Posted inHenry's Messages

Art and Dharma

December 13, 2014



Something wants to be born…

Some masters speak of the spiritual quest as a pregnancy. We may think we’re trying to resolve things for ourselves, find out who we really are, what this life is, but those are only symptoms. The pregnancy is not a metaphor. Something wants to be born.

Writers and artists mimic the process. They get pregnant and give birth to a work. Perhaps they short-circuit a greater birth trying to happen, which could never be contained in an object. A great work of art may contain the uncontainable, something greater than its dimensions. Artists make a place for it to dwell. It can threaten them, but they won’t let it take over. That’s why they create in the first place—to manage it, steer it into a dwelling place.

In spiritual training we let the energy take over, we don’t redirect it. We give ourselves up and let it take us over, live in us, as us. In fact it’s already doing so, but it’s hard to give up the illusion that it isn’t.

I always took the pregnancy idea metaphorically. But as with so much in Zen, it’s not a metaphor. It is—alas for the conventional view of things—literal.


By Henry Shukman, from our newsletter archives.
Image: Baby, by Galloo, CC0 at

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