“One of the most significant features we notice in the practice of archery, and in fact of all the arts as they are studied in Japan and probably also in other Far Eastern countries, is that they are not intended for utilitarian purposes only or for purely aesthetic enjoyments, but are meant to train the mind; indeed, to bring it into contact with the ultimate reality.
Archery is, therefore, not practiced solely for hitting the target; the swordsman does not wield the sword just for the sake of outdoing his opponent; the dancer does not dance just to perform certain rhythmical movements of the body. The mind has first to be attuned to the Unconscious. If one really wishes to be master of an art, technical knowledge of it is not enough. One has to transcend technique so that the art becomes an “artless art” growing out of the Unconscious.
In the case of archery, the hitter and the hit are no longer two opposing objects, but are one reality. The archer ceases to be conscious of himself as the one who is engaged in hitting the bull’s-eye which confronts him. This state of unconsciousness is realized only when, completely empty and rid of the self, he becomes one with the perfecting of his technical skill, though there is in it something of a quite different order which cannot be attained by any progressive study of the art.”
~D.T. Suzuki~ “Zen and the Art of Archery”
Just so in birth, we must let go and surrender into becoming one with the act of creation and giving birth. We have a choice during labor to stand stubbornly apart, resisting, fighting, and trying to control the journey, or to let go and become One with the path, wherever it might lead us. Resistance and separation breeds anxiety, fear, and suffering. Letting go and making a conscious choice to become one with the flow, leads us to embrace the fullness of joy, peace, and even exhilaration and ecstasy. I offer you two analogies:
Let’s say you are going out to dinner with friends who offer a choice of two restaurants you might try. The first restaurant is nothing fancy, pretty standard American fare. Their menu lists simple, utilitarian dishes, prepared quickly and expediently, nothing really special, not bad, not great, but it will at least fill your stomach, and get you through to the next meal. At the second restaurant, cooking is the chef’s great passion and delight, and he spends much time pouring a great deal of thought and creativity into his artfully appealing and delicious dishes. The offerings here are an imaginative and creative mix of international cuisine, colors, flavors, aromas, and textures. They appeal to every one of your senses, as enticing and dazzling to the eye and sense of smell, as they are to the stomach. When you eat at this restaurant, you are not simply fulfilling your need for food, you are having a heavenly, gastronomical experience. The delightful flavors come not only from the chef’s culinary knowledge, but from the way he enters fully into his creation, becoming one with his culinary artistry, instilling love and care into each dish. Which of these two restaurants will you choose?
After dinner, you and your friends decide you would like to go someplace to hear some music. Once again you have two choices of venue. Your first option is a singer who is standing on stage looking bored, wishing they were someplace else, and struggling their way painfully through a very bad rendition of a popular song. You can tell their mind and heart are not really present. They are only going through the motions, just another ordinary band gig to get through, on their way to a paycheck. Noone is dancing, not many are really paying attention or listening, and those who are, only make jokes, and speak of the ear blistering effects of the music. Option number two is attending a performance by a virtuoso violinist, Itzhak Perlman perhaps, or a famous singer like Andrea Bocelli or Sarah Brightman, whose way of getting lost in, and utterly becoming the music, reduces you to tears, as you find yourself enthralled with the sublime beauty and passion of their performance. With these professional musicians, being absent from the stage takes on a whole new meaning. Their absence is not unmindful or apathetic, but rather it derives from a place of becoming so irretrievably intertwined with, and a very part of the music itself, they seem to disappear, and there is no longer any separation between performer and performance. When they play or sing the music they love, there is only a totality of ethereal sound, a harmonic oneness that leaves the audience not merely spell bound, but altogether breathless, tearfully enraptured, and in awe. Which will you choose?
Option number two is the type of sublime freedom, ecstatic surrender, union, and harmony I wish for each of you, as you wrap yourself full well in the sacred miracle and transcendent joy of bringing your precious new baby triumphantly into your lives. May you each let go into a oneness with birth so sublime and so complete, there will be no separation between the act of birth, the one giving birth, and the one being birthed, allowing you to be fully present, reveling deeply as you move ever closer to the great joy of seeing for the first time, the face of your greatest gift and treasure, your pure and perfect new son or daughter. Many blessings upon the birth of your new family.