Since my first post a couple of weeks ago on overwhelm it seems that every other person I meet is going through their own version of meeting overwhelm in their lives. Whether they are blaming it on the recent mercury retrograde or Christmas on top of an over full schedule, there seems to be a theme. Too much to do in too little time and a sense of you drowning in the onslaught.
I’ve also been asked a number of times how I manage to stay afloat, how I manage with my three children and a business and all that I do. Truthfully, everything has stepped up a gear now that I have three children and sometimes I feel my head is only just above water. Pregnancy is also a game changer that can cause everything to seem more intense and challenging. But what has changed for me is that I am now enjoying the swimming.
Steps I have been taking over and over since becoming a mother. Steps that you can use with other repeating patterns you may notice in your life that you would like to change. Steps that work in an emergency breakdown situation such as I described in my last post and are also useful as longer term preventative and transformative medicine.
1. Catch yourself and Stop.
So let’s say this talk of overwhelm is striking a chord in you. Your daily duties, however small seem to loom large and impossible over you. And you have less energy than before because you are growing a baby, remember? Tears are bubbling under the surface, beneath which a simmering cauldron of emotions looking for a way out threatens to boil over willy nillly at the slightest trigger.
Awareness in this kind of situation is key and usually at least half the battle. If you are running in ‘overwhelm mode’ then you are invariably either thinking or doing too much. Or both. You are likely guilty of carrying the larger than necessary ‘mental load’ that women tend to carry- planning and managing the whole family’s needs whilst simultaneously undertaking more than your fair share of the actual workload.
This pattern is so normalised that it often slips under the radar but can be a significant contributing factor in overwhelm and burn out.
Once you see your patterns you have a choice. Change becomes possible.
Catching yourself is pretty straight forwards to understand if tricky to do but what do I mean by stop?
Well I do mean just that. Perhaps you need to literally stop, sit down, take a break and breathe deeply. Even for five minutes. When you need to be active again consciously relax the parts of the body you are not using and be relaxed in motion. How exactly you continue to stop depends partly on your individual path and relationship with overwhelm. Emotions may come up. Let them. And this is where you can move on to step 2.
2. Assessment and re-evaluation.
My invitation is to get cosy with a cuppa, sit back and ask yourself how you are really. let yourself cry if that’s what’s here. Treat yourself the way you would your best friend or small child who was struggling. Show yourself the kindness and love you would them. ( See step 3 for more on kindness) Listen and mentally give yourself a hug. Validate yourself and your experience this way. Make this a regular check in ritual for yourself over medium and long term and make sure you schedule it into your regular schedule.
You may hit up against a good dose of denial or resistance when you try to stop and be kind to you in this way. Objections like who else will do it if I don’t or I don’t have time for this now…Don’t let these get in your way. Listen genuinely–and then go deeper. Behind or under this resistance is usually fear. Your old cherished identity is being threatened by the changes you are proposing. It wants to keep you safe, even if that safety comes at the cost of rest and self-care. Under observation its logic often makes no sense at all, hence the complete sense in taking a little time with yourself to enquire where you are at and what you want and need right now.
3. Be Kind to You
The kindness mantra ‘Be kind to you’ was taught to me by Joel Young, the Creator and Custodian of NPA. The benchmark to test your decisions against is to ask ‘is this kind to me?’ You are worth the kindness and time you give to others. Already just catching yourself and resolving to stop is huge. Massive. Ginormous. Give yourself some credit for this already and follow it up with cutting yourself some slack with kindness. In the process of change please be super kind to yourself.
Changing your relationship to the world and yourself gives your cherished identity a big shake up. Not always easy, so go easy on yourself.
I think I am stressing this point a little extra due to my own history of being anything but kind to myself in complete contrast to how I treated others in my life. Extending patience, compassion and understanding to myself has been transforming in how I feel on a daily basis and how I manage with my three young children.
Just to be clear if the judger rears her head with commentary on you about being overwhelmed and not coping when your sister/mother/ next door neighbour did or so and so has more on their plate but they are doing ok.
No, that kind of comparison is a way heaping more weight on your overburdened load.
Telling yourself to pull yourself together, that you are being ridiculous, hold it in and rest later.
Nope, more judgement.
Honestly if it is unkind to you stop. If things fall apart because you stop and rest then that is a serious confirmation you were doing too much alone.
As I mentioned earlier, awareness is key and once you’ve let the big emotions out, released the immediate tension from your body and jumped off the routine treadmill, now the next level of awareness becomes available and it is time to take action.
It may be all you need to do is tweak your schedule, or it may need a rewrite with you at the heart and on every page. You may choose to book a massage, go out for dinner with friends, or schedule evenings curled on the sofa with a good book.
Perhaps the action you take is a pruning of any more actual doing activities because you need deep rest and some long periods of doing very little.
When you have been overactive doing nothing is a positive proactive and sometimes incredibly tough next step. Yet, sometimes the kindest action you can take may be to schedule doing nothing at all.
Remember the action you ultimately take to support you will always tick the box of being kind to you. If it doesn’t pass the test- bin it.
Whatever you choose it will not add more to the burden you have been carrying. You just put that down. The invitation here is not take a night off to tick a box and then next morning pick up the old burden. If necessary, unpack that burden with some inner work to be free of limiting beliefs about why you don’t deserve to rest or why it has to be you doing all the work. Then see what is yours to pick up at the end. It will be lighter.
You may need practical support which brings me to next step.
5. Ask for help/delegate
If in the previous steps you really see you have too much on and there are important needs you have that are currently not being met like resting, then do ask for help and do delegate tasks. Try writing a list of everything you do. Then consider who could I ask to help? To whom can I delegate? What can be done later or not at all? If this feels too much then get help with this too.
Seriously. I see far too many women (me included) struggling to go it all alone when we thrive on cooperation and company.
If you felt drawn to needing inner work in step 2, consider whether you will work though this more swiftlly and easily - a kindness to busy you - with some professional support such as I offer in my birth confidence sessions.
Be open to new and novel ways to do things and be supported. Ask around for ideas and inspiration.
Finally, I would like to say let this be fun. Even if moving out of overwhelm is uncomfortable look for ways to make it fun. Breathe some lightness and laughter into your day. This is perhaps the best medicine of all.
I invite you to take at least one of these steps and try it out this week.
See what happens. Do drop me a line I would love to hear your experiences.
If you would like to learn more about how to be kind to yourself using The NPA Process please follow this affiliate link to download you FREE copy of the process.
If you would like some personalised support to help you drop overwhelm for good and feel comfortable and confident as you approach your 'birth date' check out my birth confidence sessions and get in touch
Today I welcome writer and law lecturer Dr Gulara Vincent to the BirthEssence Blog with a guest post about how completing unfinished business helped her transform her birth experience.
‘Unfinished business’ from the past can block your dreams. I learnt this lesson the hard-way through childbirth, and here’s how my journey began.
In November 2012, I was attending a Journey reunion in Birmingham. I was really into the Journey, a method of cellular healing developed by Brandon Bays, and these meetings gave me an opportunity to meet other people who knew this method too. We took turns to swap and give each other some free support. Each meeting had a practitioner who told us about their Journey path: what brought them here and how the Journey transformed their lives. As I sat on a chair listening to the speaker that day, I stroked my belly feeling slight movements of my baby. I was 18 weeks pregnant with a long-awaited baby. The speaker’s voice soothed me, and watching her face framed with long dark hair, I softened in response.
That speaker was Charlotte Kanyi.
I am not going to recount her story here because it’s hers to tell, but it touched me so much that I approached her during the break and started talking about her business. I had seen her business cards on the stalls during every re-union, and even took it home on one or two occasions, but never dared to speak to her before.
‘I have some anxiety around childbirth,’ I said. By then I’d been attending workshops in Stroud to do some ‘birth works’, a process which explored our own birth experience and also explained how birth impacts the child. It was in one of those workshops that the facilitator explained that women who have past sexual trauma may struggle giving birth naturally. The cells remember the invasion and may clamp up in response to the pain caused by a child trying to exit. To me, this was not the time to deal with past sexual trauma. My focus was on delivering my baby into the world, not dwelling on painful memories. It was better left untouched for now, I told myself, even though deep down I was still worried that past trauma can impact my chances of giving birth as naturally as possible.
‘I’d like to have a session before I give birth,’ I said to Charlotte tentatively.
‘If there’s anxiety, it’s best to clear it sooner than later. You don’t want to carry it throughout your pregnancy because the baby is aware of it too,’ she said.
Her words made sense, but I didn’t follow her advice on that day.
Soon enough though, life presented me with plenty more worries. I was classed as ‘high risk’ and a consultant at the Women’s Hospital saw me every two weeks. Each time, he looked for what was wrong. And of course, if you look hard enough, there’s always something to find.
‘Your baby’s head is quite big, and this is a big baby,’ the consultant said every time I met him. ‘You may need to deliver via C-section. And there seems to be too much liquid around the baby. We may need to pass tubes through his nose to make sure that his lungs are free and he can breathe properly.’
The idea of tubes being passed through the nose of my new-born baby was so distressing that I found Charlotte’s card and gave her a call. A few days later, I was sitting on a couch in her front room shaking uncontrollably as an avalanche of memories overwhelmed me. By the end of the session, I felt calmer and more at peace. Miraculously, the next time I saw the consultant, he said that the liquid levels around the baby were normal and there was no need for intervention.
I started seeing Charlotte regularly. Life kept throwing at me opportunities for
distress growth. I was severely traumatised by the intervention of midwives during the induction, and the emergency C-section left me reeling with disappointment. I cried for days after the birth, and all the stress and tension culminated in two painful episodes of mastitis. I worried about everything all the time. The more I worked with Charlotte, the lighter I felt.
A little over a year later, I was pregnant again. This time, I had no second thoughts about diving in at the deep end to clear any ‘unfinished business’ which could impact my pregnancy and delivery. We worked to clear my past sexual trauma; the trauma caused by my son’s birth; fears around speaking up and standing up for myself when I was at the Women’s Hospital – the list went on and on. I remember vividly the first time Charlotte suggested that I could refuse to follow medical advice and even have a homebirth. Horrified at the idea, I gawked at her ready to run for my life. It took one session to clear that fear, and I came to realise that a home birth was the best option for me. I hired a doula and the home birth team at the Women’s Hospital transformed my experience of the last pregnancy and childbirth – there were no invasive scans with consultants looking for faults. Instead, there was a team of gentle loving women who saw natural birth after C-section as absolutely normal and even desirable. I felt like I had a personal cheering squad and their love and support were healing and nourishing.
When the big day arrived and I went into labour on the due date, I had a birthing pool in my front room. The birth team came to support me and my husband was there to hold me in the water. My labour was beautiful, almost ecstatic, and although I ended up having another emergency C-section, the birth experience itself was at the opposite end of the spectrum to my son’s birth; I was calm, confident, supported and in control.
In short, I’m living testament that when we shed off our emotional baggage, our experiences transform. Childbirth is no exception.
Dr Gulara Vincent is a writer, university law lecturer and a Momentum Mentor for Writers. When not writing or teaching, she helps women writers to release their inner fears and emotional blocks so that they can have a successful writing career.
'What are you doing? Come back to bed.' I dimly register the plaintive plea from my sleepy and confused son, but replying is difficult.
“I can’t, it hurts.” I manage in reply.
In fact, ‘it hurts’ is a massive understatement. Lying next to him was excruciating and it is barely better now I am standing by the bed. It was some time past 11pm and he’d woken twice already sensing something unusual. Each time I lay down he closed his eyes, instantly soothed. I meanwhile gritted my teeth and willed myself, against all my instincts, to stay still just a little longer, in the hope he would sleep deeply enough not to be disturbed when I got back up.
The third time I couldn’t do it. I got up and started walking, pacing the room with giant strides back and forth, back and forth as fast as I could.
It helped. I breathed more easily.
Then another wave of pain swept over and through me. I kept breathing. But I felt myself tense, involuntarily bending forwards to meet the rising sensations and hearing panic give voice to suddenly fearful thoughts.
‘I can’t not cope,’ the internal dialogue continued, ‘This is what I do for a living, helping other women find inner confidence and trust in their body so they have amazing birth experiences. I have to succeed. Otherwise I will be a total fraud.’
With the panic, came guilt shame and crashing realisations. ‘Now I get it. Now I understand why some women beg for epidurals, caesareans, anything to take the pain away.’ I felt myself tumbling down from my superiority into humility, appreciation and empathy.
But still the fear and panic persisted with the refrain, ‘What if I can’t cope, what if I really can’t do this?’
There is a brief pause between contractions and in the respite I resume walking but a little slower. I have remembered what I forgot during my first birth- The NPA Process. NPA stands for Non Personal Awareness and it’s a simple 6 line process that can facilitate huge shifts quickly and easily.
‘This scared I can’t cope, I say out loud . This energy of Scared I can’t cope…’
My son watched silently, slightly perplexed as I completed the sixth line and my walking slowed to some moments of stillness. I felt myself falling into the centre of myself. Around me the energy swirled and eddied. Reality rearranged itself.
A new wave of contractions starts.
Physically it is exactly as before. I am half doubled over in pain equally as intense as before.
This time though I emerge grinning in delight. For the next few contractions, although nothing at all about the level of pain has changed I am practically skipping for joy around my room. I no longer need to frantically pace either. Time has slowed and I have slowed with it.
In just a few moments my whole perspective on what was happening changed. The fear left me as my question was answered. I now knew that I could cope. I knew. Not hoped, or guessed, or rationalised or tried to talk myself into a state of positivity or self belief that I wasn't feeling. I knew from the depths of my being, from the marrow in my bone. From my heart and soul and back again I knew I could do it.
This was a true knowing that could only be experienced. It was not forced or rationalised. I did not have to give myself pep talks and remind myself of the historical statistics of successful births and the biological normality of what I was doing. I did not need to engage my neocortex and rational brain for support.
In this simplicity all the head talk and pressure evaporated along with the fear and I moved into the experience. Like in my previous post on experiencing fear in the context of trust I was now held in the context of knowing I would cope and all was well. Note: not could cope but would cope. It was a done deal that I couldn't argue with. So I didn't argue or question. All drama in the situation had left along with my doubts.
This whole doubting, worrying, panicking consciousness in fact left with as little drama as you might move from one room to another in your house. Which is in fact exactly what I did.
I moved to the bathroom and although I didn’t register it at the time the pain did finally diminish.
By the time I was pushing it was gone completely.
Although the pain left, the best gift was precisely that the pain didn't disappear immediately. That was my big agenda right. That was what I thought I needed to happen in order for all to be well. That would be success. I wanted to be proud of my pain free achievement and paint some credibility over my insecurities and self-doubts as a birth worker.
That the level of pain had become largely irrelevant and didn't matter to me any more was pure freedom. That I'm writing about it now, 2 years and 9 months on feels apt as Freedom is my word of the year for 2016.
There was another shift that happened in that moment too. Surrendering fully to the energy shift of that one NPA Process, (the only one I did in my whole labour,) paved the way for me to let go of all my remaining ideas of how the birth should go and allow the labour dance to unfold in its own way. Which was a good thing as I was plugged into the strongest most exhilarating flow of life force energy I have ever experienced. Like being wired up to the National Grid or perhaps holding a lightning rod as the lightning strikes. I would not have liked to have been trying to control or manage that against its will.
This surrender and letting go of the need to control how my life experiences and feelings show up is also part of my journey in freedom. Just thinking about that brings joy singing to the surface. It sounds like the song of my soul. And I hope you hear her song in my words and in her song you hear your own song and that this post sets off some inspirational shifts in your own journey.
Do let me know in the comments.
Curious to know more about The NPA Process and how it could help you? Please click here.
( Links to NPA Process are Affiliate Links)
I am on the toilet. Time is meaningless to me. I have danced too far along the path to meet my baby to be completely rational. Only thing is, neither me nor my husband have quite caught up to fast pace of my baby’s arrival…He is about to trot off to try and put the pool up. I am about to have the baby in the timeless eternity that has inserted itself into about 15 or 20 ordinary minutes.
As I said I am on the toilet. I won’t go into detail but to say that it is an intense experience is an understatement.
For a moment I begin to panic. What is happening to my body? Is this normal? How can so much power be coming through this small person? Will I cope? My mind was worried for me and the concerned thoughts were triggering more layers of anxiety… Oh OK then, more like terror, that hovered just on the edge of my awareness threatening to take over.
But wait there was something else too. I changed focus to my body. Instead of floating terror there was a grounded peace. It was pale yellow and surrounded me on all sides, present both inside and out. My body actually wasn't touched by the fearful thought, it was just getting on with its job and was completely confident. All was well.
Now I had a choice. Did I reside in the terror and let it take me, or did I allow the peace to breathe me. For a few minutes there was a bit of to and fro movement.
Then I made the choice. Or the choice made me. My heart opened up in gratitude and softened in the peaceful energy. My body began to push and I started roaring like a lion.
I realized as I journalled later that it didn't matter that I felt terror because I was bathing in a different energy that was so strong and confident that it could hold the terror. This was my fear being held in the energy of confidence and peace. As long as I tuned into this greater awareness that was holding me I was OK. It was more than OK. It was liberating. I could allow all of my experience to flow through, even the tricky, so called negative emotions.
This gift of being held in a wider perspective that could hold my less desirable emotions was revealed to me through a tool called The NPA Process. The NPA Process is a deceptively simple 6 line spoken-word transformational tool created by Joel Young that helps you let go of blocks and powerfully shift your consciousness.
It was during a practice session on an NPA Community Call that I first experienced the power of accessing a different context in which to allow something challenging to be fully met. Fear rose up strongly in me during the call and I thought I wanted the fear to go. To disappear and leave me alone so I could experience something more fun, more pleasant, like say peace or joy and also get the satisfaction of feeling, Yes I've cracked it and got rid of my fear… Nope. Like mist lingering in the lower reaches of a valley untouched by the rising sun the fear persisted, heavy in my stomach, rubbing up against my shoulders, gripping me by the chest.
I was about to be disappointed and frustrated when the shift happened. I suddenly felt trust. A deep powerful trust in life and in the process. I trusted that I would be OK even with fear present. It felt like angels whispering in my ear that all was well. It felt like a reassurance I could believe in, that I could depend on and.,. well that I could trust. This was fear in the context of trust.
It was slightly surreal to feel both simultaneously, but was a greater gift in the long term than getting rid of the fear would have been. It meant I no longer had to be so scared of feeling fear. It meant I didn’t have to wipe out every last drop of fear from my being to be sure I would be successful. It meant I could live in peace with fear and hear her gentle messages and the wisdom she was paradoxically guiding me towards.
It also gave me choice when fear came up and this certainly served me giving birth. No matter how much emotional preparation we do for birth, (and I did lots), it is impossible to predict what may happen and to what depths of your soul the labour dance may take you. Knowing I was held at every moment and could choose where to put my attention was reassuring to the doubting, worried parts of me that weren't up to speed with the all is well nature of my birth experience.
Back to the toilet. Fear and terror didn't stay there for long in the end and neither did I. As I focused on trust and peace, the space opened up around me and I opened up with it. Gradually the fear dissipated on her own and I moved to the shower.
Somewhere along the three steps it took, (we have a small bathroom,) another shift happened. Those three steps danced me too far along the labour dance to listen to my mind anymore and I just kind of got on with it with no more drama or story. I finally accepted what was happening and quietly dropped down into my womb and went to meet my baby.
Sometimes when I name my emotions I feel like the wheelbarrow in the picture above. Loaded down with the years, lifetimes perhaps of what that feeling means to me and has meant in the past. This post shares a simple exercise you can try to get under the accumulated weight of meaning attached to your words.
The way we use these words makes a difference to our experience. We can make positive affirmations to support our intentions. We can explore and name our emotions and journal our thoughts to help ourselves move through challenging situations. Or we can use them to metaphorically beat ourselves up with a stick.
Even the very words themselves have a strong energetic field. Some words can feel uplifting and strengthening, others may feel heavy and pull us down. Some words may feel heavier than lugging excess luggage around an airport on a trolley with a dodgy wheel.
When the gargantuan reality of the luggage is totally belied by the innocently light label it is attached to, I have often wished I could wave a magic wand and magic away the luggage entirely.
Whilst I am thinking figuratively this also brings to mind our family holidays to my husband’s native home, The Gambia...
...I brace myself, bend my knees keep my back straight and pull swiftly upwards swinging yet another bag onto the conveyor belt to be weighed. I am nervous. Will we be over the limit? We are getting some curious stares. Most people on this flight to The Gambia are English tourists. They have the lightest of bags suitable for a winter sun destination. Some look like they only have hand luggage.
We on the other hand have not one but two trolleys piled high with bags of every size that have been carefully weighed at home to get as close to the maximum limit as possible. We have something like 85 kilos of luggage wobbling around on the overloaded trolleys. I am also carrying a toddler in my arms and a baby in my belly. I can barely be seen beneath all this stuff.
Fast forward thousands of miles and a couple of days later the hot and dusty baggage makes it to its destination having survived the aeroplane, taxi, boat, bus roof and even wheel barrow rides. A knife rather than a magic wand cuts loose the tattered luggage labels but it nevertheless magically seems to release more than the kilos and kilometres our aching muscles have endured. Minus the extra luggage we had brought for the local school and for my husband’s extended family I feel free and light as a bird.
Whereas on holiday we had to physically carry heavy bags attached to our luggage labels, in life we are not beholden to the past history of the words we use to describe our emotional state. As we journey through life our brains attempt to make sense and categorise our varied experiences. When we encounter new situations it tries to work out if we are safe or not based on previous experience. Sometimes that’s ok. Sometimes it’s a bind.
Sometimes our words can be concealing heavy excess baggage that we may have been lugging around for years. The weight of the word may be like trying to lift a Mary Poppins bag of just in case items.
When we say we feel fear, do we mean the kind of fear that we get when we are nearly run over by a bus? Do we mean the kind of fear we feel when under pressure in an exam? Do we mean the kind of fear we feel when we are about to jump from an aeroplane for our first parachute jump? Are we responding to the current fear or to all the times we ever felt fear, particularly if we squashed it down and forced it to be stored in our cells?
Whenever the emotion is out of proportion to the situation in hand there is an invitation to do some inner healing work. If you sense that the label you have assigned to your emotion is part of the problem; If you feel that underbelly of consciousness that has got tangled up in the word is getting in your way and muddying the waters, here is a simple exercise to support you to open freshly in the experience.
It’s called “Take the label off.” It’s kind of self-explanatory and it goes like this.
1. Name your experience or emotion and notice how you feel as you do.
2. Take the label for your experience right off and throw it away. It may help to imagine getting a big pair of scissors and to cut the cord that attaches the label to the body of energy consciousness.
3. Tune in again and notice how your experience differs when you are simply experiencing what is arising without and reference points. It may help you to make sure your feet are firmly planted on the floor and you are breathing deeply and steadily into your body as you do. Have an intention to allow whatever arises and stay still in the centre of that. Be open and curious.
Without the label I experience a pure connection with the energy of the situation, a little like the connection I can feel to a stranger when participating in silent meditation together.
This exercise works well on emotions such as fear and it also works very well with concepts like Pain. Pain is one of the most quoted worries of labour- Will I be able to cope with the pain? I feel like I am splitting in two? I am not good with pain… are common refrains.
Pain in labour is not the same as pain from an injury but we use the same word to describe very different experiences and we may trigger our body into reacting as if we were in danger rather than in labour.
What happens when you take the label off and just feel what is actually happening? For me that was totally freeing. I could feel each muscle in my body working, I questioned what each sensation meant to me now I was not using the word pain. I got very interested in what I was actually experiencing in the here and now. My body felt heard and appreciated. I felt freedom even as I was feeling what in ordinary direct language pain is still the closest adjective I can find to communicate. The full story of how I was able to cope with intense pain and move smoothly through transition is the subject of a whole other post.
For now I will leave you with a quote from Ina May Gaskin that illustrates this exercise very well. In response to a woman’s question about labour she replies;
“Don’t think of it as pain, think of it as an interesting sensation that requires all your attention.” *
This quote could also expand into a whole post on the nature of life and the freedom of focusing on present moment awareness but I think you probably get it so I’d rather leave you to go off and play with the idea.
Let me know in the comments how you get on and I will be back soon with some more discussion about how to manage fear and other tricky emotions that may come up in labour.
* From the book Spiritual Midwifery, by Ina May Gaskin, page 43.
Fear can be tricky and confusing. It’s hard to maintain perspective when you are in the throes of a strong emotion like fear. It can Impair your intuition and cloud your usually good judgment. Is it a genuine warning signal of danger to act on now or is it overblown panic triggered by old memories stored in your cells or negative thought projections? Sometimes a little bit of time breathing into the emotion in a space of stillness is enough to bring you back to the ground and allow some inner wisdom to penetrate. Sometimes it takes a little more and over the years I have found lots of helpful little tips to support me to reframe my experience.
At first I used to panic and shutdown when I felt the stirrings of fear in my belly. When fear ran riot I would feel the urge to run, to shut it down, to do anything other than sit in stillness and let it run through until I could feel a more solid base through the emotion.
I thought of fear more as an enemy and obstacle to overcome than a friendly messenger. I saw her as something to push away or push through and had no idea of the possibilities that would open up if I welcomed her and experienced her with as much willingness as I would joy or happiness.
This pattern was particularly acute in pregnancy. I was vulnerable and open like many pregnant women. Birth is not an activity you can repeat until you get it right, nor is it entirely predictable and I felt the pressure which fuelled my fear.
I persevered with the innerwork and nowadays I see her as a useful friend who serves to keep me on track and motivates me to dig deeper for freedom and peace. Not necessarily a comfortable friend mind. The physical sensations that alert me to fear are the same, quickening of the pulse, shakiness in my belly for example.
I can still get scared when I’m feeling fear. But I have a number of tools and tips that help me out. One of the earliest breakthroughs came from playing with the letters of the word itself. I created an acronym that totally freed up my way of experiencing fear. This ability to let the scaredness run through without letting it run me into hasty fear based decisions took some practice. I had deep grooves and was used to freezing up in the face of fear.
However, with a new perspective I suddenly found fear much easier to handle and without squashing it down was able to work with it and still keep going towards my goals. I remember the first time very clearly and use it as a reminder whenever I forget. The overwhelmingly frightening experience of fear as stronger than me dropped away and I moved from powerlessness to an exciting sense of possibility.
Ok so enough explanation. Here are my two perspectives on fear: The first is the way I used to experience and see fear and the second is my experience using my acronym.
Looming blackness hovering round the edges of my vision, dread, like a dead weight pulling down at my stomach, pulling my leaden feet down into the earth so I can no longer move, crushing my chest so I can no longer catch my breath. Panic, swirling round me so fast I can’t keep up or make sense of the sensations. I can’t think straight. It’s stronger than me. I don’t know what to do. I can’t do it anyway. I just want to get out of here. Now.
I notice the quickening, in my breath, in my being and all around me and I stay still. I know it is just energy. I feel it moving fast towards me and through me and I keep breathing. Even though my breath catches at first, I stay with it. I send myself love and compassion and I wait. I breathe more deeply and I find I can appreciate this strong energy as it moves and I stay still in it. I notice the speed of the energy. I feel its vibrations. It buzzes. I keep breathing and I am still alive. I calm and I begin to see. I am still here. The whole world has not ended. All will be well. I am brave and I open fully into the energy and I move through it. I remember that I can do this. The message becomes clear and I can move beyond, richer for the experience, stronger for the journey.
How differently did you feel as you read each description?
If you read quickly skimming through then have another go.
You may like to take a pen and paper or journal to note down any insights.
Shake yourself into a neutral place before starting then go back and read each one again slowly. Feel your way into each statement and notice how you are sitting, how you are breathing and how your body responds to the words. After the first statement bring yourself back to neutral then read the second one through in a similar way.
How did you experience it this time?
For me contemplating Fear as fresh energy appearing rapidly feels like freedom. I am much more able to cope with fear when it is just energy and it helps me to meet that particular fear freshly each time. Somehow it loses its charge. Its power to cripple me and leave me enslaved to its demands is gone
Of course the trick with any tool is to remember to use it especially in the beginning.
If you like this idea write it out and pin it up somewhere prominent and try reading it out when you next feel fearful. Take a few minutes just to feel the energy moving whilst you stay still and see where your stillness leads you.
No matter how much emotional preparation we do during our pregnancy (and I do highly recommend innerwork and emotional preparation) we cannot be sure we will not meet our old friend FEAR just around the corner at an unexpected and possibly vulnerable moment. Shifting my perspective and transforming my relationship with fear has been fantastically freeing for me and I hope you will also benefit.
Do let me know in the comments how you find it.
Times they are a changing… and I am laughing (kindly) at myself and marvelling at a year of shifts and transformation. If BirthEssence were a butterfly she would be right now just making the first cracks to open the cocoon that will reveal her shiny glittering new colours. And that is exciting, I am not even sure exactly what colours they are but they are beautiful and bright. So why am I laughing? Well my ten months immersed in an intensive business development mastermind group has come to an end and I am a little envious of the new students who will be starting the programme in a couple of weeks. This envy is what is so amusing to me because when I started the course my predominant emotions were terror and overwhelm.
Terror and overwhelm weren’t entirely unfamiliar to me. In both my pregnancies I experienced periods of similar strong emotions. It was the moving through these, digging away at my subconscious beliefs, removing saboteurs to my dreams that led to amazing birth experiences and prompted me to start my business in the first place. But this time last year as I was considering the course panic and terror unexpectedly hit me again.
I have followed Samantha Nolan-Smith’s work ever since she started her blog in 2010 and she has been an inspiration. I am passionate and dedicated about my work to transform women’s experience of birth and I have a powerful vision for my business but I could feel I was holding back, scared to put myself out there fully, keeping small. I also recognized that my strength was in the work I do not in business skills but I needed both. Change the Game drew me as it promised me both the business skills and strategy but also the innerwork that is at the heart of my own business. The innerwork that would release me from the traps and blocks that were keeping my dreams small. The innerwork on my business that would eventually change how well I could help women who were scared of giving birth let go of their fears and discover their inner strength and confidence.
This polite phrase, I was considering the course, actually went more like this:
‘Oh no Samantha is doing a fabulous course and I can’t afford it. I am totally outclassed and inferior to everyone on it. I can’t do it. (Accompanied by a small sub voice I could barely hear, you are no good, you would fail anyway, don’t do it you can’t you shouldn’t, you mustn’t.)’
My pulse raced and I sweated. I cried. I cried some more and I felt despair. I justified not doing it because I didn’t have the money. It didn’t sit right. I got confused. I did some innerwork and I got clear. I knew I had to be on it so I joined.
I thought that was the end of it.
So what happened to take me from there to kind laughter and confidence? Well in short I learnt how to break through my comfort zone. I moved through my fears to a place of trust in life and confidence I could handle change even if it was uncomfortable.
Now I look back with compassion and kindness on the me of only a year ago. She didn’t realise she was simply breaking through the ceiling of her comfort zone and that all would be well. She didn’t realise this because in the thick of the emotion she was experiencing real survival terror. She couldn’t see far enough ahead and she didn’t believe she could do it. She was mistaken. But she had to do it to learn that
So what does all of that have to do with you dear reader?
Well if you are a fledgling business owner or even an established business owner with a powerful vision who wishes to step up and really manifest the business of your dreams and you don’t want to take a long time floundering or struggling on your own then this year’s Change the Game is open for registration for just a couple more days. If this is you hop on over to Samantha’s site to learn more and schedule a clarity call with her.
If, however, you are a pregnant woman who is scared of giving birth you may read this and breathe a big breath of hope. You may even let go of some tension in your muscles and allow some relief in. Right now you may feel that you will never get through it. You may feel not powerful enough, not strong enough, not knowledgeable enough. Your dreams may look too far away and impossible.
But, I say, what if this were just the symptoms of getting close to the edge of your comfort zone? What if it was a sign you were close to an important breakthrough?
Birth is so important. It matters. It really matters on so many levels. You may have given up or compromised on your dreams in some way I some other area but suddenly this small bundle of cells has the potential to galvanize you into action with a new lease of life and determination. We all always want the very best start in life for our babies and this combination of pregnancy and passion can lead us right out of our comfort zone into the scary unknown. Here the fear can hit hard. The more we try to do something differently the more the cautious and sometimes wounded guardian part shouts loudly. It wants to protect us; it has our best interests at heart. But it cannot see beyond the boundaries of how things have been done before and it focuses on what went wrong to avoid the same mistakes in the future.
From the outside it may seem no one else can understand why you are so scared and you feel slightly stupid so you make a joke or downplay your fears. But from the inside it feels like it will never end. It is difficult to believe that the panic, confusion, overwhelm and terror are only temporary.
There were times in both my pregnancies when it was difficult to believe that I could get through my fears. I spent hours digging and clearing the layers of old beliefs and wounded parts of me in both pregnancies. I would feel relief, then another layer would pop to the surface and I would start all over again, I thought it would never end. I gradually learnt that fear was not the enemy and I did not need to eradicate it completely. That revelation let me off the hook of failure and I began a process of making peace with myself for being scared. I was rewarded with amazing birth experiences The fears that remained and came up in labour helped put my achievement in perspective and make it feel all the more powerful to me.
But I wish I had known then what I feel so strongly anchored in my body now. I wish I could lean over and hug that younger me and flood her with my love and compassion and understanding. It took breaking through my comfort zone in business with Change the Game to get it. That the discomfort is not personal, I and not permanent. I somehow called my bluff on the nature of my created reality. I smashed ceilings I didn’t know I had. It was scary. No it was absolutely terrifying out of all proportion to the simple business tasks I was completing. I was overwhelmed at times, ok quite often, ok, ok, most of the first three months…
But then somehow, somewhere something changed. I was suddenly different. There was a new sense of ease and confidence and what had been desparately uncomfortable as I stretched beyond what I had believed I was capable was now my new normal. From the other side I looked back at the rhetoric I had believed as solid fact and saw it as hazy mist blowing away in the wind.
From my new vantage point I looked back even further to the extreme vulnerability I felt in the final days of my pregnancy. The wobbles in my confidence, moments of self doubt and the outright panic. That now seemed like a far off dream world and my everyday world, solid and real is the world in which I did it. I marveled once more at how far I’ve come. I knew that birth experience had given me confidence and that it was continuing to grow but I had not checked in for a while.
I looked back with compassion at my former self and wished I could breathe the knowledge into her that she has everything she needs and is going to be ok. That she can let go and trust because the universe is a friendly place and has got her covered. The discomfort is just growing pains that will subside as she grows to fit her new skin. I wish I could spare her the pain of the journey but of course I can’t. And maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe that would take something of her achievement away because she is proud of what she has achieved.
I also don’t know if she would have fully believed me. Maybe she had to discover it for herself. But what I do know is that no matter how debilitating the fear that comes as I expand beyond the next comfort zone I have done it before and I can do it again. The fear is just part of the process and doesn’t need to stop me. Now that I know that I will remember. I will remind my scared self that I have been here before and survived. I will look back and show her how far we have come. I will remember how I wish I could have breathed confidence into that younger me and I will look forward to a future wise me who has sailed gracefully through my present challenge. I will ask her for guidance, I will listen, I will breathe in her love and compassion and I will remember.
Change the Game is a leadership and business mastermind that lasts for ten months starting in March 2016. If you are a business owner and want clarity round your business vision and the self belief to make it happen, coupled with practical business skills and a supportive group of inspiring women cheering you along then this may be the program you have been searching for. Click the picture or link to discover if this program are right for you. Early Bird Price available until End October 2015. Free Clarity Calls and Extended price plans are available to support you with this ensuring this important investment is right for you.
If you want to experience some of Samantha’s magic then you may like her Soulful Sales Master class‘s I can’t stand fakeness and sleazy sales or pushy business style and I loved the refreshing approach and wisdom in this master class. At UK time of 9.30am on Tuesday 13th October. If you sign up there is a limited time replay.
If you are pregnant and scared of giving birth and are inspired by my story of how I changed panic and overwhelm into ease and confidence you may like to check out my 1:1 services to support your transformation. These sessions are powerful and life changing and saved me from months of worry during my own pregnancies. Uncovering hidden saboteurs and clearing them out meant that no matter what happened during labour I knew I could trust my body and I was in the right place at the right time. You can read more about my birth stories in these posts here and here and here
‘Look’, my son cries, ‘a rainbow’. We stop and gaze in wonder at the vivid colours leaping across the sky towards their fabled pot of gold that promises new beginnings and richness beyond imagining. My son is delighted that it appears to start just behind our road somewhere. I am delighted by his innocence, joy and enthusiasm. I am reminded that I need not chase after an ephemeral, always just out of reach, external source of riches. My son’s excitement and the rainbow’s own glory prompt me to stop and savour the riches I am already living. Right here, right now my own pot of gold laughs with me at the amazing colours of life unfolding before our eyes.
As if a joyful reminder to notice the richness already surrounding me, and a promise of hope and renewal weren’t enough, today the rainbow also directed me towards the power of forgiveness via my much loved deck of Mother’s Wisdom Cards. I pulled the Rainbow card and was invited to reflect on forgiveness. I remembered times I had forgiven a person or event that was weighing on my heart. the resultant joy and lightness causes me to soar to heights on a par with the rainbow’s dizzy display of colour.
As I reflected a strong memory surfaced of one of the most memorable and significant times I have felt forgiveness. The back story shows me at a time in my life when I was single and had just tried, luckily unsuccessfully, to have a relationship with a highly unsuitable man. He did not treat me well and still I chased. My huge grief at the realisation that this was not going to be the relationship I wanted it to be was totally out of proportion to the handful of times I had met him before he ran away and refused all contact. Every attempt at real communication felt catastrophically wrong and painful. I became angry and bitter at the way I had been treated and despite previous attempts to find closure had not managed to let go of the story. Even I could tell I was obsessing over something that from the outside looked relatively minor. Why did it feel so big to me?
So I sought support from a friend and colleague in the form of a Journey Process.* During my process I was transported back to what appeared to be a past life memory of my execution. I was about to be beheaded by someone I knew from my village and as I looked into his eyes I recognised him to be this man from my present life who’d mysteriously run straight out of my life. I felt such a strong connection to this person and felt that they had been important to me in this life yet here they were about to execute me. His eyes were full of guilt and anguish. I continued to gaze at him and consciously opened into his heart and asked to be shown how it was for him. I was blasted into such a powerful shock and grief with the words ‘I am sorry, please forgive me’ repeated over and over and over again.
I felt our village was being ransacked and women were being targeted and punished, particularly healers or medicine women and there was a kind of civil war happening with villagers being pitted against each other in cruel twist. He was utterly horrified at what he was being forced to do. but although he did not want to kill me, in that moment, at that time he had no choice.
As I felt this I really had no choice either. I forgave him completely. Or more accurately forgiveness flooded my heart and being as I felt the totality of the situation and the enormity of his grief and regret. He had been punished enough. I let go of my blame, anger and betrayal. I allowed love to flow through me again. I felt whole and healed.
As I brought this energy through to the present day me I felt only compassion for my would be suitor and instead of the ranting email I had planned I found the only words in my mind and heart were ‘I love you, please forgive me and I let you go now.’
I never saw or spoke to him again. These words were expressed only in this process. But I have no doubt that they set us both free. As I let him go, both in the past and in the present, I let go too. I felt relief and joy. I felt as if I was flying across the sky like the rainbow propelled by my forgiveness into a pot of golden freedom. I didn’t need to chase it. The gold was pouring into and from my heart as love replaced the heavy weight that unbeknownst to me I had been carrying for far longer than the few months I had known this person.
Memories like these concerning what I term ‘witch hunt mentality’ seem to be occurring quite commonly at this time. Whole groups of women are releasing this stored collective consciousness from our past. It is time for women to step out of the shadow of these previous eras when to survive it was necessary to hide our talents and the ways of feminine healing and leading. It is time to forgive and set aside the past and to create wholeness. A wholeness where the feminine and masculine energies within each of us live in balance and unity. A wholeness where love and forgiveness shine forth like the rainbow leading us to the gold within.
This deep spontaneous forgiveness that came with understanding and emotional release set me free, set both of us free, and it is this kind of work that is setting a whole generation free. I am amazed by what I discover when I enquire within, how much can be imprinted and stored from traumatic events and equally how much can be released. We are creating space for new lives, new beginnings. A space that is much needed.
In this case, new beginnings spilled their colours quickly onto the canvas of my life. Shortly afterwards I met my amazing husband and my life took on a wonderful new direction.
And so I leave you with the reflection, Where in your life is forgiveness needed? What rainbows would brighten your sky brighten your sky when you forgive?
For more information about The Journey pioneered by Brandon Bays and how it can help you find freedom and forgiveness please click here.* For a 3 free guided visualizations created by Brandon Bays for healing and relaxation please click here* and for the free e-book The Journey click here *
Follow the link to learn more about and buy Mother’s Wisdom Deck: A 52-Card Inspiration Deck with Guidebook (Book & Cards)*
If you feel like you may benefit from some forgiveness work check out my 1:1 page to see what I offer or call me to chat about how I can help you.
*These are affiliate links.
In Part 1 I spoke of my journey from unreadiness to readiness, from worry to inner calm, and from obsession over my long, long list of ‘absolute essentials’ to complete before birth should happen, to no worry and no list.
I spoke of my growing ability to rest, relax and allow readiness to be.
I spoke of learning surrender to the unknown and trust as I birthed my child and dropping my to do lists in favour of actually doing, with ease and flow.
In part 2 I am sharing with you how I made this significant transition with relative ease using NPA, a tool I also use in my 1:1 sessions to facilitate powerful transformation. The shift that evening from feeling distinctly NOT ready and worried about how to get everything sorted in time, to going into labour and giving birth from a place of being ready was almost instantaneous, quite surprising and has had long lasting deepening effects on me and my ability to take action.
NPA stands for Non Personal Awareness, a deceptively simple yet enormously effective tool that brings you into harmony and flow with what truly matters to you. It is a short six line process that effortlessly aligns the energy of your experience, releasing blocks and stuckness and allowing into your experience that which you’ve been keeping at bay. Alternatively as Joel Young, the creator and custodian of NPA, taught it to me, “letting the yucky stuff out and letting the yummy stuff in.” He describes non personal awareness as a living, breathing perspective says,
For those intrigued and eager to try it out click here to read more about NPA and download a free worksheet. For those remaining keep reading to discover some of the possibilities of NPA in action with my story of clearing needless worry about being ready and another glimpse into some of the intimate details of the birth of my second child.
On the evening in question having cleaned the bathroom, (Job 1 on the endless list of essential preparations according to the worried, time pressured and desperately nesting version of me.) I’d settled in to a conference call evening of NPA sharing with the NPA Community. The Theme that evening was birth!
During the call I spent an enjoyable hour bringing in the energies of confidence and trust. Throughout my pregnancy these two themes were pretty constant companions and the focus of much of the inner clearing work I was doing to prepare for the arrival of my child. By the night of the 24th June I was feeling confident in my body, I trusted my ability to birth. I had negotiated numerous hurdles and challenges along the way that had all served to help me to consciously choose the circumstances of my birth from an empowered grounded inner strength and to trust in these decisions.
Yet I still wasn’t fully relaxed and enjoying that in-between time of a fully formed baby inside an expectant mother enjoying the last twilight hours of their shared physical existence before the next chapter begins. I was aware of a persistent niggling worry about what I still had to do in order to be ready. Accompanied by an equally insistent murmur in the recesses of my mind about the potential pitfalls of not knowing my midwife. These unhelpful thoughts battled with the deeper sense of trust and confidence I felt when I tuned in. Try as I might, I couldn’t banish them completely and I was restless. I was worried about unknown factors I couldn’t fathom or plan for by their very nebulous unfounded nature, even as I was aware of trust in the universe and in my body.
This background noise and tension was not so loud but was real nonetheless and resided just under the surface of my day to day awareness. I had been doing what most of us have a tendency to do from time to time, pushing it to one side and ignoring it, telling myself I was being daft. As usual the universe had my back and was bringing me answers to my deep prayers almost before I was aware of what I needed.
In this case it brought me help in the form of two NPA ‘cookie cutters’ borrowed from a friend. That’s right, they weren’t even mine initially. Another thing I have learnt. I don’t have to be the one to know or come up with all the answers. The answers will come and will be available if I am listening and remain open. Back to the current story though. As I heard my friend share her experience with the energy of ‘The Unknown’ and ‘Being Ready’ I knew with a strong intuitive hit in my gut that these were ‘mine’ too.
I put the phone down and took both phrases through the NPA words.
First up ‘The Unknown.’
All my fears about not knowing which midwife would be on duty and that something untoward may occur and endanger my birth choices surfaced. Crazy thoughts that giving birth the first time was just a fluke and I would totally fail at it this time. Panic and terror at not knowing what was coming next and whether I could handle it overwhelmed me.
I sat still.
I felt it would last forever. I nearly despaired.
I sat still some more.
I smiled as joy bubbled through the mist. I relaxed as inner peace dispersed the mist. I was at peace with not knowing, not knowing what would happen in my birth experience, when it would start, who would be there, content to wait out the future. It had been perhaps 5 minutes but it could have been hours or a lifetime. I didn’t care.
This shift is simple to write in just a few line. Easy to read fast, gloss over and keep reading. I invite you to read it again and let it sink in. Imagine how it would feel to be living with fear as the backdrop and then imagine the contrast of living from a peaceful place. Really, I invite you to take some time to appreciate the depth of this through my words as I can’t begin to do justice with how transformative for me this change in perspective was at this time. This kind of shift has been my repeated experience with taking time to do inner work with tools such as NPA.
With a greater sense of ease in myself I moved onto NPA cookie cutter number 2 ‘Being Ready.’ This was quieter and more subtle yet with immediate measurable effect.
I stopped thinking about the list.
It was not today’s concern.
This was totally unexpected.
Ironic really. I know how effective this tool is. It was a cookie cutter on ‘being ready’ right?
So I shift into a place of being ready and what happens? Yes, straight into labour.
I was ready.
I tried to tell myself it might be Braxton Hicks and it might stop and start and I had a few days or even weeks left yet.
But no, my body knew differently.
Just four hours later my baby popped out (quite literally with a popping sound and a big splash!) into my waiting hands, slippery and warm to my fingers, crying already as I brought him in close to my heart. Quickly soothed by enthusiastic suckling, we gazed at each other. My delighted and euphoric laughter echoed round the bathroom as my husband stared in astonishment. ( He thought I needed water or something when I shouted for him to come.)
Very shortly, I was ready again; this time for some well deserved rest as I dropped off to sleep cradling my newborn in a warm cosy after-birth glow, deeply satisfied and powerfully transformed by the surprising turn of events that evening.
Further information about Joel Young NPA can be found here.
Click here to download The NPA Process Sheet for FREE and see for yourself what is possible.
The links in this article for Joel Young are affiliate links. The NPA technique is so powerful and deserves to be more widely known and used.
For assistance on your own journey to birth with confidence and trust click here to learn about working with me in BirthEssence Mother Nurture 1:1 sessions.
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