By Maureen B. Roberts, PhD
When a parent bird incubates an egg, s/he devotedly keeps the egg warm and safe; s/he does nothing but instead keeps still, staying fully present in order to give the egg all it needs to nurture the new life suspended within its maternal darkness.
Often when we are ill, this is what the ‘call’ from deep within us invites to do, to cease trying to ‘fix the problem’ and instead let go, retreat to our quiet cave, or nest and receive the gift of sacred, patient warmth. Ancient Greek incubation caves where the sick reclined, let go and waited, were seen as places of access to the Underworld, the unconscious, dreaming depths of soul where warming energy and secretive alchemical work abound.
To incubate, then, is to surrender to the therapeutic wisdom of Nature that resides deep within our bodies and souls. It is a phase of ’suspended animation’, when life is gently held, slowed and passively cocooned in sleep, rest, receptivity, visions and dreams that may illumine the meanings and gifts embedded in our wounds. Sacred incubation is this devotional decision to be fully present in our woundedness, instead of struggling to be free.
It is only within this incubation phase that the gods who reside in our wounds are able to begin the work of realigning us with the energies of life that have become imbalanced, starved, disowned, misused, neglected, or unloved. Here, too, we may receive the luminous gift of understanding, the gentle dawning of insight into how and why we have become ill and what must be done, or undone if we are to become wholesomely reconciled to life’s fullness. It is only then – as night gradually reverts to day – that the urge to emerge softly moves us to leave the incubation cave.
Likewise, the chick within the egg struggles only when it is time to break free, yet even then the hatchling’s pecking forth is never hurried, panicked, or aggressive. Its breaking free is simply the natural reversion of receptivity to creative energy, of dark to light, of yin to yang. So it is with our own incubation as a gift we both receive from Nature and give to ourselves, out of compassion, need and reverence for the eternal way of Tao, the deep wisdom that lets us know when we are ready to emerge from the blanketing warmth and again take our place in the wounded World, as we limp, wander and waltz alone and together through the valleys of ‘soul-making’.
~ c. Maureen B. Roberts, PhD http://www.psychiatrywithsoul.com
[Artwork by Daniel Mirante]