By Central Abbess of San Francisco Zen Center Linda Cutts
On January 20, I flew to Washington, D.C., and joined hundreds of thousands of others who were traveling to the U.S. capital to express themselves by marching and speaking and embodying in myriad ways their deepest feelings. On the small plane from Charlotte, N.C., the man next to me said, “There seems to be a party atmosphere on this plane.” I asked him if he knew why and he said, “No.” I told him, “They’re all here for the Women’s March tomorrow!” As soon became clear, we were among millions throughout the country and the world who walked in solidarity on January 21.
Our group was skillfully and carefully organized and supported by the Abbot of Houston Zen Center Setsuan Gaelyn Godwin and Myōan Grace Schireson of Central Valley Zen Foundation, with the help of many other people who added their first-hand experience and knowledge of how to take care of yourself in a large demonstration. Before the march, not knowing what might happen, we were cautioned to wear layers, bring extra socks, a bandana, and swim goggles in the event of tear gas, to write our emergency contact information in permanent marker on our forearms, and to bring snacks, water, rain gear, and money to get out of jail. Many of these precautions were thankfully not needed. In fact the peaceful atmosphere as well as the absence of security checks and police presence was notable.
Many in our group met the night before the march at All Beings Zen, a SFZC Branching Streams affiliate sangha in Washington, D.C., whose resident teacher, Inryū Bobbi Ponce–Barger, had recently returned from the Tassajara Fall Practice Period. After a time to greet each other we performed a ceremony Myoan Grace Schireson had created, reciting the names of our women ancestors, “for protecting lives and Inspiring Right Intention for all participating in the Women’s Marches all over Our Planet.”
Our core group, Gaelyn Godwin, SFZC President Linda Galijan, Joan Hoeberichts, from the White Plum lineage—all donning their pussycat hats and tiaras—and I, were the anchor for our meet-up spot at the National Museum of the American Indian. When we arrived, there was a group of Native Americans gathered who were drumming, dancing, and singing and we joined them in a rhythmic circle dance. We set up our banner, “Zen Women for Democracy,” beautifully designed by Gaelyn, and ended up staying in the same spot, being unable to move due to the ever-increasing crowds, until the afternoon. More and more people arrived in a swirl of pink hats, heading to the nearby rally. However, the core group wanted to stay in one place since all the communications had said that was where we would be meeting up. Through the morning we received messages from people who said they were on their way but could not get through the crowds to find us. The huge numbers of people seemed to be all of one spirit—filled with a robust and buoyant, radiant and joyful energy, and were ready to get to work. The kindness, caring feeling, and the recognition of kindred spirit allowed a vast community to be created and recognized, a kind of sangha of harmonious and heartwarming liveliness. Linda Galijan commented, “We were crowded so tightly together and everyone without exception was so understanding and kind, patient and joyful. We were all our best selves, everyone looking out for one another, beautifully manifesting the sangha jewel.”
More people located us—women and men from Dharma Rain in Portland, Mid City Zen from New Orleans, a Vajrayana Group, Houston Zen Center, Washington, D.C., Brooklyn, and, of course, Grace Schireson with her red sign of an ox-herding picture saying “Zen Women Stop the Bull!” Eventually we heard that we could not march along the designated route because it was already completely filled with people, so everyone just started flowing down Pennsylvania Avenue to the National Mall, past the White House, chanting slogans of solidarity, inclusivity, tolerance, and love. more here.