127: CEASE FIRE
FRI 18 MAR 07:17 - This month's moonhowl seeking peaceful resolution....
Happy Virgo Full Moon friends
Also known traditionally as the Worm Moon, this worm seems set to turn.
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.
The coming fortnight is likely to be a tough one for the control freaks amongst us or, for that matter, anyone who thinks they've got life all worked out. Expected outcomes and ideals face disappointment this week, with the prospect of an occasional resulting fracas. This is not the week to let people down or turn up late unless you're itching for a brawl. Our heightened emotional state under a full moon will potentially influence the battles we pick, so the suggestion here is to avoid letting any current trivial skirmishes blow up into full scale warfare.
Global human behaviour over the last three weeks has seen clear evidence of its best and worst traits. This Virgo Full Moon is likely to maintain the trend. The invasion and subsequent bombing of Ukraine by Russian armed forces has been a turn of events many had predicted but few of us had taken seriously. Was there a complacency in western nations that our 'values' of democracy and associated international agreements not to invade sovereign states would never be challenged? Was there an arrogance in those wealthy western nations that the golden goose of consumer led economic growth would never be risked by the powerful men most disproportionately benefiting from its riches?
The violent horror show unfolding daily on our screens has been countered by an immediate outpouring of courage and compassion from individuals and communities within Ukraine and its neighbouring nations as they find ways to cope with the bloodshed, destruction and sudden flow of refugees. Further afield, aid to those fleeing the conflict and donation appeals have been swiftly mobilised. Reports and images of defenceless children killed or wounded by Russian shelling has shocked our collective sensibilities to their core. We are at once outraged yet impotent to stop the onslaught of those with barbaric intentions.
From a personal point of view the bombardment of negative imagery and comment in the media became totally overwhelming. After the first few days of the invasion I became increasingly addicted to the emotional drama playing out in real time on my phone and tablet, to the point where I began to feel physically sick. A combination of shock, personal inadequacy and impotence tormented my gut, I lost my appetite, one numbing headache merged into the next; my sleep was fitful, plagued by dreams of destruction. Happy days!
It took me over a week to become aware of the serious deterioration in my well being and I resolved to withdraw 'cold turkey' from all media reports of the conflict, although not without some sense of guilt. Was this not some abdication of my duty to keep abreast of these crucial geopolitical developments? Was it not a gross denial on my part; a head in the sand reaction to something I had no constructive way of responding to? Did my withdrawal somehow make me complicit in the violent actions I could no longer stomach; a shameful display of weakness and a betrayal of those under attack?
I resolved to find a way out of my guilt pit of aching hopelessness through painting. To me, painting represented a positive act in a dominantly negative personal landscape that would require disciplined attention over a number of days, so distracting me from the constant swirl of war reports in the Guardian. It proved a potent panacea, and three days into a concerted paint-athon, I began to feel my mood lift, less dictated by the tenor of media output. I include below, an image of one in the series of small watercolour paintings I completed this week.
In my mind I could believe the small, insignificant act of 'painting for Ukraine' was at least doing something to raise morale - even if it was only mine. The collective consciousness to which we all subscribe and contribute is an underestimated force for change - both positive and negative. There was tangible relief in feeling I had stopped adding negative thought forms to the collective mind-set in favour of an emerging positivity.
Three weeks into the conflict, ten days consciously without seeking media coverage, I am beginning to feel I can offer something a little more practical to the situation than simply painting. A week previously, weighed down by the anxiety surrounding the war, I was no help to anyone or anything; my inner conflict a clear reflection of conflict at large.
In the middle of my paint-athon I attended my first Quaker Meeting. Aware of their impeccable pacifist credentials I wondered whether the Religious Society of Friends had anything to offer my personal recovery plan from media induced misery. 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, intuition or 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 between 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
Is this much different to the sound bite 'thoughts and prayers' sent by default from well meaning but disassociated politicians and religious leaders at times of societal tragedy? I might suggest it's closer to the practical activism sought by the self governing Quaker pacifists.
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 common place 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.
Absent-mindedly, we consume what's 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 cease fire 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 deluge. 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.
With love 'til next time
PAINTING FOR UKRAINE
LOVE IN A TIME OF HATE
watercolour 22 x 18 cm 2022
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.