Invitation to come closer to the breath, closer to your heart, closer to the core of your being. And to walk you that way, I'd like to tell you the story of meeting a drenched little baby bird who ended up coming home with me.
At the bottom of this post, you'll find a 20-ish-minute (19:29) audio meditation that I've made. Its purpose is to take you to the level of connection to breath and heart and self that you may not visit often, if ever. My aim is to give you an actual experience, because ultimately this something to do, not read about: come to the breath with beginner's mind, as if you'd never been walked through conscious breathing before; experience the lived and felt act of dropping in fully to the place that's open to radical self-love—so that you might in fact drop in, drop down some more into deeper and subtler levels, and keep going deeper. Scroll down to the end (just above bottom pics) for this plus a second heart meditation for getting out of any self-recrimination (from the vague sense that somehow you're not doing it right to an acute bout of self-loathing) (21:14).
Here's the first heart meditation meditation link now in case you'd like to go directly there. I invite you to follow that link when you're able and willing to drop in fully. I can imagine having spoken the exact same words here with so much silence woven in that it lasted 3 times that long. Or with nothing but silence. So if you're drawn to tend your heart by coming very close to it and simply steeping in love, requiring nothing of yourself or the love (not that these are separate entities), then I invite you to do it once all the way through; let in all the reminders and instructions. Then you may want to do such a meditation more often with or without me to talk you through it. I invite you, even just once, to follow it as is through the layering of instruction. Gently stay with it. Flow along. Then you might take yourself through at your own pace, in your own way, once you hear how this version goes. This could be the stuff of a grand experiment.
Are you willing to come closer to your breathing than you ever have before? Are you willing to meet your own heart? How are you willing to meet your heart? Are you willing to pause to consider what it could look like to tend your heart? Would you do that just to test what's possible, not knowing how it actually works and not requiring yourself to figure that out on the first try?
What if your heart were a baby bird you came upon on the sidewalk, that day in August when the rains were pounding so hard you wondered if suddenly monsoon season had messily blown over to Ithaca? Let’s say the bird was tiny and drenched and crouched on the sidewalk just off the curb in a wretched state, blinking weirdly and sometimes just closing its eyes like it was thinking about shutting down—though it kept accessing some powerful life force inside that allowed it to belt out some strong (LOUD) I-will-survive kind of bird chirps. (And hasn't your heart proven its desire to survive?)
Let’s say you squatted down feeling dreamily dazed and confused, thinking, But feet stomp down here, and dogs go by who are more tuned in and quicker than their people--aw, sweetheart, little baby bird, this will not do. Maybe you spent an hour in the rain on the phone going from the chicken lady to the Cornell vet school, then to the rehab dude. Somewhere in there, you moved the baby bird over 20 feet or so onto some vines that crept up the side of Dewitt Mall bricks, and no matter how much that baby screamed out its sharp little (LOUD) cheeps, all the other sparrows just picked up the ground-level seeds under the feeder somebody once hung there and keeps stocking, but they did not come feed that baby. At some point you started using girl pronouns because you didn’t like how IT hit—wrong pronoun. You also decided (and you didn’t mean to be clueless or offensive) that she was a sparrow because of the company she kept.
At some other point, it was the rehab guy’s best guess that this bird would probably die if you left her there. Later, he would shock you by telling you that even good-time squirrels—while it appears they're all fun and games and squeaky snacks—are not above eating a baby bird if no one's looking after her. But initially, Mr. Rehab was out of town for a couple of days, so yeah, what else, you ended up taking this soggy orphan home. You got to tend her long enough for her to dry and fluff up and generally clean up quite nicely, except for that one weird feathery spot on her head that kept sticking up. It suddenly flashed in on a random bolt of lucidity (day two) that the effects of the rain were long gone and this couldn't be bed head. You followed the impulse to google baby cardinal, and what came up was a picture of her. Didn't your heart grow three sizes that day?
It was kind of cool that she learned to fly in your living room and office, going from here to there pretty gracelessly, landing on cords and chair backs and stool rungs and the upright top of the laptop when you were using it. There was the occasional awkward attempt to land on your head, something you weren't that cooperative with perfecting. She seemed to appreciate the sticks you shoved into mason jars and vases and the brass bell when it struck you there was a serious dearth of perches in your home. She appreciated the red, yellow, and green cat pellets drenched to sogginess and shoved into her beak. (Is it sad you no longer remember her favorite color?)
Then Rehab dude came around and took her away to care for her the right way and reintroduce her to the wild. Thanks to Facebook you learned about the cardinals who kept coming 'round to visit, during the phase in the outdoor cage when she was outside but still closed in, who claimed her as one of theirs when the doors were left open, ready or not. You got to see the video of her flying away. And hey, turns out you were right: she was a she.
What if that sweet baby-girl cardinal were your heart?
What if you valued that heart of yours whether or not you knew for sure it would end up yielding some amazing reddish feathers that allowed true flying? What if you never gave up on it? What if you could stop whatever you were doing, just let it all go and stand there in the rain, because that heart, whatever else it needed in general and for the long haul, at least seemed to want your care, your arrested attention, your focused gaze?
I didn’t mean to write about this little bird. I wasn’t going to. I didn’t even want to. But I did find myself using her as a metaphor when talking to young people who were looking away from their own needs because—too busy tap-dancing for others. And she snuck into unscripted meditations I was narrating, as if a blinking baby bird made any sense there at all. And when I tried to forget about her, somebody who lent me their office for the day at Cornell had a little cardinal tchotchke sitting on the windowsill. And then that evening, the dog I was walking crossed the street for seemingly no reason (Marigold instantly wanted to cross right back over), and in the place where we landed momentarily before boomeranging back, two red feathers asked to be picked up. (I added them to the planter I'd already gifted with volunteer blue jay and starling feathers.)
I’ve gotten so serious about coming close to my own heart. I want to invite you to the same: come close to yours. I made a meditation to walk you there if you want a guide just for a moment—not because you need one, but maybe because, like me, you just like someone to hold a structure for you sometimes so you can drop in easily and see what happens. Maybe you like to be surprised, as on that day when the upstate New York monsoon came down hard on trees and nests and nestlings, and you were just trying to walk from point A to point B but had to stop. Because, oh, wow, what? Baby bird? So drenched, so lost, still screaming out a vote for survival. I don’t know about you, but I love to heed the call.
Love & blessings, Jaya
Here's the same Calming Heart Meditation linked above, which you can listen to right here by clicking on the arrow to the left:
Here's the second Heart Meditation for Clearing Self-Reproach:
You can also find the second meditation by following this link: Heart Meditation for Clearing Self-Reproach.
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