This past week I went camping in the rain forest. Although I am fortunate to live in an apartment in the city that is near many trees, it had been years since I had spent continual days in nature - eating, sleeping, laughing, thinking, urinating, being. After my first night's sleep, I awoke with a stirring of energy that I hadn't felt in some time. My dreams were colorful and vivid. And insights rushed in, just from observing the life around me. In particular, on one of our day hikes, I remember looking down at the ground littered with pine cones. I instantly thought about fertility, and how a tree grows and eventually drops thousands of cones, but very few actually result in a new tree. However, the mathematical perfection and beauty of the cone is creativity all its own. I thought to myself, I want to allow myself to BE, like a tree, create my "cones" and let them go - proud of them whether they grow into something else or not. Or perhaps they will grow into something unexpected, like a holiday wreath.
Not knowing much about pine cones, I immediately started researching them when I returned home to my computer. I had no idea that trees had both male and female cones. I must have missed that somewhere along the line in elementary school. The male cones are the small, compact little nubbets (yang) that you may notice everywhere amongst the pine needles on the forest floor, and they contain and release pollen. The female cones are the quintessential larger cones that are so familiar (yin), with their open scales splayed out. These female cones contain ovules, which wait to be penetrated by the wind with the pollen of the male cone. Once fertilized, a seed is created which is then released by the female cone - and provided that conditions in the earth are fertile - a new tree is born. Beautiful. I now understand why the pine cone has been depicted as a symbol of fertility throughout the ages. It is a symbol of how we may cultivate our creativity, simply by being open to receiving the pollen (the messages of the universe). Taoism is about celebrating our inner spaciousness. In Dr. Randine Lewis' book "The Way of the Fertile Soul", she gives this quote from Lao Tzu:
"We join spokes together in a wheel, but it is the center hole that makes the wagon move. We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we desire. We hammer wood for a house, but it is the inner space that makes it livable. We work with being, but nonbeing is what we use."
During that same week after camping, I spent some time with my mom. We were discussing life, as we often do. I can't remember her exact phrasing, but she used the beautiful example of a closed fist - in which nothing can get in, but by unclenching and opening your hand, you have the ability to receive something new. Such powerful examples of how to be are all around us.
A new understanding is brewing in me about how sacred space is. I am seeing the real error in our attempts to fill the void and hold onto that feeling of fullness. For this spaciousness is where creativity thrives, and whatever we are using to try to fill it up, be it food, drugs, shopping, another person's affection, etc., is creating such a clutter that we can't access our vitality. Clear the memory card, make room for inspiration. Inspire is literally to breath, to receive and then to let go, and repeat.