A few years ago, I used to practice word play – when I philosophically look at a topic in my mind, then break down into words what would mean inside. Example “Inspiration” – IN-SPIR(IT)-ATION. Therefore, “In spirit we are We.” From there, mental gymnastics continued with the following thoughts:
“If this could be an interpretation of the word, then what is the connection between breath and spirit. Spirit is a concept in religious Biblical texts, such as the Holy Spirit, is depicted with a white dove as a symbol of purity and freedom of the soul’s flight, and yet it is more than a soul – the spirit breathes life. Breath and breathing… Maybe breath and spirit (from Latin ‘spiritus’ – a breathing, respiration, and of the wind; breath) are so close, they are interchangeable concepts, because breath is something that gives life – we inhale with our lungs to take in SPIRIT, from there we take oxygen, and what is in the composition of the air: besides oxygen has about 80% nitrogen… AZOTH (in my language Nitrogen is translated as “azot”, hence the reference AZOT(H) in alchemy) – according to the alchemical interpretation is “the universal medicine / substance that is sought in alchemy”, directly related to the Philosopher’s Stone. AZOTH was the goal, vision and search of the alchemical mystics to reach eternal life, the missing substance, the attainment of wisdom, knowledge, and even spirituality – reaching new levels of consciousness… AZOTH, and we inhale about 80% with just one breath of the Spirit.“
- Examples (view of science);
- Comparison (inspiration and euphoria);
- The muse as a caprice;
- View – How to proceed;
Examples (Science’s View)
However, after the speculation of the imagination, I often wanted to check how things are in reality – after all, spiritual teachings are just fairy tales. But are they? Which leads us to think that something is a fairy tale or fiction – something for which we have no evidence, perhaps? Well, then what does science say.
So, I moved on to interesting videos, articles, and research on the study of “the Zone,” “the “Wave,” “the Synchronicity,” or, as poets throught the centuries put it “the inspiration of the Apollo’s Muses.”
“The Wave”, “The Stream”, “Being in the Zone”, “Being in the Eternal Box”, “Having a Muse”, “Being Inspired”, and other definitions from various fields of sports, arts, comedy shows, explanations and the notions of meditation – all these epithets describe the same thing: a state we enter with a certain stimulus (near death, rehearsal of the same thing, sports training), and things happen as if “by a miracle”. Such intense concentration in the performance of a task that everything else disappears; then the sense of action and the sense of heightened awareness of reality merge into one. So hours can seem like minutes to a person, time speeds up.
A very interesting combined work is presented by the journalist Stephen Kotler, in which scientists study the state of “Flow” (so called because of the technical term of brain waves in a certain amplitude and coherence). The Flow stimulates ingenuity and motivation, as well as gives an understanding of how we function in this state, where, according to research, learning skills takes half the time and five times more success than under “normal conditions”.
The study has an interesting history, citing William James as the founder of the early 20th century (a Harvard philosopher and psychologist). He noticed that the mind can change its state of perception in certain situations in order to temporarily improve its performance and achieve high results. His student Walter Bradford Cannon discovered “Fight-or-flight response” ->
“His theory is that animals respond to threats with a general ejection of the sympathetic nervous system, preparing the animal for battle or flight.”)
The famous Abraham Maslow conducted a study on all successful people, and it confirmed that the Flow is necessarily present in them. Later, the Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi expanded the field of study and was considered the largest psychological study. He consulted: surgeons, ballet dancers, climbers, shepherds, farmers, the elderly, people in motorcycle gangs – all types, all professions, regardless of gender, race and social status, all confirmed the Flow as something very real that they helps everyone to be an expert in their work. Mihali himself christens this phenomenon with the name “The Flow”.
When I write essays on such topics, I always give examples from sports, and this is why: for the study, the brightest results are taken precisely from sports of an extreme nature. Due to the dynamism and danger, as Maslow describes, the sympathetic system is activated, ie. infusion of adrenaline, slowing down the perception of time, some organs work faster (heart, lungs). Extreme sports show the entry into the Flow, and the achievements in sports for the last decades prove the importance of this muse – a person performs much better when he is in this wave.
Norepinephrine / norepinephrine, dopamine, anandamide, endorphins and serotonin: according to current results, this is a cocktail of hormones that are triggered in the state of Flow, infused simultaneously. Some drugs stimulate individual dosages and combinations of these hormones, but they are naturally produced and used by the body in this state.
Advanced research examples
Corporations do something similar: they experiment with flexible working hours, home office, trainings and team building in various combinations and variations to best stimulate the employee. Although they do not directly chase the state of the muse / inspiration / Flow, they definitely chase the effects. Even for this section of the essay, my research is from a lecture by Stephen Kotler invited by the giant company Google (2014) – technology, science, lectures on understanding the “inspired human condition”.
In a 2008 article, Harvard University spoke of ingenuity and creativity as the most important sign of leadership:
“Creativity has always been at the heart of business, but until now it hasn’t been at the top of the management agenda. By definition the ability to create something novel and appropriate, creativity is essential to the entrepreneurship that gets new businesses started and that sustains the best companies after they have reached global scale. But perhaps because creativity was considered unmanageable—too elusive and intangible to pin down—or because concentrating on it produced a less immediate payoff than improving execution, it hasn’t been the focus of most managers’ attention.”
Even now, if you look for materials on how to train for certain corporal positions, especially if they are at a high level in the company hierarchy, there is always mention of meditation, relaxation, affirmations or some form of therapy to calm the mind, visualize situations, thank for events: all in order not so much to get acquainted with the Eastern philosophy of the ancients, but rather to get acquainted with the easy techniques and “back doors” of the brain and consciousness, to provoke or at least be in a favorable state of inspiration / muse / zone / flow.
Here is a short description of the Flow that these scientists and researchers dissect, and you can see how it fits perfectly with the definition of “Muse” in the glossary, as well as with the topics and explanations in this essay:
“This study is deeply influenced by the research of Dr. Benson from Harvard. The flow is a state, it comes and goes. It’s not something that sits forever, and it’s not like a lamp key to just turn on or off when we feel like it. This is a cycle and has at least 4 distinct stages: 1. Problem / fight with something (Struggle), beta waves in the brain (Cortisol / Norepinephrine); 2. Release, alpha waves of the brain (Nitric Oxide); 3. Flow, theta / gamma waves of the brain (Dopamine / Endorphins Anandamide); 4. Recovery, delta waves of the brain (Serotonin / Oxytocin). ”
The study mentions music as a stimulant. That’s why the arts have been so important over the millennia: they inspire. Music, fine arts, sculpture; also the field in which you want to improve: watch professionals in the field you are interested in, you will notice how smoothly they move, do and proceed and will stimulate you.
Also, the study supports two statements: 1. Introverts find it easier to enter the “Stream” because their mental processes are easier to direct inward (which musical genius was not an introvert?); 2. There is an amplitude-spectrum: just as a person sometimes feels a little inspired or very inspired, the ECG data confirm that it is a matter of variations and doses of inspiration.
Comparison (Inspiration and Euphoria)
It is important, however, to distinguish inspiration from euphoria.
Euphoria is a big cocktail of hormones, a biochemical process of “uplifted mood” in the extreme of “total joy”, which, however, when abruptly stopped, can reach the other extreme of depression in order to balance itself in some way.
Inspiration is the right moment, the right people, the right place, the right “elevated state”, in which ironically there is euphoria. That is, we can assume that inspiration is a set of factors and we should not be drawn to just one of these factors, clinging to an illusory idea of how to create.
In order not to fall into the trap of too much euphoria, we must remember the difference between it and inspiration, because euphoria then leads to depression, as the results almost always do not correspond to the “uplifted mood”. That’s why we need to dull the euphoria a little, no matter how much we don’t want to – the euphoric mood is good and can be said to be narcotic, but it should not blind us, but only give us “fuel” for inspiration.
So, looking at them separately, these are not things that can be isolated. One helps the other and vice versa. It needs to be seen as a chemical equation or a combination of chemicals in the “right ratio”.
Let me add that when we are truly inspired, we feel absolute freedom and absolute timelessness. If we isolate the fact that we are only euphoric, then one is very happy, but still feels limitations. So perhaps this is the biggest sign by which we should distinguish states so as not to be misled. Also, inspiration can last us much longer, while euphoria is a short-lived rebound like coffee in the early morning.
The Muse as a Caprice
The muse is really very capricious, she comes suddenly and also goes suddenly. It inspires and leaves behind the silence of our thoughts about what just happened. She does not obey a schedule, she does not obey “working hours”, she does not obey work from 9 am to 5 pm, she cannot be told when-what-how to inspire.
Any man of art, writer, artist, sculptor, musician; whoever you ask how they work, they can’t help but mention the muse and you can see that their work process is almost always chaotic at first glance.
Creative processes, unlike mechanical ones, cannot be pressed “when I wake up at 7 in the morning, I immediately start creating.” Of course, the artist can do his work automatically, but masterpieces, or at least good art and creativity, cannot be pressed (good example here will be Hollywood: when the indusrtry pressess art for more financial gain, movies are almost always a flop).
All this is because creativity is imagination, and imagination is a portal to fantasy and ideas that do not obey time and space, have no deadline, have no beginning and no end, they are just there waiting to be illuminated, to be realized. As vague as this description is, it makes more sense to just remember our first childhood drawings, or even try to create now: we will need tools (paper, pens, paintbrushes, clay; or whatever is needed for the respective work, even if it is a PowerPoint or Excel spreadsheet presentation), thought and inspiration.
Perhaps most characteristic of this capricious Inspiration process is that it is invited when you are fresh and rested, although this is by no means a guarantee, because when you are too fresh, you can sometimes be too energetic to concentrate and “sit in one place” so that you can get the best result from peace of mind. Here the euphoria interferes the most.
The muse is capricious beyond time and space – she just comes and doesn’t ask you.
View – How to Proceed
Distinguishing is an important issue, and even more important is recognizing inspiration and euphoria. And the answer to the question “How to invite inspiration without the need for euphoria” is a bit boring: training. Like the above examples in sports, athletes (as in other professions) have many hours of training for certain actions and quite automatically begin to recognize when they are in the “zone”.
When we want to be good dancers – rehearsals; when we want to be good artists – painting for hours; when we want to be good athletes – a lot of training; when we want to be good in any profession: diligence, work, work and work. There is no easy way.
Since the muse is terribly capricious, she cannot be waited for us to do our work, but we can invite her with the calm adjustment of our mind and actions we need. “Appetite comes with eating” – isn’t this proverb too accurate for the occasion?
In conclusion: “A healthy mind in a healthy body”, as Leonardo’s illustration states. Things are always connected: train your mind, train your body, nourish your spirituality. These exercises are necessary, as the practice of meditation teaches: in a calm mind you will see the solutions. And the calm mind is precisely in the Inspiration: the Gate of the Wonderland, the path to the imagination, the world of the true Self.
Author: Dimo Vasilev