Inspiration’s arrow seems to have struck me once again. I appear to have become the familiar Zen archer who aims at her own centre. Lately, the title carved on inspiration’s arrow is “spiritual pregnancy”. I must confess that I was not raised in any religious doctrine, and I have not become religious up until today (I find self-crafted spirituality created of available raw material scattered throughout various spiritual traditions more preferable to institutionalized religion). This can imply that most of the time, I may be quite off the track when trying to understand traditional religious terms, symbolism, imagery and doctrine. But honestly, I do not mind that much (and I do not mean to offend anyone with my relaxed attitude). At times, I really enjoy roaming around freely in the spiritual realm, while being completely absorbed by being lost ;-).
So the idea of “spiritual pregnancy” caught my eye. I am not that sure why, I guess it relates closely to creativity, artistic expression and spiritual transformation (rebirth & renewal). And possibly, Socrates is to blame as well for his philosophy of Maieutics (derived from the Greek for “midwifery”), for his idea of the soulful gestation and birthing process in one’s path to wisdom. It’s also related to my recent re-discovery of Plato’s Symposium and his differentiation of 2 distinct kinds of pregnancy: 1. the conventional, bodily pregnancy of women in biological reproduction, 2. spiritual, artistic pregnancy contributing to a different kind of creativity, spiritual reproduction, generativity. Here’s the relevant excerpt from Symposium (with a longer passage here):
"Those who are pregnant in the body only, betake themselves to women and beget children - this is the character of their love; their offspring, as they hope, will preserve their memory and giving them the blessedness and immortality which they desire in the future. But souls which are pregnant - for there certainly are men who are more creative in their souls than in their bodies conceive that which is proper for the soul to conceive or contain. And what are these conceptions? Wisdom and virtue in general. And such creators are poets and all artists who are deserving of the name inventor….And he who in youth has the seed of these implanted in him and is himself inspired, when he comes to maturity desires to beget and generate. He wanders about seeking beauty that he may beget offspring - for in deformity he will beget nothing - and naturally embraces the beautiful rather than the deformed body; above all when he finds fair and noble and well-nurtured soul, he embraces the two in one person, and to such an one he is full of speech about virtue and the nature and pursuits of a good man; and he tries to educate him; and at the touch of the beautiful which is ever present to his memory, even when absent, he brings forth that which he had conceived long before, and in company with him tends that which he brings forth; and they are married by a far nearer tie and have a closer friendship than those who beget mortal children, for the children who are their common offspring are fairer and more immortal.”
"Who, when he thinks of Homer and Hesiod and other great poets, would not rather have their children than ordinary human ones? Who would not emulate them in the creation of children such as theirs, which have preserved their memory and given them everlasting glory?”
I love this refreshing understanding of spiritual gestation; I find it wonderfully clear and insightful.
Another interesting quote that I stumbled upon on my track hunt for traces of spiritual pregnancy is this Zen quote:
"My mentor came to me to recount his meeting with the Zen master and how the discussion involved me. He said the master had told him I was close, very, very close, and any little thing could break the bottom out. The master had said it wouldn't be Little Kensho either. Some at the sesshin were like dog bowls being tipped over, but I was like a dam ready to burst. Water is held by both, but the results are quite different."
(kensho - an insight into one’s nature, an important step on the path to enlightenment;
sesshin - a period of intensive meditation in a Zen monastery.)
Again, I find infinitely interesting that the Zen master in this excerpt is talking about a dam of water ready to burst, somewhat reminiscent of amniotic fluid in the uterus of pregnant women. When the water breaks, the expectant mothers give birth to their long-awaited babies. Beautiful! When the water breaks in the spiritual womb, I guess not that many know what actually happens.
And then there is the fascinating & inspiring Hafiz poem:
Stop Calling Me A Pregnant Woman!
My Master once entered a phase
That whenever I would see him
He would say,
How did you ever become a pregnant woman?"
And I would reply,
You must be speaking the truth,
But all of what you say is a mystery to me."
Many months passed by in his blessed company.
But one day I lost my patience
Upon hearing that odd refrain
And blurted out,
"Stop calling me a pregnant woman!"
And Attar replied,
"Someday, my sweet Hafiz,
All the nonsense in your brain will dry up
Like a stagnant pool of water
Beneath the sun,
Though if you want to know the Truth
I can so clearly see that God has made love with you
And the whole universe is germinating
Inside your belly
And wonderful words,
Such enlightening words
Will take birth from you
And be cradled against thousands
[Source: Hafiz (1999). The Gift, © Daniel Ladinsky]
No need to add anything, the beauty and poignancy of the poem speaks for itself.
And then there are, again, my own quirky strange experiences on the spiritual path. There were periods in my life, when without any particular reason or without a rational explanation, I repeatedly and consistently had the urge to hold my palms against my chest, cradling my heart, talking to it with tenderness and deep love, behaving in the protective and somewhat affectionate way usually pregnant mothers do towards their unborn children (believe me this is not the typical behaviour of strict intellectual academics among whom I belonged for long years). Strangely, at this time I had no idea what was happening to me, I have never considered the possibility of spiritual pregnancy too closely before. I just felt really confused & curious. I had no explanation for what was going on and what I was doing.
On a different occasion, I was suddenly woken in the middle of the night by a fierce feeling roaring that “I have a poem in my heart”, my whole body was radiating this feeling at me with such intensity, that I had to get up, write it all out, and could not fall asleep for a couple of hours until morning. Believe me, I had no clue what that meant at the time, I had just started diving into poetry, and felt pretty awkward and clumsy in the intricate universe of poetic imagery and symbolism. And I must admit that up until today I have not understood all the significance of “having a poem in my heart” fully. I do not completely and absolutely comprehend what that poem is about, what I am expected to do, what practical implications it has on my current and future life. I am not sure either, if the poem has been born yet or if it will be born at some point later. There is a possibility that my whole life may turn into an extended birthing process from now on. I truly don’t know. With this pace, I may as well get it all when I am on my deathbed :-). I appear to be a slow learner on the subject of spirituality. I seem to get it all with significant delays, only retrospectively. All I can do for now is, let the song unfold in its own time, in its own tempo, interfering with analytical thought as little as possible, providing space and nourishment in the hollow of my chest, welcoming the tender creation warmly, motherly in the nest of my heart.
However, now I can see more clearly, why I found focusing on the PhD so difficult, even downright impossible – draining, tiring, keeping my attention from my soul baby growing inside of the womb of my heart. My attention and psychological energies were already invested somewhere else, without my explicit awareness. I felt somehow psychologically slowed down in the same way expectant women are physically less active by intuition & instinct. I felt as if I was forcing myself into a superhuman Olympic performance, sprinting with depleted body when working on the PhD.
Nowadays, the picture is gradually clearing up in connection with these unusual experiences, but it’s not happening on intellectual level, but rather on an imaginative and emotional plane. I am starting to understand that the heart is simultaneously the tomb (the destroyer, soft killer) of my former, academic, intellectual small ego melting its solidity and sharpness in the hearth of fiery radiance, and it is also the womb of my soul, of my newly unfolding, more expansive self I am living with now. The soul is a tender love child originating from the marriage of spirit and matter conceived in the womb of the heart. The seed of soul was perhaps always present like a fertile ovum (egg) patiently awaiting its fertilization allowing the conception. The lofty spirit, the intellectualized, conventional ego (consisting of all the various sophisticated applications: a personalized portable calculator integrated with a digital daily planner, the mental PDA assorted to my case, inner chatterbox, private inner critic, the hyper-vigilant alarm system and super-sensitive fear generator, all contributing in their own unique way to the idea of who I was) had to descend to the heart’s dark underworld cave from its lofty shiny throne hall in the head. My intellect was blinded in the strange and unusual realm of the heart, fruitlessly groping in the luminous creative darkness, without its usual elaborate action plan and overdone flow charts, without its familiar toolbox of instruments (analysis, prediction, verification, prognosis) that were previously confiscated at the gates to the core of my being. On the other hand, my body’s ambassadors, survival instinct (adaptation & flexibility) and fierce life energies set off climbing on the ascend from the belly level to the domain of my heart, where they were thawed by the solar eruptions of the hidden star, the blazing sun buried at the core of my being. The envoys of spirit and matter met there, they fell into the volcanic crater at the centre of my life, were boiled, cooked, softened in the fiery melting pot of my heart and gave rise to my soul waiting for centuries in the form of a seed, a fertile ovum for its fertilization and conception. However, before any of this happened, the protective shell, the suit of armour formed of emotional defences tightly embracing, suffocating the heart had had to be cracked, smashed, shattered to pieces by previous experiences. Only a tender, raw, vulnerable, unguarded, receptive, open heart can turn into the womb for our new, more soulful incarnation. I guess this emotional disarmament may happen for some people by means of earth-shattering positive experiences like witnessing sights of overwhelming beauty or through an avalanche of parental love. For many of us this happens with the forceful slap of the stick belonging to the eternal Zen master – suffering.
The arising of the soul and emergence of one’s new life incarnation deeply rooted in heart’s depth is how I understand the notion of “immaculate conception” (and I am sure now I am pretty off the track regarding the accepted religious doctrines). It’s the appearance of a radically new, radiant vision of reality, a silken web of purity, openness, innocence, beauty, love woven in the fine creative workshop of the universe accessible through the open view of our heart’s window. It’s such a shame that the heart’s pregnancy is enfolded in such a halo of glamorous exclusivity available only to saints and bodhisattvas, ordinary human beings tending to be portrayed almost like extraterrestrial beings who somehow miraculously broke all their genetic ties to the rest of the human species on Earth. However, spiritual pregnancy is available to us all, through hard psychological work, focused concentration, loving attention, daily mindfulness, cosmic collaboration and divine inspiration.
Today, universe appears to my imagination as a deep, infinite poetic fabric tucked away underneath a luminescent blanket of sense reality; a vast ocean of radiant soft white light, a sea of tender, poignant beauty, an endless meadow of wild flowers bathed in a veil of creative pollen carried by gentle cosmic breeze in all directions. These ecstatic atoms of creativity accelerate to the speed of light, turning into rays of light, arrows of love, driven by the fierce longing to meet their receptive complementary particles of consciousness, lovingly enveloping our shapes, emanating from the energetic nucleus of our beings. God is an archer, inspiring bewitching visions and mesmerizing images of seductive beauty in our hearts. So let’s remove the blinds from the window to our soul, let’s keep down the protective shield casting a shadow on the golden sunflower sprouting, growing from the fertile ground of our hearts.