Last month was Mantis month for me as I seemed to be attracting Praying Mantises everywhere I went. New baby Mantises had hatched and were running around on the outdoor table, climbing up my arms as I sat down for breakfast. They were possibly the most perfect, tiniest things that I have ever seen. Barely a centimetre long, their limbs were as thin as hairs and they were jumping around not yet able to fly, then stopping to pray, their impossibly light bodies swaying in the breeze. At work I discovered a bright green Mantis on my shoulder as I walked through the rainforest and a couple more on the windscreen of my car when I went to drive home, then I snapped a great shot of this guy just near the front stairs. Okay, so I get the picture – Mantis is trying to tell me something, but what?
I considered the attributes of the Praying Mantis – devotion, stillness, patience and Divine Timing. A Mantis waits motionless for its prey to draw near and then strikes with impeccable speed and accuracy. Mantis knows what Mantis wants and is willing to wait for just the right time before making a move. Then a friend pointed out that the female Mantis also bites off the head of her beloved whilst mating and proceeds to devour it – a detail he doesn’t seem to notice until after the copulation reaches its natural end. Hmm, so all jokes about men who turn into pizzas at 4am aside (way too tempting for a rainforest girl) what can we learn from that?
In Celtic Shamanism, the merging of male and female as lovers is one aspect of the Mystical Marriage, or Divine Union and is seen as an internal process of spiritual growth. Shamanism considers that we all have a male and female nature within us and our outer relationships are a reflection of our inner condition. In the outer world we are naturally driven to seek out our equal but “opposite” partner, to form deep and intimate bonds with our lovers, to discover the ecstasy and vulnerability of opening our bodies and souls to another. When this also brings awareness of our own maleness and femaleness, our apparent contradictions, strengths, weaknesses and desires, then we are able to use relationship as a vehicle for spiritual growth. Our lovers reflect us, “push our buttons”, show us where we are stuck, afraid or rigid. Love opens us to change and motivates us to uncover the best and worst in ourselves. When we are able to fully acknowledge and form relationship with our animus or anima (a woman’s inner male side and a man’s inner female side) then we can create harmonious relationships from a place of inner wholeness. This is just as true for same sex relationships as they also need to strike a balance between male and female energies.
Another expression of the Mystical Marriage is the integration of the spiritual and mundane life or the inner and outer worlds. We all have busy schedules and for many spiritual goals and ideals are put right at the bottom of the to-do list. When things get busy it is easy to skip our yoga or meditation class and forget that we promised ourselves to give up smoking, forgive the ex or find a job that really utilizes our talents. When our daily life reflects our spiritual values, when we act and speak from our inner truth and our habits and behaviour reflect this, then we have really integrated our spiritual and mundane worlds. Some sensitive souls find the mundane world extremely difficult to live in and tend to retreat into their own private world of dreams, thoughts and visions. Whilst this can develop a deep and rich inner life, there comes a time when that richness must find an outer expression, must be allowed to bloom and add colour to one’s daily living or it will create only fantasy. The ability to realize your dreams, that is to turn them into something real, workable or solid is a good indication that your inner and outer worlds are in balance. Finding your true calling in life, where your daily work uses your talents and abilities to the fullest and where your personal beliefs, ideals and values are put into practice and reflected in those around you, shows that your spiritual and mundane lives have become one.
The third manifestation of the Mystical Marriage is the meeting of the Ego Self with the Divine or Godself. It is in this final meeting, as all followers of a path to self-realization know, that we are most likely to lose our heads. The path of Non-Dualism teaches that the ego is our belief in our own separateness, our belief in ourselves as an individual self with a history, a story and a personality based largely on reactions to our previous experiences. This subjective reality is considered to be an illusion held in place by the mind which acts as a barrier to our authentic, direct experience of life as it is. We continue to project our judgements, criticisms, attitudes, woundedness, competitiveness, expectations, fear and attachments onto our experiences and this creates the maya, illusions, drama that we get so caught up in. When the ego-self is dissolved we enter into a state of oneness with our environment and see reality as it is without our subjective projections and interpretations. This state of oneness is considered Enlightenment or Awakening and generally described as a state of eternal bliss, incomparable joy, peace, “rightness” or sense that everything has fallen into place exactly as it should.
Our Divine self urges us to let go of our illusions of separateness, to let go of who we think we are, to stop defending ard justifying our opinions, fears and attachments and surrender to what is. The truth of who we are is that we are all this. We are everything, we are God, we are creation and destruction, we are darkness and light, we are good and “evil”, we are all things. Beyond Duality is the realisation that All That Is – is us, and we are All That Is – eternal, timeless existence. When we meet this truth face to face all our illusions of separateness drop away and the mind-created ego-self dissolves. So in this final meeting, this final marriage between our Ego Self and our Godself there is death. The Ego is realised as illusion and released; our identification moves to the larger, wiser Godself. We are transformed, changed, reborn anew.
How does this relate to our friends the Praying Mantis? Symbolically, the female Mantis can be seen to play a role similar to the Hindu Goddess Kali – a fearsome girl with many swords. The goddess of destruction and rebirth, Kali is said to brutally destroy your illusions, sever you from your precious attachments and set you free from the delusions that bind you. Like all goddesses she has received some bad press over the years and has been depicted as an agent of rage in a “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” kind of way, but this is mere ignorance. Kali is not motivated by anger, jealousy or revenge. She is committed to revealing the truth and like tearing off a band-aid, or lets say biting off someone’s head, it is best done swiftly and vigorously if it is to be done at all.
So when you are next wishing for a lover, consider what kind of lover you really desire. Do you want a lover who will placate you, bolster up your ego, believe your justifications and humour your ignorance? Or do you want a lover who will challenge your weaknesses, support your integrity and deepen your love of the Divine? Anyone who really wants to experience the best in themselves desires the latter. Few of us are fortunate enough to find a partner who is truly our spiritual match, who meets our ambitions and desires with equal passion and who can see beyond the trappings of the ego. If you are ever lucky enough to come across such a lover, consider finding the courage to follow your instincts and, like the Mantis, surrender yourself to the process of transformation.