139: PEACE ANYONE?
TUE 7 MAR 12:40- Moon Howl 139 giving peace a chance in wholly practical ways....
This week sees the full moon reach its shiny best in Virgo. Also known traditionally as the Worm Moon, we moon influenced worms might need to show caution as we emerge from earthbound darkness into the light of spring. Beware, the crows of cultural conditioning will be out in force!
Virgo represents the perfectionist in us all: our often unrealistic, stressful desire for control in a world that writes its own rule book. Our desire to impose control over circumstances we can't govern regularly becomes a fight against anything, and anyone, that stands in the way of our goals. In worst case scenarios, this peculiarly human behaviour, turns our lives into battlefields upon which people and planet are continually harmed. Just ask Vladdie P.
The coming fortnight is one for the workers. Virgo loves to see a good job well done; finds no greater pleasure than a completed 'to do' list, each task executed with perfect precision, even the laundry or washing up. This is a good week to bring major projects to completion or even to start new projects with characteristically thorough Virgo planning.
Emotionally it's also a good full moon for closure - so let's dust off the lists of uncomfortable issues we haven't had the heart to face and work them through methodically. Be gentle mind, Virgo can be a little over zealous in its desire for a clean slate and can occasionally ride roughshod over self and others, causing more issues on additional lists further down the line. As a general rule: be kind to yourself and that kindness will naturally extend towards others.
"Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances. In a gentle way, you can shake the world." Mahatma Gandhi
Virgo hates chaos and since our last Worm Moon in March 2022 chaos has been the order of the geopolitical day. One year on, Putin's bloody war in Ukraine has already cost an estimated 300,000 livesand counting. Once we all had become inured to the death and destruction paraded on global news media, week in week out, we started to confront the comparatively minor but not insignificant issues of energy shortages, breaks in global food supplies and a general cost of living crisis driven by Ukrainian war related inflation. Sadly, a major war has once again blighted the peace of a hitherto complacent Europe which thought all armed conflict related inconvenience could be maintained at arms length in other, less desirable, distant territories. On the doorstep of the European economic powerhouse, lives are being lost; families separated and devastated; livelihoods destroyed; so many worlds turned upside down. Chaos reigns.
But it is our chaos and this diligent, benevolent Virgo Moon begs us to transform the derangement into something productive: a human madness re-ordered. Virgo harnesses great empathy and as the first year of the Ukrainian conflict is commemorated, perhaps we should find time to remember those that have lost loved ones, faced tragedy and trauma, and do what we can to alleviate their burden. In one year the British public alone has raised £407 million through the UK DEC Ukrainian Appeal. Astonishingly that equates to £8 per British adult at a time when UK household budgets are under severe pressure. The populations of other countries have made similar financial commitments, and it's not too late for us to make a further pledge of support through the trusted Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal.
Many Ukrainian families have fled their country to be housed abroad. Nearly 2.9 million refugees found their way to Russia whilst approximately 1.6 million were reported to have fled to Poland as of February 14, 2023. In total, more than 8 million Ukrainian refugees were registered across countries in Europe. In total, since the Russian invasion, a quarter of Ukraine's total population have been displaced. Whilst one border continues to be contested by bloody armed combat, others across Europe have been opened to accept those that need refuge.
And what actions can we take in our own lives that might turn chaos and tragedy into something more productive even if that is simply finding closure to long standing problems. It would be a gross denial to think that our own emotional responses and actions didn't in some way contribute to the collective human consciousness focused on this planet. In accepting responsibility for the contribution our own thoughts, words and deeds make to the collective, we take a mature step towards ensuring that, at the very least, we don't make the current damage any worse. We can strive to not add our shit to the shitstorm already in motion. Moreover, we can start to examine where conflict exists in our own lives and become private peacemakers, internally turning discord into harmony. Once again, an inner act of kindness to self - essentially forgiveness - allows us to walk an outward path towards peace for others.
“Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.” Gautama Buddha
What small acts of inner kindness can we undertake that might add beauty and joy to the collective rather than suffering? Could consciously pursuing our joys help dilute the pervasive negativity of which we should be so mindful. As such, committing to positive thoughts, words and deeds suddenly takes on powerful significance and purpose in the cause of benefit for All. Fortunately for me, those small acts translate easily into my creative practice, more often than not painting and drawing. Is it deluded to think that in doing what I love I might be changing the world for the better - or certainly making it no worse? For me, deluded or not, it has become a very tangible win-win!
In my mind I can believe the small, insignificant act of 'painting for Ukraine' is at least doing something to raise morale - even if it is only mine. The collective consciousness to which we all subscribe and contribute is an underestimated force for change - both positive and negative. Through my painting, there is palpable relief that I am doing something to stop adding negative thought forms to the collective mind-set in favour of an emerging positivity. It needn't be painting of course. It could be gardening, singing, dancing, writing, cooking, walking, doing the washing up, helping out at the local food bank, volunteering to visit patients in hospice care, shopping for an elderly or vulnerable neighbour, going for a jog - anything in the primary pursuit of joy.
"Service which is rendered without joy helps neither the servant nor the served. But all other pleasures and possessions pale into nothingness before service which is rendered in a spirit of joy." Mahatma Gandhi
At this time last year I wrote an article that highlighted several philosophical schools of non violence inspired by a visit to my local Quaker Meeting House. Aware of their impeccable pacifist credentials I wondered whether the Religious Society of Friends had anything to offer my pursuit of peace in a time of war and hatred. It was an enlightening, calming experience. I learnt more about their Peace Testimony and notion of Inner Light. I learnt Quaker testimonies are not beliefs but a description of committed actions, in this case to promote peace, and refrain from and actively oppose participation in war. Their Peace Testimony is in no way a passive resignation, notably espousing the practice of passionate activism.
"Our principle is, and our practices have always been, to seek peace, and ensue it, and to follow after righteousness and the knowledge of God, seeking the good and welfare, and doing that which tends to the peace of all."
Quaker Corporate testimony - Declaration to Charles II, 1660
The meeting participants regularly referred to the 'still small voice' as they were moved to speak during the group meditation. Exploring this inner voice, an intuitive dialogue, is something many wisdom traditions advocate as a proven route to peace. The taxonomy and location of this 'still small voice' is consistent, regardless of physical geography. It is the bedrock of international, cross cultural prayer, meditation and contemplative practice.
For many of us it's the stuff of religious mythology but there are still significant populations on the planet that hold dear the practice of listening to 'Spirit' (consciousness without physical form) as a daily peaceful observance. In this age of deepening division and human conflict, this timeless, ever-available resource of wisdom, inextricably linked to the uniting spiritual theme of peace, is arguably due a renaissance.
The founder of the Findhorn Foundation spiritual community in Scotland, Eileen Caddy, wrote a book, hugely influential in the New Age Movement, Opening Doors Within (1986) which detailed her dialogue with God over a period of one year. Her illuminating subsequent recording of The Small Voice Within can now be found on Spotify(well worth a listen) and draws on the many years of her intensely practical meditative practice.
Channelled teachings in the Native American tradition can be found in the book, The Still Voice (A White Eagle book of meditation) which seeks to heal not only the divisions in ourselves but also the ongoing acrimonious divorce between humanity and the natural world that birthed and supports our existence.
The recently departed Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh, encouraged practicing peace in every moment as a means to transformative happiness and liberty. His book Peace is Every Breath is a practical, mindfulness classic full of warmth and humour.
"Root out the violence in your life, and learn to live compassionately and mindfully. Seek peace. When you have peace within, real peace with others is possible." Thich Nhat Hanh
The argument goes in these and a wide variety of other wisdom traditions, that until we have dealt with our own inner conflicts and brought them to peace, the exterior world will continue to reflect discord and disharmony around us.
Buddha, quoted in the Metta Sutta, had a good take on it as he advised a group of Monks to seek peace under severe provocation by some pretty aggressive demons. By meditating on the following passage, fear left them, peace manifested within, in turn disarming and pacifying the problematic sprites. To my mind, his proactive guidance is as pertinent now as it was back in the day:
"May all beings be happy and secure, may they be happy-minded. Whatever living beings there are - feeble or strong, long, stout or medium, short, small or large, seen or unseen (ghosts, gods and hell-beings), those dwelling far or near, those who are born or those who await rebirth may all beings, without exception be happy-minded. Let none deceive another nor despise any person whatever in any place; in anger or ill-will let them not wish any suffering to each other. Just as a mother would protect her only child at the risk of her own life, even so, let him cultivate a boundless heart towards all beings. Let her thoughts of boundless loving kindness pervade the whole world: above, below and across, without obstruction, without any hatred, without any enmity." Metta Sutta, Khp 8-9, Translated by Peter Harvey
By turning within and locating the still small voice of our unique inner dialogue we actively regain sovereignty over our thoughts, words and deeds to direct them as we see fit. By wholeheartedly seeking inner peace in thought, word and deed, any one of us can create our own non-violent revolution wherever we happen to be.
Images of violence have become commonplace in modern culture, whether it be the current 24/7 war reports or the latest Hollywood blockbuster. We have become desensitised to almost every aspect of our lives being competitively weaponised. We unwittingly serve inherently conflicted social, political and economic norms that drive us apart instead of bringing us together for the common good.
Absentmindedly, we consume what is served up to us, to fill the void vacated by our own neglected creativity. The disproportionately represented paradigm of violence has hijacked the eternal truth of peace and seeks to bury its memory - for if peace can not be imagined it can not be manifested.
Our task under this Virgo Full Moon is surely to call for a ceasefire in our own lives; to find mediated space in our busy schedules to focus our conscious attention on achievable peaceful thoughts and actions to counter the current media malaise. This is not a hit and hope practice (i.e. we know there's a war on but let's hope for peace), it's an active commitment to a precarious but vital daily balancing act: between the warring desire for controlling order and the spiritual path of peaceful allowance. The coming fortnight is an auspicious time for peace minded folks to take the first courageous steps on the path toward the latter.
Ironically, in establishing a foundation of peace in our own outlook, through every thought, word and action, we do in fact open ourselves to greater control of our life experience. Not by force, but by alignment with All that is rather than all that we think life should be - a peaceful calibration with divine will, the rule book that governs us all.
"Human effort is necessary only to learn that human effort as such is useless, and God’s will alone is the real power that controls and brings about all events. When you realise this truth, human effort ceases and divine will starts its work in you, and then you do all things in the freedom of the soul, liberated from care, fear and sorrow. This is the real life to be attained.”Swami Ramdas, In the Vision of God
watercolour 20 X 16cm 2023
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 sometimes 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.