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Breast Practice

“Path is a matter of continually being kicked out of the nest.” – Pema Chodrun

One day, nestled in the stalks of the Shasta daisy, I found a tiny neat nest of slender twigs stitched together with spider threads with three speckled eggs. One was a dud but the other two hatched. At first the babies were grotesque; dark-skinned, big eye bulges sealed shut. Yellow-rimmed beaks gaped whenever the leaves of the daisy stirred no matter what stirred them, and thin pink rib skin hammered out helpless, helpless.

Soon a charcoal line along the spine became a ragged row of quills. Skewgee feathers sprouted. As the body grew, the beaks no longer seemed so out of proportion. Mom and Dad flew to and fro, dangling inch worms and smashed bugs. By day five, the tiny bodies were coated with feathers, scruffy but all there. Epaulets of quills and feathers became wings, and the eyes opened wide. Cute eyes, really

I peered into the nest. The babies hopped out with a squeak and ran, flew, bumbled into stalks and stems and vines tangled at the far edge of the garden. Mom perched on the garden post, screeching. She darted down. I sat on the grass as Mom & Dad flew in and out, with and without worms. I suspected that a crash course in mobility was going on. I remembered the Pema Chodrun quote: “Path is a matter of continually being kicked out of the nest.” Or something like that. That’s the gist. I never quite gets how I am still in the nest especially after all these years of meditation. It is hard to see it.

I friend one told me, “When my mother died it took me years. Of leaving her nest.” I feels a vicious fiery prick in her left breast. Like a bug bite. Now it blossoms hot and strange. I cry though not just from the burning. Something else. I thinks about my old, old mother who I now care for like a baby bird. I make sure she doesn’t fall, make sure she eats, try to protect her. My mother feels like a little bird when I hug her delicate bones, and the fluttery smile with watery brown eyes cast up to me more child than adult. Yes. My mother is a baby bird and now I am the big bird. This cuts my breath into little pieces and squeezes my heart. It’s so upside down. I am afraid of letting this baby bird down, afraid of all the wild cats and night owls, the claws and teeth, that can swoop and eat her baby bird.

“And the nest,” says my friend, “is not really so safe, is it? I mean, the bird can’t fly yet, but nothing protects it from the hawk. The parents are useless except to feed the babies, and hope that they’ll make it into flight where it is safe. Mostly.”

I feel the irony of this. My mother becoming a baby bird means that I have to get out of the nest and stretch my wings, open my arms. My left breast hurts. The breast, not the muscle, not the heart. The nipple and the flesh beneath it, burn and ache. This is where, on my mother, as a tiny creature I nursed and rested. It is hard, this flying part: my mother recedes into childhood as she departs the big nest of earth while I stay to watch her go, and let her go. My breast cramps and burns.

Our only safety is in learning to fly. “Reach out my arms,” I repeat to myself, “Reach out!” And I cries because it hurts. Breasts and arms are wings.

Practice: Gentle Breast
Carefully cradle your breast with your hands. Feel the shape and weight and texture in your palm. Now shift your focus to feeling the sense, from inside your breast of your hands moving your breast. This is shift of proprioceptive focus. First in the hands. Then in the breast.

Now, find a surface that is soft and gentle to rest on—a pillow, a cushiony mat, a sheepskin—and lie down on your belly and let gravity act as your hands. Gravity holds your breast. With care and awareness, roll on your belly putting weight more up toward your upper torso. Take your time with this, never feeling pain just gentle pressure. Stay connected to your breathing and the pressure that you body weight can exert. We want to find a comforting feedback. Spend time in the exploration of comfort and awareness.



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