Walking the Edge of Suicide: How to Support Someone in Need

Suicide, brought about by a deep desire to end ones pain and suffering. A belief that the only option left is death; a deeper belief yet, that in death, the tormented cycle of pain will stop.

Suicide is not something that is lightly considered.

I speak about this because I walked this edge. I went to the pit of despair and anguish, and I flailed in the quicksand of pain and suffering.

All I could see and experience was my very own psychological and soul pain. Everything was black and gritty. The emotional pain was overwhelming and far more intense than any physical pain I had endured. The resistance to the emotional despair, in my opinion, increased the intensity of the manic mind-scape. Images over and over again of needing to ‘saw of my head’ (which meant blow my brains) were real and haunting. I was trapped and in this trapped state, it felt impossible to consider anything or anyone else besides myself.

In a state of terror, I truly believed that my mind had gone mad and that there was no real way out of this tormented place. It was here, in this place of darkness, that I came to understand (at least a fraction) of what people face just before suicide. 

It is for this reason that sitting with someone stuck in suicidal darkness does not scare me. I experience an enormous amount of compassion for their inner pain and an unwavering trust and belief that there is a way out. My role is to listen and understand; to hold their state in loving awareness. Although the pain is not mine, I can only imagine the intensity that lives within their soul.

I had an anchor. Thankfully. Although the images were real and often, I spent many nights visualizing how I would end my life (aka suffering). I would flow the visualizations of suicide all the way to beyond my death. I saw the impact it would have had on my children and family. I saw the long term implications.

To my surprise, a part of me came face to face with the possibility that my soul and psyche would not experience the repose it was craving. In other words, it was very possible that ending my life would not end my pain. 

This notion shifted something profound in me.

If it were true that suicide would not end my suffering than what would? If death was not the answer, than what was? 

It is fair to say that from this point forward, suicide was no longer an option. Therefore, I was determined to find hope; to find healing; to find my way through this dungeon I was trapped in. I had to believe that I was programmed, on a cellular level, to heal. I had to believe that I could, and would, make it through the ‘eye of the needle’.

There are so many myths and tales of the ‘dark night of the soul’ and I was committed to not letting my psyche take my life from me. I trusted these tales and furthermore, I found my own anchor of truth: Birth and my Children. 

Because I knew how to give birth, because I trusted without a doubt in the physiology of childbirth, and because I understood the teachings of Spiritual Midwifery, birth became a tangible metaphor to guide my way for healing. Each day my courage and determination grew, and each day, I moved slowly away from the darkness within, towards a life of hope and peace.

Which brings me to today and an experience I have had with a client ….

Recently I was asked to step in and support someone in need. We will call him Daniel. Daniel had been suicidal on numerous occasions, with a few unsuccessful yet painful attempts, and had been released from the hospital after another overdose attempt. Since our introduction Daniel walked the edge of suicide 4 more times.

Daniel has been diagnosed with a few different `mental illnesses`however, my experience of Daniel is that he is very perceptive and reasonable. He is stuck and has been suffering for some time now. No one was hearing him. He has been in and out of the hospital for almost a decade now. He had never been offered individual counseling in all those years. The medical establishment merely prescribed medication. Clearly medication has not provided any healing nor has it reduced the tendency for Daniel to turn to suicide when his pain bubbles to the surface.

Our system has failed and Daniel was slipping through the cracks.

 

During Daniel`s 4th suicide contemplation since we were introduced, he choose to call me and I shared this insight:

 

For what reason are you wanting to end your life? 

The answer: To end my pain and suffering because I can’t bare to feel it anymore

What if there is no 100% guarantee that you will be successful at ending your pain and suffering?

The answer: I would not kill myself, what would be the point. Whoa. This is huge. I never thought of that before. I just believed it would end my pain. But the thought of it not ending my pain terrifies me more than facing my pain.

Since one cannot know with absolute certainty what happens after suicide, it is possible to believe that suicide will not end one’s pain and suffering. Our beliefs about ‘life after death’ are merely that, beliefs. Those beliefs are based on information we have gathered throughout our lives and influenced by our culture, religion, school, friends, media etc.

It is very possible for a person who believes that we are only a physiological body with a brain, and once dead, we are nothing but organic matter that is returned to earth; that suicide most likely would end pain and suffering.

However, for those who believes that humans are far more than just a brain and body, and that humans are energetic conscious spiritual beings that exist in a physical body; then one might argue that soul suffering and pain may be carried with them beyond suicide. This is not intended to sound like a form of ‘punishment’ or ‘fear mongering’ but rather, a simple possibility.

Of course we really can’t know for certain what happens to consciousness after death, and what happens to our souls.

Just pausing to contemplate this possibility was enough for Daniel to take down the rope that was hanging in their home. 

I was told that this was the most profound thing anyone has ever said to him; no psychiatrist, no psychologist, no hospital staff, no police officer, no one has ever made Daniel seriously pause and reflect to this degree about their motivating choice for suicide. Up until this point, ending his life was the only answer to end his pain, and the thought that his pain would not go away was enough for them to change his entire belief system and shift his motivation towards a path of healing.

It is as if the brain rewired a whole new possibility and belief, replacing the old habitual response.

I am not a psychologist or certified social worker of any sorts. I am merely a person who has direct experience with darkness and healing and has navigated my way through using birth and midwifery as a powerful guiding metaphor. 

I believe that feeling understood and heard, without any hidden agenda or protocols, opens up the space for true support and healing to occur.

Further reading check out:

A friend of mine wrote this note in response to numerous suicides in our community: https://www.facebook.com/notes/tad-hargrave/the-shattered-stone-of-loss-the-terrible-gift-of-suicide/10152213726459032

A Ted Talk that speaks honestly about the impact of suicide: http://www.ted.com/talks/kevin_briggs_the_bridge_between_suicide_and_life#t-832324

 

Note: I have been given permission to speak of this story by those involved. Names have been changed to protect the identity of those involved. I am grateful to be witnessing this persons journey of healing.

 

 

Holding Space for Personal Transformation & Change

An introduction to holding space and how I found my way…

Not too long ago, I was sitting at a gathering (a group of individuals holding council) and I found myself witnessing the dynamics of the group. I noticed all sorts of different interplays going on between all those present. Most of all, what I noticed was that the topic that was being discussed was stirring up some tension amongst the group and I pondered to myself, what is the contributing undercurrent that is causing all the tension?

I felt, or rather intuited, that without first discovering what was causing the tension (the source of the conflict) that the group would have a difficult time finding resolution. In a sense, they were misusing their time spinning out stories about the presenting topic, which was only increasing the discomfort in the room.

A little internal nudge gently encouraged me to say what I was observing, with no attachment, no need for it to be the truth. Once this observation was spoken, you could feel the tension drop in the room and the group silenced itself for a bit. The groups facilitator was able to drop his guard and acknowledge that yes indeed there was an underlying source conflict that needed to be tended to.

The group stopped its cycle or holding pattern and decided to give space to the facilitator and the others involved to resolve the issue first, prior to returning to discuss the presented topic.  During which time, I was asked to be present for the discourse that was about to occur and ‘hold the space’ for the conflict to find resolution. It was noted afterwards that I had offered something that helped bring clarity to the group and create space for resolution to occur so that the ‘real’ work for the group could be continued without having this underlying conflict clouding the flow of the groups dynamic.

So what was it that was offered?

I pondered, silently. I am not trained in conflict resolution or circle work, but I do know how to be still for human transformation, I do know how to quiet my mind and open my heart, and I do know how to offer deep listening. Mostly, what I noticed is that in this incident, I was not attached to the group. I did not need approval, or need to be right, my ego was not invested.

I just noticed that something felt ‘off’, you might say the energy of the room was dull or stuck; like when I am sitting at a birth sometimes you notice that the mother is stuck and something is getting in the way of the flow of labor.

What is it that is getting in the way? What is causing the tension?

Usually, there is a deeper root cause for all of this and your work, as a facilitator/counselor/witness/attendant, is to assist the other to discover what is standing in their way. What are the fears? What is the internal conflict? What is the ‘thing’ that they are most terrified of addressing or exposing?

Soon after this group experience, I was asked to facilitate another circle and hold the space for resolution to occur. It seemed that what I was doing at a birth was very transferable and therefore, I was offering a form of midwifery for the group. A member of the group approached me and asked, “How do you do what you are doing?” and I thought to myself, I am not sure how to explain how to hold space. I am just doing what I do when I sit at a birth and ‘do nothing’. So I thought to myself, if you have not sat at a birth and just witnessed the process, than I do not know how to teach what it is that I offer.

I have since then, spent time practicing this skill, mediating conflict, listening to heart stories, and continuing to attend births, all the while, contemplating how it is that I could teach others how to ‘hold the space’ without needing to attend births!

So how do you hold space? 

The following are just my thoughts on this process and this experience of holding space, and I hope that it offers clarity to this way of relating with others and being present for transformation. It is a story, a journey that I have been on for over 6 years now, and therefore it is told from my perspective. Remembering that it is a way, but not the only way, take what resonates with you and leave the rest for others to hear.

When I attend a birth, I am still learning how to drop out of the ego mind and allow myself to be present as the birth unfolds as it is meant too. My role as a birth ‘guardian’ (as I am referred as) is to stay grounded, present, still, aware, always trusting, never wavering, knowing intimately the realms that women traverse in labor, and being prepared to tend to the mother if needed.

Through the art of ‘doing nothing’ at a birth, all that I can do is be still and aware and notice my fears etc as they arise and let them go. It truly is a meditation, an ultimate practice in presence. All the while knowing that everything that I bring to a birth affects and influences the experience. Therefore, it is my responsibility to empty my mind and drop into a state of total trust!

The thinking mind clouds the room and distracts my attention away from really being fully present (mind, body, heart, and spirit) with the woman. Really listening to her needs, following her labor, rather than making the labor flow the way I think it should, or interrupting with protocols and questioning the process to appease the mind.

This is no different for human transformation, where true deep listening is needed, and a trust in the process that never falters, all the while, bearing witnessing to another’s soul journey… in a sense, it is a test of faith that the other will find his/her way through the chaos.

Similar to that of a Shaman who stands on the sidelines, grounded in his awareness, wavering nothing, and in his center. He has the ability to go the edges, and has a deeply trusting inner knowing in the fact that we ALL FIND OUR WAY, because he too has traversed those terrains. When you hold space for human transformation, you are doing no different. In a sense, you are the shaman, the midwife, the healer, the guardian of the space.

Birth work, has been a practice, a meditation, a path to deeper understanding about human potential, the mysteries of our universe and a knowing of the Self. It is a privilege and an honor to attend a birth. I am delighted to be able to share this path and these teachings that I have gathering over the years, and most have been passed down through the ancient art of storytelling…


 

Part II

What does it mean to hold space? What is the art of it?

First, let’s contemplate what are he ingredients of an art form?

How does one describe an art? Is it an expressive creation of the soul? Some of the ingredients that I see in the creation of ‘art’ are as follows:

  • Flow
  • passion
  • altered states of consciousness
  • creation
  • expression
  • vision
  • soul’s work
  • ecstasy
  • losing oneself and becoming ‘one with’ the creation
  • being in the zone
  • fearing nothing
  • losing the Self
  • melting
  • dissolving
  • no-time, time ceases to exist
  • fullness
  • presence
  • passion
  • joy…

We can continue to add to this never-ending list of creative life force that is being expressed by the human!

What would ‘holding space’ as an art form look like, feel like, and be experienced as?

What I have personally experienced are as follows, however by no means, is this a completed list but rather one of constant flux, shift and movement:

  • One becomes one with the group/individual
  • loses herself in the flow of it all
  • The soul speaks through you, your mind quiets and becomes still
  • You hear nothing but the form of the experience
  • You have no hidden agendas but to be present
  • your only task is to show up and empty yourself
  • You allow yourself to sit in the altered state, fearing nothing, trusting everything
  • You see and feel, intuit, the level of the group /individual
  • You become the Witness, that grounds and holds his/her center
  • Chaos is exciting and breakdowns are encouraged – closer to the center, birth is near
  • You speak only when your soul speaks, not to take away from the experience, but to enhance the flow if needed.
  • Your ego is quiet and still, this becomes your practice.
  • You are doing nothing, just witnessing… in the end, s/he or the group, births herself/themselves, you only ‘held the space’
  • There is a power of the witness and holding the story is a sacred act.

How does one practice this art?

For me, discovering how to become comfortable with chaos, transition, fear, transformation, conflict, discomfort etc, within myself and within another (i.e. either through physical birthing or group dynamics or personal breakdowns) has helped me learn how to ‘hold space’ with more comfort and confidence. It has been a practice and a journey; it has become my spiritual path. Below is a small list of some thoughts that came to mind, when asked the above question – How does one learn/practice holding the space?

  • Let it become your spiritual path
  • Let the teachings permeate your soul
  • As any form of meditation, when you are in a space of deep listening, notice your attention, notice your hidden agendas, notice your fears, notice your ego, notice how you want to do something, say something and learn the art of discernment… when to come and when to stay still.
  • Notice how you feel in your body – at the beginning, the middle, and the end.
  • Pay attention to the feeling in the room, the smells in the air, the sounds of the voices, the depth of the cries, the patterns in the group, the little nuances, the intuition
  • Discover the stuckness and ask for clarity-both in the other and in the Self
  • Pay attention to any awareness’s arising within, any ‘keys’ being disclosed and place it in your heart, waiting for the time to present itself when you need to share
  • Let your heart be on fire, feel it burn and expand and let your mind quiet and follow
  • Have no attachments… you cannot be attached to wanting to say the right thing, wanting to be liked, wanting to not cause conflict or hurt another’s feelings. Sometimes you are guided to say shit that can disrupt the others comfort zone… the comfort zone needs to be challenged sometimes.
  • TRUST always, never wavering… you are the tree, the guardian of the space, the rooted one who fears nothing.
  • Learn about endurance, become a soul with stamina
  • Therefore, find a practice that challenges you to experience all of this! Birth work has been mine, and so, what is yours?
  • Know, deep in your soul, that we all find our way… and we are born anew, always!

The power of doing nothing

I have mentioned a few times now this art of ‘doing nothing’. So let us go into this statement in more depth.

How can you sit at a birth and ‘do nothing’?

Really, is it not dangerous? What if something goes wrong? Is it not the purpose of the attendant to do something, prevent something from happening, and deliver the baby? Is that not what hospitals are for, is that not why we, women, have been handing our power over to the ‘other’ so that they can do something and take away our pain, that which challenges us?

Well, for some it may be true, they may prefer to have another do the work for them, think for them, and deliver for them-and that is all good and right, for those who do not want to go into their experience and find their power and give birth to themselves or their baby.

However, for those who truly are invested in finding their power, finding their voice, finding their way through their pain, finding courage, finding joy, and love… For those who are committed to wanting to discover resolution, working through their ‘shit’ so to speak, and really releasing themselves from old stories that are no longer serving in their live; well for those people, having someone DO SOMETHING and interrupt your personal birthing journey will only be disempowering. Rather, by doing nothing, as a witness to ‘birth’ you create a container that holds space for the other to travel to the deep places within and come through the other side feeling elation knowing that they found their own way and no one did it for them! This is true empowerment.

Therefore, doing nothing means that the ego is not invested nor running the show, but rather the experience itself is guiding the process and you, who are holding the space, are following the ‘labor’ so to speak. Yet, by doing nothing you are actually doing something, you are choosing to do nothing. It is a a paradox indeed. And you are doing nothing, but from a place of knowing everything and understanding everything, therefore you can truly let go.

Zen teaching… the Tao of Midwifery

“And so…

The Midwife completes her work by doing nothing.

Things arise and she lets them come,

Things leave and she lets them go.

Creating, not processing,

Facilitating, yet laying no claim.

And when her work is done, she forgets about it, and so it lasts forever!”

Begin by contemplating this quote, replacing the word Midwife with whichever qualifier you relate to.

Each sentence could be a year of practice and contemplation. Then you think you understand, and another layer presents itself and you become undone again. This quote has been one of my most dedicated contemplations over the years, especially the concept, how to attend a birth and do nothing…

How do you sit with another person in transition or group in conflict and DO NOTHING?

I will end with this thought, the act of doing nothing is in fact doing something, and it is just an internal doing-ness, a deep profound letting go and trusting in all that is J

Some of the most powerful teachings/statements by Whapio that have helped me practice this art and find my way through my own chaos and heart’s transitions!

  • As we live we Midwife, and As we Midwife we Live
  • Do Nothing
  • Trust the process
  • Follow the labor
  • We all find our way
  • Presenting problem vs Source conflict
  • Politics of the Heart – let your enemy in
  • Love is all there is
  • Manage your energy, and use your power wisely
  • Know yourself – and then get out of the way
  • Live on the edge and at the center at the same time
  • Birthing women are masters of navigating the altered states – become a master at this and do not fear the altered state and that which is chaos.
  • Become un-conflicted, and only congruent and centered
  • The Wise women way of healing
  • Witness vs Observer/Participant
  • Have no hidden agendas
  • Know everything about the universe
  • Meet the other where they are at
  • Ideologies vs Ideas
  • T.E.A – Time Energy and Attention
  • Rank, Power, and Privilege

In closing, I would like to say that to be asked to hold space for another, whether it is for a birth of a baby or the birth of the group or soul, is a true privilege, and demands the deepest levels of respect and humility. It is a process of undoing, and an honor to be witness too.

If you are called to hold the space for a group and/or an individual’s transformation, know that you are about to embark upon a journey of great self-discovery, as are they, and it is your choice to show up for this calling.

One can continue to work as a facilitator, Counselor, Leader, and/or Healer following protocol, following the mind, following the ways to do things orderly and contained. They may continue to believe that they are in control of the process and really needed in the process. Maybe they are practicing like a care-giver who goes in and delivers the baby for the mother and therefore, in the end, always believes that without them, the mother would never be able to give birth. Recognize that this mindset is NOT about holding space, but rather about disrupting the space, disempowering the other, and laying claim to the birth.

This practice of holding space that I am speaking of is meant to push your boundaries and comfort zones as a facilitator or witness, otherwise, you will not bring the necessary depth to the experience and in the end, find ways to disrupt the process and take it over, due to your own internal fears, discomforts, and impatience. Again this is all perfect, if this is where you are at, and yet, I challenge you to claim this path of awakening so you too, can hold the space for human transformation in love, rather than fear.

Using the metaphor of birth to handle any life challenging experience

My dear friend Whapio, often quotes:

“Midwifery is the study of life and as we live we midwife, and as we midwife, we live”!

A powerful statement to ponder indeed, and these past 5 years have been dedicated to contemplating these words.  It seems each year they penetrate more deeply.  To study birth is the study of life, in other words, as you stand witness to the powerful transformative process of birth you gain a deeper understanding of our Universe and us, as humans. Often times when I am going through challenging experiences in my life, Whapio has said to me,

“At what stage of labor are you in? And, how are you going to embark upon this journey? And, what choices are you going to make? Are you afraid of birth? So why be afraid of life? And what exactly are you birthing?”

This metaphor has been so incredibly helpful for me throughout my life as a mother, woman, friend, lover etc.  However, it a recent trans-formative experience (and am still being penetrated by the depths of it) where I was able to embody the Truth in these words.  I would love to share parts of this journey with you.

Labor as a metaphor for life...another way to handle internal conflict, and the story unfolds as such:

In the beginning, when you just know you have been presented with something so powerful and deep that a huge transformation is about to occur but you are unsure how you are going to make it through… you experience the pull and the force of labor, the aches in your mind and heart begin to pull with more regularity that you are aware of the fact that you cannot turn this off anymore… this is the process of embarkation, and the journey is about to begin and you consciously step into it, into the unknown of how this birth is going to unfold.  This is exactly what I recently did with a huge presenting situation that pulled on my heart-strings and soul, so deeply, that there was no ignoring the power of this force.

As you begin, as with any labor, you may feel moments of panic, fear, distrust, concern, anxiety, excitement, need to chat and share, tears, anger, sadness, joy, but there is an uneasiness that stirs within and the pulling and aching begins to pull harder… the contractions become stronger, the rushes of waves run through you with greater force and you just can’t turn the  pulse off.

You move from the world as you know it into a world of altered states, a world of total possibility, a world where birth occurs!  You CHOOSE to take this plunge and continue to go forth, following your labor, following your heart in deep desire for the birth to occur. You are willing to undergo anything, at times, to get to the other side of this and be transformed and receive your birth/baby.  I noticed the same urge, the same force and pull, and it was frightening!  The pain was deep, I wasn’t sure if I had the courage to go forth with this labor… but something just kept encouraging me to go along and face the labor in total trust.  And, this is when I “entered the veils” .

At this point, a woman in labor could stay there for many days or hours, there is a comfort in the rhythm and for some, the intensity is just enough to handle and the thought of more to come may seem too overwhelming… and yet, most still choose to go forth deeper into this world of unknown, allowing whatever emerges to surface.

Hopefully, facing it in love and surrender.  Again this is a choice to go deeper and step “between the worlds”, and it feels as if there is no turning back.  Labor is going, you are 5cm or beyond.  There is a constant wave of contractions, a reminder that you are on a journey of birth – “stay FOCUSED, don’t get distracted by your thoughts, your fears, your emotions, STAY WITH THE LABOR AND WITNESS WHAT IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN.  You know you are doing well here, but you also know that you are going to have to face birth, you will need your heart and strength to bring forth new life… you must keep moving forward.”, says a voice.  And so, again, I hit a point of no return, my labor was progressing and so was the intensity! And because of my deep love for wanting to be born anew, I kept trusting and finding my courage to go forth.

WHOA! Too intense, TOO MUCH, NO MORE please, I can’t go on anymore-these are all words that women have expressed during transition.  A time when you, as women, are open the widest you can possibly be. You are vulnerable, you are so outside of your comfort zone that you want to jump out of your skin, you breakdown (a small death), you want out and at the same time, all you really need is a loving presence within and outside of you that can uphold you during this time of total chaos.  I wanted out, I was too far gone in my labor of life, I had shared too much, exposed too much, too vulnerable, too frightened, little courage to continue forth and I was loosing my center, no one could do this for me and all I had was an inner trust to keep going. I knew at that moment that I was in transition, something HUGE was about to be born, I was about to undergo a huge transformation and all was still in the unknown… All there was, was a trust in my ability to give birth to the Self.  And this, was so important to me that I found all of my courage to face one of my deepest fears and speak my truth.

There was a moment of pause before this occurred, a mini quiescence of grace and prayer to gather my center and find my voice.  I knew the moment to come was going to change my life forever, therefore, I needed to conjure all of my strength and trust that I was going to find my way through this mess.

The speaking of my fear, the sharing that needed to occur was not the birth, however it was the “bringing down of my baby” it was the push!  The transition, was the summoning of my courage, the no turning back.  I wanted an INTERVENTION badly.  I actually thought I was going insane, for a moment.  However, once the emergence began (the downward pushing, grounding force of birth) that power held me together and kept me focus.  I just stood back and witnessed myself being birthed, I witnessed it all in disbelief and most of all, that I was still alive!

Now, the pushing took a bit longer than my usual physical births, there were more people involved than just me, so actually, there were moments of standing still, waiting, witnessing what was trying to emerge but still unsure how this was going to look and what part of me was being born through this process.   The push was painful indeed (not that it has to be) but this is where I would get a bit “stuck” and slow down the process because the intensity was too much to bare.  However, I was so eager to get through the labor, knowing full well that the end was near!

Crowning is usually short and full of ecstasy and a force so strong that you sometimes need to be grounded, you are so close! During my crowning, I had done what needed to be done, I faced all that I was afraid of, I faced rejection, liberation, love, fear, pain in myself and others, old patterns, old beliefs, and most of all, I faced my self that had been bound so tightly for years I faced that pain… so close, a few more rushes of loving life force to bring forth this new being.

And in the final release, as the baby slides through you, of you, and out of you… you feel the amazing euphoria and you are filled with gratitude, love, and joy! You did it, you found your way, you are forever changed.  Every cell in my body has undergone a transformation, I am alive on levels that I have never felt! I have unbound my life force that has been tied so tightly for years.  I have emerged and have gained a deeper understanding of myself, life, and human potential and I feel that courage and a deep knowing and trust that all of us our capable of finding our way, and it was this wisdom, the only force that kept me going!

I am now in the postpartum, my body aches, my euphoria is slowly wearing off, my hormones and cells are trying to find equilibrium again, my heart is so wide open in love and bliss, I am trying to make sense of what just occurred, I am in a state of needing deep nurturing, and I am needing my story to be witnessed and I am getting so excited to share my transformed Self with my community! As a mother would want to share her new baby!

I am in such deep gratitude and love for those who held this space for me, who witnessed this journey from a place of love, who honored my needs, who made choices from a higher place rather than from fear and ego, for those who wouldn’t feed my drama and knew how to give loving advice and encouragement, I was deeply Midwifed by friends and loved ones, and NO ONE told me how to birth, how this should unfold, and most importantly, I believe that all of those who were involved on some level deeply trusted this process and handed the power back to Me!  Thank you.

And so, as we live we Midwife and as we Midwife, we live … Birth is the study of life and Life is the study of TRANSFORMATION … this kind of shit is what changes the planet!

And so it is…

Everything is Sacred… Everything is Sexual

I know that this is a site dedicated to birth, in particular, Free Birth… However, I believe that everything is connected and what I have learned about birth, I have learned about life.

The other night I went to gather with women at our monthly Women’s Circle.  The evening was all about sex, sacred sexuality was the topic… and this is what came through me after the event so I want to talk about it.

I am a mother of three children, in a partnership of 12 years (constantly evolving and stretching the boundaries of this relationship), and I am a sexual human who has been terrified to claim this power fully.  However, I know that by choosing to keep my sexual energy at bay, locked away because of shame and lack of trust, that I am missing out on the pulse of the universal lifeforce – the ecstasy that is constantly available and flowing and uniting.

Lately I have been known to say that everything is sexual, sacred, and sensual.  The three S’s.  A stimulating conversation, a tantalizing diner with friends, a powerful yoga session, a good F@#$, a bubble bath, the trance of dance, listening to music, breastfeeding, giving birth, writing, you name it, it is sexual.  Ahhh, what a crazy notion that when you are present in the moment of life, when you are merging with all that is, when you are love and loving, and when you are in connection – you are experiencing your sexual life force, you are One.

So tell me,  since many are ashamed of this energy, this sensation, this pulse and since we have been shamed, wounded, and now guarded, how are we supposed to heal ourselves, others, and the planet? Does it not make sense that we have a fucked up culture because we are terrified of claiming this natural essence, we lack trust in ourselves and others, and we are wrong or bad for actually being ecstatic with life while in the presence of others.  When we do this, we turn our sexual nature into our shadow and it sneaks out the back door and we all know what that looks like?  I am pissed off at our current cultural trends of trying to make everything sexy – just look at media – and yet, we send the message out to the young and old, that you are not allowed nor encouraged to act on those urges!

Ok, here is a thought… We can’t heal the earth if we can’t even treat our own earthly bodies with love and respect.  If we can’t honor the sexuality and sensuality of our own body and if we are ashamed of it, than of course we are going to continue to rape the great Mother Earth, of course we are not going to allow ourselves to feel the eros of the planet – the love force.  If we did, what do you think would happen? Well we might actually make different choices, we would treat the Mother Earth like our Lover – with deep respect, regard, affection, attention, care, and Love.  What a concept!

But then again, what do I know. I am only tapping into this great force, this need to respect and honor this brilliant energy that provides the Self and the Cosmos and the Other with great pleasure.  Deconstructing years of cultural imprinting that states, be sexual and sexy but don’t LIKE IT.  Especially as a mother, a wife, a partner, a lover etc.  And if you do like it and want to tap into that energy well, it is dark, dangerous, scary, and dirty (and even if it is, that there is nothing wrong with that also).  Time to lift the veil and start reclaiming ourselves as a whole sexual expression of a human that we are.  With that comes great honor and responsibility to use this power wisely.

I believe that if we are taught to honor this sexual life force, we will honor the other.  In honor we cannot wound.  We cannot misuse.  When we are taught to use this power wisely and with consciousness, we seek different choices.  We see ecstasy, instead of pain.  We see love and nurture instead of disrespect and abuse.  We see healing instead of wounding.  We see passion and creativity and change, instead of depression, lack of empathy, and lethargy.  We see a dance, a human dance, that embraces the essence of life in gratitude to experience being Human.

And so it is…

For the Love of Birth…

Recently I had a life changing experience that has left my heart open wide in awe and love for life!  In this state, I have been able to sit still and contemplate our current state of birth and Midwifery.

The following statement arose in me – “That today’s birthing environment is devoid of love” and that “the only ‘skill’ a midwife truly needs is her capacity to LOVE”.  Sounds lovely and I am sure most die-hard birth advocates would agree with this statement.  Right? of course birth is about love, and loving the mother, loving the baby, and loving birth!  Of course, those of us who are adamant that birth be “natural” or “undisturbed” or at home and away from the dominating force of the hospital would agree, that their motivation came from a deep love for humanity? right? Or rather, that most of the midwives who began their journey into midwifery choose it because of “love” and wanting to be in loving service at births.  So, one would think why am I writing about something, that we would agree, is already the motivating factor for so many?

The answer is because I don’t believe it to be true! I think it is all talk but not truth.  I have been deeply invested, passionate about the politics of birth and midwifery, and some have even called me a natural birth whore & junkie, for the past decade… and what I am noticing is that most of the births that I have attended (those that have not been free births) lacked the essence, the energy, the presence of deep love. So how could I know that you might ask? What would depict a loving birth versus an unloving birth environment? And why does it matter?

Well, the other day, I was speaking with a pregnant friend of mine who shared with me her sadness that she and her partner were experiencing regarding their up and coming birth.  She told me that they did not want their midwife present because bottom line, “she does not love us” and “she is not nurturing, actually, it feels like she is annoyed with us”.  This situation lacks trust between caregiver and family.  Without trust and connection, you cannot have love!

And, why as women (and families) are we choosing to by-pass the need for the presence of love at our births in replacement for security and “no other options”?  This baffles me.  Why is it that we have not evolved to the point where we declare enough… We, today’s women, no longer want to give birth in fear or helplessness nor in the presence of caregivers that do not know us, trust us, or care enough to love “our journey” because we are bringing forth life!  I believe, that although the unassisted birthing movement focuses mostly on this choice as a women’s rights issue and empowering choice, that in actuality it is steaming from a deep-seated place within that is craving for love to be present at these births!

In a book that I recently read called, “All about Love” – by Bell Hooks, she speaks so powerfully about living from a place of “Love ethic”. She states:  ”to live our lives based on the principles of a love ethic (showing care, respect, knowledge, integrity, and the will to cooperate), we have to be courageous. I question how many caregivers are actually taught this “tenant” and what would happen to the foundation of “technocracy” if it shifted its focus of attention towards a love ethic rather than a love for “machine” ethic?

I found the following quote to be so fitting: “I am always amazed by how much courageous trust we offer strangers.  We get sick and enter hospitals where we put our trust in a collective body of people we don’t know, who we hope will make us well.  Yet we often fear placing our emotional trust in caring individuals who may have been faithful friends all our lives.  This is simply misguided thinking. And it must be overcome if we are to be transformed by love.” (B Hooks) I couldn’t help but think of our current birthing trends.  How we as women (and families), place our total trust (without question for some) in the hands of Doctors and Midwives, who for the most part are NOT invested in our hearts, nor are they TRUSTING in our ability to give birth!  This is huge!  What are we doing? I think we are an insane creature, if someone or something was watching us from outside our atmosphere, I think that they would think that we make some really strange choices!  And for the most part they are all motivated by fear, not love.

Why would we, as pregnant women, choose to hand our power over to another person who is not invested in our heart nor are they invested in truly trusting our ability to give birth in its fullest expression?  I don’t care where we choose to give birth (this is not about one ideology being better then the other), what I care about is that we as both birthing women, caregivers, and fathers, start making choices that are governed from a presence of heart rather than fear!

Furthermore, I believe it is imperative that today’s caregivers (Obgyn, Midwife, Doula etc) recognize that every time a choice is made from “protocol and fear” over “heart and trust”, that they are disempowering another woman’s birth experience!  That they are misusing their power and allowing fear to dictate and motivate.  Of course one will see birth complications when coming from this place, of course one will inhibit the mothers ability to birth instinctively.

This needs to be a collaborative effort, shifting the deep-seated fear that is permeating our culture of birth, because as birthing women and fathers/partners supporting this, you too, need to find that inner wisdom, that inner knowing and that inner love for thyself and your baby that declares NO MORE!  I will not birth my child from this place of fear, I will only allow those who are invested in my heart and trustworthy, into my birthing environment!

So what I am proposing is that the art of loving has been lost with the rise of “technocracy”.  In today’s midwifery education, we are mostly taught about birth physiology, how to handle complications, how to follow guidelines and protocols, and how to fear something going wrong (because sometimes things go “wrong”) rather than, how to follow the labor, how to create soul relations with the families, how to meet their needs, how to come from a place of heart and trust, how to be of humble service and how to use discernment as a “protocol”.

The midwifery “skill” to trust and follow a love ethic, in my opinion, needs to be first and foremost… and when fear dominates, council should be held!  Rather, look at what are we doing?  We are shunning those “hippie” “new age” midwives or care givers who give too much from the heart, trust TOO MUCH, and are naive to the fact that birth can be “dangerous” at times, all in the guise of fear of making a bad reputation for those who have studied from the place of the intellect and are wanting to be deemed as a professional, valuable and as “safe” as Obgyn’s.  I am concerned that we are replacing “professionalism” with “lack of heart”!

All I know is that when I am at a birth or apprenticing in an environment in which the “heart” is lost and the “mind” is all that there is, I feel a deep sense of sadness an emptiness.  Not even anger, just sadness that we have allowed this “trend” to go on for so long.  That we, as humans, have allowed ourselves to live from a place that is devoid of love and full of pain.

I wouldn’t even know how to begin to “teach” the “art of loving” for birthing caregivers.  Because in the beginning one would need to completely deconstruct its ideologies and beliefs that have bound them for so long.  And then, we would rebuild a new way perhaps that was founded upon a love ethic.  And from that place, I am curious what would happen to the state of our planet?

This is not only a birthing issue, this is a Global issue.  Nothing is separate here.  Because when we are witnessed in the energy of Love, when we are held and trusted in our total greatness; we, as women, can give birth in love and that ripples into our family, our community, our country, our planet, and our cosmos.  And, I also believe, that the men who witness the miracle of birth from a place of trust and love, also become transformed and they too, become the healers of the planet.

And so it is, I offer this in prayer for the state of our planet and that we may find our way towards living from this place of Love.

Jennifer