Posts Tagged ‘devotion’

The Brea(st/d) of Heaven

August 30, 2014

A group of girlfriends, including our priest, humbly shared Communion around a circle. One mother of three small children handed the consecrated bread to the woman next to her and said accidentally, if appropriately, “The Body of Christ, the Breast of Heaven”. Much laughter ensued. I was moved by the potential meaning held in her unintentional substitution for the word “bread” – it remains an unforgettable Eucharist.

I wonder what it is like to breastfeed from God, to experience mutual need and devotion, intimacy and sustenance unlike any other. Do I already? Could I intentionally?

My son’s favorite part of church is what he calls “God’s Dinner”. It may be because he gets to move his little legs and see lots of people on our way up front, or it could be that he gets a snack. I think, however, he senses something more is happening. He seems in sweet awe as he holds his two-year-old palms up to receive this spiritual food. He has a skip in his step afterwards. Back in our pew, he always asks for more.

I experienced breastfeeding my son as a kind of sacrament, an “outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace” (Book of Common Prayer). In the wee dark hours, more than calories was transmitted. “Take, eat, this is my Body, which is given for you.” (BCP, Eucharistic Prayer II) It wasn’t my grace that flowed; it was the purest of God’s love feeding us both, and a passing of Peace between mother and babe.

It is no small feat to feed a child from your own body multiple times a day and night for weeks, months or years. During the harried moments of raising a baby into a toddler, it was within the calm of nursing that I remembered the profound nature of the mother role and what a privilege it is. A lot transpired in the 12-inch world we created between us in our blue denim rocking chair. It was there that my son rolled toy dump trucks and excavators across my chest, it was there we chanted about Sita and Ram during my yoga teacher training, and it was there we gazed into each other’s souls and fell deeper and deeper in love.

I often wonder, as I look at my son, if God loves me that completely. There were a few days last winter when I found myself saying, “I’m not a good person” because I had been bitchy, ungrateful, impulsive, and negative. These are the moments when I most want to contribute to God’s kingdom rather than take from it, and yet, I need time at the Breast of Heaven in order to right myself. I need to be held, to connect my soul with God, and to feel loved despite my shortcomings, maybe even, inclusive of them. Then I can be nudged towards what could be.

In the Hindu scripture The Bhagavad Gita, Krishna, the charioteer and teacher, gradually reveals himself to the warrior Arjuna as the Divine and as Arjuna’s immortal Self. Near the end of the story, he tells Arjuna that he loves him, that he is dear to him. I found this so touching. Could God also be this Self within me offering tender love and forgiveness to my imperfect, small “s” self?  

When people say “God loves you,” it feels like fluff to me, until I give credence to God’s love as I experience it – a surrounding presence within which I “live and breathe and have [my] being” (Acts 17:28). It is a healing energy that works its way into the inner reaches of my heart. It is as if I were a nursing baby and whenever I cry for my Mother, or even make a peep, She is there. This there-ness, that’s love to me.

Do we wean from God? As happens in a breastfeeding life cycle, I know that I have received highly personalized-for-each-stage-of-my-growth Divine nourishment. Sometimes I wonder if it is time for me to stop asking God for so much, and give what I already have. I don’t think, however, that I will ever grow out of needing to hear about Jesus’ vision of justice or tap in to his meditative presence. Nor can I imagine being beneficial for my family and the world without continually accessing a power greater than myself.  

I’m heartened that when weaning a child, allowing him to continue becoming his own self, his need for his mother is no less strong, and her love for him is no less fierce and no less present. This, I suspect, is how it is with God.

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The Body as…

November 9, 2009

I’ve been away practicing what I preach – deepening my commitment to my work at a profoundly impactful Presence-Based Coaching retreat with Doug Silsbee in North Carolina and deepening my well of trust and joy on a profoundly fun adventure in Chicago!
 
This “Body as Prayer” video by master yoga teacher and social activist Seane Corn became the moment-to-moment meditation for my journeys. It brought a new, gorgeous level of awareness and devotion to my actions and state of being.
 
She inspired me to consider how much richer my experience of life might be were every gesture of the hand an offering. Every breath a dedication. The subtlest opening of my heart a sublimely felt blessing to another.
 
The body as commitment. The body as surrender. The body as power. The body as happiness…. as tenderness… as curiosity… as faith.
 
Exploring this over the past 10 days meant breathing low and steady into the deepest part of me. It required coming back to the center of my energetic self again, again and then again. In moments of fear, it asked me to ground into my inherent value as a human being, my commitment to something greater, and my faith in the goodness of life.

I consciously allowed each sensation to permeate my whole being: every limb, each fingernail, the light in my eyes, the sides of my smile, the tissues of my brain, my big Buddha belly, and the center of my heart.
 
Then I practiced giving it away. Devotionally. As if it meant something.
 
I’m no Seane Corn; I wasn’t nearly as elegant in my practice as she; yet still, it was a profound experience of life fully felt in this body, with this heart and grounded in this soul.  I don’t do drugs (ok, I do have an iced green tea addiction) but I imagine this is what they feel like. I just prefer to get there in a slightly more conscious way.
 
Whatever you are feeling in this very moment as you read this… what would it be like to let it permeate your whole being? Breathe it in deeply, allow it to move your body and move through your body to its final transformation. Even (and especially) if you are feeling stress, anger, fear or sadness… what could they be as bodily prayer? How would they feel as a whole-you offering?

I’d love to know.