Posts Tagged ‘Birth’

you are born

January 4th, 2018    -    24 Comments

eggshellFor everyone.

You are born.

Let’s consider the facts before we get carried away.

You are born and no one—neither doctor, scientist, high priest nor philosopher—knows where you came from. The whole world, and your mother within it, was remade by the mystery of your conception. Her body, mind and heart were multiplied by a magical algorithm whereby two become one and one becomes two.

You inhale and open your eyes. Now you are awake.

By your being, you have attained the unsurpassable. You have extinguished the fear and pain of the past, transcended time, turned darkness to light, embodied infinite karma, and carried forth the seed of consciousness that creates an entire universe. All in a single moment.

Now that you are here, you manifest the absolute truth of existence. You are empty and impermanent, changing continuously, turning by tiny degrees the wheel of an endless cycle. Just a month from now, your family will marvel at the growing heft of your body. They will delight in the dawn of your awareness. You will grab a finger and hold tight, turn your head, pucker your lips and eat like there’s no tomorrow. You will smile. Six months from now, the newborn will be gone. Within a year, you will be walking the earth as your dominion. And although your caregivers might think that they taught you to eat, walk and talk, these attributes emerged intuitively from your deep intelligence.

You are born completely endowed with the marvelous function of the awakened mind. You are a miracle. You are a genius. You eat when hungry and sleep when tired.

You are a Buddha. But in the same way you will forget the circumstances of your birth, you will forget the truth of your being. And by forgetting what you are, you will suffer in the painful, fruitless search to become something else, striving against your own perfection to feel whole and secure. By your attachment to desires, you will squander the chance of infinite lifetimes: the chance to be born in human form. Luckily, the chance to be reborn—to wake up—arises every moment. Your body is the body of inexhaustible wisdom. When will you realize it? read more

unto us a child is born

December 16th, 2015    -    9 Comments


A woman came to the retreat in Kansas City in October. With her doctor’s permission, she had driven three hours from Iowa to be there. She was 34 weeks pregnant and, as you might expect, radiant. But in her case there was a little more to it: after nine years of infertility, miscarriages and stillbirth, here she was. The chance had been so slim, the journey so grim, she never believed she could get this far.

The truth is always like that: unbelievable.

She smiled all weekend. Fear and doubt had fled her face. She was beginning to let herself feel blessed. After we parted, I kept an eye on her as the remaining weeks passed. The baby was late. In the final days she went to and from the hospital over and over in false labor. Her burden was heavy. Nothing seemed to happen. The good news never came. I was worried.

Up close, possibilities seem to disappear.

Two days ago she sent me the first pictures of her newborn son swaddled in her arms. One look and I recalled that wide-open sense of wonder. Love surpassing all pain, resting in the infinite circle of light. The night has passed! The baby has come! Suddenly, everything is perfect, everything is possible. Not one thought creased either brow. Together they have attained grace.

Mother and child are doing beautifully.

The promise of a spiritual path is like this: to return to the natural state of fulfillment and ease. The old masters call it “the circle of wonder.” In it are the boundless love of a mother and the eternal innocence of a child. To be sure, the journey is difficult. Obstacles mount. Expectations fail, hope sinks, fear overwhelms, and you have to do it alone. Alone! Not even the helpers can help.

Who among us is willing? Who indeed.

Last weekend I sat a retreat with many newcomers. Newcomers uplift me, and yet, I worry. Silent retreats are always powerful, but this one struck like thunder. Not everyone could ride the storm. Alas, in Zen as in life, there’s no shelter at the side of the road. No avoiding, no denying, no way out. Fear must be overcome. Peace must prevail. Near the end of the retreat, the newest newcomers came by ones to see me alone. How is your retreat? I asked, although the awed stillness on their faces told it in full. Wonderful, came the quietest replies. Amazing. Lovely. Indescribable. Life-altering.

Doubt fled my heart, and I let myself feel blessed. The night has passed; the prophecy has been fulfilled. Now peace is at hand and the possibilities are endless.

Let it begin with me.

And he shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. — Isaiah 9:6

Merry Christmas Everyone. Peace on Earth. Goodwill to Men.

birth story

August 11th, 2015    -    10 Comments


She sat on the step between the kitchen and the hall, waiting for the time to pick up her friends and drive to the beach to celebrate her birthday.

There’s something I want to tell you, I said, and I stepped outside of myself so I could give this to her, so she could have this for herself.

Sixteen years ago today we were both at home. Of course you weren’t born yet. We had spent a week in the hospital trying to keep you inside of me where I thought you were safe. I wanted that very much, for you to be safe and well. And they had finally let us come home. I had to stay in bed and take my blood pressure every thirty minutes, and it just kept going up and up. I couldn’t make it go down. A friend drove me to the doctor’s and she said it wasn’t up to me any longer, you had to come out, you had lost a pound because the food wasn’t getting to you. It was too serious to wait any more. So she told us to go to the hospital early the next morning so you could be born no matter what.

I’ve been thinking about his lately because everything has been hard and stressful again, and I’ve realized how hard and stressful it was for you then, how much pressure you felt, and how you weren’t getting what you needed, and I was so worried and sick. They gave you steroids in the hospital before you were born so you would be able to breathe. The steroids made you strong. And when you were born, after all that pain and pressure for you, you were strong. You have always been strong, and you do such strong things even when they are hard. And when the doctor saw you for the first time, she said I really like the way this baby looks!

She had been quietly smiling as I said this, hearing it, seeing it, knowing it, full and ready to go.


58 years a mountain

September 26th, 2014    -    12 Comments


There is a mountain sixteen miles high.
Every hundred years a butterfly brushes its wings across the granite face.
When the mountain is ground to dust, that’s how long time is.
Multiplied by ten billion.

An hour after midnight on the twenty-sixth
a crown of light
a blear of tears
my father climbed a fire escape
to the third floor rear
no, wait
that wasn’t me
years have smeared
the muddy lines of memory
my mother wept
our bodies two
one snip and from the roof I flew
down the Santa Monica Mountains
into the valley dim
not really, really
thus, pitched from the rim
unseated from the peak
I made slow time across a billion-year cheek
Now stopped in place
an eon nigh
the invisible kiss
of a butterfly.

On the anniversary of my birth.

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the last fall

March 5th, 2013    -    12 Comments


I want to tell you that the baby won’t fall
the tooth won’t break
the skin won’t scrape
no row of stitches at the hairline
you never saw it coming
I want to tell you that the teasing won’t hurt
the teacher won’t frown
the kids won’t laugh
her name won’t be the last one called
because I suck at kickball that’s why
I want to tell you that your heart won’t rip
your eyes won’t mist your breath won’t catch
when she disappears into her lonely self
beneath a sweatshirt two sizes too big
a widow
to her babyhood
I’m not that girl anymore
I want to tell you that the flowers won’t bloom
the leaves won’t bud
the fruit won’t dangle and drop
that nothing fades and nothing dies
nothing hurts and nothing leaves
you’ll never see it going
but it will go
it will go home
the way a period ends a sentence
the earth is our mother
she heals even the last fall.

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December 9th, 2012    -    20 Comments

Georgia as Little Fan in A Christmas Carol.

When they induced labor that morning of the emergency, nothing happened. I would not dilate. My baby wouldn’t come. The doctor said we’d try again tomorrow. Sitting up in the bed that evening poking at my hospital dinner, I suddenly knew why. The man on TV said there had been a total eclipse of the sun that day, the last of the 20th century.

The moon had passed between the earth and the sun, turning day to night. I was certain that when the sun rose unobstructed the next day, it would happen. It did happen, faster than anyone predicted, and Georgia was born by 10 a.m.

She is pure light, and although what passes between us has always been so radiant, I have not always been able to look straight into it. I have not been able to understand.

And now she is a young woman loving womanly things, going her own way, illumining new ground. This transit, lately, has been difficult. There is tension in the approach; there is resistance and confusion. She does not rely on me but for the slightest reminders: a gentle glow of approval, trust, encouragement. Transport here or there. Showing up on schedule. Saying nothing.

Isn’t there more to a mother? Am I not the earth?

I once held her light inside me, then let it grow. Released, it filled the universe. She covers her own ground now, where I can see her always. Mine is a distant face made beautiful by her reflection.

I am the mother moon, and I have been eclipsed. It is not the end. It is joyous. I will never leave her sky. I love her sky. Here I am complete.

For my mother and my mother’s mother and all mothers in the sky.

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breath is fearless

October 23rd, 2012    -    3 Comments

Just this one little thing, the breath, delivers all the wisdom in the world. Each inhalation powers your strength, endurance, and concentration; each exhalation releases your resistance and fears. Life gives continuous testament to the miracle of the breath, and yet, do we really know what the breath is?


When we bring our agitated minds into focus by following the movement of the breath in and out of the body, we experience the reality of the present moment, clear from confusion and anxiety. The breath is fearlessness personified. That can matter a great deal to you in times of pain and panic. How wonderful that all the sages and wise ones, the birth educators and coaches, the doulas and midwives, tell you to breathe! Focusing on the breath is the safest, surest way to overcome fear and let the immediacy of any experience move forward.

When all other schemes and devices fall away, the breath is all we have to use. It never fails us. Now is a good time to get to know your breath, through simple awareness practices such as meditation and yoga. While sitting, lying down, walking, or moving, bringing your attention to your belly and the natural movement of the breath will strengthen your connection to your own life force, the awareness that is everpresent and unafraid. The breath will not only transport you beyond fear, it will deliver you to joy. In the flow of the breath, mother and child come into being, and joy springs to life.

Excerpted from my essay, “Preparing for Childbirth,” in the book, The Mindful Way Through Pregnancy.


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giving a way

September 21st, 2012    -    126 Comments

The best thing about my work is that it gives me the freedom to give. Here are four brand new books I’m offering as gifts. Read the descriptions below and leave a comment telling me which one(s) you’d wish for. Winners will be drawn by random at the end of the day Wednesday, Sept. 26, so make a choice while you’re here.

Everything is the WayThese days, when Zen has become a kind of shorthand for anything that’s enigmatic or aesthetically spare, it’s refreshing be reminded that Zen is at heart a practice for waking up from the dream we inhabit—in order to free ourselves from the suffering the dream imposes on us. Elihu Genmyo Smith’s Zen teaching never loses sight of that central concern: Whether it takes the form of zazen (meditation), koan work, or just eating your breakfast, the aim of Zen practice is nothing other than intimacy with ourselves and everything around us.

Turning Dead Ends Into Doorways — Whether we like it or not, control is an illusion. God and the universe laugh when we make plans. We can try hard to materialize something—a new job, the perfect body, trust, our dream partner, inner peace—without success. And sometimes life deals unexpected blows: illness, divorce, or death. With practical honesty and humor, healing practitioner Staci Boden introduces eight teachers to help us navigate the unknown in daily life—fear, awareness, choice, body, intuition, energy, intention and surrender.

Growing Happy KidsA book designed to help parents, teachers and adults cultivate a deeper sense of confidence and ultimately, happiness in their children. Maureen Healy brings together western science and eastern wisdom in a simple yet profound approach to cultivating confidence. It begins with the “Five Building Blocks of Confidence” supported by pediatricians, child psychiatrists, educational specialists and teachers across multiple spiritual traditions.

The Mindful Way through Pregnancy — Pregnancy is a time of wonder and of momentous change, both emotionally and physically, filled with excitement and awe but also with great uncertainty and vulnerability. This book-and-audio program brings together writings and simple daily practices for bringing the transformative power of mindfulness to this special time. This book includes a new essay from me on childbirth, so I will sign this book as a personal birthday gift from me.

Thank you so much, everyone, for reading this blog and being unafraid to ask for what you need. All winners have been notified.

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early birthday gift

July 29th, 2012    -    41 Comments

I’m giving away a copy of the book, Preemie, by Kasey Mathews, because my daughter was born on August 12 and she will turn 13 in two weeks.

These facts were once inconceivable to me. Equally impossible for her to be born on that date, and for her to grow up so fast. Is there any parent yet who can believe his or her own eyes?

Georgia was born early. Not as extremely early as allowed by today’s medicine, but early enough for us to ask, in the haste of emergency intervention, whether or not she would be able to breathe at birth. The answer was, “Maybe.” Because of the steroids I’d been given, she did breathe, and we were lucky, and she was fine, eventually. We went home after a few weeks in the hospital, and figured out the rest one day at a time.

But there is a whole story I’ve left unsaid.

What brings this recollection near is that I’ve just finished reading Preemie by Kasey Mathews. Kasey’s daughter Andie was a micro-preemie born four months early. In impeccably etched detail, Mathews tells the whole unthinkable story of an implausible birth, the reality, the setbacks, the disbelief, denial, and fury. What she tells most courageously are those things that are so hard to say.

She was afraid of her baby.
She was afraid to look at her, to touch and tend her.
She was afraid of what she’d done wrong and what might yet go wrong, the hidden trapdoors, the other shoes.
She was afraid of what she knew and what she didn’t know, the permanent scars and looming catastrophes, the not-yets, the maybe-nevers.
She was afraid to love.

We share these fears no matter when or how we become parents, no matter how or when our children arrive, each of us unprepared, undefended and stripped naked of all our expectations.

Our babies survive our fear and failings. They outlast our ignorance, our desperate strivings, and the virulent certainty that we, and they, are somehow damaged or inadequate.

I don’t often address my daughter directly on this page, but it’s time to tell her the only thing I know for sure, the thing she’s known all along.

You have never been too early, too little, or too late. It’s only me who struggles to keep up, who labors at the pace, who resists the steady insistence of your momentous arrival.

I can hardly believe my eyes, but you’re here already!

Kasey Mathews is offering a signed copy of Preemie to a commenter on this post. No matter where you are in your parenting journey, how old or young your children, we are all about to be born into the inconceivable, a new day and stage, and we feel frightened and unprepared. Leave a comment by this Friday, August 3 and claim your early birthday gift.

winging it

October 24th, 2011    -    17 Comments

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. – The Beatles

I’ve just completed 13,000 miles of travel this fall. What’s the takeaway? A giveaway.

Go to Taslim’s blog this week to win a signed copy of Momma Zen. Go see Roos to win tokens of love.  And here on my blog, leave as many comments as you like and I’ll be giving away a signed copy of Belly Button Bliss, a book of happy birth stories compiled by my generous friend Jennifer Derryberry Mann.

Enter often. Take all the love that comes. All contests end Friday, Oct. 28.

With love, Maezen.

The winner of Belly Button Bliss is Jim, who had the presence of mind to enter three times!

Madonna of the magnificat

November 12th, 2009    -    8 Comments

I cannot let this day pass without a hallelujah! Without a scream! Without a dance! Without wonder and awe! Without immensity of love and gratitude everlasting!

Sylvia Marie Olson
8 lbs, 8 oz
20 inches
Lots of red hair!
Born 5:56 a.m. on November 12, 2009

Perhaps you met this family in my backyard about eighteen months ago. Perhaps you met my friend Jen at the first Mother’s Plunge. Perhaps you know everything I’m about to show you. And if so, you know it bears repeating again and again. The glory of eternal life is fully shining here.

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