I feel a pressure in my belly. It grows with each breath I take; as if the rise and fall of my breathing were coaxing something out of me. With each inhale, my stomach swells and it feels like someone is pitching a tent in my gut. Each exhale tightens the skin around my navel. It doesn’t hurt, though. There’s a strangely hypnotic satisfaction to it; like it’s coaxing me into something as well. I become deeply relaxed and focused on my breath and this feeling. Each in-breath is a preparation, each out-breath an intention. I will this thing to be born of me.
Pop! The pressure releases as my stomach falls. All the air pours out of me like a deflating balloon. A small, brown bud with a glimmer of green at its tip emerges from my belly button. I breathe in and it almost disappears back into my rising abdomen. I exhale and the wispy shoot of a young sapling snakes out of the new hole. The vine-like branch waves and whips around as if examining its surroundings, looking for a place to grow. I lift my arms off the ground by my sides and gently grasp the narrow vine with each hand. As I hold this new umbilical cord, I wonder who has been born, me or it.
I keep breathing.
It keeps growing.
Air rushes into my nostrils and the shoot grows longer. It extends straight up. I breathe out and another bud emerges. In, they grow. Out, another sprouts from me. In, they grow. Out, the three twirl and intertwine, forming a trunk. In, the trunk thickens and grows. Bark grinds together like tectonic plates as it expands, leaving craggy furrows and folds. Out, the branches spread wide and leaves unfurl. In, more pressure in my belly. Out, several pointed vines emerge around the base of the trunk. These have no buds. In, they grow. Out, these new vines extend and wrap around my body and down to the ground. Roots form around me and I am encased in the tree.
As I breathe, I feel myself pulled up through the umbilical trunk. My consciousness flows upward, pumped by the rhythm of my breath. My body is the heart of this tree. My awareness becomes the turgidity that fills these cells. I feel myself spread into each branch, root, and leaf. The wind rustles me. The sun embraces me. My roots reach into the moist earth and kiss. My consciousness flows outward, pumped by the rhythm of the world. This tree is the heart of all things.