Welcome to The Middle Way Society

The Middle Way Society was founded to promote the study and practice of The Middle Way. The Middle Way is the idea that we make better judgements by avoiding fixed beliefs and being open to practical experience. We challenge unhelpful distinctions between facts and values, reason and emotion, religion and secularism or arts and sciences. Though our name is inspired by some of the insights of the Buddha, we are independent of Buddhism or any other religion. We seek to promote and support integrative practice, overcoming conflict of all kinds.

The MWS Podcast 41: Sir Harry Burns on the causes of wellness

My guest today is Sir Harry Burns, who is the professor of global public health at the University of Strathclyde and a former  Chief Medical Officer for Scotland. He begins by talking to us about why poor people take longer to recover from illness, the causes of inequality in health and the causes of wellness. He then goes on to talk about some solutions that he has implemented alongside other potential ideas and how this all might relate to the Middle Way.

My friend, Willie Grieve first brought the work of Sir Harry to my attention and you can find a very interesting and helpful article by him which gives an overview of the subject here.

MWS Podcast 41: Sir Harry Burns as audio only:
Download audio: MWS_Podcast_41_Sir_Harry_Burns

Click here to view other podcasts

Poetry 52: Shadow by Lenni Sykes

 Poetry 52: Shadow by Lenni Sykes
Death is stalking you
Following you like a shadow
It clings
And claws
And has you in its grip
But you are resisting
You will not succumb
Not yet
Not today
But soon
Next week?
Next month?
Next year even?
I do not know when it will win
I only know you won’t give in
Not readily
Not easily
You will fight and stay
Until you have no say

(c) L Sykes 20 Nov 2014

Image courtesy of webring.org

The MWS Podcast 40: Alison Armstrong on Mindfulness & Compulsive Buying

My guest today is Alison Armstrong, who is a mindfulness teacher and researcher and founder of Present Minds. She’s going to talk to us about mindfulness and compulsive buying which began as a research project for her PhD and became a ground-breaking RESOLVE study. She’ll also talk about how all this relates to the Middle Way.

Here’s also an article Alison wrote for the Guardian which gives an overview of the topic.

MWS Podcast 40: Alison Armstrong as audio only:
Download audio: MWS_Podcast_40_Alison_Armstrong

Click here to view other podcasts

Max Beckman 1884 – 1950. German The Journey of the Fishes 1934.



IMG 0721 2 Max Beckman 1884   1950. German The Journey of the Fishes 1934.

Max Beckman was born in Leipzig, Germany, when he was ten years old his father died and the family moved to Brunswick in Lower Saxony, his parent’s birthplace. Beckman attended the Grandducal Art School in Weimar in 1900, three years later he stayed in Paris and in 1904 he goes to Berlin, then in 1906 he travels to Florence where he spent six months, in 1905 he joins the Die Brucke art group which was formed in Dresden, – there is an earlier blog on this site about that art movement. Beckman’s work is called German Expressionist although his work is figurative, he rejected the description and became a member of a group called New Objectivity along with the painter George Grosz among others, they looked forward with a certain amount of cynicism, having seen the results of war.  Beckman was to become even more outraged by the activities of the Nazis after the 1930s  Returning to his early years, on the move again he  moves to Berlin in 1907, in 1908 he and his wife have a son, Peter.   At the outbreak of WW1 in 1914 he enlists in the German army field hospital corps but on health grounds he is discharged a year later. Max Beckman’s work was influenced by the experiences of living through both world wars, his time in the army was very traumatic and left a lasting impression which impacted on his art producing strong, raw images of people in different places with hard faces without laughter, at the circus, on the dance floor or sitting at a table in a restaurant, he also painted several self portraits.

In 1925 he married for the second time and taught art in Frankfurt for eight years, he exhibited work in New York, Hammheim and in Berlin. In 1933 the Nazi regime dismissed him from his post, Max Beckman moves back again to Berlin, his work is taken out of exhibitions by Hitler and along with the work of other painters that Hitler rejects an exhibition is set up called ‘Degenerate Art’ opened for the public to visit and ridicule. In 1937 Beckman and his wife move to Amsterdam where he is very productive, also spending some time in Paris. During a visit to London he gives a lecture called ‘On My Painting’ it was an anti- Nazi discourse. He exhibits work in the ‘Exhibition of 20th century German Art’. During 1938/9 he lives in Paris, he seems to be a constant wanderer, in 1947 the family moved to New York where he spent more settled years although he toured around the USA and taught in Washington until his death in 1950. I think the life that Beckman led and his experiences, especially the year working in an army hospital are reflected in his work, his paintings are not easy viewing.

I have chosen a painting called The Journey of the Two Fishes,  oil on canvas completed in 1934. We see a couple who are bound together and strapped to two fishes, a strange craft, Beckman’s mythology was his own but he was interested in Babylonian lore and myth which portrays a god named Dagon, a fertility symbol who has the head of a fish and a similar god called Oannes who brought wisdom to humankind. The fishes are diving to the depths of the ocean, the woman stares into the distance, the man is very afraid knowing that they are ‘heading for perdition’, both have removed their masks, their shallow lives revealed, for Beckman the fishes were a symbol of overpowering sexual desires, he had seen medieval paintings depicting the Last Judgement such as in the fresco at Composanto at Pisa, also Hindu myths. The black colour at the lower edge of the work is ‘ a tragic symbol of hopelessness.’ We can also see a glimmer of hope in the sailing ship on the right hand side, its mast is the shape of a cross, a coincidence or not?

Information from wikipedia, the image is taken from the book Beckman, written by S Luckner.

Embodied meaning talk (summer 2014)

I have now given three talks on different retreats introducing embodied meaning. This one, now edited from the summer retreat, is the most detailed of the three. It might be especially useful for people who were on the weekend retreat on meaning recently, and wish to revisit the theme of embodied meaning in slightly more detail and from a different angle. It is also followed by discussion.