I have a book called The Tao of Motherhood. It is literally the Tao Te Ching for mothers—a translation of the ancient Tao Te Ching by Lao-Tzu, but reworked slightly so that every “chapter” is about mothering and mothering well. It has 81 one to two page “chapters” just like the classic book. A quote from the end of the chapter on selflessness:
“You can sit and meditate while
your baby cries himself to sleep.
Or you can go to him and share
his tears, and find your Self.”
I’ve been thinking lately about writing an article about breastfeeding as a spiritual practice and have been using the same technique lately when nursing Alaina as described in this Mothering article by the same name: “breathing in, I am nursing my baby. Breathing out, I am at peace,” etc. (It also reminds me of my own How to Meditate with a Baby poem.)
On Monday, I was lying in bed nursing her and thinking about the intensity and totality of the breastfeeding relationship—it requires a more complete physical/body investment with someone than you will ever have with anyone else in your life, including sexual relationships. While I don’t like to lump the breastfeeding relationship in the same category with sex, because it feels like I’m saying breastfeeding is sexual, when it isn’t…though, I since lactation is definitely part of a woman’s reproductive functions, I guess maybe it is…but basically my line of thought was that if you nurse a couple of kids through toddlerhood, odds are high that you will have nursed them many more times than you will end up having sex with your husband in your entire lifetime. (This question of function reminds me of a quote I saw today: “Breasts are a scandal because they shatter the border between motherhood and sexuality.” ~Iris Marion Young)
I calculated that so far in my life I’ve put a baby to my breast more than 12,000 times. Even if I only experienced a single moment of mindful awareness or contemplation or transcendence or sacredness during each of those occasions, that is one heck of a potent, dedicated, and holy practice 🙂
In the book Tying Rocks to Clouds, the author interviews Stephen Levine who has three children and he says:
“Talk about a fierce teaching. It is easier to sit for three years in a cave than to raise a child from the time he is born to three years old.” This was in response to a question about whether serious spiritual development is possible when having relationships with others (spouse, children, etc.) I do believe that without having children, I would be less “developed” than I am now—I’ve said before that having kids can be hard on the self (ego), but great for the soul.
“Perhaps we owe some of our most moving literature to men who didn’t understand that they wanted to be women nursing babies.”
–Louise Erdrich, The Blue Jay’s Dance