Known in Native American tradition as the ‘Snow Moon’ this weekend’s Leo Full Moon is probably one under which we should do as little as possible. Modern culture often equates being busy with success: our time, when spoken for in work and play, can validate our life choices with a sense of purpose, however superficially.

This Leo Full Moon begs us to think otherwise; to orientate counter-culturally and take time out of our daily routines to consider the efficacy of our habitual behaviour with a view to change…albeit without any immediate rush.

Symbolised by the lion, Leo is something of a proud loner, happy to lounge and let others do the hard graft if at all possible. To be honest, that’s not such a bad role model for the next fortnight. The Snow Moon speaks of cold periods in which the snow lies heavy on the ground, restricting our movements; where food is scarce requiring all available energy to be conserved. There’s a strong case for hunkering down through the cold snaps (emotionally and physically) and guarding our vitality for warmer, more hospitable circumstances.

The coming fortnight is not one in which to waste energy and yet, an abundance of lunar influenced emotional intensity is likely to provide ample opportunity to do just that. We should be extremely wary of engaging in negative discourse of any kind. An intent to diffuse escalation with humour and humility, or simply walk away with a well intentioned smile, will be helpful. The chaotic fall out of disagreements created over the next few days may take months of remedial work and dwindling energy reserves to repair.

If we can swing it, this is a propitious period to spend quality time alone. Families and employment may prove a hindrance but in utilising a little Leo creativity (albeit in the cause of manipulating an easy life) we should find a way of slinking away from the throng while everyone else is occupied or watching telly. This is not a full moon for productivity, this is the full moon for self preservation. Longer loo breaks and bathtimes are to be recommended. Take a book and lock the door.

And is doing less necessarily such a bad thing? Recent studies exploring the merits of a four day week all seem to be saying the same thing. A 2021 Swedish study which followed workers for a decade showed that reduced working hours reduced stress, exhaustion and negative emotion. An earlier 2017 Scandinavian study showed that cutting working hours by 25% improved sleep and lowered stress, while research from the 1990s showed that working only six hours a day improved workers’ family lives.

A 2019 Oxford University study found that happy workers were 13% more productive, supporting a huge amount of more recent first hand evidence from those who had no choice but to work from home during the Covid pandemic but thrived.

It sounds like a no-brainer here in the UK. Everyone working less, with no reduction in pay, is potentially a panacea for everything from Britain’s chronic productivity; employment shortages; the mental health pandemic to our broken care sector. It’s a massive win/win waiting to be grasped by simply sharing the workload round more equitably for fewer individual hours. It makes ecological sense, too. When we’re overworked, we use the car more, eat more processed junk, buy more useless, disposable products and embark on unnecessary, carbon heavy lifestyle projects to compensate for our unhappiness.

A comprehensive UK pilot scheme recently concluded, where 70 British companies offered 3,300 workers a 20% reduction in hours with no reduction in pay. The full results are to be published later this month but as the survey wound up, 95% of companies said they had maintained or improved productivity and 88% reported they would continue to develop the model after the trial.

The current, male devised and dominated industrial economy (historically developed when half the workforce - women - was unpaid but expected to feed, clothe and care for the children of wage earners) will argue that embracing a four day week will have catastrophic economic consequences. But lest we forget, back in the day, there was similar employer and parliamentary dissent at the thought of equal pay for women and ending the previously standard six day working week. Equitable changes in labour law have benefitted everyone despite the squeals of the privileged few.

As often advocated in this column, the case for challenging the existing societal, economic and political systems is gaining urgency. This way of thinking is not working. Its outcomes are killing us and vast swathes of life on Earth. As humanity becomes more aware of the strain we are placing on the planet and the biodiversity miracle that birthed and supports our presence here, we bear a responsibility to think anew. We need to find time to reimagine the way we want to live our lives to minimise any further damage to our environment and each other. In arresting the devastating decline in biodiversity and human physical and mental health we may encourage the healing necessary to enter a new era of balanced human and planetary prosperity.

Modern society has tended to trample the saner philosophical models of our distant past. Around 300 BCE the Chinese philosophy of wu-wei emerged in the religious tradition of Daoism. Wu-wei, literally translates as ‘doing nothing’ or non-doing. Not to be confused with sitting around getting bored or being lazy, this ancient wisdom developed the Daoist belief that we exist in a dynamic universe that is constantly changing, unfolding spontaneously through the incessant fluctuations of the Way (Dao). Everything in the Universe, including humans, was believed to have its own natural course aligned with and inherent to the Way. Allowing that course to run unimpeded would lead to flourishing. Sadly, it also recognised that humanity, through logical thought, language, culture and governance, generally interferes with this natural order; imposes the vanity of human will on evolution, forsaking intuitive spontaneity for artifice, illusion and ultimately causes damage and dissatisfaction. 2300 years later, this sounds like a prophetic depiction of our current climate catastrophe.

Life's pure joy is in doing nothing. No wonder we seldom experience it, for we are driven to do something or the other, all the time.

(Amar Ochani)

Far from suggesting we should avoid action, Wu-wei paradoxically advocates “effortless action” or “actionless action” - essentially to be so aligned with the Way (the natural course of life) that action is accomplished with great concentrated efficiency and joy (the natural state of the Way). In these moments of alignment the willful ego steps aside and we are carried harmoniously in the flow of existence. I suspect there are distant echoes of wu-wei bleeding into sports commentary as over excited pundits pronounce a player to be operating ‘in the zone’ as a goal is scored.

When your body is not aligned [形不正],
The inner power will not come.
When you are not tranquil within [中不靜],
Your mind will not be well ordered.
Align your body, assist the inner power [正形攝德],
Then it will gradually come on its own.

(Verse 11, Original Tao: Inward Training (Nei-yeh))

That might all sound a bit ‘Kung Fu Panda’ but from the luxurious solitude of this weekend’s Leo Full Moon sofa we might start to consider how far our actions stray from the natural flow of existence in our day to day living. Does our willful behaviour create more or less stress in our lives? How might we use our energy most efficiently to benefit All, not just our own selfish motives?

Perhaps we should we should consider this Leo Full Moon as an opportunity to devise our own manifesto for doing less whilst ensuring that what we do undertake is done efficiently and with joy. If the joy departs; if the flow stutters; if the Way seems lost…desist, hit pause and rethink. Let’s observe existence ceaselessly unfolding around us and gratefully reimagine our place within its benevolent embrace. That inner security, throughout the chill of this Leo Full moon, is something to celebrate and indulge…..alone.

The more people do, the more society develops, the more problems arise. The increasing desolation of nature, the exhaustion of resources, the uneasiness and disintegration of the human spirit, all have been brought about by humanity's trying to accomplish something. Originally there was no reason to progress, and nothing that had to be done. We have come to the point at which there is no other way than to bring about a "movement" not to bring anything about.

(Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution)