Monday, August 10, 2009

Beginners Mind

When we are beginners at something, we must learn from books or teachers. Before we can paint a masterpiece, we must study the masters. Before we can surf, we observe, then we practice "popping up" on the board on land. Then one day whatever you were studying comes naturally to you. You can leave the rules and instructions behind and follow your instincts. A surfer leaves behind the programmed set of moves and responds to what each individual wave is giving her.

We begin our first pregnancy and subsequent pregnancies too, with a beginner's mind. Not all of us are the same as beginners. A beginner's mind is sometimes a blank slate, but it is sometimes fearful, insecure, and easily led. Beginners, by definition are inexperienced, yet in spite of, or because of it, beginners can be cocky and overconfident.

It is true that pregnancy is a natural process and that your body knows what to do, but if you don't know what your body is doing, you may not trust it, which can cause all kinds of problems.

Now, in the beginning of your pregnancy, is the time for honoring the beginner that you are. Now is the time for book learning, for seeking out teachers, knowledge, options, and stories other than the ones you know.

Doctrine and Covenants 109:7 says "And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith;"

In next several blogs I will be including a history of childbirth throughout the last several millennia. But feel free to share your own histories or your own stories regarding the beginners mind--how you began your pregnacy and how you ended it. For example, most people who didn't know me before i had a child find it hard to believe that I once wanted to have a planned c-section and didn't want to nurse at all (I didn't want to ruin my perfect breasts). But through learning about my options and being in tune with what my body and my baby needed, I completely transformed. I ended up having a natural home birth and nursed my daughter till she was 3 years old. (And incidentally, my breasts are still perfect.)

You can post your stories here or email them to me privately. If you desire I'll reword them and post them anonymously or change your name.

Love and light.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Everything is Gestation and Then Birthing

I am fond of quoting Rilke, because--while he may not be saying anything new, he says it in way that resonates with me. Below is one of my favorite quotes from Letters to a Young Poet. As you read it, substitute the word "artist" with "divine pregnant woman."

Rilke said: "Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one's own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to lives as an artist: in understanding as in creating.

In this there is no measuring with time, a year doesn't matter, and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn't force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient. Who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast. I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything!"

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

An Origami Heart

“Meditate on these things, and give thyself wholly to them…” -1 Tim 4:15

In my book I talk a lot about the value of mediation during pregnancy. David O Makay said:

“I think we pay too little attention to the value of meditation, a principle of devotion. … Meditation is the language of the soul. It is defined as ‘a form of private devotion or spiritual exercise, consisting in deep, continued reflection on some religious theme.’ Meditation is a form of prayer. …
“Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord.”

Here is a small part of my story and some ways meditation helped me. Please feel free to share your story with me, and if you feel comfortable, with the rest of those reading. Here is my story.

During my first trimester, after I separated from my husband, I was staying with a friend who took care of me while I waited out the nausea. My friend Lisa is a beautiful Polish-Canadian who was living in California teaching English to Russian and Japanese students. In addition to her wonderful head rubs and Polish cooking, she gave me another great gift: she taught me to make paper cranes.

“My students say that if you make 1000 of them, you get a wish,” she said.

“What shall I wish for?” I asked. I had already made six and was enjoying a feeling of productivity I had not felt in weeks. I loved the transformation of bright colored paper into a beautiful representation of life.

“Wish for a healthy baby,” she said.

Of course. With all the stress and heartbreak and nausea, I sometimes forgot about the baby. Folding cranes, I turned my thoughts inward. Each crane was for her.

I folded crane after crane for months, while the same calming CD played on repeat 24-hours a day. Mountain fold. Valley fold. I knew my baby’s forming body depended on it. It was the only thing that could keep me from thinking, or crying.

My friends and home teachers watched the growing mountain of paper birds with interest. “It’s calming,” I told them. “Like a meditation. Every crane is a prayer.”

In my second trimester, when I felt well enough to exercise, I found a prenatal Kundalini yoga class in a Sikh neighborhood, and learned meditation as it has been done by great gurus, yogis, and others for eons. To it, I brought my own spiritual knowledge and intentions.

Many of the meditations I did during my pregnancy were for strength. I held my arms high in the air for 11 minutes while chanting “Har Har Hari,” which translated, means: strength. During this time, I received much strength from within (perhaps literally from within my womb), but the rest came from God, and my ancestors. When I felt inspired to do so, I placed a large chart of ten generations of my ancestors in front of me and sang “Ari Shakti,” (translated: the divine feminine). I held my index fingers in the air and imagined them as antennae, tuning in to the female power in the universe and the women in my life stream. This was incredibly powerful. I felt them surrounding me and lifting me up. I continued to fold cranes each day, and every crane now represented an ancestor as well as a prayer.

Sometimes, instead of singing, I just listened to music and watched the smoke of incense rising—a sublime, beautiful sight. Buddhists use incense to communicate with their ancestors. I like this idea. As I watched the smoke curling and rising toward heaven, I thought of my mother, my grandmother, and great grandmothers. Their presence permeated the house like the friendly aroma of incense and hovered for days. I felt so loved and supported by them. I wish I had known years ago that all it took to access this power was a few minutes of quiet time, meditating on them.

A week before my daughter was born, I finished stringing the 1000 cranes on more than 100 strings, weighted with sea shells. I hung them in my daughter’s room so that they cover the whole ceiling. The effect is magical. They twist and spin gently in the breeze, and looking up at them, I am mesmerized. Every time I look at them I think of 3 Nephi 25:22 that says “… unto you that fear my name, shall the Son of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings.”

My daughter was born healthy and beautiful, with all the wisdom of a thousand years in one tiny body. I know that she is as happy and as gentle as she is because of the time I spent during my pregnancy, transforming our lives through quiet communion with God.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Why I started this blog and how I hope you use it

The German poet Rainer Maria Rilke said this in one of his now famous letters to a young poet,

"...and you must be indulgent with the answer, which will perhaps often leave you empty handed, for ultimately, and precisely in the deepest and most important matters we are unspeakably alone; and many things must happen, many things must go right, a whole constellation of events must be fulfilled for one human being to successfully advise or help another."

Yet, despite this acknowledgment, he continues to write Mr. Kappus many more letters full of profound and now famous advice. It seems that the urge to pass on our wisdom and experiences is innate.

I started writing this blog and the forthcoming book of the same title as an attempt to reach one woman and help her to have a better pregnancy and birth experience, just as one woman's story reached me and set me on a path that changed my life.

This blog is for LDS (Mormon) women and other women of faith to share thier positive and or spiritual birth experiences and learn more information about thier options for birthing.

Sadly, the medical, technical world we live in would have us believe that pregnancy is an illness, and a purely physical condition. It is a natural physical process, and it is a spiritual process as well. You are partnering in a miracle with God and with the spirit that has chosen your womb. Now is the time to grow in that knowledge and make conscious choices about how you want to experience this process. My desire is to help my fellow sisters banish fear and the media version of childbirth and replace it with their own truth.

Each week I will be posting childbirth education type stuff as well as spiritual texts relating to pregnancy and birth, and real stories from women like you.

I invite you to email me your stories, questions, or ideas. You may also post them in the comments.

The First

This is my first and test post. There has to be a first of everything. In this life at least. It is difficult to imagine a life without beginnings and endings. Because everything I have experience with has a beginning and an end. But the fact that he word infinity exists means that someone's brain can conceptualize it. Maybe in fact what we perceive as beginnings and endings are just transitions.


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