128: LOVE IN A TIME OF HATE
SAT 16 APR 19:55 - This month's moonhowl choking on compassion....
Happy LIbra Full Moon friends
...also known traditionally as the Pink Moon heralding the arrival of spring, this weekend's shiner is the first after the Vernal Equinox: that fleeting moment of planetary balance where the length of night perfectly balances the hours of daylight. Historically, this moon offered great relief in many native northern cultures, signalling an end to the harsh realities of winter and the welcome transition toward the bounty of summer.
And, if you’re not familiar with the Pagan roots of Christian practice, this is the Paschal Moon that the Catholic Church calendar uses every year to mark Easter Sunday - always the first Sunday following the full moon after the Spring Equinox. A spiritually tenuous link perhaps but indicative of what a significant marker this moon has represented over millennia, symbolic as it is of transformative new life. The pre-Christian Pagan festival surrounding the goddess Eostre, tethered to the fertility symbol of the egg, have all been amalgamated into the chocolate coated consumerism of modern Easter practice and all link inextricably to this moon.
And, surprise, surprise, as Earth’s day and night equate in the heavens, so the Libra Moon majors on balance, in our personal lives and beyond. Astrologically, Libra is visually represented by a set of balanced scales, often seen as the Scales of Justice. At this time of year it behoves us well to assess where balance is missing in our lives and employ strategies to apply it.
Like any full moon, emotions will continue to run high during the fortnight it influences. Reports of suffering at home and abroad are very likely to evoke heartbreak of our own. Tears will flow, and should be allowed to do so, a physiological balancing act in themselves. Great joy will also be available even when the world around us appears to be going to shit with no light at the end of its very dark tunnel.
Many wisdom traditions suggest that safe passage through that dark tunnel can be lit by compassion, the essence of which being the ability to put ourselves in the position of others to better understand their predicament and perhaps find a way to alleviate their suffering. Such traditions suggest practicing selfless compassion helps align with the interconnected unity of existence as a conscious act of life balance.
Who then, has not been compassionately challenged by recent media depictions of violent conflict in Ukraine? The tragic pictures of wanton destruction and unnecessarily lost life have been enough to break the hardest of hearts. For those of a more sensitive nature, the storylines being played out in Northern Europe are unbearable. As mentioned in this column last month, at the outbreak of war I found myself unable to cope with what I was seeing and hearing through the various media outlets I felt compelled to access at all hours. The sustained bombing of Kyiv, Mariupol, Bucha, Trostianets and others, translated into a media driven bombardment of my interior world that entirely derailed my external outlook. I eventually realised that for my own well-being and those around me, I had to withdraw from that journalistic frenzy despite feeling I had in some way failed to show true compassion for the plight of those under attack.
Since the last full moon I have managed my media exposure more sparingly and as a result finally regained some of the energy required to offer effective assistance to those around me when requested. I have also been focusing on a series of small watercolour paintings, tentatively titled ‘Love in a Time of Hate’ (one featured below) that have encouraged an air of positive transformation where personal frustration, anger and hopeless impotence had taken up residence. Retrospectively, I have recognised that at its worst, my broken heart bled into the lives of others, bringing only suffering and further heartache. Instead of finding compassion for the plight of those involved in conflict, I had concocted an internal conflict of my own which spilled over into selfish, obsessive behaviour, bringing only additional suffering into the world. I had taken the justifiably broken heart of Ukraine and considered it my own, wearing it as some ‘heroic’ medal that served no one. Was the world a better place for my privileged perspective of second hand misery? Of course not. And to me, privilege seems to have been at the root of my discomfort. The ecologist Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik writes, “Privilege represents our shelter from the effects of a particular injustice, our distance from a deprivation. Unless we are attentive to our distance, we can grossly misread the urgency of an issue, confusing our own perception of risk with that borne by another.” In short, any well intended compassion I had hoped to practice had been nullified by the privilege of my distance from others’ pain. Was it any wonder that those good intentions had almost immediately turned to pity and worse... the divorced distortion of self-pity? On a purely practical level, my media maintained melancholy improved nothing for anyone or anything. But, in this era of growing inequality, injustice and conflict, how can we find practical ways to make a positive difference - to champion the redemptive qualities of love in the face of greed and enmity? I believe compassion still has a significant role to play. Not a misplaced compassion, valiantly but vainly striving to link to the great tragedies of our day on some distant shore, but a lived compassion, inextricably connected to our first hand experience of others, through our senses and emotional sensibilities. The Covid pandemic cut a level playing field through class structure and cultural conditioning. During a period of great apparent need, many more of us found the time and energy to care for our more vulnerable community members even if only by doing someone’s shopping or enjoying socially distanced conversation to alleviate the isolating loneliness of lockdown. Small, daily acts of compassion made a huge positive difference to those in need. And lest we forget, we are in the most crucial period of human history on this beautiful but desecrated planet. Our behaviour has wreaked havoc on the biodiversity that birthed and sustains us as a species. The most recent but consistently under-reported IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report, compiled over the last seven years by independent climate scientists across the planet, urges an immediate switch away from fossil fuels to avert global catastrophe. Deborah Brosnan, adjunct professor of biology at Virginia Tech University in the US and a scientific consultant, suggested that the widely anticipated, excoriating "now or never" report was, “widely anticipated, but completely ignored. Eclipsed mostly by the war in Ukraine, and domestic issues such as inflation, most major media have barely reported let alone analysed the findings. The war in Ukraine is a terrible tragedy playing out before our eyes, and families rightly fear being pushed into poverty by inflation. Yet we seem blind to the fact that an even larger and existential crisis is already unfolding today – one that will result in a global humanitarian crisis and on a scale never seen before.” The compassionate imperative to move away from fossil fuel dependent economies has never been greater. The humanitarian crisis already in effect is a narrative that the distance of privilege still allows us to relegate in our list of priorities or even deny. Macmillen Voskoboynik provides this visceral wake up call to the tragic but apparently less newsworthy climate crisis casualties, already being evidenced across the planet, that privilege callously reduces to statistics: “To distill pain, we categorise. We homogenise. We count. We turn to the mathematics: digits that hold the dead, the wounded, the houses destroyed, the damages incurred. These reductive numbers allow us to hold what we cannot: the heart-splintering volume of loss wrought by climate violence. The intimacy; the visceral imagery; the unforgettable emotional maps, of disaster. The broken sleeps, the rotting crops, the suffocating heat, the stained liturgies, the endless scrubbing of mould. The soaked birth certificates and land titles, stained with seawater. The flooded ashes, the full morgues, the bodies unclaimed, buried without a name. The public prayers, the waterlogged pharmacies, the stuttering ventilators, the postponed operations, the endless afterlife of disaster. The saline lands, the unrecognisable territory, the scarred earth, the brackish water, the untenable house. The resignation of uncertainty, the sadness, felt in the body, in the breath, in the words. The debt payments, the squandered savings. The slow violence of malnutrition, the shattering of prospects, the confusion of loss, the traumas we can’t conceive.” Am I contradicting myself here, merely adding more second hand, misery inducing, media delivered imagery to the abundance already in circulation? Quite possibly. My sincere intention however, is to draw very specific attention to the irrefutable part that our own actions play in causing the devastation outlined above. There should be no ignorant divorce from appreciating that our consumer behaviour and fossil fuel dependence has a very direct effect on those most vulnerable to climate violence. Practical compassion for those at the mercy of sea level rise, destructive weather patterns, mud slides, forest fire and desertification, poverty and famine can be practiced through careful choices about what we are prepared to give up and do without. The importance we place on our food; leisure activities; ‘beauty’ products; consumer goods; cars; fuel needs; air travel; business practices, all have direct implications for the well-being of other people and the ecology of this planet. How much of what we buy and how we behave is driven by need and how much is simply a choice based on privilege? A simple choice to switch off and unplug all appliances on standby power mode other than those that are absolutely necessary (fridges and freezers) will not only save the average household over £150 a year but has an immediate effect on the demand for fossil fuel produced electricity - an immediate, practical act of compassion to planet and people. Equally, a total switch to LED bulbs is a simple way to slash residential and business energy consumption; as is a resolution to use public transport more often; to drive slower when driving is the only option; to walk or cycle rather than use the car; to buy as much locally sourced, unprocessed, unpackaged organic food as possible; to grow vegetables in window boxes and flower beds; to chop in the 4x4 gas guzzler for a smaller, less thirsty or electric vehicle; to share cars, journeys, tools and appliances. Should the aspirations of the modern home run to multiple tellies, running machines and hot tubs? Does anyone actually NEED a f***ing leaf blower? I hope this sounds practical rather than harsh but the evidence is clearer than ever before in our history: the choices we make in thought, word and deed have a direct effect on the well being of others and the planet we share. For those of us in circumstances of privilege, those choices should be exercised with increasing care and compassion. Any solution to climate change catastrophe does not just require a reduction in fossil fuel emissions - it desperately needs a coherent and humane effort to reduce injustices and inequalities wherever they exist. Catherine Mitchell, a professor emerita of energy policy at Exeter University, stresses that scientific and economic research consistently suggests the needs of the poorest people on the planet must be prioritised. “Unless we have social justice, there are not going to be more accelerated greenhouse gas reductions. These issues are tied together.” Oxfam agrees, from its mission statement to fight inequality and poverty injustice
The climate crisis is a man-made disaster that is already reversing progress made in the fight against poverty and inequality. It contributes to vulnerable communities becoming even more fragile and exacerbates the risk of conflict and disaster. To change its course, governments and corporations must stop destructive practices and instead invest in sustainable solutions. The voices of feminist organizations, youth, and indigenous peoples must be amplified in climate negotiations, and lead the transition towards greener and fairer economic solutions. Support this work if you can, even if that's simply a trip to your local Oxfam charity shop to buy something second hand instead of something new.
Under this Libra Full Moon’s balanced scales of justice, let us work towards a greater recognition of our privilege so that our subsequent thoughts, words and actions can find practical, compassionate ways of benefiting All.
Do please spread the compassionate vibe by sharing this message with anyone you think might be interested...
With love 'til next time
PAINTING FOR UKRAINE
LOVE IN A TIME OF HATE II
watercolour 22 x 18 cm 2022
welcome aoife ray
I am delighted to relay a wonderful, embodied message of Love delivered to us all this month. Under the balanced scales of this Libra Full Moon we send our love and congratulations to dear friends Cat and Eoin for recently bringing the youngest member of our Mooning collective AOIFE RAY (1:4:22) safely into her earthly vehicle. We welcome her into her new surroundings and the love of her extended, supportive clan. We give thanks to her divine mother, Cat, for the priceless gift of her birth. May Aoife find a swift path to her own voice, that it might harmonise with those of the angels and ancestors for the benefit of All.
The Blessing of a Child Entering the World As I enter my new family May they be delighted At how their kindness Comes into blossom. Unknown to me and them, May I be exactly the one To restore in their forlorn places New vitality and promise. May the hearts of others Hear again the music In the lost echoes Of their neglected wonder. If my destiny is sheltered,
May the grace of this privilege Reach and bless the other infants Who are destined for torn places. If my destiny is bleak, May I find in myself A secret stillness And tranquility Beneath the turmoil. May my eyes never lose sight Of why I came here, That I never be claimed By the falsity of fear Or eat the bread of bitterness. In everything I do, think, Feel and say, May I allow the light Of the world I am leaving To shine through and carry me home. John O'Donohue from Benedictus - A Book of Blessings
As a starting point to access your unique, peace imbued, still small voice within, here's a practical step by step guide to meditation. I maintain that the process is very simple. The stumbling block for most folks is not how to do it but how to maintain the discipline to really attain full benefit. Regular practice, even for 5 minutes morning and evening will bring almost instant results. Further progress naturally comes with further discipline - a few extra minutes each day as feels comfortable.
Recommended as you first rise in the morning or just before you retire to bed in the evening...or both.
Switch off the devices - no distractions.
If necessary, let others in your household know that you do not wish to be disturbed for a short while.
Create a quiet, relaxed space with a chair in which you can sit comfortably with a straight back (option to light a candle/incense should you wish. Wrap yourself in a blanket if it feels right).
Sit with a straight back and concentrate solely on your breathing until your thoughts start to slow down.
Don't beat yourself up if your uncontrolled thoughts keep distracting you - just acknowledge those thoughts, observe their origins and swiftly return your concentration to the breath....quite literally the physical sensations of breathing in and out and only this.
When the mind finally calms (5 -10 mins), i.e. when the gaps between thoughts get noticeably longer, a spaciousness may be experienced.
Where are you in relation to that space?
Listen carefully for any words, messages or feelings that may (or may not) arise in the space.
Relax and dwell in the spaciousness as long as feels comfortable, returning concentration to the breath when thought intermittently arises.
To finish, gratefully acknowledge that spaciousness as your own: a safe, happy, healthy and, above all, peaceful space to which you can return at any time simply by focusing on your breath.
Return to the awareness of your body, surroundings and your day to day activities, hopefully imbued with peace.
You have begun to enjoy and picture "a love of already satisfied desire." (Albert Einstein)
It's better than telly.
DO give this practice a regular spot in your daily digital diary.
DO make a quick note of anything unusual you experienced during the meditation (always have a notebook nearby).
DON'T fret if you miss a few days. Just return to the practice as soon as possible and reaffirm your commitment to the positive change it brings.
JUST SO YOU KNOW....
Versions of these writings are additionally available on the website www.markweighton.com. Your comments and kind support are always welcome. Don't hesitate to get in touch should you feel the urge. Collaborations and commissions always considered...apart from portraits of pets and children.