This weekend I led a meditation on the word ‘Purpose’ as a way of beginning this New Year.
As a preparation for meditation, we allowed a symbol to come to mind that in some way represented Purpose. Over the many years that I worked with the teacher who taught me this meditation, she continually emphasized the importance of accepting the first symbol that came, whether or not it seemed wacky, or we understood its meaning or significance.
The last time I did this meditation, the image that came to me was of an acorn, for which I was most grateful. I first learnt this meditation when my University students were in their cradles, and I often feel that I have not learnt the lessons with which I was wrestling at the time. Oak trees are of course, extremely slow growing, but they are also very long lasting, and I was reminded to be patient with myself, and to value the process instead of looking for dramatic results.
This weekend the image that came was that of a Scarab Beetle. I was intrigued, knowing that the scarab beetle has some significance in Egyptian mythology, but not what, and also that beetles are not usually the most likeable of creatures! The ‘not knowing’ allowed me just to relax with the overall concept of Purpose, and not to get into my analytical mind, which has a habit of intruding on my meditations.
Afterwards I looked up Scarab Beetles. There are many types of scarabs, but perhaps the best known (and of interest to me) is the Dung Beetle.
‘Dung beetles have a keen sense of smell that allows them to hone in on their favourite food and use specialized mouth parts to draw out moisture and nutrients from the waste. Some species simply live in the dung, while others form perfectly spherical dung balls, which they roll with their hind legs, often over large distances, to a place where they can bury it. Females plant a single egg in a dung ball where it matures from larva to fully formed beetle, feeding off the waste. Because they move so much waste underground, dung beetles are considered essential to controlling disease and pests among livestock.’ National Geographic
I was pretty astonished at the symbolic references – for anyone interested, there is a fairly exhaustive article that begins in the Paleolithic era referencing shamans, and the ability of the beetles to both fly (address issues in the celestial world) and dive into the earth (acting as mediators between infernal powers and ordinary men.) Perhaps the best known is the Egyptian mythology which associates the scarab with the rising sun god Khepri – the association being of the god rolling the ball of the sun through the sky.
The symbol of the scarab was also used in burials – A large (3-10cm) “heart scarab” was suspended from the mummy’s neck with a gold wire or chain, not only as a token of resurrection, but as an advocate to help the deceased to present his defence before the tribunal. These scarabs were often made with green stone (basalt, schist, jade, etc.), for green was an auspicious colour.
The article ends in the 17th century, with references to German Jesuits and alchemists who associated the scarab with Christ, resuscitated from the dead; a promise of resurrection for all human beings!
Apart from anything else, this research demonstrates to me power of symbol, and the depth and breadth of meaning associated in one image.
But what stands out for me most of all, is that the scarab beetle takes shit, does something with it, and enables it to nourish and form new life. That sounds about what I do, and is a good enough purpose for me!