Birthing Justice at the Edge (thoughts on birthing, mothering and carrying on)

It seems to me that birth, no matter how it goes down, is ultimately merely the preparation for what is to come as a parent. In the process of birthing, every time you think you cannot take one more step, one more contraction, one more twist turn or complication, you meet it (whatever the IT is ) and keep going. By far this seems to be the best training ground and representative towards preparedness for being a mama.

Like the contractions of birthing before, every time you think you cannot do one more task, have one more moment of contact, do one more feeding, take one more spit-up, endure one more kick in your face, wake once again in the night, you do. You meet it. You expand again. And again. And again. Each day, each night, each hour, each minute is an ebb and flow of expansion and contraction of c o n t a c tarriving again and again at the threshold, repeatedly birthing yourself as mama once more.

I remember sitting with my midwife in the last weeks before Olive's birth. She was explaining to me how in the process of birthing the level of intensity increases gradually to the culmination in "transition" where there is a brief pause before pushing which grows again in intensity until the baby emerges. She said "You are going to want a break. And the intensity just keeps building so you take the pauses that come. Otherwise you will get exhausted".

Olive came so quickly that these so called levels of intensity increased not by the hour but by the contraction themselves. Each one more intense then the next until she emerged. There was no time to think or be spacious. When the contraction was over I just let it be over until the next one started the very next breath. The breaks were mere breaths. The breaks were me noting that each contraction, each push was moving us closer to the other side of this process. I knew that this state was temporary. And so I just kept meeting. Meeting. MEEting MEETing the next growing step.

At least once a day (or night) I feel as though I simply cannot carry on. I am maxed out on holding and connecting. I am maxed on breast-feeding. I just want a break. The break does not come. Baby has immediate needs, or childcare shifts, or husband is late, or some stupid interweb fiasco has me running to the business side of life. Somehow, some way, by the good grace of all that is, I manage to expand. I find myself amidst the endless contact. I take a breath amidst the panic. I grow compassion around the upset.

The blessing and the curse of motherhood is this: It won't be like this forever.

The night time wake ups.
The kicking, biting and pulling.
The needing to be close and held.
The need for the breast.
These moments that feel excruciatingly more emotionally taxing than any contraction.

It won't be like this forever.

The raptures giggles.
The way the world is entirely new and fascinating.
The innocent eager smile when we wake up in the morning.
The want to be close and held.
These moments that enrapture us into an ecstasy of heart piercing joy.

It won't be like this forever. 

What scares me more than birth ever could and what shocks my more than the daily intensity of being with an infant is the current state of affairs in our country. We have been reminded very clearly of the incredulous prejudice and racism embedded at a cellular level on this land and between us. We cannot hide from the labor of justice and equality that is emerging right now. Burying our heads in the sand until its over will not change the arduous journey of this birth. Unlike the knowing that the beautiful baby will emerge through the narrow passageway, none of us know exactly what is to come and when. We don't know what form this new life will take. We want a break. It feels like too much. How can we go on one more day like this? I know. Perhaps we continue being moved by these contractions. Perhaps like the dark nights and the overwhelming days without break we find our breath and our breadth to carry on. Perhaps we go through the excruciating moments where we believe there is no way out, we cannot grow one more inch, or allow one more opening. And just like birth, just like mother pushed to the edge of her will, wit and zone of compassion, we find more ways of being with.

There is no way out. Only through. There are no breaks. Only breaths. There is no way back. Only onward toward becoming home and whole--a process of birthing a more Just world. 

Blessed Be.

I'd Rather Be Whole

Its June. Almost Summer Solstice. The heat is up. The sweat is flowing. The rivers in CO are high and mighty. The lawn mowers are going in the neighborhood. The kids down the street are selling lemonade. I have even turned on the air-conditioning a bit. I have been practicing a lot of strength in backbending lately. It feels good to sweat. It feels good to have time for a challenging practice. And of course my practices lately and still, at 14 weeks post partum, looks a lot like three-hour chunks of time where I am doing asana and nursing and changing diapers and eating a snack and doing more asana. And, I have come back to work more fully this month. So the heat here has turned up on all accounts. 

I am at present woefully "out of the loop" as it comes to the yoga world at large and in my own community. Honestly I have no idea who is teaching where and when. I have little workshops on my radar. I have minor interest in being in the know of yet more scandal in the yoga world. As I embark back into work this month especially in the online market, I am aware of how quickly one can loose traction when it comes to the algorithms we live in on social media. In full disclosure it was hard to "fill" the summer course we just started and in preparing, marketing and selling the course I found myself countless times feeling silly, irrelevant, frustrated, entitled, and like I could not keep up with a train fast passing me by and little heart to keep the pace of running behind it. 

Its hard to chase a train while nursing a baby at the same time. 

I am going out on a limb here but maybe you have felt this too? Or at least felt it before in a similar manner. Its hard to keep filling classes, trainings and workshops. Its a challenge to plan classes and show up for that act of teaching. But equally hard is keeping up with the social media. It seems we live in a time where traction on the internet yields funds in the bank account. But often has little to do with the qualifications, efficacy and potency of the teacher behind them and the teachings themselves.

It is easy to begin feeling irrelevant quickly when you (and by you I slide of course mean me) take time off for any reason-- motherhood, fatherhood, illness, sabbatical. We must stay on top of the proverbial game. In front of the algorithms. In the forefront presence of others consciousness. A kind of FOMO (fear of missing out) takes over, clutching the psyche in suffocating grasp. 

When we lean on the inherent sympathies, worries, and fears we might hook people but at what cost? Is it "Psychologically Sound" to pull on the thread of insecurities people already feel to fill a program? Is it ethical to capitalize on and monetize the instinct for voyerisom? 

Not to be a downer, but I really do ask myself these questions. I really put these checks in place when I do business. And because of that I am more reluctant than some to get on the next social channel. I am careful in language around selling.

My teacher was once telling me a story about her journey. I had asked her opinion about a business opportunity that seemed really good in the sense of it giving me a huge reach and platform but at the cost of selling my intellectual property. I was really enticed by the prospect but also concerned about what it meant in terms of doing my own thing fully. And lord knows I like to do my own dance. I am a terrible follower. Especially as a recovering yoga proselytizer. In her response to my query, she told me she had come to live by this motto and it is why she had been so meticulously contained in how she shared her work:

 "Would you rather be famous or whole? Choose wholeness."

When I look into my daughters eyes I see wholeness. When I spend all encompassing time with her I feel whole. When I teach to the right group of people at the right time it is whole. When I I practice on my own without fidgeting with cameras I feel whole. When I spend the weekend hiking I feel whole. When I spend more time in my life instead of documenting my life I feel whole. When I maneuver from mama to wife to lover to yogi to entrepreneur it might be tiring but it is whole--many layers--one person. 

Winning the algorithm race, "staying relevant", deriving free content, going to more workshops after more workshops after more workshops is not necessarily a path a wholeness. 

But maybe our practice is.

So bring on the heat. Bring on the sweat. Bring on the practice even if its 60 minutes in three hours. And no, I wont be documenting it with a camera and posting all the details.

Peace.

The Language of Mothering

Every day I watch our now 10-week old daughter, Olive, learn a new skill. She is just on the cusp of rolling over and has mastered a pretty stealthy cobra pose from tummy time. She talks up a storm with a vocal range that is daily expanding. She is very expressive with her arms and legs and face. She loves nature and stares intently at the sky and trees when we hike. If she is with me when I practice yoga, she loves hearing the sanskrit names of poses. More times than I can count daily I am struck by her pure authentic expression of desire.

Olive is completely uninhibited. She tells us when she is hungry and when she is full. She lets us know if she is tired. She isn't shy to say "Hey! I'm over here! Pay attention." She cries when she feels the pain of separation. She smiles and receives us when we are reunited. She is interested and curious about her own body as she discovers that her limbs belong to her and and an ever evolving volition over her movement. She also expresses pure delight and honest frustration. Discovering her body, voice and emotions is watching the deepest of sadhanas. Olive is so completely pure in her explorations and her efforts are rewarded with clear skill in action. She is a buddha, as all babies are of course, because of her purity of devotion to life. 

As an apprentice to the path of embodiment, I am watching Olive for lessons in how to be in relationship to qualities like Curiosity, Frustration, Genuineness and Love. I am watching her for teachings in learning how to be in these bodies in free and new ways. I am her deepest student. She is teaching me all about being human--deeply human--connecting me to the other species and to the stars.

Occasionally I hear from people that babies, because they are preverbal, are difficult to understand. I have come to fully disagree. You see, in the small family system of baby and caregivers, ideally the caregivers are listening, looking and witnessing so that their own attunement to the baby is symbiotic to the babies needs. I think if you observed myself and Elliot with Olive you would see that the three of us actually speak a language together as a family. Most of it is in gesture and sound. The minutia of micro expression and the implicit feeling behind it. And so I do not find my daughter particularly hard to understand without words. Sometimes of course I am at a loss and stumped on how to meet a need I am unclear about. In these moments I tell her with my words that I am trying to understand her and I am listening and we can work it out. I couple this verbal behavior with a loving, present touch. What we might lack in verbal communication we are continuing with the communication of body to body, breath to breath, gaze to gaze. I usually find that in these moments, though we are decades apart, me as mama and she as baby, we can connect and unite in the sweetest of places. This place, you see is not one of words anyway. It is simply the feeling of, well,

Unconditional Love. 


More and more I want to reside in this place of unconditional love--in this field of contact without words. I am often too tired for the sharing of words these days. I wear my heart outside my body now in the form of this little creature we named Olive. And I of course, have her counting on me to show-up in ways I have never experienced and am growing into every moment of every day. You see, my heart is so full being a mama. For someone who prides herself on being articulate, I cannot even express in words my feelings for my daughter and for being a mother. Its complicated you know. Not only because there is joy and love. Also because there is so much confusion and pain. So many broad and complicated simultaneous emotions come along for the ride of mothering. Just as Olive is figuring out how to be in her body and on earth, I am figuring out how to be in this new body and on earth with a child. Sadly our common culture does not have a language to speak in the field of unconditional love for its mothers. So each of us, mother to mother, child to child, family to family must begin this new language. 

And so my heart is full of all of it. I experience the broadest spectrum of emotion each day just as she does. We are waking up together to our human nature as it unfolds every day. And it is indeed ecstatic. Not easy/ Always amazing. Out of this and part of this is my broken heart for all the motherless daughters and childless mothers. My heart aches for the children who grow up without a sense of unconditional ever-present love. I have said this before to countless students, and I'll share it with you now in the wake of Mothers Day and with Fathers Day approaching:


The wounds you have from your parents are not because of lack of love. Only ever because of lack of skill.


I know this must be true. I love Olive more than I thought I could love anything. But I do not always love the act of mothering. I do not always do the "right" thing. I make missteps daily and have felt tremendous anxiety at my mothering flailing already. Lack of skill you see. Not lack of love.

So I am learning how t best mother our precious Olive. I am learning again how to best mother myself. I am learning how to let my own mother, mother and grandmother. I'd like to think that our sadhanas as adults, whatever they may be, help us rediscover the love our parents have for us and make peace with the places love got lost and crumbled. I hope our sadhanas build skill sets within us so that we can give ourselves and ultimately our progeny the fullest forms of support possible. In a sense giving love both form and wings, which is essentially skill and action. 

I'm sure we all have someone in our lives to whom we could say this gentle blessing and prayer. Maybe it is even to a part of yourself.


I Love You
I See You
I Am Sorry
I Understand. 
I Forgive You. 


I know we have much work to do, practices to attend to, families to foster. I look out unto our world and to you with new eyes now--the eyes of a baby--from the field of Love--looking and longing to embody fully.

Bless this field of our own Becoming,
Livia