2007 - 2022

Prenatal Care for the Rebirth of a Nation


Today marks the Gaelic holiday of Imbolc, associated with the Goddess Brigid and the beginnings of the birth of spring. Spiritual guide and wellbeing coach Vishwam Heckert invites us to consider the coming rebirth of our Nation and how we can all help.

When something wonderful is potentially coming into our lives, we do well to lovingly attend to the whole process. Or, for the more philosophically minded, the ends cannot justify the means if there is no end … only means. Life is continuous. So we don’t need to wait to contribute, for example, to Scotland’s independence.

The (re)birth of a nation might have a particular date, in a way, which will be celebrated annually like the 4th of July in the United States or the Cinco de Mayo in México. That is until such time that the Nation transforms once again – maybe into even smaller human-scale regions. Nations are, after all, living beings. And all living beings change. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.

The rebirth of the nation has a governmental process which is perhaps the most obvious element. In fact, we might become fixated on that part just as we might find ourselves pulled into the medical view of birth as the only authority worth listening to. There are so many ways to create, contribute and give birth to new life!

We risk radically disempowering ourselves when we rely entirely on those who seem to be authorities… They have their place, of course, acting as advisors or public servants. Sometimes they offer incredibly valuable help. But we can’t really give them responsibility for our lives, the lives of our children or the life of this Nation. We all have response-ability to contribute. And we can cultivate that ability through caring for ourselves, for each other and for the land we call home. 

In Braiding Sweetgrass, Potawatomi botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer describes how Native Nations do not generally talk of rights, but of responsibilities. The emphasis in any culture that wishes to nurture life (which is what culture means — like a yoghurt culture) is focused on empowerment and care. These are the roots of our ability to respond.

“For all of us, becoming indigenous to a place means living as if your children’s future mattered, to take care of the land as if our lives, both material and spiritual, depended on it,” writes Kimmerer.

The process of birth, whether of a baby or of a Nation, includes both material and spiritual aspects. Materially (notice the mater/mother here) nurturing our own lives in whatever small ways we can contributes to the health of the national and global bodies. Just as pregnant women might find themselves letting go of unhealthy habits by developing more helpful ones for the well-being of themselves and their beloved child-to-be, we can do the same for the rebirth of this Nation (and of the whole world).

Please note, this isn’t a call for self-control out of guilt, but rather a way of honouring life. When we see that we’re not separate from life, from nature, from society, it becomes obvious that caring for ourselves is an essential part of caring for the whole. Self care is not selfish – it’s a practical way of caring equally about everyone, including ourselves. 

Likewise, can we consciously cultivate our spiritual life to be more attuned to what we might call inner authority. The body has a natural wisdom which we can learn to honour. And you may have felt or heard what many have called the “small quiet voice” that whispers only wisdom. We might call this voice intuition, conscience or the voice of the (spiritual) heart. It’s very different from our usual mental commentary (often telling us how we’re doing everything wrong!). This voice doesn’t repeat itself, but offers simple, gentle and clear guidance.

While the history of Scotland is remarkably sectarian offering only two obvious spiritual traditions, today we are blessed with innumerable options. If you’re not sure if you have “a path” yourself yet, you might like to notice what brings you joy. What helps you feel more present, connected with life, and vibrant? 

Maybe it’s spending time outdoors simply enjoying the trees, the sky, the earth and sea. Maybe it’s lovingly chopping vegetables for a nourishing meal. Maybe it’s your morning meditation and yoga practice, setting you up for the day. Maybe it’s creating or listening to beautiful music that lifts your heart. Maybe it’s going for a run, or hiking in the hills or playing football. Maybe it’s reading or writing poetry or other healing words of wisdom, or drawing or painting in playful way. Maybe it’s listening to others with full presence and attention. Maybe it’s helping to bring people together to support each other in challenging times. Maybe it’s going to church, mosque, temple or standing stones….

Whatever it is for you, you might ask yourself: Would I like more of that? Would I like more joy, more presence, more connection in my life? And if the answer is yes, what practical steps could you take to make that a priority?

Perhaps you’ve noticed, we never come to the end of our to do lists… (no ends, only means). There are always ways to keep busy. Always ways to distract ourselves. Is that the life you want for yourself? For this nation? We could choose healing instead.

Whether or not you or others you know support the movement for independence, and however we might feel about various political parties and even idea of the state, probably we all agree that we want Scotland to be a healthy nation. Nurturing ourselves is one practical way we can contribute.

Let us remember, we’re not just the children of those who come before us. We are also the ancestors of the future. In a way, we’re all pregnant with that future.

Image: John Duncan, The Coming of Bride, 2017

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  1. Finlay Macleoid says:

    I thought that Brigit or Bride was Gaelic and it was not shared by the other languages that were of the Celtic family of languages such as Welsh and Cornish and Breton.

    1. @ Bella Caledonia Editor says:

      She is also thought by some (e.g. John Koch of the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies at the Prifysgol Aberystwyth) to have some relation to the British Celtic goddess, Brigantia.

  2. Finlay Macleoid says:

    The Gaelic saints interest me greatly, although being from a Protestant background, I was mostly conversant with them through reading. A few years ago I wanted to plan an all-Gaelic church service in February to commemorate Là Fhèill Brìghde (St. Bridget’s feast day). So I started reading…

    1. Vishwam Heckert says:

      Dear Finlay, the all Gaelic service sounds absolutely beautiful. I’d love to come! Are there any other Gaelic saints that have particularly touched you? I’d love to learn more about them, too, and any good references welcome. Thank you for pointing out that Brigid seems to be specifically Gaelic. I hadn’t realised that she came to Wales from Ireland rather than being ‘native’ herself.

  3. Finlay Macleoid says:

    It seems Bella Caledonia doesn’t like to use the word Gaelic either. They use Celtic instead.

    1. Hi Finlay – fair point, thanks. We have been supporters of gaelic language and culture and will continue to be.

  4. SleepingDog says:

    And yet it is only (nearly) spring in Earth’s temperate zone, northern hemisphere. If the recent BBC documentary series, Green Planet, tells us anything, it is that a true appreciation of nature takes science, and technology, and global idea communism.
    “Dive into a world where a single life can last a thousand years, with David Attenborough. See things no eye has ever seen, and discover the dramatic, beautiful plant life of Earth.”
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/m0013cl7/the-green-planet
    This is important to understand as plants can operate at vastly different speeds to animals (some fierce battles happen in slow-motion to us), and some life is found in places highly inaccessible to ordinarily-equipped humans. Episode 3 is on seasonal worlds.

    An essential point is that if we only paid attention to first-person human experiences of nature, we would see the weather, but not the climate; the leaves, but not the deep roots; the day, but not the darkest night; a death, but not the extinction; the twinkling light, but not the surface of another world. And meditation will tell you next to nothing.

    1. @ SleepingDog says:

      Isn’t meditation a way of letting go of our ‘first-person’ or immanent human experience towards attaining the more ‘global’ or transcendent experience of which you speak?

      Vishwam could probably tell us.

    2. Vishwam Heckert says:

      Thank you, dear Sleeping Dog, for raising these important concerns. Like yourself, I’m a huge fan of science and also love David Attenborough! You might notice I also mentioned another great scientist in the article — botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer. I’m sorry I didn’t give the full title of her book — “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants”. You might really like it!

      While we are looking at the big challenges the world faces, including the climate crisis, we might acknowledge that all cultures have something to offer. Maybe this is part of what you mean by the communism of ideas? Western science of course has a great deal to contribute. I’m suggesting here that indigenous sciences, too, are essential guides in the transformation of our culture into one that can live in harmony with the Earth (including with ourselves and other human beings).

      Meditation, we could say, is one invaluable approach of indigenous sciences which have evolved in diverse ways. The science of yoga is the one I’m most familiar with, so I’ll focus there for now. While western science tends to focus on what we can perceive, model and predict with the mind, the science of yoga looks at the nature of mind itself.

      Let me give an example, maybe a bit like what you’re saying about climate versus weather. If we only look through a microscope, we can learn a great deal about certain aspects of life. And if we only look through a telescope, we learn about others. If we only look through our mind, we see the world not in it’s fullness … but as it is interpreted by our mental patterns.

      We all have these mental patterns, inherited from our families, our schooling, our culture, religion, working life, and so on. Through the practice of meditation and yoga (which we only discover by practising), we find these patterns begin to have less influence on us. We take them less seriously and start to see life in a more open way. We see how things are interconnected in so many ways. And we begin to heal from all the ways in which we’ve been hurt.

      It is this healing which is revolutionary. Because if we carry our old stuff with us, we’ll keep acting in the same ways that have caused us such grief. And when we open to healing and find our awareness opening and changing, we have the possibility of acting in new ways which allow for real social change to take place. Meditation is one amazing and powerful technique we can make part of our lives in order to bring about that experience of healing.

      Does that make sense?

      If you’d like to try a five minute science experiment for yourself, I invite you to join me here — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KA0UBcAm0_g

      Thanks again, Sleeping Dog, for your helpful comment.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Vishwam Heckert, last first, I followed along with your video, although I think my morning caffeine was exacerbating my evening crashing. I am sure meditation has some benefits, perhaps it helps people integrate (consciously or unconsciously) the sensory and information input of the day, resolving inconsistencies in some way, maybe letting us confront our own biases? Alternatively, it may reinforce them in the absence of countervailing evidence. Or it may just clear the mind and relax the body. Maybe I didn’t really feel the need to be healed at the time.

        I have Braiding Sweetgrass on a might-read list. I am comfortable with the idea of science as systematic and collective organisation of observations, experiments and theories that does not need universities or research labs, and could be practised in ancient villages or modern rainforests without all the traditions and conventions of modern global science (which is one of our idea communisms).

        Rather than purely mental patterns, I would suggest the significant patterns are ones of interaction, with other people, non-human animals, objects and the environment, and these patterns cannot be activated during a retreat from the world. That is, humans are social animals, and doers as well as thinkers, and to a large extent our understanding of the world is empirical, even if mediated as through a television nature documentary. I am not sure to what extent you are claiming mystical knowledge here, but that is the point I draw the line. In Monkey/Journey to the West, the monk Tripitaka is portrayed as a holy fool, stuffed with scripture and looking for answers in prayer but oblivious to empirical reality, and would not survive long in the real world without more worldly companions: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tang_Sanzang
        Interestingly, the character has been revised in the Australian–New Zealand production The New Legends of Monkey, with an impostor more sympathetically portrayed. But you cannot apply those stories literally: the heroes physically encounter gods and demons and spirits, they don’t take their existence on trust. I am assuming that no-one has met an official embodiment of Spring either. Mysticism has no track record of providing reliable insights into the natural world that I am aware of. I don’t hear climate school-strikers calling on people to “listen to the mystics!”. And as far as I am aware, mystical traditions and organised Buddhism are just as prone to sexual abuse of the vulnerable as other religions, which is why the deference given to spiritual leaders and teachers and sacred texts is such a real-life problem (see IICSA’s summaries for more details).

        1. @ SleepingDog says:

          ‘I am comfortable with the idea of science as systematic and collective organisation of observations, experiments and theories that does not need universities or research labs, and could be practised in ancient villages or modern rainforests without all the traditions and conventions of modern global science (which is one of our idea communisms).’

          Yes, science (as an institution) is nothing but the sum of the diverse knowledge-communities (‘idea communisms’ if you will) that are currently extant in the world.

          This concept of science as a social institution is fundamental to the work of decolonisation and cognitive justice that you’ve dismissed elsewhere as so much ‘guff’; i.e. the work of dismantling the global hegemony that the traditions and conventions of Western science exercise over and to the exclusion and extirpation of so-called ‘indigenous’ sciences like meditation.

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