped each other wriggle out of our handcuffs and those who could scratched the noses of those who couldn’t. We fed each other pizza which we managed to have delivered to our cell. The young police officer assigned to our “cell” tried to be tough at first and ended up becoming our friend. As time went on a slight headache worsened and I lay down on the back seat. A woman shared her pillow with me and there were two heads sharing that soft pillow. I followed my breath in and out, in and out and I felt Thay’s presence with us, telling us to keep breathing and to keep practicing. He knew where we were and sent us prayers and energy. I began to loosen and relax.

About 1 a.m. we were led inside a garage split into two rooms by a chain link fence, women on one side, men on the other side. Sangha sister Roberta and I began doing mindful movements and a circle formed. We added Chi Gong and a little yoga and kept going for a long time. We had fun and felt better creating a little mindful movement Sangha. One of the officers closed the outside doors and we knew we were locked up in a filthy, greasy place. But our minds were happy and free and we were able to help each other and stay calm.

Finally the police called our affinity group’s numbers to be processed. Inside the police headquarters more information was taken and we were put into tiny dirty cells, about seven to a cell. The policemen called us by number to fingerprint us and to take a picture for their files. We were then directed to a table beside a glass door where we were given our property. I looked out the door into the dark night and saw two smiling faces. Maia and Bob of the BPF were waiting to welcome us at 4 a.m. Because we were a Sangha and because we practiced we were peace and we were free and we were home every step of the way.

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