Sports fans are enthralled when they happen to witness something special – a great solo run, a penetrating pass, or a brilliant shot at goal from a seemingly impossible angle. The player has had an inspired moment which takes your breath away.
Brilliant insight can also take place in science, like when Archimedes jumped from his bath when he experienced a leap of understanding about the principle of displacement and when Kekule had a flash of illumination regarding the ring structure of the benzene molecule, when he imagined a snake chasing its tale.
Kenneth Ring, professor of psychology, has found that a near death experience often inspires people to find a greater appreciation for life, greater compassion for others, a heightened sense of purpose, and greater planetary concern etc.
I would argue that inspiration can take place in every area of human activity — whether it be in musical composition, private meditation, poetry, the visual arts, military combat, technological invention or even political speech-making. Such moments involve clarity and vivid awareness of some new possibility. When inspiration takes place it raises our spirits and fills us with wonder.
Whatever one’s individual situation and personal experience, who wouldn’t want to feel inspired? Surely it would add excitement and greater interest to normal living. So what does inspiration feel like and how can you bring it on?
State of inspiration
The common factor across all instances seems to be an awakening to something new, better or more important, and going beyond one’s previous concerns and habits of looking at things. Instead of being tied to the old way of doing something, a world of possibility opens up, and what is new is created. Some have said that this state of human consciousness is a spiritual gift which happens to you and takes you away from your normal self-serving limitations and puts you into closer contact with the divine spark.
Inspiration is all around
Karrie Landsverk, educationalist and professional speaker, has suggested that we can readily see inspiration in ordinary life.
“There are amazing people all around us doing every day things but doing so in a way that is inspiring. It may be they work or volunteer with a cheerful heart, they are always willing to lend a hand and stop what they are doing if someone is in need, they are always learning, they are always teaching, they are always creating and so on. Nature is inspiring and beautiful as it transforms throughout each season. God’s word is absolutely inspiring to meditate on each day. I agree our children’s innocence and pure hearts are some of the best inspiration we could ever find. The point is – open your eyes, look around and you can’t help but be inspired.”
Factors conducive to inspiration
Todd Thrash and Andrew Elliot at the University of Rochester have conducted some psychological research into some of the factors which may be conducive to inspiration. In line with Karrie Landsverk’s views, they found that openness to experience often came before inspiration. Thus they suggest those, who are more open to inspiration, are more likely to experience it. Also in line with her views they found a link with the spiritual: students studying the humanities such as art, religion and philosophy were more likely to feel inspired: these being all subjects concerned with transcendent values such as beauty, goodness and truth.
Inspiration and a spiritual state of mind
Emanuel Swedenborg, spiritual philosopher, has written extensively regarding what he describes as the enlivening of the human spirit. He says this is when you turn towards the spiritual with your heart as well as your mind. When you intend what is good then you will start to feel gratitude, joy, happiness, love. Then your understanding of the desirability of these things is no longer just in your head. It is also in your heart.
Writers say that creative writing is 99% perspiration and one percent inspiration. While inspiration is not the same as effort, effort is an essential condition for inspiration. By acting on ones visionary insights you open the door to further inspiration.
Todd Thrash and Andrew Elliot would agree. They point out that both insight and the desire to act on it are both crucially important. The way they put it is to say that Yang (being inspired to) without Yin (being inspired by) is devoid of meaning. Consequently, Yin without Yang is spiritual stagnancy. In other words trying to act on one’s vision is the way to be open to further inspiration.
Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems