I wanted an all-natural birth. Oh, I wanted it so bad I could taste it. I felt that all the yoga and meditation that I did would certainly help prepare my body and mind for the marathon of giving birth with no interventions. I had a birth plan that my husband and I painstakingly fussed over, that we were confident would serve as a guide for the birth of our daughter. Then my water broke. Then I didn't go into labor.
Once your water breaks they kind of like for you to start having some contractions eventually. And it's kind of intense on the baby to experience the contracting of the uterus around her without the cusion of the amniotic fluid. It felt kind of selfish of me to insist on doing that to my child. I don't know...everyone's different, but when my OB said that he wanted to begin gently inducing my labor 15 hours after my water broke and I was only 1cm dilated, with no real contractions to speak of, I agreed that yes it did sound like the best thing for my baby.
For many people Cervidil is pretty mild. Many people can sleep with it inside of them. Maybe because my water had already broken, the Cervidil rocked my world. The contractions came one after another with no break, and were super intense after not really having anything worse than a dull menstrual cramp of a contraction. It was so strong that it started to affect the baby, whose heart rate dropped suddenly because she wasn't getting any oxygen during those crazy contractions. They ripped the Cervidil out with no delay. That was a scary way to begin active labor. But after that, my body started contracting on it's own, thank God, and we went the rest of the night seeing how far my body would go unassisted. That was pretty cool. My husband and I bonded pretty hard that night. We watched the snow cats silently creep up and down Born Free and we rocked and swayed and breathed together. We both really fondly remember that night.
When the doctor checked me in the morning - this is more than 24 hours after my water had broken, I was only at 2cm dilated. Progress, but still for the baby, it could be better. He said he wanted to use Pitocin. I had previously been teriffied of Pitocin, and felt that this was a clear step toward a Cesarian birth. But when he suggested it, to my surprise I agreed with no protest. Not because I was intimidated of my doctor, but because I was thinking of my tiny baby inside of me getting rocked with every contraction for 24 hours. I felt that it was time for her to have a rest. So they began the drip. At first it wasn't so bad and I could still experiment with different positions, up against the wall, on all fours, sitting on the birthing ball. But quickly the sensation excalated, and I could hardly think or even see straight during contractions that were coming closer and closer together.
I begged for the epidural. And I didn't then, nor do I in retrospect feel let-down or in any way dissapointed in my choice. It was the right thing for my labor.
What needed to happen and what wasn't happening was me relaxing. Despite all the yoga, meditation, visualization and preparation that I had done up until that point, I couldn't let go. I could not surrender. There's a reason I have that word tattooed on my foot. 'Cause I need to be reminded to do it frequently, and even then I'm not all that proficient at it.
Once the anesthesiologist, that blessed man, administered the epidural I was able to relax. I even slept a bit. I dilated from 2 to 9.5cm in about 2 hours. Asleep. I just needed to relax and I couldn't do it actively. It's a real mind fuck. But in my sleep, my body's wisdom took over and did what I couldn't will it to do in over 24 hours prior.
When it came time to push, I was a bit more rested, I was fresh and thanks to the epidural, I felt strong and ready. It was actually kind of fun for the first, oh let's say, hour and a half. Then shit got so real, and I felt like I hadn't ever had that epidural. What epidural? I wanted to crawl up the wall with pain. I wanted to take the whole amazing nine months of pregnancy back and reverse time so that I would never have gotten to this God-forsaken place of unbearable pain. I wondered silently, while my mouth was screaming, how other women had done this - assisted or naturally. That really blows my mind. When those final few pushes were on deck, and it was go time, and I had to push this baby out, it was other-worldly. There are no words to describe the sensations, the rawness, the quite unfathomable fullness and the blinding fear that accompanied the delivery of my tiny 5lb 11oz little girl. It was no joke.
And then magically, she was here. There was a moment's pause by the pediatrician and nurses about her color and breathing, which scared me more than any of the pain of the labor could ever have, as I already loved her beyond measure and was so invested in her wellbeing that I couldn't concentrate with the doctor about the placenta or the end of my delivery. I was absorbed in the goings-on over at the "baby table". But in the end, they gave her to me, and my complete overwhelm at the last almost 34 hours overtook me and I sobbed like a baby. It took away any potential guilt or dissapointment at the gap between what I had originally wanted for the birth, and what had transpired. The giant love for this tiny creature that exploded in my heart wiped the slate clean and gave me a precious moment's insight into really surrendering. Surrendering my need for control, and to know how things will happen before they do. Surrendering my need to cushion scariness with information and "preparedness". Sometimes you have to dive into the scariness, and it's not some cute yoga teacher thing to say - there is no other choice. And it makes you naked. And it forces you to stand in your power.
And I LOVED the birth of my daughter. I wouldn't have had it any other way. She is my reward, and she's beyond worth it.
So I have an extremely talented friend, Kathryn, who takes pictures with such a genuine sweetness and honesty. She recently honored me by asking me to be a part of a project and has featured me in her blog. I thought the least I could do was to repay the favor and give her a little publicity :) Though I am a little bashful to put these in a public forum, they are there already, so here we go!
Here's a link to the post that has our shoot in it:
If you are in the market for a photographer for your wedding, pregnancy, new baby, or maybe other subjects too, please do yourself a favor and check out her websites:
This is Kathryn's blog: http://www.kathrynbronn.com/
And this is her website: http://www.simplelifeke.com/
Enjoy and thanks for supporting two women working to portray their honest passions and share them with the world!
My neighbors, whom we share a wall with, and can hear every word they say, yell at each other a lot. They both have unstable adult children, apparently, and this is obviously a hot topic over there. Not to mention, said children also tend to raise their voices when they are there with the parents, saying awful things to them. It feels very different than the cute older couple, whom we thought were going to be our neighbors. And now we have a baby that we are about to bring home. I'm starting to get frightened. There's a lot of hostile energy over there. And I am really trying to drop into my Buddhist training here, to check in with - what of this am I projecting? Where is my compassion for these suffering beings? Why can I only think of my coming child and how I want a peaceful, quiet, child-friendly environment to bring her home to, rather than World War III/Mental Health ward at the hosiptal?
It's making me feel like an extreme voyeur, a peeping tom, and the nosiest neighbor ever to listen to their fights. To wonder how much longer I have to live here? To dread a real explosion from one of their children, and speculate on how it might affect mine? The energy is all wrong.
Tell me, am I wrong to listen? When they raise their voices, should I go hide upstairs in my bedroom, so that I can try not to hear what they say? Is that the right thing to do... in my own home? But the more I refuse to hide, the more I am vicariously sucked into their drama - one in which I DO NOT want to be involved on ANY level. Oy. This is a very hard situation we've gotten ourselves into. And one that really could not be avoided. It's not like the day we agreed to sign a lease, they were yelling and screaming and throwing pots and pans... no they were on their best behavior. Only more recently have we begun to hear evidence of the discord in that household. Now that we're locked into a lease and have a baby coming.
Really, I am no one to judge any one else's family. I am not qualified to critique how other people communicate. Really, I do understand that I may be being a little self-righteous and holier-than-thou (as I have been called before). But is it wrong of me to want the happiest, most loving and peaceful energy around my whole home when this baby makes her debut into the world? I have no control over what goes on in anybody else's home. It wouldn't even make a difference if I said something to them - I'm sure they know we can hear them, they've mentioned it before. I have to start digging down into that well of deep love of mine and find some compassion; find some understanding and some non-judgement. I'm sure it exsists, because in that well, there is only love, and no room for fear, doubt or judgement. But a mother's sense of needing to protect her child from ANY harm, be it spoken words, acts or other, is visceral - it is primal and instinctual. There is the tiniest of split seconds to see that habit and act to change it before a mother would act to protect her child from a percieved threat. And maybe this is one habit I'm not sure I'm willing to break. Call me an unenlightened being. Go ahead. I want to create a bubble of love around this child. An orb of white, healing light that she may always experience the world as good and kind. Wow, does that ever sound cheezy, but it's true!
This makes me think of the story of the Buddha - who's father, the king, knew he was special from his birth. It was foretold that he would be a very influential and special being. The father took this to mean his son would be king for sure, and took all precaution to shield his son from any suffering. Any old age, sickness, sadness - everything like this he banished from the kingdom. Only young, beautiful, healthy and happy people remained. And yet, young Siddhartha knew there was a piece of the puzzle missing. He knew that there was more to life, and he left his father and his hopes of kingship to see the world, to specifically experience the suffering and seek within himself the key to it's unravelling - he became a monk. And because of his exposure to the hardships in the world, the sadness and difficulty that he saw and felt, he was able to break through the facade of superficial happiness created by his father who tried to pass off as real, and see the world for what it was.
What that is, what Buddha saw, is not for me to say - I am, after all, not an enlightened being, but what I can say, or hope is that maybe my kid will have the gift of forgiveness hardwired inside of her when she's born. This is my deepest wish for her. That she may not internalize what she hears around her, not judge others in situations that she couldn't possibly understand, and greet others with an open heart full of optimism - offering their soul to reach it's hightest when it is in her presence.
I guess what I'm saying is that maybe we moved into the PERFECT situation for us - to use this as a learning opportunity. One where we can teach her to have compassion for others who are suffering, to not pass judgement and to keep her heart open, though she may feel someone around her has carefully blocked the entrance to their own heart. To know that her kindness will never go unrewarded, even if the immediate result is not what she expects. To love others unconditinally, even if they may say or do things that she doesn't agree with.
Ay, yay, yay. This kid's not even born yet, and she's already got me dropping a pail into that well of love deeper than one's ever been before. I guess that's what kids do. My deepest love and gratitude go to her for teaching me about the depth of kindness and love before we have even met eyes.
This is going to be a different kind of post. This is going to be self-desclosure to a level that is terrifying to expose on the internet. This is for all those parents-to-be out there who put on a happy face every time someone asks you how excited you are to have your baby, when inside you're petrified. You have to know that you are not alone, and you are not a bad person for having other thoughts and feelings besides excitement, sunshine and teddy bears.
The prospect of being a parent is terrifying to me. I'll take the pain and challenge of unmedicated labor and delivery ANY DAY and every day in lieu of actually having to parent a child. In my mind right now, there is a gulf the size of the entire universe between my current pregnancy and the concept of being a good parent. In my mind right now, you have to be responsible to be a parent. You have to be unselfish and patient. Financial security comes to mind. Barely being able to make it with just my husband and myself doesn't really seem like it's gonna cut it once the baby comes, yet nothing is changing to make me feel that we'll be better off in 3 months than we are right now. In fact, the only change I see is that I'll be home all the time, with nothing coming in to contribute, so I imagine my panic at financial collapse will only get worse. What kind of energy is that to bring a baby into?
Deep down inside I know that we will make it, so don't get me wrong, I'm just acknowleging here the potentially crippling thoughts and feelings that start to haunt you when you have your first child coming. I know that people survive on much less than we actually have, and we are very capable of creating a wonderful life for ourselves and our family. It's just hard sometimes to believe in the fairy tale when many months are a struggle already. The sacrifices that have to be made now, and down the road can seem really discouraging, and totally frightening.
Maybe for some, their first and subsequent pregnancies are striclty excitement, sunshine and teddy bears. For me, right now, there is a shadow side, looming over my consciousness, waiting for any sign of weakness to engulf me, and if it goes unacknowlegded, it surely will. We have to start a conversation about the whole of the experience, not just the happy face that we have to show others so that we don't make them uncomfortable at work. Because it makes you feel like a terrible person. Like anyone that hears what you really think is going to call Social Services on you, because you might not be able to afford to buy your kid a 4-wheeler for their 5th birthday so they can go get the mail, like the neighbor kid has. Because you're afraid of losing it like you do with the dogs now and again when they won't let you alone and all you want is a moment of peace.
I am most definitely getting wrapped up in the fear of the future and not being completely present. In my conscious mind, I understand that. But, I have to believe that there's also something to be said for not hiding from your fears - and in so doing, moving through them instead of sweeping them under the rug to rear their ugly heads anohter day. So, in an effort to keep these fears processing and not hidden, I lay them bare here. For my own empowerment to begin, and also to give solace and comfort to those like me, who are scared shitless about actually becoming a parent, I hope this helps.
We just passed the Winter Solstice. The day of the year where the night is the longest and the day is the shortest. It's a beautiful time of the year, physically, metaphorically and spiritiually. It is the time of midwinter - where conditions begin to become harshest. Where the long nights can affect productivity and emotions. I've read in stories that in many ancient cultures this was a time for big celebration - before the real hunkering down to make it through the famine times of deep winter. In these celebrations, they used to sow crops - preparing for the growing light and warmth to come after the day of the Solstice. They used to slaughter cattle, so as not to have to feed extra mouths during the winter's famine. And so, it was the time of year when the best and most abundant meat was available. Oh, they partied - big time.
As a metaphor to our mental activity the Solstice provides us a wonderful example of taking time to be introverted. To explore the rich inner world of our existence. To leave the social pressures for a bit, and dive into what is true for us internally. As the "darkness" is long and deep - so can be our self-exploration - without regret for entertaining, or expending our reserves for others. Darkness here does not imply depression, but rather a slowing down, a turning inward and a permission for self-care and attention payed. I have a yoga teacher who sometimes refers to the "fertile unknown" - this mental, emotional and spiritual ground within ourselves that remains a mystery even to our own minds. It is where ideas and creativity come from - it is where we go for renewal in times of difficulty. When you get on your mat, or sit in meditaiton. When you take a walk and zone out, or soak in a hot bath without ruminating - just soaking, and come out feeling better and refreshed. We visit this fertile unknown all the time - mostly without knowing it. This is what is so amazing about this time of long darkness and deep introspection. We get to sow seeds in the fertile unknown ground of our minds and our hearts. We get to shape our lives and silently voice our dreams.
So I encourage you to take this time, of midwinter, of long, deep darkness, and look inside. Dream your dreams. Plant the seeds of what you'd like to foster and grow with your intention in the fertile unknown ground within yourself. Nourish and feed those seeds with your attention, your mindfulness and practice. Get on your mat and just move. Move because it feels good. Because every moment spent mindfully helps these seeds of intention grow into your life. Because, inevitably, what is to come are longer days and more hectic acitivity. The summer is wild and free - like wild flowers - those seeds have grown by then. They grow anyway, because our thoughts and fears are also planted in the fertile unknown ground. So lets take this opportunity to plant something intentionally, and grow our lives in a way that feeds us rather than diminishes. Lets have a reason for a big time party!
In light of the recent tragedy at an elementary school in Connecticut, I feel there is a particular sentiment that must be brought into the equation, that hasn't been discussed too much thus far - compassion. Of course, I have heard many calls to have compassion for the families of those who have lost loved ones in this monstrous act, and they deserve more than compassion. They deserve kindness, patience, love, nurturing, access to counselling and coping methods for the rest of their lives, space to grieve, and many more things. No, what I'm talking about (and I'm not trying to become a social pariah, just to be complete in my offerring of compassion) is compassion for the young man who committed this act of senseless violence. Has anyone stopped to think about how much this kid was suffering to lead him to do what he did? Has anyone thought to look past their own reaction of hate, and try to find an answer in love? I am IN NO WAY condoning what he did, but what I am asking you to consider is why?
We often get so caught up in the world outside of ourselves, that we believe all of it is real. We buy into the fear and hate mongering of the media, and of social groups who also believe that everything they say is truth, and we tailspin into fear and hate ourselves. And it takes a great act of self-awareness to stop and look, and examine where that fear is coming from. That, maybe we just haven't spent enough time in relationship with the truth of this moment. We fail to understand that we create our reality and that how we participate with the world is our choice. That we are only victims of circumstance if we choose to see it that way. That having compassion begins with ourselves and extends to others. There is only one way to love others, and that is to love ourselves - those who can't find a way to love themselves have no well to draw upon, no source to access to grow love for others. It is a show; an act - to behave as if we love mankind so much, but act with self-depracation and self-loathing inwardly.
It seems to me that this kid in Connecticut was very cut off from the deep love within himself. It seems that maybe he didn't understand that this world flows together when we love each other and falls apart at the seams when we think that hate rules the day. He must not have felt the fabric of connection and compassion that underlies our interactions with each other. Maybe he didn't feel understood or loved by those around him or the world - even if they thought they showed him. And instead of looking inside to ponder "why do I see the world this way? can I see things differently?", he chose to turn his fear outward, unleashing a tirade of violence on innocents. Do I have to hate this boy of just 20 years, that he didn't understand how the world really works? Do I have to rant about gun control and other symptoms of a greater cancer that is invading our social and cultural body? Or can I have some compassion for his misunderstanding of how things are - his taking for reality what he just thought and felt himself?
I'm so sorry that no one told him that just because he felt like a victim, does not mean that that was absolute truth. That because he didn't feel the love around him, that there was none. That because he thought he had to show the world something in a gruesome and tragic way - that there were other ways. I'm so sorry that people lost their lives for this man's misunderstanding. That is a real tragedy. And those families that lost loved ones will have to grapple with this for the rest of their lives. I'm sure for many of them forgiveness is far in the future, if at all, and I probably seem ignorant and insensitive saying so, but I do hope they can come to it one day, and see that the man whom they hate was so lost and so deep in his own grief, that he was also his own victim that day. Maybe we can see him as someone who made a huge mistake in his searching for truth and love, but it was a mistake. Taking another's life can never be other than an outward show of an inward struggle and misunderstanding. Can we find compassion for this lost soul? And beyone that - can we begin to search ourselves more deeply and truthfully? To search for that well of deep love that connects us all - even those who act questionably on the outside - and teach others the way of love above the way of violence? Of peace and of quiet connection above the shouting and platitudes of self-rigteous politics? It does take a village - it takes a village to understand ourselves and teach the ones who don't understand with great compassion and patience, to trust in love. To shape our cultire into one of love, not hate.
I'm not afraid of labor pain.
I think nowadays, or even many years ago, this is kind of a crazy thing to say. I'm sure many of you won't believe me, with all that's out in the cultural background about the extreme pain of pushing a baby out, but all I can do is put it out there in the truest way that I feel it. I am not afraid of being in pain delivering my child. That is not to say that I don't believe there will be pain - or intense sensation, lets call it, for lack of my knowing the sensation in my body already - but I am honestly not afraid of it. I almost look forward to it in a kind of sick way. What I look forward to is going the distance...is making it through the endurance round and having the greatest gift on the other side of the finish line. I imagine it's going to be a little better than any medal I've gotten running a race. The true well of deep love.
I do have to credit my prenatal yoga trainer and my doula here for introducing me to Ina May Gaskin's work, as one of the most, if not the most respected midwife in recent American history. At Ina May's farm in Tennessee, they have created an atmosphere of home-birthing that celebrates the process and holds women up as powerful, creative beings who trust in nature and in their bodies, and the process then takes care of itself. Nobody is saying it's easy, and that is not what I'm implying - in fact, I'll venture a guess that it'll be the hardest work I'll ever do (outside of actually then parenting the result of this miraculous process!), but also, no one from this mindset is insisting on this whole thing being traumatic either. Life changing, empowering and amazing, yes, but trauma, no.
There is a difference in aknowledging that there will be a certain amount of intensity and discomfort in the birth process, and being afraid of it. It seems as though, over the years, our medical community (in general - I know there are exceptions within this population) has created an atmosphere of pathology around pregnancy, making it an abnormal or scary state to be in.
pa·thol·o·gy /pəˈθɒl ə dʒi/
noun, plural pa·thol·o·gies.
1. the science or the study of the origin, nature, and course of diseases.
2. the conditions and processes of a disease.
3. any deviation from a healthy, normal, or efficient condition.
-excerpted from www.dictionary.com
That is crazy-talk to me. There are, certainly, things that could go wrong with pregnancy, labor and delivery, just like things can go wrong with normal living - we could get cancer or heart disease or have a stroke for no known reasons like Malcolm in the Middle. Things happen sometimes. But the numbers of normalcy around pregnancy far outweigh the cases of "deviation from a healthy, normal, or efficient condition". Yet, in our culture, we've made it seem like the cases of abnormalcy should be expected, and in-fact, we might as well pre-empt them with a cesarian, just in case. ... Are you crazy?! Why wouldn't I trust in the process that for millenia has been serving women just fine? And, again, I'm not saying that in those cases where intervention is absolutely needed, that people should rely on fairy dust and glitter and hope they and their baby survive - no, by all means, utilize what is here to save a life, sister! But, why fix something that ain't broke? Out of fear? ...No thank you. I refuse to buy into the fear. I choose to trust in my body and my baby to do what is a primal instinct of all mamallian females. I want to feel it. I don't want to hide. I want to push and know that my baby is doing what she can too, and in this way work together and make this thing happen.
Personally, I don't fault anyone who makes another choice for any other reason. It's easy to judge. In the end, I don't stand in anyone else's shoes but my own, and can only speak for myself. I am a glutton. I work really hard and I like it. When I practice yoga, I relish those poses that make me feel like I'm gonna throw up sometimes - not all the time, mind you- but there is great benefit, both mental and physical in hard work and commitment. And of training the mind to face a challenge without turning away because it seems ugly, painful or otherwise unpleasant. What an amazing life lesson gained from yoga and meditation. And here I thought I was just doing it cuz it's trendy ;) But in all seriousness - it's huge, this lesson. Life doesn't always give you tidy, sparkly, easy and fun situations. The hard ones are usually the ones we learn and grow from the most - but only if we invest the time and effort to face them, to work through them and not to run away - even if we can, even if running is an option. If we don't learn coping skills somehow, somewhere along the way, then one day, there'll be no option for an epidural and we'll have to deal with the situation at hand. Let's try to invite some grace in to the process, shall we? Let's maybe give it a practice run-through once or twice, or many thousands of times on our yoga mat or meditation cushion before D-Day. What do you say?
Sit and breathe, and when challenging things come up, do yourself a favor and look. The next time you're on your mat and you start shaking - don't give up! Don't move until you've given it your very best! That's the golden ticket. That's the training ground, and, at least for me, labor and delivery is where it all will be decided. What's your proving ground?
People make funny faces in yoga class.
Sometimes I think it's funny (I stick my toungue out sometimes when I'm concentrating really hard - check out the pic! And yes - I have gotten made fun of plenty for this faux pas, and not just in yoga). Sometimes, from the standpoint of instructor, when I see people making faces I feel like I'm terribly mean and students are not having fun, then I realize that regardless of how they are interpreting me, they still came to my class for instruction, and like it or not, that's what I'm givin' 'em. But when when I see yoga practitioners in my class making faces, it also reminds me to lighten up and quit being such a hard-ass.
This begs the question - should yoga be fun? I mean, back in the day of the origins of yoga in India - those dedicated men practicing to "prepare their containers" for the energy surges of meditation - did they have fun? Did they joke around? Did they laugh in practice? And is it too limiting to hold them up as an example for our modern, western interpretation of what yoga is and for what purpose it is used nowadays? I'd like to say that in most cases our intention hasn't strayed too far off that original mark, but we've all been to a yoga class geared for physical fitness - so as not to "scare off" any potential students who don't feel comfortable chanting om. I haven't been to India yet, nor have I studied with a mentor from the motherland, but I have heard that you don't mess around in those classes. Want to or not - when they say jump, you say "how high?". And I suppose that's what we western yogis go on pilgrimage to work with the great masters to do - to get a less watered-down version of what we think we know from home. To get a good, old-fashioned butt whuppin' and to say thank you when it's over. To use it as a catalyst to spur our practice on to greater depth.
There are pros and cons to each side here - that of a fun practice and that of a strict practice.
My meditation teacher is constantly reminding me to find the joy in my practice. Otherwise - what will keep me coming back to my cushion? This too is true of the mat. Without some measure of fun we will quickly brow-beat ourselves into quitting altogether. If we didn't find some fun, someting to smile about, why would we come back? But this, in the end, isn't a toddler's gymnastics class, and without some level of discipline, there would be no progression - no deepening.
There is certainly, a sense of accomplishment felt when we commit to something challenging. It appeals to that streak of militaristic order that runs stronger in some of us than in others. Those that approach their yoga practice as boot camp...I see it in their eyes - they don't always appreciate my jokes. It's like a joke takes the validity out of their practice. But I love a joke - especially when things are getting hard - because you have to poke fun at your consciousness, you have to shake yourself up to test your resolve; to see what you are made of in the face of varying conditions, where off the mat, you don't get to control your environment - the quietness, temperature and atmosphere of difficult situations. Why not shake things up on the mat with some laughter and see how well you hold that Sirsasana, headstand, hmmm?
I like to think my class is a healthy blend of discipline and challenge on the one hand, and silliness and fun on the other. That those funny faces are their own version of my I sticking my tongue out - just a physical expression of mental concentration. I will not apologize for being silly. It's a part of my personality that makes me, for one, love my practice. When I say or do something funny, it just allows a release of pent up energy that I never even knew was pent up.
So within the context of your highly disciplined, very serious and dedicated yoga practice, let the joy bubble up! ...Lke bubbles in a bath tub... ;)
You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet. Franz Kafka
My baby inspires me to meditate and she's not even born yet.
I can't compare my meditation practice to anyone else's, as this is such a deeply personal and intimate journey, that there is no comparison. It's like trying to compare marriages - no basis for comparison one to another. But throughout the course of my own practice, there have been major surges - like tidal waves of commitment and dedication and also major ebbs - deep withdrawals and pushing of the practice away. It seems even more dramatic than my relationship to yoga - the other major spiritual path that I have walked for the last 13 or so years. I have never completely not practiced yoga for a period of months. But meditation practice shows you such deeply buried thngs about yourself, it lays you so bare and naked, that there are times when I have chosen to stay dressed, thank you very much. Where it feels like a magnetic repulsion to put my butt down on that cusion and look at my mind.
I'm coming off of one of those backlash against the practice jags right now. No matter how I tried, how I made the time in the day, how I berated myself for not sitting (which, by the way does nothing good, and is not recommended by my teacher, it's just a deeply buried habit that I have yet to release), I even consulted with my teacher about my lack of commitment at the time, and to no avail. There was something visceral keeping me from the practice. Now, I tried to keep mindful on other levels - to bring it more decidedly into my yoga practice and teaching, to take more walks and get outside, etc., but in the end I didn't make it to my cushion consistently for the better half of a year.
I haven't even met this little one cooking in my belly yet, and yet something has shifted so dramatically. My inclination now is to sit all the time. In the past when I've returned from meditation retreat - in those times when I haven't found the time in the morning before work to sit, I've sat at work on a lunch break, as I've been so in the habit of doing it and so inspired by the practice... well I'm doing that now. And the really fun thing is that at home I sit in the baby's room. Now, I do have a small altar set up in our guest room, and there's plenty of room in there to actually sit, and the baby's room is still a little dishevelled - it's still half storage room from our move, half storage for the coming baby room, and totally not a place where I'd normally sit, if this coming kid wasn't mine. But it is, and the baby's room has such a happy, bright sun-shiny energy for me right now. It makes me want to spend the whole day in there. It helps me stay on target with the meditation when I get distracted - something about connecting to this process of motherhood, and of 'growing baby' inside of me keeps me really grounded when I do my meditation in there. It's pretty cool, I must say.
And again (I am finding this a recurring theme - that of trying not to project my hopes and fears onto the baby) I am going to try not to put the cart in front of the horse - so I will voice this hope once, here for the world to read, then never again. I hope I can continue to sit in there even after the baby comes. I don't know if this is just the naive ruminations of a pre-first time mother, but I have these visions of putting her to sleep in her crib, then sitting down for a half an hour or so and just watching myself in her presence. Not watching her, mind you, as I'm sure there'll be plenty of that going on too, but watching myself and allowing my mind's eye to travel inward, inspired by wanting to be the best mom I can be, and to be a role model of the utmost caliber. To dive inside the workings of my own mind seems like something that being in the presence of her, for whom I try to be a clear and loving guide, will come easily. And in a selfish sort of way, I hope to also inspire her and to model to her a behavior that is a prized one in our household - that of being a mindful watcher.
I wonder how it affects a child growing up to be in the presence of someone meditating on a regular basis. It seems a little absurd in the context of our western culture of go, go, go. Of tv, and internet - social media, and hand held "learning" devices, a.k.a. video games, that being mindful would be something that a child would be capable of. It seems that children are meant to be stimulated and constantly encouraged to explore their world. But that particular paradigm implies a stimulation and an exploration through their senses - through what they see, hear, touch, smell and taste. That stuff is inevitable and will happen all day long regardless of whether I take a half hour to sit with my child. Is it bananas to hope that they might also be turned on the to the eastern paradigm of exploring their rich inner world too? I mean, look at countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, Tibet, etc., where small boys (lets not get on the tangent of why small girls don't get this opportunity, but at least be happy that small anybodys get it) enter the monestery at very young ages, to preempt their starvation if they stay with their poor families, or their turning to a life of crime and/or drug abuse otherwise. These kids are turned to the dharma, and to an internal life of mindfulness and of service from toddlerhood. I know it's possible.
I know it's possible, and the cool part is that I want to do it, not for the aspirational quality of my hope, but I just feel drawn to put my cushion down in the baby's room. There's no sense of obligation or of determination or diligence (should I be admitting that?) but just one of the natural flow of how things feel right and will fall together as they should be. We'll see what actually turns out from this little social experiment as time goes on, but at least for now, while it's still quite quiet around me, that's where I'll plant my bum and watch my mind.
I had a dream last night that I was in a yoga teacher training, and I loved it! I loved the training in the dream, and I loved the dream when I awoke. You see, lately, I've been really feeling and working to embrace this shift in roles that I am going through from independent woman to mommy. From being beholden to no-one but myself (and my husband now and again) to devoting my everything to this coming child. I'm not going to lie, sometimes it seems like a rockier thransition than others. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad for whatever shred of mindfulness I have to understand the process that I'm going through and happy to understand that it begins now, and not avoid it until the baby's here and I'm a "baby blues" wreck! I'm not mourning the loss of my identity or personality perse (do I have one of those anyway ? ;) ) but more that concept of doing things for myself that aren't of clear or direct benefit to others - like taking a yoga training. In the end, I hope that what I learn in those classes comes through in my teaching, and in some way does touch others' lives, but in the moment of taking the classes, I am growing leaps and bounds, and clearly doing the work for myself. Now I find myself guiltily thinking that those days are over, at least for a few years, and all of my everything will go to Tic Tac. This shift in perspective is at times easy and clear, and at other times a difficult pill to swallow. And moreover - a huge blow to the ego - not that mine can't stand to be knocked down a peg or two... but I'm saying it's not an easy thing and there is a mourning process gone through in some form or another, whether conscious or not, by all mothers to be (and I assume fathers too, but maybe later when the baby actually comes). A mourning of the free-wheelin' young woman and an opening to the mother that will be birthed when the baby is born. I'm not saying you can't be free-wheeling and young after having a baby - just that there is a clear shift in roles, that's all.
And in going through this transition, I have found myself indulging in the occasional pity party - but not usually for too long - ask my husband! Last night's dream put me back in my place a little bit. It showed me that, not only do I not have to give up on those things that inspire me, but that I don't have to feel guilty about it either. That Tic Tac will understand and hopefully, though I can't predict and have to try not to project my hopes onto her, admire her mom's curiosity about the world, about herself and her own humanity, her desire to always keep learning and growing, and to bring her learning to others in a way that their lives may be made a little easier and more joyful. Maybe she won't resent my being gone for a weekend now and again, but take it as my modelling a behavior for her to take up in her own adulthood. A mom can hope anyway, right?
All this brings me around to gratitude. Gratitude for all the blessings in my life - all the gifts I have been given. Gratitude for the immeasurable love that our lives are about to get an infusion of. Gratitude for the path I have taken to find this gratitude, as I wouldn't be here if not fot all the, I won't say mistakes, but rather twists and turns that have led me to this place of deep love. Gratitude for all of the lows that make the highs high, and the middles that even it all out. For the abundance of love and laughter that is in my life alone, my heart if bursting full of gratitude. For all of the learning that I have experienced, and all that is to come (yoga trainings and school of motherhood too!) For family, friends, community and tribe. And mostly - for the mindfulness to observe it all, to pay attention to it, and not let it slip by like just another holiday but rather a day-to-day experience of gratitude for the generosity around me. May I share this gratitude and observance of it with my child, with my tribe - all of you and the world. May it spread and build into a world where we treat each other with kindness and love and leave our fears and insecurities at the door.
Happy Thanksgiving All! May we drink in the generosity around us and pay it forward tomorrow.
As a student of yoga, massage, meditation , poetry and other such introversions, I figured some of my inspirations might also touch the hearts of others. Read, ruminate, digest, create...always returning to this well of deep love inside to renew ourselves and rediscover what we are. Enjoy!