By Pamela Overeynder
Members of Plum Blossom Sangha of Austin helped organize and participated in a public walking meditation on December 10, 2000, International Human Rights Day. The event, "Precious Steps for Peace," was sponsored by the Hill Country Chapter of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. It was held to raise awareness about the international land mine crisis and to share with our Austin community the wonderful and ancient practice of walking meditation as a way to cultivate inner peace and compassion, and to diffuse anger and other unwholesome emotions.
About fifty people participated in the silent walk at the State Capitol. Most were not Buddhist and had never experienced walking meditation. As people arrived they were given a small card with Thay's calligraphy which says, "What is most important is to find peace and to share it with others." We gathered in a circle and invited everyone to: Walk in silence. Walk in support of our brothers and sisters around the world. Walk because you can. Walk in gratitude. Walk for peace. Walk with all your heart for those who can't.
Among the "walkers" were a woman in a wheelchair, a five-year-old girl and a soon to be born baby. We walked from the steps of the Capitol down the Great Walk, as it is called, toward the street. As I walked I repeated the gatha "Peace, Now." During the walk, several people, including me, noticed the distinct smell of sandalwood incense. As far as we know, no one offered incense, but the smell was unmistakable. A large poster showing two children with prosthetic devices in place of legs was placed at the end of the walkway, inviting each person to pause there for a moment before turning to walk back to the Capitol steps.
There were many people visiting the Capitol who quietly and respectfully moved around and past us as we walked. Children played happily on old canons, (relics of past wars) while their parents posed for Christmas pictures in front of the Capitol. One walker noted how fast and nervous "normal" walking seemed in comparison to our slow walk. People were deeply moved by the experience and expressed gratitude for the practice and for increased awareness of others' suffering.
We can play an important role as students of the Buddha by initiating and cultivating a dialogue about what it means to be peacemakers. Our walking meditation was one step in that direction.
Pamela Overeynder practices with the Plum Blossom Sangha in Austin, Texas.
The danger of unexploded land mines is one of the most pressing and immediate impediments to peace in the world today. Peace is much more than the absence of war. Peace is only possible when all beings are free to walk unharmed wherever they wish, when children can play safely outside, when farmers can work the land free of the danger of unexploded land mines.
There are over 70 million unexploded land mines around the world. Every 22 minutes, someone is maimed or killed by a land mine. This is an unnecessary tragedy. Citizens' groups around the world are joining in the massive effort to do what governments won't do--clear the minefields now.
The Austin Adopt-A-Minefield Campaign is a four-month project of the local chapter of the United Nations Association of the United States. The campaign, a global citizens' effort, gives safe communities the opportunity to help endangered sister communities rid themselves of land mines. By adopting and raising funds to clear a minefield in the village of Praca in Bosma-Herzegovina, residents of Austin will help save lives and give hope to a people who desperately need to return to their homes. The goal of the Austin Campaign is to raise $50,000 to help clear the minefields in Praca. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has ranked the village of Praca as a high priority for clean up and rebuilding.
As we reflect on the truth of interbeing, we see that all suffering is our own suffering. By recognizing our interconnectedness with all beings and acting now, we can make an immediate difference. Please join us in this very human endeavor to clear the path for a peaceful return home for the people of Praca after a long and bitter war.
If you would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to the Austin Campaign, please make your check out to the Austin Adopt-A-Minefield Campaign and mail to 1212 Guadalupe, Suite 105, Austin, Texas 78701. To find out if there's a campaign in your community, contact UNA-USA, 801 Second Avenue, NY, NY 10017, Attention: Oren Schlein. Phone: 212-907-1314. Visit the national website at www.landmine.org.