130: BLURRED BOUNDARIES
TUE 14 JUN 12:51 - This month's moonhowl trying to refocus...
Off the back of last month's Scorpio Lunar Eclipse, we're still likely to be dealing with any skeletons that rattled their way out of the closets of our concealed worlds and subconscious during the past few weeks. Hopefully, this has been a positive, rather than unsettling period, and the ghosts of our past are already spooking us a little less frequently. Despite initial discomfort in confronting issues we have suppressed, having one's private stuff out in the open can eventually be a huge relief - a realisation that what others think of us is less significant than what we think about ourselves.
On a global level, the hidden horrors of war and our ongoing abuse of the planetary eco-systems that support human existence are being exposed with greater regularity. In this globalized, media driven age, we can no longer plead ignorance of the effects of our ideological and consumer driven actions. Responsibility for our thoughts, words and deeds, and how they contribute to the culture we collectively create, will be key to the future prosperity of humanity and the biosphere on which it depends.
And this Sagittarius Full Moon is ideally placed to deal with those recently liberated, scary skeletons. Astrologically, Sagittarius is considered an intelligent, deep thinking sign blessed with unyielding honesty. Under a Sagittarius Full Moon we're therefore more likely to be presented with the truth in uncompromising fashion - even brutally. So, let's tell it like it is - unless we are prepared to 'come out' as obstinate, angry, jealous, wastefully hypocritical planet beaters (amongst other closeted beasts in human form), we remain in denial and unable to deal with the damage that denial continues to inflict.
As we re-evaluate who we think we are in relation to the consequences of our thoughts, words and actions, opportunities arise to realign ourselves with the interconnected web of life that birthed and nurtured our species. In many wisdom traditions our ancient ancestors are described variously as plants, creatures, rivers, mountains, stars and planets, all recognised as having predated humankind by some historical margin.
In geographically disparate indigenous creation myths, these natural world ancestral spirits breathed life into their human progeny, their tribal genealogy a living part of all subsequent generations; stories that provide a prescient parallel to the theory of evolution. These age-old legends suggest our archetypal ancestors nurtured humanity and taught us how to live close to the earth, respecting life in all its interdependent forms.
In the UK, the first weekend of June was focused on The Queen's Platinum Jubilee: her 70 years on the throne and the latest chapter in the story of British colonial gain and privilege. I'm sure Lizzie is a lovely person but on Sunday 5th June, the Monarch's Church of England led celebrations overshadowed the arguably more significant UN World Environment Day. Held annually since 1973 "the event has grown to be the largest global platform for environmental outreach, with millions of people from across the world engaging to protect the planet." There is plenty still to see and celebrate on the website but its total absence in British media coverage is an indictment of my home country's priorities. I sincerely hope it made a significant impression elsewhere.
Modern living has largely divorced us from the natural world. Our appreciation of nature has been objectified onscreen; our gardens have become exercises in manicured 'weed' and 'pest' control; the very word 'soil' has come to mean dirty. In a criminally short period of human history, we have isolated ourselves from the perceived threat of the natural world in a way that, ironically, puts vast swathes of the planet at far greater risk from natural disaster.
Katherine Hayhoe, chief scientist for Nature Conservancy in the US and professor at Texas Tech University recently warned that all scientific evidence suggests we are on course for dangers unseen in 10,000 years of human civilisation:
"People do not understand the magnitude of what is going on. This will be greater than anything we have ever seen in the past. This will be unprecedented. Every living thing will be affected. If we continue with business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions, there is no adaptation that is possible. You just can’t. Our infrastructure, worth trillions of dollars, built over decades, was built for a planet that no longer exists. Human civilisation is based on the assumption of a stable climate, but we are moving far beyond the stable range.”
A dinner guest recently offered me a harrowing but darkly humorous analogy of the situation. He described humanity as passengers on a speeding 747 jet plane following a collision course for the top of a huge mountain. He said the mountain is in full view but everyone on the plane, including the pilot and crew, are more concerned with their decision to have the chicken or vegetarian option for the inflight meal. A change of course is required with immediate effect (and not just a starter instead of a main) but most of us are distractedly consuming ourselves into impending disaster.
As modern culture has pedestaled individualism, individual wealth has become a primary measure of success, with corporate and international legal systems supporting a paradigm of continual extraction of resources away from collective 'need' to isolated tax-free pockets of extreme surplus. With a paucity of alternatives to the prevailing, less than democratic, neo-liberal ideology, most of us have bought into the 'capitalist dream' and it's illusory seductions of getting something for nothing. The climate crisis now playing in a location near you is proof, if it were needed, that there really is no such thing as a free inflight lunch on our current trajectory.
And personal 'success', promoted by countless schools of celebrity led life coaching, has rapidly become a means by which we set fiercely protected personal boundaries in order to keep hold of what we've got. To be brutally honest (in true Sagittarius Full Moon style) I suspect the ivory towers of 'personal empowerment' have become the cells of privilege from which many of us are presiding over unprecedented collective misery for people and planet, and it's not a great look.
As we isolate ourselves from nature, behind private gates that divorce us still further from the social context of community, we become the embodiment of a divisive 'I'm alright Jack' mentality that prioritises personal gain over any negative consequence that goal might accrue.
Geographically, the climate crisis is no respecter of national boundaries. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an annual average of 21.5 million people have been forcibly displaced by weather-related events – such as floods, storms, wildfires and extreme temperatures – since 2008. These numbers are expected to surge in coming decades with forecasts from international thinktank the IEP (International Environmental Partnership) predicting that 1.2 billion people could be displaced globally by 2050 due to climate change and natural disasters. And these figures do not include those displaced by war.
Where are these people - approximately 15 percent of the population - going to find the refuge they so desperately need? The stress at patrolled borderlines the world over is likely to create even more conflict and human misery. Populist nationalism is on the rise in countries that still garner benefit from the the legacy of colonialism. Needless to say, sharing the ill gotten gains is not top of that political agenda.
Are the boundaries we have led ourselves to believe are vital to our personal and national well-being self defeating? If, in pursuing short term interests we cause long term misery for ourselves and others, we place ourselves in a landscape of self perpetuating suffering.
Good ol' Billy Shakespeare had it about right:
“What win I, if I gain the thing I seek?
A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy.
Who buys a minute's mirth to wail a week?
Or sells eternity to get a toy?
For one sweet grape who will the vine destroy?
Or what fond beggar, but to touch the crown,
Would with the sceptre straight be strucken down?”
The Rape of Lucrece
And that nice man Mr Jesus also phrased it succinctly: "What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" Matthew 16.26 And more contemporaneously, that very nice man Lhamo Thondup (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama) hits the nail squarely on the head:“Now there is nothing inherently wrong with pursuing one’s own interests. On the contrary, to do so is a natural expression of our fundamental disposition to seek happiness and to shun suffering. In fact, it is because we care for our own needs that we have the natural capacity to appreciate others’ kindness and love. This instinct for self-interest becomes negative only when we are excessively self-focused. When this happens, our vision narrows, undermining our ability to see things in their wider context. And within such a narrow perspective, even small problems can create tremendous frustration and seem unbearable. In such a state, should genuinely major challenges arise, the danger is that we will lose all hope, feel desperate and alone, and become consumed with self-pity. What is important is that when pursuing our own self-interest we should be ‘wise selfish’ and not ‘foolish selfish.’ Being foolish selfish means pursuing our own interests in a narrow, shortsighted way. Being wise selfish means taking a broader view and recognizing that our own long-term individual interest lies in the welfare of everyone. Being wise selfish means being compassionate.” So, could it be that rather than cementing our already intransigent 'boundaries' of behaviour and their attendant, righteous expectation of others, we should start blurring a few of our normalised parameters for a wider, more caring overview? If our current patterns of thinking and behaving have got us into this mess, surely significant change rather than incremental adaption is necessary to address the damage done, with a further commitment not to make the situation any worse. Instead of seeking fickle external validation, how might our individual internal dialogue recognise where our thoughts, words and actions are contributing to the significant pool of harmful negativity already in circulation? Ironically, this is the real work of the connected individual, separate from the inflated self-importance of the personality, and our exclusive responsibility. How do we, as individuals, make a positive difference for the benefit of All without losing hope and consigning ourselves to the inertia of self-pity, as outlined by the Dalai Lama. We have become a generation of culturally conditioned, angry, avaricious hypocrites and we have to buck that behavioural trend. By all current forecasts, climatic circumstance across the globe will soon put that change of heart beyond our conscious choice. Our recent unpalatable cultural heritage, once claimed, can become a benchmark or behavioural nadir from which transformation can be forged. After all, it is surely better to be a hypocrite and do something to promote positive change than a hypocrite that stands by and watches the planet burn. In the creation mythologies that we write to this day, how would the ever beneficent, venerable ancestors of the natural world view their human offspring? As an integrated lineage of the most beautiful creation story ever told or insatiable, destructive spoilt brats with a deathwish? Under this Sagittarius Full Moon, we remain authors of the narrative and its outcome ....just.
watercolour 18 X 14cm 2022
A few people have asked me to include a practical, step by step guide to mindfulness/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.