Nourishing Life Deeply: A Meditation
In a recent correspondence with Dr. Randine Lewis, one of my Chinese Medicine and Fertility mentors, she wrote: “Throughout my path of attempting to know all that pertains to fertility, the ultimate question became, from whence does life arise? And its answer, of course, remains a mystery.”
Before I started working in fertility medicine, I worked with a palliative care physician, treating people in the last days of their lives. I still treasure those days, as it was truly an honour to help hold space for this poignant time of reflection and deep surrender. It was humbling and still serves as a kind of compass, reminding me what my life’s true priorities are today.
Now, I find myself working in fertility and attending births, supporting people in labour. I have found that being with birth is not that different from being with death. Of course one gives way to deep sadness, while the other gives rise to breathtaking joy. But to me, both cases are confounding, like a veil is lifted- time stands still, while everything paradoxically keeps moving on at the same time, and I am caught somewhere in between. Both experiences make the usual day to day seem trivial and also strange and extraordinary at the same time. To me, both birth and death impart love, surrender and peace and leave me suspended in mystery. Where do we come from and where do we go?
In ‘The Five Spirits,’ by Lorie Dechar, she writes “in the Taoist tradition, it is said that when the yang and yin essences of the parents unite at the moment of conception, the star seeds of the shen are scooped up in the ladle of the Big Dipper and poured down into the heart of the developing embryo.” She goes on to describe that this “pure light mixes with the essences of earth and eventually becomes the stuff of awareness, intelligence, and consciousness as well as the basis of our own unique sense of self.”
How can we possibly really know with our rational minds- but what a beautiful description of this enigmatic mystery.
In Chinese Medicine, we learn that the shen resides in the xin. The word xin refers to the heartmind, as the heart is not seen as a separate organ. Shen is a word that embodies spirit, mind, consciousness, vitality, and the energy that enlivens the psyche. If we are asked to close our eyes and point to ourselves, most of us would open our eyes and see that we are pointing at our hearts. If we close our eyes and are asked to point at our minds, we would find ourselves pointing at our heads.
How can we bring our minds and our hearts back together? Perhaps with the practice of nourishing our spirit.
A dear friend of mine recently passed on with terminal cancer, and I find myself reflecting on her life, how she has touched and changed me, and how beautifully and peacefully she left us. How the mud of her life’s suffering gave rise to lotuses and what kind of surrender she courageously met to bring her life to completion in freedom, with no loose ends.
I am returned to this place of mystery with the feeling that we are all part of something bigger and more vast and that it all has the potential to change as we individually know it, in one single breath.
If this was your last breath, what would be most important to you? This single moment is made up of all the moments leading up to it, and it will give rise to all moments following it. So essentially, this moment contains both the past and the future. How we choose to live this moment has the potential to heal the past and to transform the future.
What do you dedicate this moment to? What ignites your spirit and gives rise to volition. What is it in you that wants to reproduce and take place in the stream of continuation? What nourishes you beyond even your loftiest goals of success? Beyond security, abundance or accomplishment. What is it that will help carry you to the other shore in the end? Certainly not any material ambition or accumulation.
What is your deepest aspiration? Is it love? Peace? Freedom? Kindness? Compassion? Understanding? Meditate on it, as though this were your last breath: what do you want to embody? Let this single volition guide your decisions, and nourish your spirit. Surrender your trust in knowing that this is all we can truly do to nourish life in the deepest way in this moment..
Dr. Alda Ngo