On Having One Breast

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I Now Have One Breast…


11781603_10153610208658623_8594210384423200868_nA couple of weeks ago, I had a mastectomy as treatment for breast cancer. I now have one breast. A new imagination arises from within: one of unity within which Shiva and Shakti have become one. In reading Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee’s masterpiece Alchemy of Light, I know that it is time to release the old images – those of objects of desire, of which the breast must be the primary. In not being that object, I lose an illusory power. In embracing what is, including the severance, I get to see the new image that arises from within – one of unity that expresses our essential and unchanging divinity. These images from archetypal paintings have been changed for me by artist Lauren Sweet to mirror this body and this face.


Breasts have held a sacred place in my practice as a Tantra teacher – both in the encouragement of women to make deep inner contact with their breasts, and also, in years gone by, my own breasts as a direct vessel for transmission of the Mother’s love. I have had many men – and women – suckling on my breasts as a way of reconnecting them to the primal mother. And now I join millions or women across the world who have perhaps had their own children suckling on their breasts, and then have sacrificed them due to breast cancer. This experience leaves me with two koans to contemplate – questions that I think are universal, especially for women at the onset of menopause:

  1. Who am I if not a breast? (If I am no longer identified with the roles of mother and lover – then how does the feminine express through me now?)

  2. How do I honor the Mother now, as well as the child?



For me, the removal of my left breast has created a portal to the inner sanctuary of my heart. I feel light pouring in there – light that wants to create a whole new order of life. Far from being a tragedy, this happening for me is a profound initiation. It is an entry into what Rumi calls ‘sublime emptiness’ in the following poem:


“Some clouds do not obscure the moon, and there are mornings when drops of rain descend from an open sky.

A saint is a cloud that’s here, but with its cloud nature erased.
Something in us wants no intermediary, no nurse, just to be the wide blue merged with the mother’s breast, sublime emptiness.

There is a way of leaving the world that nourishes the world. Don’t do anything for applause. Khidr scuttled the fisherman’s boat, but that demolishing was kindness.

What you are is a soul that is both food and hunger, longing and what the longing is for. Remember that, and try then to experience renunciation.”


Rumi’s poem speaks of the profound mystery of the soul, which is both the mother and the child. To really receive the true nourishment of the divine Mother – the principle of goodness in life – we must acknowledge our hunger – that hunger that can not be satisfied by objects – even the object of the breast – by parties, by cleverness, or by becoming someone through our actions. When I have let go of finding fulfillment through any of these, then I can say, as Lao Tsu does in the following verse from the Tao Te Ching: “My milk is the milk of the Mother”.


Being different

How much difference between yes and no?

What the people fear
must be feared.
O desolation!
Not yet, not yet has it reached its limit!

Everybody’s cheerful,
cheerful as if at a party,
or climbing a tower in springtime.
And here I sit unmoved,
clueless, like a child,
a baby too young to smile.

Forlorn, forlorn.
Like a homeless person.
Most people have plenty.
I’m the one that’s poor,
a fool right through.

Ignorant, ignorant.
Most people are so bright.
I’m the one that’s dull.
Most people are so keen.
I don’t have the answers.
Oh, I’m desolate, at sea,
adrift, without harbor.

Everybody has something to do.
I’m the clumsy one, out of place.
I’m the different one,
for my food
is the milk of the mother.



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