Here I continue with the next chapter in my serialisation of Waking The Monkey!, the true account of my experiences at the Hundredth Monkey Camp of 1995, one of the earliest meditation intention events aiming to work at building a morphic field of harmony so as to help heal the conflicts of the world ~ 'Inner Aid'.
In this chapter we begin in the early morning with the Dance of Life taught to us by Ivan McBeth, helping us to build a good energy for ourselves and the camp. We then continue into meditation on the conflict in Bosnia, followed by Allting ~ a Talking Stick circle in which we all may speak our truths ~ and find that harmony and agreement is a thing more easily talked about than it is to be found....
Many thanks to Ivan McBeth for the teaching of the Dance of Life, and for permission to refer to him by name. Other names are either used with permission, or else are pseudonymised or first names only.
Links to previous chapters may be found at the bottom of this page.
The Dance of Life and Bosnia
Monday 28 August 1995
The sound of Ivan’s flute passing behind my tent woke me. The sun was already bright on the rear wall of my canvas home. My body was all stiff from a third night of sleeping on the hard ground, and my mind drifted in and out of consciousness.
I had resolved to participate in the Dance of Life that morning. My natural inclination was to remain where I was, to return to the recesses of slumber, but I managed to override the demands of my body, sit up and prepare myself to face the day.
A few minutes later I was standing next to Ana with about seventy or eighty others in a circle around the altar in the centre of the open field.
The sun shone brightly. The air still had the slight chill of early morning. The distant Malvern hills rose from the thick mist which was still pooled in the spaces between trees and hedgerows, the grass yet damp with dew beneath our feet.
Ivan was talking with a couple of folk on the other side away from me. He looked about and must have decided he had a sufficient attendance to begin. I noticed he had on a faded Grateful Dead tee-shirt of yellow, pink and blue with a spider’s web worked into the design. Taking his place in the centre he spoke.
“Thankyou everyone for joining us in the Dance of Life this morning. I see we have quite a few more than yesterday, so I shall briefly introduce you to what it is about.
“In the late nineteenth century, when it appeared that the Native American tribes would be all but wiped out by the European settlers, some elders of the Cherokee nation had a council concerning what they could do to ensure the survival of their culture and spiritual teachings. The Dance of Life was created to encapsulate the essence of these. The words or sounds which we chant have no specific translation, but performing them in the Dance is a powerful ritual which initiates one to an understanding of the core of Native American wisdom.
“The Dance itself is a balanced sequence of moves which places us at the centre of the four points of the compass, between sky and earth. This is a core understanding. You are always at the centre of the Universe.
“The moves signify respect to, and invocation of, the spirits of the six directions. In drawing the energy from each direction we pass it through our own being before sending it back out to the Universe. You can think of it as a means of purifying the energy we encounter in the world or indeed of purifying ourselves by bringing in the energy of the Universe to our hearts.
“But it is not necessary to specifically understand the interpretation of the teaching, as the Dance itself raises knowledge and awareness of its meaning. It is part performance and participation, part mantra. The chant and movements are symbolic, beyond language, and by doing them we stimulate our own latent deep inner knowledge.
“Action does indeed speak louder than words, so I shall now lead you through the form.”
For one of such immense stature, Ivan was extraordinarily graceful as he ran through the basis of the movements involved.
“Ama tikki wo-oh” he raised his right hand in a broad sweeping gesture clockwise from his heart, his right leg mirroring the action. As his hand returned to the centre of his chest, the other was moved to join it and both were raised to the sky, opening out as if in adoration and supplication to the sound of the “wo-oh”.
“Ah-ne-oh-hey.” Bringing his hands together to the Ah, he rotated them forward about each other like the paddles of a water wheel to the “ne” as he bent down and touched the earth to the “hey”, almost squatting.
“Oh-oh sha-anna.” Reversing the direction of his spinning hands to the “oh-oh” he raised himself to standing and again reached for the sky with his arms outstretched and spread wide to the sound of “sha-anna”.
“Hey-a-na, hey-a-no, hey-iyaa.” Returning to the initial rotation of his hands he lowered his arms and to the sound of “iyaa” outspread his hands in a gesture of acceptance.
This sequence was repeated with the left hand leading.
“Oh-oh hey-a-no, ha-ah-i-iyaa!” He leant forward, as if reaching for a rope, left hand in front of right to the “Oh-oh”, and to “hey-a-no” pulled it in hand over hand, till gathering it in his Solar Plexus he turned around and let it go, as if releasing a dove, assisting it with a push and the expulsion of breath to “ha-ah-i-iyaa!”
“Oh-oh hey-a-na, hey-a-no, hey-iyaaaah.” He gently gathered in the energy to his centre as if pulling the rope back in and was still, returning to a position a quarter turn clockwise from that he had begun with.
“The chant and movements are repeated to each of the four compass points until we return to where we started. I’ll run through it slowly - follow my movements, don’t worry if you don’t get all the detail, just try and get the feel of the rhythm.”
We followed him through the form, all arms and legs flailing but for those who had clearly done this before. There was much amusement, nervous giggles and embarrassment. I had to face a rising wave of anxiety and feeling of helplessness as we progressed through the movements. I had learnt many yoga positions and a little T’ai Chi in my time but this was alien to me. I endeavoured to mimic the moves I saw being performed, but falling behind began to contend with rising panic reminiscent of the occasion I had let myself in for a juggling workshop some years before. I told myself it would all come in time and that I should not be concerned, but seeing Ana beside me striding confidently through it all only had me feeling more of a klutz. Time for Ivan again.
“Okay, that was only a practice run. We’ll go through it now and if you don’t get the correct movements, don’t let that bother you, if you can follow the direction to face that’s good for a start, watch the others about you and just remember to turn clockwise, to your right. It’s a lot to learn, so if you’re new give yourself the space to watch. It’s not a competition, think of it as a simple morning stretch and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you might fall into it.”
We began again, somewhat more synchronized, and I assuaged my waves of panic by focusing on the moves of our conductor. Left and right got mixed up, I nearly turned the wrong way, and realized that I was far from alone in my confusion. Halfway through I was facing out from the centre and was not able to refer to Ivan even from the corner of my eyes, but then locked onto Ana’s near perfect recitation of the enchantment and almost ballet-like performance of the dance. Turning for the last quarter I was able to mirror her actions as I stood behind her. Though she was somewhat older than my own forty years I could have taken her from behind for a teenager from her slim and lithe figure as it was visible to me there. For a moment I thought I saw the hint of a native American matriarch as she let loose the energy from the final quarter in my direction and came to rest.
I felt invigorated by the exercise so early in the day, but had also been aware that energy of sorts was being passed round the circle by the movements we had engaged in.
“Well done everybody. I’m sure you’ll all be confident with it before many more days have passed. Now to finish let’s send some of that energy we’ve raised out to the rest of the camp and the world. On the count of three I’d like you to turn round and send your energy out with all the vigour you can muster.
“One, two, three….” We drew in our breath and turning round expelled it with a roar which caused heads to be turned in our direction from those pottering around the nearby campfires.
I felt much warmer than I had a few minutes before and the sun was already brighter and stronger. The discharge of our energy coupled with the relief that the session was over had a wave of chuckles rolling about those assembled and several hugs were exchanged. It was an opportunity to speak with and get to know better our companions.
I turned to Ana and said, “When I saw you doing the Dance from behind you could have been seventeen.” I was inspired that this mature woman could dance like a teenager, and felt old and klutzy, though perhaps a decade her junior.
The gathering was breaking up now and people were heading for the café for breakfast. I gathered my cup and cutlery from my tent and joined the queue which stretched out into the field from the entrance.
I waited patiently in line as we marched slowly under the canvas.
There in front of me on the perspex display was my missing purse. I reached out, picked it up and opened it. All the money which I remembered was there.
I beamed at the person behind me in the queue who had been watching me.
“I lost it yesterday, I must have left it here by mistake.” I looked over behind the counter. “Morning Trudi, do you know if this was placed here recently or if it’s been here all the time?”
“Couldn’t say, don’t recall it.”
I smiled and shrugged my shoulders as we moved on. I was simply relieved. I went to find a seat and sat on my own, thanking my stars for this close escape.
A variety of experiences had started to come thick and fast.
I was beginning to recognise faces, individuals who would enter one’s perceptual field before disappearing off at some tangent.
Those who had it in the first place were beginning to lose some of their city polish. By now the smell of the woodsmoke had already penetrated every pore and we were not aware of it on our neighbours let alone ourselves.
Feeling that I should keep myself to myself a little after the rediscovery of my purse I limited myself to grinning at the others sitting down to the rickety trestle table beside me, who probably thought me quite mad.
I had finished my porridge and was onto the toast and marmalade when I noticed Swami saunter in. When he had collected his food he cast about the tables with his gaze and I caught his eye.
He joined me and after morning greetings I told him of my serendipity.
“You must be protected” he said, winking in his mischievous way.
Sitting with someone who seemed to know everyone on site, or at least everyone who had ever been involved in the camps or Glastonbury scene before, is a good way of being introduced to people. I wouldn’t say that I had reached the stage of getting to know anyone at that stage except for Swami himself, but I was beginning to feel it was all a little less unfamiliar than it had been as yet. I was still the newcomer, the outsider, but gaining footholds in that reality, and a little confidence, however erratically.
* * *
Back at my camp circle Sean and Tina were cooking breakfast. The children were all over the place, a scene of domestic chaos from which I did my best to remain detached. The entire camp was in a state of bustle preparing for the morning’s business.
Ana processed about with the tinkly little bell announcing time for the meditation.
The trickle of individuals making for the big top swelled to a flood tide and joining it I was swept inside. All was movement.
The Angel Card lady offered me her velvet bag. I thanked her and looked away in a kind of ritual nonchalance as I took my lucky dip. ‘Communication’. Hmm, we could all use that, especially when it came to the warring parties in the former Yugoslavia.
Glancing about I chose to sit on the Northern side of the circle on that day, and stepped to my right, finding a space almost opposite my position the day before.
I settled down and reached for a stillness inside of me which was not yet present all about. The smell of the wafting herbs, the humidity of the grass and its scent gave a unique ambience. All around the central shrine candles and tea lights were lit. A dozen or more burning joss sticks were added to the atmosphere.
Just as the day before silence descended on the multitude. A couple of late arrivals entered, looked around for an empty space to sit in and hurriedly made for them.
The sunlight spilt through the entrance and the distant voices of children came to us through the still air over the birdsong from the wood.
On the Western side of the circle Ana and Palden sat, facing where the light slanted in. This reminded me of how in Mongolian guaires the elders always sit opposite the entrance, which in their case is in the south to face the sun. They nodded at each other and Palden rose.
“The subject of today’s meditation is Bosnia. As you may recall from the first mailing it was the chronic sense of impasse and blockage in the war in Bosnia which was a major catalyst for this camp coming into being.
“Historically the conflict has roots both in the recent collapse of the communist block which was the precursor to the dismemberment of Yugoslavia and also much further back at least as far as the middle ages. The name Yugoslavia means the union or joining of the Slavs. However this is a misnomer to some extent in that the Muslim population do not see themselves as Slavs, but rather identify with their religious roots. This is not unique to them, Croatia is predominantly Catholic, rather than Orthodox and identifies more strongly with the West than with the Slavic world because of this.
“The concept of Yugoslavia depended on a suppression of these individualities to an extent, and while it worked under the strong hand of a Tito all was quiet. However, once he was gone there was no strong unifying leader and the different groups each pulled in their own direction. Serbia is the strongest individual nation within the federation, it perceived itself as having given up the most and when the formerly dependent states seceded took this as an opportunity to reassert itself under the guise of defending the union. But whereas under Tito it had genuinely been an equal partner with the others, now under Milosovic its interests achieved primacy. When it became clear that fragments of the old union such as Slovenia and Croatia could no longer be kept within its hegemony it began trying to ring-fence those territories which it felt it could still dominate. The Yugoslavian civil wars of the last three years are the result, as ethnic and national groups which have lain dormant to a large extent for many years have resurfaced with varying degrees of success.
“The situation in Bosnia-Herczegovina has become especially intractable because of its complex ethnic mix. You can’t understand it unless you know that the Balkans were the frontline between warring Christians and Muslims for hundreds of years. Serbia still commemorates battles it won in the fourteenth century and the last major war against Islam was fought and won as recently as the eighteenth century when the Ottoman Empire nearly defeated Austria. The Balkans are a complex mix of settlements by different groups from waves which have swept back and forth through the region.
“The intricacies of human development are such that some of these pockets of settlers have learnt to get on with their neighbours better than others. I make the distinction here between intricacy and complexity. Life is intricate, a clock is intricate, a purposeful interaction of many parts each having reciprocal relations with those others about it. Complexity does not necessarily imply such purpose, but can rather simply be the accumulation of layers of chaotic mixing. You see this in a tangled ball of string or the structure of granite ~ quartz and feldspar mixed randomly.
“Society is intricate its workings, but when too much complexity enters the system it can overload what has up until then functioned. This is what has happened in the Balkans, the chaotic upheavals of past migrations have stretched the intricate adaptations of history, overwhelming local tolerance and co-operative co-existence returning the society to a point where only main force is understood by some.
“What we are here for is to help find other ways.
“Just before we start, I have been asked by some about the meditation technique. There are two aspects, the meditation as recommended by the Nine, and individual meditation styles. Remember to let things happen in your meditation, let the images and ideas come to you, there is no need to make it happen, try not to just follow your own particular views which you have brought with you. Be open to new possibilities, new ways of seeing. Focus on where we are going and watch the outcome of whatever happens.
“As to how to meditate, I’m not the person to give you a lesson on different methods, there are others here better qualified to do that. Sometimes I find things come easily and it flows, other times I just sit there and wonder what to do. I would say don’t worry about it, turn your attention to the location and the subject, keep an open mind; you will be guided where to go. We are in the middle here, a conduit rather than controllers.
“Okay, let us begin.”
I was inclined to feel that Palden’s long introduction had been overdone. Surely we had all heard as much as we were likely to need know about the background of the war in Bosnia. Ok, well perhaps I was taking too much of an attitude; maybe not everyone had the depth interest in world history that I did. I was also quite surprised and curious that he did not use any particular technique in his meditation other than to follow the outline given by his guides. It made him more human… I felt less and less the outsider.
For myself I was glad to have had the introduction to the chakras or energy centres yesterday, and happy to use it as the introduction to my own meditation. It proved a valuable assistance as I endeavoured to close the outer world from my senses and find my way to a connection with the warring peoples of Bosnia.
I realized that the ground on which we were sitting was not as level as I had thought previously. The grade sloped up away from me. I had barely been aware of it the previous day, having the advantage of facing downhill, but now that I was at the foot of the incline it was obvious as I had to strain forward to sit upright. No doubt the siting of the circle marquee had been made with the layout of the entire camp in mind, and it would hardly be adjusted purely for my convenience, so I resolved to sit on the uphill side from then on. It occurred to me that those sitting on the equator of our circle as it were would perhaps not even be aware of the disparate levels in their own postures, although surely they must recognise it in their field of vision.
A practical distraction as I settled down and began to raise my attention from my base chakra separated from the earth by a few millimetres of cloth and cushion, but perhaps I should have reflected on the symbolism. As relevant perhaps as the astrological aspects between participants or chance Jungian symbols: Bosnia was not a level playing field.
Ascending the rainbow bridge up my spine I reached the crown of my head and held the image of a glowing violet sphere, opening like a flower. Reaching for connection with the Universe I stretched out my thoughts to the Balkans, focusing on an image of a map of the country we were visiting.
For a long while my mind was filled with nothing but images of fighting men and burnt out houses. There just didn’t seem to be anything to latch onto.
Eventually the chaos of images settled on a village where the inhabitants were cowering in the shells of buildings. It seemed that the Serbs had laid it under a barrage of mortar and artillery. A contingent of Bosnian soldiers that the media would have labelled ‘Muslims’ but who were actually of mixed ancestry had arrived at the last moment and were holding the Serbian ground troops at bay. However an outlying farm had been captured and men killed in defending it. The women feared the worst, they knew the stories of what the soldiers did in such circumstances. The eldest daughter of the dead farmer had already lost her husband to the war and now did a most courageous thing, attaching herself to the commander of the Serbian soldiers; giving herself she knew was the only hope to save her mother and sisters.
This was not a pleasant meditation to experience. It was a noble sacrifice she made of herself to gain influence with the leader of the soldiers. I did not see if it worked for long.
While this may have gained a short term respite for the women of the homestead I wondered what difference it would make in the larger picture of the conflict. The soothing balm of compassion can be an inadequate firewall against the raging passions of war.
I was interrupted by the delicate chime of Palden’s ting tings. Hurriedly reversing the visualization of colours down my spine I returned my attention to the present.
A temporary mass exodus had begun, and while others stood around in the sunshine with their fags I dived into my tent and retrieved a piece of nicotine gum to assist me through the coming session.
Gently sucking the substitute drug I re-entered the circle with the crowd. I could feel the addition to my bloodstream flowing through my arteries like liquid fire, warming and stimulating me. I was grateful for the biochemical support, banishing as it did not only the gnawing hunger for it in the pit of my stomach, but also the wobbling mood I had become vulnerable to after the subject of my meditation. I could well understand why the Native Americans had used tobacco as the stimulant for the Peace Pipe. Only negotiators who are able to banish their fear will truly be able to come from a position of strength; their own inner confidence rather than the strength of their warriors. No wonder either why the trenches of the Great War had been the place where this drug had taken its grip on Western society. Used as an occasional ritual stimulant, a shamanic tool, tobacco was able to confer temporary resistance to fear, but relied on to hold that fear at bay perpetually it levied a high toll in terms of dependence. Biochemists say that nicotine withdrawal can be worse than that from heroin. Neurochemically speaking, replacement of the stimulant which has been acclimated to can be a slow process, and one which cannot be avoided entirely.
Psychologically or spiritually speaking I was finding that my consciousness was raw to fear and pain now that I did not have the artificial strength of tobacco propping up my ego. Appropriate perhaps for healing. The layers of protection were stripped away, exposing sensitivity which had been hidden. The nicotine gum slowed this painful process to the point of manageability, weaning me off while I learnt to cope with the naked feelings which it had helped me for so long to avoid.
Strengthened by my fix like a large number of those about me I was able to relax and pay attention to the Allting.
There were two things that day which attach to my memory of what was discussed. The first was the discovery of my unstolen purse reminding me of the better side of humanity. The other had just occurred and at that moment I had no knowledge of it, but it was eventually to colour my understanding of what we had become involved in doing at a fundamental level.
The Talking Stick was picked up and passed round just as the day before. We began with sympathy for the hard-pressed people of the land we had just visited. There didn’t seem to be much in the way of change happening as a result of our meditations.
“I went to Sarajevo. A family was living in the cellar of a burnt-out house. The father was off fighting with the army, his wife was doing her best to look after the children but was worn ragged with anxiety. Her sixty-nine year old father went out every day looking for food, and had a few vegetables growing in a small patch of ground between the rubble. The grandmother had been killed when a shell had hit the house ~ she had been inside. By a miracle the mother and children had been out of the house at the time. I felt so helpless because there was nothing I could do to help except try and convey my support. In the end it occurred to me that perhaps all I was intended to do was be a witness to this appalling scene.”
The morning was peppered with similar accounts, although not all comments were based on experiences which conformed to the pattern suggested by Palden.
“Why? Why do the Serbs do it? Ten years ago at the Winter Olympics Sarajevo was hailed as a shining example of multi-ethnic harmony if not integration. Now it bears more resemblance to Beirut. What is it that causes people to want to destroy something as good as this was? Why would some people prefer to live in a pile of rubble strewn with dead bodies than get on with their neighbours in peace? I am at a loss. This seems to reflect only the worst of human nature. And the European Union and NATO stand idly by. They are complicit with Karadic and his murderers when they stand back and do nothing. No wonder the Muslim world does not trust the West. Would you trust someone who stood by and watched while a brutal murder took place when they had the power to stop it?”
Another: “It is important to remember that this is one of the most volatile regions in the world when it comes to the potential for ethnic conflict. Sarajevo was where the First World War was sparked off. I can understand the reluctance of the great powers to become involved. This could be the start of a fault line which if opened would split the world in two ~ nations would choose sides dependent on established loyalties and World War Three begins.”
The hand wringing was prevalent but not the only strand. One contribution which had an oblique but constructive angle came to be an oft repeated mythologisation of the work the circle was doing long after the camp, even the Bosnian War, was over.
“A boy found a football. He did not have anyone of his own age to play with so he just used to kick it about in the roads in his village. Some enemy soldiers saw him with it and took to joining in with him. Thus by sharing what they had in common, a love for the game, they drew closer. It is easy to see only our differences and thereby we grow further apart and more in opposition. But if we can concentrate on what we share and give our energies to that, we have hope.
“In addition to this I felt that engaging in a game allowed expression of natural aggressive and competitive tendencies in a socially acceptable way which didn’t leave dead bodies on both sides.”
My own turn came and before I told of my meditation felt that another issue was worth mentioning.
“Some of you will know that I mislaid my purse with thirty odd pounds in it yesterday. I would like to say that I found it this morning fully intact, and where I had left it in full sight; so I should like to thank everybody here in the whole camp for their honesty and integrity. I feel very proud and honoured to be with so many people who would not consider stealing something even though it lay unattended in front of you. This is a true statement of your purity of intention.” It reminded me of Faramir telling Frodo that he would not take the Ring even were it strewn before him on his path.
I followed this with a brief account of my meditation and passed the Stick. I immediately felt a certain embarrassment in that I had intended my remarks about finding my purse and how grateful I was to everyone for being so honest to be an affirmation of our worthiness. Somehow I ended up feeling that I had insulted my audience by even having allowed the possibility of dishonesty to have occurred to my mind. Where did that feeling come from I wondered? I had intended no such disrespect.
My self examination was cut short by the emergence of a new strand, similar in vibration to one which had arisen the day before.
“You have to bear in mind that the Serbs are a proud and independent people who have been overrun more times than anyone can remember and survived with their identity intact. Half the time the invaders have been from Turkey and the East, but the other half they have been dominated by the Roman Catholics of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, previously known as the Holy Roman Empire in an earlier incarnation. The Serbs belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church, so neither of these sides has been favourable to them, they just see themselves as the ball which has kicked about between the two sides over the centuries.” A sidelong reference to the boy with the football? But a different angle entirely. “I can understand how the Bosnian Serbs felt when Bosnia-Herczegovina seceded from Yugoslavia. Like they were in danger of losing their identity, swamped by a different culture.”
Another point of view: “The Serbs are paranoid racists. They are attempting to resuscitate a culture that belongs in the eighteenth century when we are on the verge of the twenty-first. President Itzebegovich and his government were democratically elected. If people do not agree with their policies then they can vote against them in elections. Where would we be if everyone who had a different idea from the majority consensus took arms against it? The multi-ethnic government is not discriminatory against Serbs, but in order to protect the rights of all its peoples it has to defend itself against the enemy who would destroy it from within and then annex it to Serbia proper allowing the development of a Greater Serbia. This would most certainly lead to further ethnic cleansing of Muslims and non-Serbians. The truth about what happened in Srebrenica and other enclaves is yet to come out, but large numbers of men have clearly disappeared. There is behaviour here which would not have been out of character in Nazi Germany.”
Yet more: “The international community made a mistake in recognizing the breakaway states of former Yugoslavia as independent. The world was too quick to allow, even encourage this to happen. Bosnia had insufficient organization and strength to survive on its own. A situation developed where Serbians felt threatened by all the secession going on around them. The unified state in which they had been first among equals was seen as being attacked by the independence movement. Serbs see this war in the same way as Abraham Lincoln did the American Civil War. It is a matter of survival for them, Yugoslavia is something they have believed in and which they wish to preserve. Secession from a united country is not recognized in international law. Bosnia simply shouldn’t have taken the course it did. It is no wonder the Serbs have been angered by these developments and the way they have been treated.”
Another: “The situation in Yugoslavia in the early nineties bears no comparison to the United States in 1861. The Southern States attempted to leave the Union because they feared that Lincoln would be abolitionist. He was not elected on such a platform, and probably would not have introduced such a policy if the Union had not been threatened. The attempt by the Confederacy to break away was actually what historically led to Lincoln’s move to abolition, their lack of respect for the Constitution and the Union. He probably would have moved much more slowly towards abolition had not the Confederacy seceded.
“Whereas Yugoslavia under Tito may have been the most independent Communist country and one which was not beholden to Moscow to the extent that East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and the others were, but it was nonetheless an artificial creation left over from the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Idealistic to an extent in drawing all groups under the one flag, but the suppression of individuality for which the Tito regime was responsible is what has led ultimately to the conflict we have seen over the last few years. Bosnia needed to breathe and find itself.”
But.. “I am not sure we should necessarily believe the Bosnian propaganda. All I see in this situation is that they have the ear of the media and that the Serbs are held as the bad guys. I mean, how do we know that the civilian deaths we hear about are really caused by them? Another version has it that several of the shells and mortar explosions which have apparently killed Bosnian Muslims were deliberately inflicted on their own people by their military in order to be used as propaganda.
“How can we really know what is going on? I recall the Prime Directive from Star Trek which states that you should not become involved with the conflicts in alien cultures. I believe this applies here. Of course it is good to meditate and help the people in this conflict to find their own resolutions, but taking sides doesn’t help.”
Then: “Should we stand by in a school playground and watch the younger children being beaten up by the older and larger ones? Isn’t this just allowing a Lord of the Flies scenario to develop in which force majeur is the deciding factor? This isn’t about discussion of a way forward, because some people aren’t interested in going forward in an equal manner, but about survival of those who are simply trying to live their own lives and organize their own affairs; the bullies aren’t satisfied with this and want to be in charge without the benefit of a democratic mandate. Some people aren’t happy unless they’re screwing it up for everyone else.”
And so the debate went on. There weren’t many meditational visits to report, but a lot of strongly held opinions.
“The Bosnian state is too weak. It doesn’t have the strength to hold together internally so why should it be recognized internationally?”
Or: “Civilians are being targeted and slaughtered by Bosnian Serbs. Sarajevo has become no more than a shooting gallery where the snipers pick of the civilians when the come into their sights. The international community should show them by its actions that this is not acceptable in our modern world.”
Then: “I am Cornish. The ancient Kingdom of Cornwall is a remnant of the old Celtic world that flourished on the Atlantic seaboard of Europe. It is almost an island. Not only because it is the tip of the West Country but because the River Tamar runs for over nine tenths of the length of the boundary with Devon. I can sympathize with a people who feel that they have been marginalised because of this. The Celts of the West have been pushed to the edge of the sea whether it be in Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Cornwall, Brittany or Leon and Galicia. We are an ancient people, the first settlers of North and West Europe long before the Romans invaded and imposed their laws. We are proud of our ancestry and the warrior traditions which enabled us to survive in the face of ethnic cleansing and settlement by migrating tribes from the continent. But it would not be right for us to make war on our neighbours in order to increase our territory. We are wary of incomers, and take a long time before we trust them, but we are not actively hostile. We maintain our identity because it is strong and rooted in our past and the land. A people that feels the need to control the country which they are a part of by warring against their neighbours who have done nothing but belong to a different culture must be overcompensating for their own self-doubt. We can live side by side with new arrivals if they respect us. There is no such respect from the Bosnian Serbs. They want to take land which has been lived in and used by others for hundreds of years. Holding on to ancient grievances in this way is no good. We must accept the changes which history has brought. We can deal with issues which come up in the present, how we relate to those about us now, but if we are always trying to turn the clock back to where we were in the Middle Ages then we will get nowhere.
“If every ethnic group in the world waged war for territory it had once occupied then we would all be fighting over Africa, the ancestral home of the entire human race, overturning present national constitutions attempting to return to earlier arrangements which are not applicable to the circumstances which exist now. I am not saying to give up all rights and claims to your heritage, the Native American Tribes have fought legally to have the conditions of the treaties they signed respected. This has not been easy, the treacherous lawyers of the USA did all they could in the nineteenth century to prevent such a thing ever happening, but there is greater respect for the indigenous inhabitants now than there was in the past, and they have made headway in the courts. It is the same in Australia. These peoples have no chance of winning a war over these matters even though their causes are just. It is better to seek resolution in the courts. Original treaties can be resuscitated and enforced by the collective will of the international community. Respect and consensus carries far more weight than threat enforced at the end of the barrel of a gun.”
No consensus would be reached here today. Interestingly the pattern of representation reflected the situation we were contemplating. Apart from the sprinkling of reports of visits to the war zone and a few from around the world, the majority view was in favour of supporting the rights of the fledgling Bosnian state to maintain itself, with a significant minority who, if not exactly supporting the Serb offensive, were sympathetic to their disgruntlement or at least were not ready to condemn them outright..
For myself, I was in two minds. Surely it must be best if a negotiated internal settlement could be arrived at. But should the international community sit by idly while hundreds if not thousands of civilians were rounded up like cattle for the slaughter? An imposed settlement would, I felt, be in some respects a statement that our attempt at inner aid had failed. But there were clearly factions on the ground who had no interest in mutual agreement, so what could we do?
The Talking Stick reached its full circuit. We agreed that we were complete for the day, but I was undecided. I could reach no obvious conclusion. I knew this was not required, all viewpoints had been expressed, but perhaps we had strayed from our purpose to observe? I reflected that both today as well as previously we had not merely looked on and reported that which we had seen, but had gotten into expressing our opinions, we had started to take sides… A brief thought of ‘The Opposition’, those beings or energies whom the Nine mentioned as agents of division flitted through the back of my mind.
Communication indeed, but acceptance, perhaps not. We were stepping into a space wherein ego identification might take us beyond letting go, into attachment to desired outcomes. We would all need to learn that the Universe is beyond our control, even beyond our comprehension.
© Claire Rae Randall 2012