A Good Latch

Whether breast feeding or meditating, we all desire to get a good latch on the nipple.  I am inspired by watching my newborn son, Malcolm, and my wife, in the process of breastfeeding.  I never knew that learning to latch on does not necessarily come naturally to the infant or to the mother.  As I was growing up, my mother ran a day care business from home.  I saw many infants being breast fed by their mothers, and they all just seemed to know what to do.  I had no idea the amount of work some mothers and infants had to go through in order to get to the place where they were.


There is a kind of Samadhi that takes place between mother and child that, I think, is profound and perhaps not given the credit it deserves.


The infant, in order to receive the nourishment of the mother, goes through a learning process as he latches on to his mother’s breast.  As in meditation, the physical posture is crucial to a good latch.  The baby needs to be positioned properly – leaning towards the mother, mouth, arms and legs all positioned in a certain way – so that he is in good alignment with his source.  The meditator, too, needs to take good care of her posture.  How is her back, shoulders, arms, legs, head, hands, and fingers positioned?


The mother also needs proper positioning so that she is not leaning too far forward, her legs, arms, hands, breast, and head all need to be properly aligned so that she is comfortable and able to relax.  Then the milk flows properly from mother to child.  The child is able to receive the optimum nourishment from the mother.


We adults are not different from infants in our need for nourishment whether it be physical or spiritual.  We just appear to be a little more sophisticated about it.  Our physical nourishment comes neatly wrapped in containers, served on plates, eaten with spoons and forks.  But even these packages and utensils come from the body of mother Earth.  More obviously, mother Earth brings forth the food that we eat.  The dairy is there because of the grass (or corn!) that the cow ate.  The grass comes from the soil.  Physically we are totally dependent on this Earth for our nourishment.  When the Earth is treated with respect, her nourishment flows forth to all her children (not just some with a lot of money and power).


Spiritually this is the case as well.  A cognitive-based prayer to God may work in some instances, but this kind of prayer is greatly enhanced by our physical posture.  When we pray, how is our body in relation to the earth and to gravity?  Are we meditating with our very best posture – not too upright, not too slouched?  What is the placement of our neck and chin?  How are our eyes set?  How are our shoulders?


When our body is in proper alignment, we receive the full flow of spiritual nourishment from the universe.  We feel ourselves connected most deeply and intimately to our True Self.  This can be wonderful.  No?


What happens when there is a bad latch, even after all the effort that is put out by mother and baby?  Is it all over?  I don’t know, but here is my experience with bad latching in meditation.  In meditation, sometimes, despite all our effort to get a good latch, we just don’t.  We don’t feel connection to the True Self.  We may feel dislocated, angry, sad, anxious, and no matter what we do to align our physical body, nothing changes.


This is actually a great place to be!  This is where true growth happens.  In this moment of poor latching, can we recognize that this state too, is also totally okay?  Can we rest into it and accept it as it is?  Can we let go of our ideas of good and bad meditation and just be with what is, beyond our ideas of what should be?


Not easy place to be, but I think the bad latch is in some ways better than the good latch.  This bad latch reflects the ancient teachings of the Buddha and the Bible.  The Buddha said that there is no way to escape suffering.  The more we struggle against it, the more it increases.  Buddha encouraged us to open up to our pain, and to rest into it.  This is sometimes interpreted wrongly as a kind of giving up.  It is not.  We move into our suffering, because, as is stated so eloquently in the book of Ecclesiastes 7:3, “Sorrow is better than laughter, because when the face is sad the heart grows wiser.”


Blessed be all parents in agony – human, animal, plant, mother Earth.

Published by Daishin

Daishin Eric McCabe is a Buddhist monk. He teaches Soto Zen philosophy, mindfulness meditation, yoga, and calligraphy to people of all walks of life and spiritual paths. He was ordained in 2004 and given permission to teach in 2009. He is fully ordained in the Soto Zen tradition and is a recognized teacher both in the Association of Soto Zen Buddhists and in the Soto Zen Buddhist Association. Daishin undertook a 15 year mentorship with Abbess Dai-En Bennage of Mount Equity Zendo, located in rural central Pennsylvania. During this time he trained at various Soto Zen Monasteries in Japan. In France he trained with Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, practiced in California at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, and with Rev. Nonin Chowaney at the Nebraska Zen Center. He is a certified hatha Yoga teacher through Integral Yoga. Daishin has four years experience attending the spiritual and emotional needs of patients, family, and staff in a hospital setting, and three years experience giving spiritual direction and counsel to clients with mental health and substance abuse issues. He has ten years experience as a Guest Teacher and speaker at Buddhist meditation retreats, yoga centers, colleges, and multi-faith gatherings. Daishin studied at Bucknell University where he received a BA in Religion and Biology in 1995. He completed 5 units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Wellspan York Hospital in August of 2014, where he worked as a Chaplain in Behavioral Health, and in 2015 was granted by the Board of Chaplaincy Certification Incorporated the equivalent of a Master of Divinity. Prior to chaplaincy he taught meditation and yoga for two years to clients at White Deer Run, a drug and alcohol rehab in central PA. He presently teaches yoga at Broadlawns Medical Center to patients receiving mental health care. Daishin presently resides in Ames, Iowa with his wife and family.

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