Being A Midwife To Ourselves


When I was pregnant with my first baby, I wanted help being with the experience fully and naturally. I was new to figuring out how to trust my body, and I knew I needed to be with someone who already believed that childbearing was a healthy and natural experience that I was built for; one that would serve as a powerful initiation into motherhood.

At the time, I read two things that continue to inform my relationship with my body, and what it is that I hope to impart to others. The first being that midwife means “with woman.” I immediately felt a deep resonance to those two “little” words. They felt like they held a code to something so very, very true. Imparting a simple and basic tenet that as we move through all the experiences of life in a body, more than anything, we need someone willing to be with us. Someone who knows down to their bones that we have it within us, and that at times of great transition, we just need a little help.

In essence, someone who helps us to know that we are not alone and trusts that we can do whatever needs doing.

The second thing I read was a story of a midwife who said that when a woman thanked her too profusely after the baby was born, she knew she had inserted herself too much into the experience, so she would go back and reflect on where she had gone wrong. She said she never wanted to steal the experience from the mother by making herself the doer of what the woman had actually done herself; knowing that that new mama was going to need all the self-trust she could muster to bring that baby into the world.

This perspective is not alive and well in the world we live in. Instead, we are undermined at every turn when it comes to trusting these bodies of ours. We are told to listen to the experts, and to follow the science. We get our ideas about what to eat and how to feed our families from the commercials we see on tv and from which foods are affordable to us as a function of government subsidies; not what these bodies would naturally choose.

Instead of someone being with us when we visit our primary care doctors, we are “done to” in our 12-minute office visits where routine tests are administered by a likely harried and robotic nurse and inserted into a computer. Then we wait, alone, for the doctor to arrive and more often than not, a prescription for a pill handed out, when what we most need is the patient presence of someone we trust.

To trust our bodies begins with knowing that we deserve better. That we deserve someone being with us in times of challenge. That we are not a number or a commodity to be filed away in some orderly fashion so that the reports all come out right for the hospital administrators and insurance companies.

If, like me, you are done with this, it is time for you to claim your humanity, and the preciousness of your existence. Time to align with those who have created a sacred vow to be “with” us through it all. But to do this, you must learn to feel. Feel when you are being done to. And then you must allow some part in you to rise up and claim that you are worth more than this. No matter what they say. No matter your own thoughts that might say, “This is all there is.”

Truly, you are precious enough for someone to choose to be with you through all the challenging moments of life in a body.


The Myth of Being in Control


Coming home on Sunday night from hiking with a friend, a day that was both awe-inspiring and grueling, I hit a bear on the dirt road to my house.

The bear shot out of the woods so fast and with so much focused momentum, I barely had time to hit the break just as I was hitting her. The sound was awful. Worse than the sound though, was the feeling of hitting the bear. Twice. I went back to check on her, but she was gone.

I felt like I had slammed into a wall head first after feeling so empowered by the day I had had. What was going on here? Was I driving too fast? Could I have dome something differently? How could this be happening after such an amazing day? What was the Universe trying to tell me?

I love the wildlife that lives all around me. More to the point, I look to them. I watch their comings and goings, and I am always alert to their messages. They are my inspiration and my teachers, and I had just hit one of my most revered guides.

I immediately went to wrong; as in this must have been my fault. I must be out of balance somehow. I must be in need of some lesson. But within seconds, I caught myself going to self-blame, set it aside, and opened up to see what else might be there.

Right away I had the knowing that even when we do not intend to cause harm, we do. It seems like it would be a hard pill to swallow, but in that moment, I was able to say Yes, I know that is true. There was such freedom in admitting just that. And while that was an incredible insight and shift, there was still more to come.

The next day in practice, as I contemplated what had happened, I got a strong message: There is so much in Life that is beyond your control. So while you would come up with all kinds of reasons for this and why it happened, some things in Life are just not in your control.

I think that for us humans, admitting we do not have the control we think we do is so terrifying, that it is far more palatable to blame ourselves, or another, then to recognize how much is not up to us. And that as we stand on the brink of the next generation of technologies which threatens to amplify our already out-of-control-god-like estimations of what we believe we can do, we further blind ourselves to just how much is not within our control.

So terrifying is it for us to feel how not in control we are that we would rather create a world based on a destructive illusion of absolute control of man over Nature than to align with our proper role in the scheme of things. Worse yet, the further we stray from knowing we don’t decide the ways of things, the unhappier, lonelier, the more desperate, sick and harmful we have become. And continue to be.

To be human in the age of so many technological advances masquerading as a source of complete control, the greater our challenge becomes to remember our place in the order of things. So if you’re inclined, get in the habit of regularly saying to yourself, “That is not something I have any control over.” 

You might just surprise yourself and find that instead of feeling terrified by that statement, you feel a sense of relief. Relieved to finally be in alignment with how things actually work here.

What Will You Choose?


There is a big difference between “doing” things to your body, and “being in” your body. Between imposing something on it, and listening to it. Between buying things marketed to you, and honoring real bodily needs in simple and natural ways.

We are at so very many crossroads in our world right now. Not the least of which being, how it is that we are going to be in these bodies of ours. How we will care for them. What we will put in them. What we believe we need to be well. And it’s all playing out in a world where billions and billions of dollars are being spent to convince us that we need all kinds of stuff and interventions in order to be well.

But if we could step back and see beyond our own fears and insecurities (the very same ones, by the way, being exploited by marketers to leave us uncertain and confused about what to do), these bodies of ours and what they have to say would lead us to exactly what we most need. This can be hard to believe, never mind trust, in the midst of being bombarded with messages that tell us someone else has the answer. Maybe it’s the ad that directs you to “ask your doctor,” or the last weight loss program you will ever need. Maybe it’s the newest app promising you instant health, or a line of engineered foods claiming to be healthy while being the answer to climate change.

Whatever is being sold, the message is always the same: We know what to do, you don’t, do as we say.

I realize this can be a very intense thing to hear. Offensive even. None of us wants to believe that something else is in charge of us or the decisions we make when it comes to our lives. Or maybe, we feel sheepish reading that because we do want someone else in charge of how we live. None of this is conscious of course, but it drives our behavior nonetheless.

Why it might matter to you to dig a little deeper beneath the surface when it comes to what you do and do not do in terms of your body, is because we are actually talking about so much more than your body alone. For to choose to learn to listen to your own body, is to choose to learn how to listen to yourself. And to listen to yourself is to be connected with your very own soul; who you are and why you are here. From this perspective, what happens to your body is a matter of great importance.

Interestingly enough, to reclaim what we have lost in this regard is to enter into the unknown. The very place that evokes the fears that drive us into the arms of promises being made to us by others around our bodies and health. Not knowing what your body needs or what to do is the place to begin the reclamation of who you are and what you most need. Not as a neurotic place to hang out as you obsess over Internet searches, but as a sacred starting place.

For it is in the not knowing, in the dropping of the preconceived ideas, marketing ploys and the conditioning of our past and of the culture, that we come to know what is real, and what is true. In other words, though we have been taught to believe that to not know what is going in our bodies is dangerous and therefore something to be afraid of, what if the unknown places are the entry point into the very mystery of your own body and soul?

The very place you need access to in order to navigate life in a body.

A favorite practice of mine these days is to say daily to myself, “I have no idea what to do right now, but I’m open,” when it comes to something going on in my body. This simple, but courageous statement, serves as the antidote to the compulsion to go for the quick fix, the “guaranteed” answer or the submission to the fears, always the fears, that circulate when the body is doing something we don’t understand.

To not know, is to ultimately allow the body to just be as it is. This becomes the essential beginning place where at some point, the unknown becomes the known. And because this known is born out of the direct experience of your very own body and what it is saying and wanting, you are gifted with far more than you could ever receive from another’s version of you and what is going on.

Little Deaths


As I write this, we are upon a full moon lunar eclipse. An astrologer I love talks about how all full moons are chances for deep release, and that an eclipse amplifies this opportunity. This eclipse though is even more powerful because it is in a house where the Lord of The Underworld (the planet Pluto) rules. Meaning, we can think of this astrological moment in time as an even greater chance for release. A little death, if you will.

Now death is not something most of us want to think about, never mind read or talk about. Many of us even going so far as to act as if it won’t happen if we just don’t admit it. And yet, it is an experience we will all have. It is an experience that everyone we know will have. So why not get more skilled at it? Why not choose to meet it, as opposed to fearing it?

Not meeting death on its own terms will always come with a cost. Much of which we may never realize until the actual moment of our death. A moment where we will no longer have the opportunity to make course-corrections to our lives. So while the moment of death may be a powerful learning indeed as some door swings open, wouldn’t it be “better” to open that door all along the way as you live your life?

Swami Kripalu, the namesake of the yoga tradition that I teach from once said, “The ordinary person dies just once, and for them, death is painful. But the yogi dies a little bit each day, and for them, death is just the next thing.” Can you imagine that? Can you imagine physical death just being the next thing? Can you taste the freedom in that? The zest for life that would originate out of that attitude?

Of course, this would mean a lot of preparation. An intentional way of being with your life where you willingly let go of things over and over and over again. Releasing that grudge. Dropping that old and harmful belief about yourself. Putting down that habit that you know is hurting you and those around you. Honing in on all the things, large and small, that don’t matter a single bit when you hold them up to the light of your own death.

Today could be a start. Use the power of the eclipse to think of something that plagues you. Run it by Death to get some clarity about how valid it is. Then take whatever it is, write it on a piece of paper, and burn it. Let it die with the flame. Let this little death be the start of learning how to meet Death on Death’s terms, and watch how your life lights up because of it.