It begins by taking self outside the clamor of calamities. If, for a few moments every day, we let go of worrying about the war in Iraq and the competency of the president and his advisors; if we draw our attention away from the misery in Calcutta and the chaos in Afghanistan; if we release the murder and mayhem close to home and the politics at work, and turn inside, we begin to build a chain of peace.
We let go of the inadequate supper or the drive home and simply breathe. We let go of the children arguing and pay attention instead to the movement of breath in our lungs. For just five or ten minutes we pay close attention to the way our lungs expand and contract. We follow the breath all the way in to the point where it turns and we begin to exhale. We follow it out until it turns again and we begin to inhale. Gently we allow our awareness of our breath to carry us deeper and deeper within.
Admittedly, at first, this may not seem useful or productive, but if we persist without expectation, simply doing it because we decided to do it, there comes a day when miracles happen. We find ourselves in a spacious place without past or future and we return to the world we think we know in a state of deep peace.
As we do this again and again, the peace stays with us for longer and longer until it becomes who and how we are each day. We respond to the world rather than react to it. The children argue less and when they do argue, the arguing does not throw us into turmoil. The drive home becomes less stressful. The politics at work bother us less, and may even change because we no longer are a vital link in the drama. People around us become less desperate.
Studies have shown this. Simple meditation by a single person has profound effects on the people around him or her. The person who meditates becomes a pool of quiet peace and people behave differently in that person's presence. In fact, studies have shown that when one percent of a given population meditates, the entire population experiences a decrease in violence. All without anyone forcing anyone else to do anything.
Why does this happen? Because, as spiritual teachers have told us time and again, we are all connected. We are all part of one another. When someone on the far side of the globe dies of malnutrition or terrorism, it is we who die. We feel it even if we know nothing about it. This is often used as an excuse to take up arms against poverty and injustice.
While we should, indeed, take action, perhaps it would be more effective for us to begin by meditating. If we cultivate a garden of peace within ourselves, that peace touches the lives of people far distant from us who may not have anything in their immediate environment that suggests peace. And the actions we are moved to take are not in opposition, but in support of greater harmony in the world.
And if many of us begin to meditate? First, murders and assaults within our cities will decline. As more of us meditate, our elected officials will begin to act from a more centered place themselves, whether they meditate or not. Policies will change whether those elected officials were our first choice or not.
In distant countries where turmoil now reigns, the internal peace will grow stronger. Terrorists and despots will grow tired of hate and fear and will look for new ways of relating to the world. No one will have coerced them, it will simply grow out of their being as naturally as a flower. They will consider the possibility that the opponent is simply another human being struggling as they are struggling to do the best they can.
And as these changes occur in the world at large, the peace flows back to us, nourishes us and supports us becoming the highest and best that is in us to be. It is as though a great chain of clasped hands stretches around the world. All we need do ... is meditate.
Hello, Darkness, my old friend I've come to talk with you again...
from Sounds of Silence, by Paul Simon
For many years, those words were a touchstone for me. They meant that somewhere, out there, someone understood. Paul understood why I went out into the night even though, at the time, I couldn't understand. I didn't consciously understand that I felt safer under cloak of darkness than in the clear light of day. I only dimly understood that I took refuge in the night to escape the judgments of the day. At school I was judged by both teachers and fellow students and even at home where I knew I was loved I felt judged, but at night, alone with the wind and stars I was accepted and free with no eyes upon me.
Not only were there judgments, there were expectations. Teachers and family members expected high achievement. Those expectations were a weight on my shoulders. I tried very hard to want that too, but I see now that I wanted to just be and I didn't know how. In the darkness there was nothing else to do. The boundaries between myself and the ecstatic scents carried on breezes dissolved.
The stars expected me to be me. The wind and rain didn't notice all the myriad ways I fell short. At the time I expressed the feeling to myself as being wild and one with the elements. That was true.
Through high school and college, that was enough.
But when I left the safe halls of academe there were no more clear paths for what to do with myself. I'd educated myself with only the vaguest of notions what my life would one day look like. I didn't know what I would be. I'd always assumed that would become clear when I walked away from my graduation ceremony. I thought I would be raptured by my new life.
Instead, I found myself adrift with no clear direction. I got jobs. Some good, some horrible. I found living situations. Even after making a major move I had no clear path before me. I kept expecting that some day, like Bilbo Baggins, I'd find a wizard at my door telling me where to go and what to do.
As years followed months followed weeks and days, I grew more despondent and felt lonelier and more lost. And on top of that I felt the weight of other people's expectations and the voices I'd internalized grew louder and more critical.
At night I came home and yelled at my cats before crying into my pillow. That is when night changed from an uncritical friend into a wise counselor. I would scream into the darkness, railing against the day and when the storm of my frustration was spent I heard a quiet whisper in the night. I wrote in my journal and saw two shapes of letters conversing back and forth. One was large and jagged, the other smaller and smoother. It looked like my journal was being written by two different people. The smaller hand spoke common sense in response to the arguments of the other until all the arguments were answered. One time in particular, I was raw from loneliness and felt no one loved me. The darkness laughed gently in my ear and explained that the very molecules of air I breathed love me. The fibers of my pillowcase and the feathers inside loved me. In fact, there was nothing in my room or in the world at large that did not love me. And, mad as it sounds, I recognized the truth and went to sleep that night cradled in the arms of the universe. I began to understand that I can never be alone and I am always loved no matter how contrary appearances might be.
As the darkness revealed more secrets to me, I began to trust them more and more. Little by little I began to use that wisdom to live differently in the daylight. I began to trust myself and my own knowing and as a result daylight itself began to change.
Gradually I lost my fear of being judged. Gradually I began to judge others less and less. I occasionally still feel the fear and desire to judge, but the wisdom I learned in the night quickly steps forward to curb both tendencies.
It was through the darkness that I came to the light, but it is a different quality of light than that we get from the sun.
Sunlight and lamplight illumine the surfaces of things only. I promise you that the surface of me that is thus revealed yields an erroneous impression. It reveals an illusion. Yet many of us spend our lives sculpting and propping up the sagging veneer that the light shows.
As the visible spectrum of light recedes, the world is less defined by surfaces. The range of possibility in reality rises dramatically. In absolute darkness we can see forever. There are no limits. The truth of this is in the palms of our hands. Place your hands over your face so that your palms cover your eyes (without touching them) and squeeze fingers and hands together until all light is excluded. Then, with your eyes open, look into the distance. See if your gaze is blocked by anything.
And the truth of who you are, the light that is inside you by nature, can shine forth. In the clear light of day, you may not be able to see that. But, at night, the surfaces are peeled away and only the light of truth remains.
Even with the loving spirits pressing close in the dark, we experience a peaceful solitude free of judgement and expectation that leaves us free to be who we truly are. At the same time we are closer to the spirit that moves in all things because there are no distractions. We can hear the thoughts of God, have conversations with her (and him), receive revelation from spirit and move closer to enlightenment, closer to seeing with God's eyes.
Astrologically speaking, we all have the same basic parts (8 planets -- we still count Pluto -- and two lights, Moon and Sun) just like our bodies all follow a basic pattern (head, body, arms, legs, etc.). But no matter how similar the basic parts are, each of us behaves, feels, and thinks in as many distinct ways as our bodies manage to differ from one another. That's why horoscopes by Sun sign work for so few of us.
For all you honest Geminis and Scorpios out there, I do know you're out there. I'm just trying to unmask the less scrupulous among you. I say this up front because the very best liars, in general, are Scorpios and Geminis.
Scorpios are good because they can hide their true feelings completely while really picking up on what the other person wants to hear. Now and then they lie to us "for our own good." Because they use our own emotions against us, when the lie is discovered, it feels very personal. In addition, many of them have incredible magnetism that really draws the rest of us in. If lying is what it takes to get what they want, lie they will. This was borne in upon me when I worked at a pizza restaurant years back. My boss was a highly magnetic Scorpio just oozing charm and lying like a rug. Her worst lie was when she told corporate that the problems with a particular week's books were due to the inexperience of the assistant manager -- a painfully honest Sagittarius who didn't realize the manager had been cooking the books! Of course, if a Scorpio has a Mercury in, say, Sagittarius (and one out of three will) only the most oblivious of people will be taken in because their lies will be so transparent.
Geminis are good at lying because they are so bloody plausible, particularly if their Mercury is in Gemini as well. They think quickly on their feet and they can spin a yarn out of thin air using nothing but logic and native wit. They can be a lot of fun and charming in a good-natured, light-hearted way, but you really need to take what they say with a grain of salt. Their lies are less painful because they are not personal.
The first compulsive liar I ever met was a kid my brother had over for a sleep-over. He claimed he was actually rich and wore silk pajamas at home but since he was visiting a "poor" family, he was wearing his "poor" pajamas so we wouldn't feel embarrassed.
I suspect he was a Capricorn or had strong Capricorn somewhere in his chart because the only other compulsive liar I ever met was also a Capricorn. I know, because I did her horoscope in my first flush of horoscope casting. She had (has -- I assume she's still on the planet) a Capricorn ascendant and her sun was square Saturn. For the longest time, it seemed to me that every Capricorn I met lied, if not to others, then to him or her self. Now I know that the perception I had then was not true, but I also know that a deep motivating force in Capricorns is the need to be perceived as worthy. If they already are on their way to becoming the next Donald Trump (or have already achieved a success in their chosen field of endeavor) their need to boost their image (or self-image) by telling some kind of lie is minimal. But if they feel themselves to fall short in some way, they may well lie to look better.
Just as not every Scorpio, Gemini or Capricorn is a liar, none of the other signs is entirely exempt from telling lies. The sign least likely to tell a lie is Sagittarius. There are Sagittarians who literally couldn't tell a lie if their life depended on it. For some of them, truth is a banner raised high. For others is simply a matter of being too hasty and blunt in their speech. If they happen to have Mercury in Scorpio (and one in three of them does) they try to lie, but somehow no one ever believes the lie. A man I know is like this. The lies he tells are reasonable, but somehow -- maybe it's body language -- I never am taken in by his lies. Anyone who has any of the personal planets (Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter or Saturn) in Sagittarius is going to have a tough row to hoe as a liar.
Other sun signs may lie occasionally, but with any of the personal planets in Scorpio, Gemini or Capricorn it is much more evident. Sometimes a difficult relationship between planets (square, opposition, and sometimes conjunction) can do it too, but I'd check the above possibilities first.