Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tending to the Miracle

Mary has just 5 minutes prior given birth to a beautiful baby girl.  It is her second baby, and like her first, she wants to give birth without medication.  I began care of her when she is already deeply drawn inside herself, 8 centimeters dilated with hefty contractions, coming every 2 minutes apart.  I remember how strong they are, like the under toes in the ocean, that as a young girl I'd have to guard against being pulled in, lost in the abyss of what is big and unknown. It doesn't take Mary very long to open up her body and give birth, 40 minutes later with only 3 pushes.

I'm watching her, she is sighing, with her sight glazed, gazing off into space. She has an easy, unblemished hold on her baby that is cradled in the soft part of her that now is shiny wet from the heat of labor. I perform my nursing tasks with an eye on their inner state.  It's so heavy, childbirth but I know that there is deep satisfaction rendered from the experience, despite her body now collapsed into a heap of worn flesh. 

I let the air settle, and softly, quietly approach her to inquire about her experience. I don't want to disrupt the subtlety that so easily can disappear with just the slightest hint of our more abrupt, unconscious side. There's a pause, and then she begins, "well, you have to get out of the way and let your body take over".  I listen intently. I ask her about how she felt immediately after the birth.  There is a pause.  She interjects, "there are no words to describe it."  I say, "can we try?"  Another pause, longer this time. "elation".  I'm delighted  for her experience and then eager to share more of what I know about the nervous system and childbirth.

Specifically, our nervous system function in patterns, and in order for us to embody a particular pattern, we must have the experience first, and then the pattern can make itself available to our perceptions.  In the case of Mary, what is so remarkable is that her elation is independent of any outer circumstances. In fact, I believe that such elation is self born manifested from the rare, powerful inner experience of childbirth.  This gives Mary the opportunity to shift her awareness to an infinite supply of the same joy, just waiting to be rediscovered.  

Let me give you a more concrete example to help clarify this concept. Soon after a baby is born, a pediatrician will shine a small beam of light into their eyes with a cone shaped instrument. They are looking to see that the nerve pathway responsible for site is clear. A baby does not activate the nerve responsible for seeing until later on in infancy, and if there are any blockages in that pathway, the baby would be blind. This would occur because the experience (seeing) has to occur before the nerve activates that pattern.  In the same way, consider that the joy that is our essential nature can only be perceived once we have the experience. 

I then asked Mary how she could help herself embody her elation?   Her response of  "remember the experience" was so perfectly aligned with our teachings, to continuously be drawn back to the details of our inner experiences.

I encouraged Mary to share her experience frequently to loved ones, friends, anyone who will be truly present for her.  Too,  I suggested writing because, like my teacher says, it will further help clarify and take the measure of the subtleties and intricacies of her experience. 

I thanked Mary for being so courageous in her exploration of one of the most profound experiences in a woman's life.  She has my blessings to search deeper into its essence.

In love and light,


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mothering: a Royal Rajas

Skye Harrington sits, beaming brightly at the center of our circle.  She eventually comes around to sharing the sequence of events that led to birth.  But it is obvious that her attention would rather be fully present for what is snuggled in her lap. 

Skye oozes the unmistakable joy and contentment that springs forth from someone who is obviously  "in their element".  So I wasn't surprised to hear that the first words out of Skye's mouth were, "I know now I was born to be a mother."

It's a high calling, to be in your element because according to the the yoga scriptures of Kashmir Shaivism, being in your element means being balanced in the 5 elements that make up the universe. They are, from the most refined to the least, "ether", which may be easier understood as space, for if not for space, there would have been no room for the creation of us!  "Air" is the second element, and we can know it through our breathe.  "Fire" is the third and it is that part of us the burns or digests matter, the heat of passion to be enthralled, and the energy produced in the factory of each of our cells. The fourth is "water" and it actually makes up most of the content of our body.  And last but certainly not least, "earth" which reflects our bones and their affinity to be moved down by gravity. 

In the same scripture, relating to the elements perhaps in a different thread, there are 3 qualities that were extracted from nature (Prakriti) that help describe our ways of being in the world. We call these ever changing, evolving qualities Gunas, and they are, inertia or solidity (Tamas), dynamism or powerful movement (Rajas), and luminosity or lightness (Sattva). 

So back to Skye and  her way of being with mothering, we call this kind of happiness Rajas because it moves in relation to her connection with her newborn.  Actually I call it the Royal Rajas because for me, there has simply been no earthly experience that has come close to the intoxication felt in the first few months of giving birth.  Nevertheless as grand and extolled as the experience was, eventually like all women, the world will catch up with us and draw our attention away from these rare, precious moments, fully immersed in love.

On a brighter note, although the experience is transient, can we be so inspired to know that such a state exists, and to hold it independent of our outer circumstances? 

   We call this self born kind of happiness Sattvic, and it is at the very heart of our yoga practice because it is from this centered, still place that we have the opportunity to know what is immovable, constant, and eternal (Purusha).

In my next blog, we'll look to our asana practice to be more "in our element" so that we can be more Sattvic in our way of being in the world.

In love and light,