Inspiration Meditation – What Is Inspiration? By Orna Ross

Posted on July 17, 2013 by Kira Kenley


Like love, happiness and peace, to which it is so closely aligned, inspiration is mysterious, nebulous and hard to pin down. That doesn’t mean, however, that we cannot understand it, learn what conditions make it ours and foster those conditions. That is what the entire Go Creative! Series of books and soon to be workshops are about.

Inspiration has two different meanings. The first is a physical process: inspiration is the act of inhalation, of breathing in. The second is a mental process, the flashing into awareness of an idea or insight, as if from nowhere, out of what is sometimes called the unconscious or the subconscious. Both the flash and its content, the idea or insight itself, are dubbed “inspiration”.

Inspiration as insight has always fascinated philosophers and psychologists and, because it largely defies analysis, definitions are often symbolical.

•     In ancient Greece, inspiration was believed to emanate from the muses and certain gods, especially Apollo and Dionysus.

•     Socrates held that it was a “kind of instinct” that united poets and prophets, enabling them to “deliver all their sublime messages without knowing in the least what they mean”.

•     The Christian tradition promotes the idea of inspiration as a gift, a grace, from the holy spirit.

•     Legend tells us about Archimedes of Syracuse who noticed how the water rose when he stepped into his bath, thereby igniting an insight into an important principle of fluid mechanics and a method of determining the purity of gold, and sending him through the streets, shouting “Eureka!”(Greek for “I’ve found it!”)

In human life, whatever we create often manifests first in our consciousness, in the form of a thought or feeling. That’s why getting to know our own minds, our own thoughts and how they present themselves, and what lies above, between and beyond them, is so essential if we want to consciously develop our creative capacities.

Inspiration is a particular kind of thought pattern  which seems a little mysterious but we are all familiar with it and we have lots of different expressions for how it manifests.  We will talk about, for example,  an idea that arrived into our consciousness “out of the blue”. Or it “dawned” on us; or it “suddenly hits” us, “from nowhere”; or it “pops into our mind”.

These expressions, and others, point to  experience that is very common: the breakthrough ideas or insights from a level of consciousness that is deeper, and in some way obscured, from our everyday, conventional consciousness.

Consciousness, as described in this way, it is a kind of shorthand. There is no such thing as “creative consciousness” or “conventional consciousness” or “the unconscious”, so beloved of psychoanalysis and Freudian theory as distinct and discrete entities.  Rather, they are ways of describing dimensions, (or we might prefer to say aspects, or modalities) of human experience.  The exploration of layers of consciousness is essential to understanding the creative  process and the role of inspiration in that process.

The idea for Inspiration Meditation came to me while lying in bed, halfway between wakefulness and sleep, and came as if from nowhere. What was going on at the moment when this breakthrough occurred? The insight came to the forefront of my thoughts by breaking through  a previous thought pattern.  I was happy with my meditation method, I had  been loyal to it and it has been protective of me. Yet here was this new and unexpected way of doing things.

As well as excitement, I felt guilt. In order to start doing, and spreading, this meditation,  I would have to stop using the method I have been using to date and that made me feel bad, more than a little ungrateful.  As a writer, I knew that this sense of guilt always accompanies a creative breakthrough. “Every act of creation,” said Picasso, “is first of all an act of destruction.” I knew that any significant scientific or artistic breakthrough always destroys what another part of us considers to be essential and necessary.

Another thing that happened was everything around me suddenly seemed vividly and intensely alive. From a state of sleepily drifting in the semi-dark, I became intensely aware. I could see the furniture, the windows through which a small amount of street light was shining, the ceiling above, the glow of white from the pillows and duvet, the tousled head of my sleeping partner. The intense aliveness of everything, and a sense of fusion between all, was palpable, that special translucence that you experience in meditation had enveloped the world.

That night is still clear in my mind, though so many days and nights between then and before have faded. As I write I can still feel it, the softness of my slippers as I walked down the stairs, the faint tang of garlic and onion coming from the kitchen, the warmth in my study from the heating that had been turned off a few hours earlier.

I had often experienced moments of inspiration through meditation but this was the first time I had so clearly understood that the opposite was also true. Inspiration ignites the meditative state. “It is a curious conception that perception is dull when one is experiencing this state  [of inspiration],” said psychologist Rollo May, in his  popular book The  Courage to Create. “ I believe that perception is actually sharper…   It heightens not only the capacity to think, but also the sensory processes; and it certainly intensifies memory.”

Perception, awareness, awakeness, aliveness, presence: these are characteristic of both meditation and inspiration. They feed each other, in many ways they are one and the same.

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