A week ago I was diagnosed with PCOS, a serious but non-life threatening insulin resistance that disrupts your hormones, complicating fertility and pregnancy.
My life suddenly became more real than it had up to this point. It was a jolt of reality signifying that, despite my insistence on living with my head in the clouds, this corporal, earthy being made of cells and skin was not supernatural. I have gone through much of life with a dazed detachment; a feeling like the minutiae of everyday life is inconsequential and below my out-of-this-world origins. A medical kerfuffle bursts that bubble.
Initially, honestly, I felt liberated. Just to know something defininitive about my own body felt like an anchor to ground myself with. To have some jumping off point from which to consider this whole journey of pregnancy and motherhood. I understood it as a necessary nurturing and nourishing of my own body; that accidental pregnancy would never happen to me because I’m not the type of person for whom massive life changes accidently happen. There is some sort of umbilical cord from the Universe that provides me with nutrients well in advance. The soil is tilled prior to planting. The need to be intentional seemed apt. This would not be a moment where life would simply befall me; I would have to choose this–I would have to decide.
Naturally, however, this sort of thing brings up a lot of questions, namely: Why? As rational beings we tend to this question often when seemingly distressing things occur. We want to feel that our suffering and frustrations have some larger purpose; that if we’re to experience a modicum of pain it be offset by a karmic rebalancing, repaying with interest any initial discomforts.
I am not immune to this type of thinking and tend to look for the lessons in the living of life. I know too well and feel too personally the hand of lowercase ‘g’ god in life to see things as purely accidental; instead, deciding to view this endlessly expanding energy of the Universe as divine cosmic theater in which we clothe ourselves in reality to experience the awesomeness of existence.
A quote from British Philosopher Alan Watts strikes me:
“This feeling of being lonely and very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything known about man (and all other living organisms) in the sciences. We do not ‘come into’ this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean ‘waves,’ the universe ‘peoples.’ Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. This fact is rarely, if ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who know it to be true in theory do not sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated ‘egos’ inside bags of skin.”
As leaves from a tree, we come out of the world.
Housed within, we were always housed within. In the way that as women we are born with all the eggs we’ll ever have, meaning we first grew inside our mothers inside their mothers; people continuously flowering from one another; we come out.
When you start to ask why you may well find yourself with a Jewish mystic named Laura who WhatsApp video messages you from France.
She tells you are not nourishing your soul.
You understand this to mean: I am a deeply, deeply spiritual person. My relationship with god has been what I consider to be the most important aspect of my life. It gives me direction, clarity, purpose; it is simply true. It is more true than my daily life, my occupation, the politics of this complicated world. God, the Universe, the secret, hidden, gurgling truths of the impossibility of infinity, circling this chaos is where my place is.
This can potentially get out of balance and be harmful, such as when real life feels so insignificant that you then withdraw. My relationship brought me out of that ether and tethered me to the ground. Suddenly I understood that to grasp at any of the real miracles you must go through the experience of the Body, here, on earth, connected to others. I began to love life in a way I never felt I had permission to before. Just to allow oneself to get caught up in the frivolity of daily life; to take precious care of your material world; to be thrown into the web of family dynamics and domestic drama made me feel that I had a chance to participate in the game that everyone around me had been playing for years.
It is easier to convene with god when you live alone. Alone you can carve out so much time and space for your spiritual pursuits. You cast a circle, or lay out stones, you pray, you dance, you stare into your own pupils until your reflection separates itself from you. Rituals are private and sacred. When I was alone, my soul and spirit were allowed to roam much more freely. Or so it feels. Here, in shared space, you are met constantly with the realities of the body and the ego. You are not seeking comfort in the ‘divine’ because you have the comfort of a partner. You are not lighting candles and dancing because the NBA Finals blare from the television. But also because you are calm, and content, and not so urgently seeking companionship in the stars.
How do I nourish my soul?
I tossed this question around for a week, not understanding if it meant more inward or outward expression; something to do with nature or with talents; was to be met through convening with others or in solitude. Much of what I consider to be activities of the soul this medium discussed as spirit (“Doing what you love, yoga, painting, good food, laughter, making love.”)
Google: Five aspects of the soul. Find: A low-fi beta seeming webpage from the early 2000’s.
“But it is the human soul that is both the most complex and the most lofty of souls. Our sages have said: ‘She is called by five names: Nefesh (soul), Ruach (spirit), Neshamah (breath), Chayah (life) and Yechidah (singularity).’ The Chassidic masters explain that the soul’s five ‘names’ actually describe five levels or dimensions of the soul. Nefesh is the soul as the engine of physical life. Ruach is the emotional self and ‘personality.’ Neshamah is the intellectual self. Chayah is the supra-rational self–the seat of will, desire, commitment and faith. Yechidah connotes the essence of the soul–its unity with its source, the singular essence of G-d. For the essence of the soul of man is ‘literally a part of G-d above’–a piece of G-d in us, so to speak.”
God answers your quest and spells things out for you comically clear.
The medium has also told you to think more, which confuses you because she also tells you that you overthink. She says that using your mind, as opposed to your heart, is how you live a more spiritually fulfilled life, because emotions are fickle, and change often, and lead us to choose many things on different days. To decide is to use one’s mind. You wonder about all of the money you are spending in therapy to get in touch with your emotions.
“Neshama is located primarily in the mind. The Neshama is the most Godly of the soul parts. It is pure intellect. One feels God’s ‘breath’, with Machshava, pure thoughts, such as when you fully understand an abstract, correct, and moral principle.”
You are grateful for the intellectual bend of Judaism, and for the women who have been called to be spiritual practitioner, clinical psychologist, or gynecologist, and have provided guidance and guardrails as of late.
My body is teaching me. Just when I feel I have things figured out I am thrown for a loop. But I understand this to also mean another level is unlocked. Challenges, the kabbalists tell us, is how the Universe gives you what you asked for.
I turn to Clarissa Pinkola Estés, who writes:
“Some say the soul informs the body. But what if we were to imagine for a moment that the body informs the soul, helps it adapt to mundane life, parses, translates, gives the blank page, the ink, and the pen with which the soul can write upon our lives? Suppose, as in fairy tales of the shapechangers, the body is a God in its own right, a teacher, a mentor, a certified guide? Then what? Is it wise to spend a lifetime chastising this teacher who has so much to give and teach? Do we wish to spend a lifetime allowing others to detract from our bodies, judge them, find them wanting? Are we strong enough to refute the party line and listen deep, listen true to the body as a powerful and holy being? The body is the rocket launcher. In its nose capsule, the soul looks out of the window into the mysterious starry night and is dazzled.”
Inside my teacher, mentor, and God of a body are two confused, sassy ovaries teeming with generations, and a lesson.
The medium has mentioned passingly that after death we hover above our decayed, decrypted bodies and think I spent so much time worrying about that thing? Send me back, send me back! It all makes sense to me now. And then you must wait for some woman somewhere in the world with her hands closed in prayer asking the sky for a child for your chance to return back to earth.
Out of the world, out of woman.
And so it goes.