Category Archives for "Inner Work"
Posts showing the power of changing your inner landscape
Posts showing the power of changing your inner landscape
Yesterday I tried to offer the cashier in Tesco swimming goggles instead of the club card.
In ten minutes.
Maybe she understood what it can be like shopping with a toddler and very full pockets of everything that I may need or definitely don't need but have been given for the last month. I have big pockets.
But it got me thinking about lenses and the work I do. I was thinking about how we all want to see clearly. That sometimes our vision of the world is impaired by the goggles we have on that we have had on so long we forget we even have them on. Perhaps they are a bit cracked or like my children's goggles scratched, leak a bit with a tendency to steam up easily.
You definitely can't see properly looking through goggles like that. But it's better than the chlorine in the water hurting my eyes. At least while I am in the swimming pool.
But do I need them in the supermarket? And to pay for my groceries?
Obviously not. The analogy for me is how we see life. It's probably obvious before I even explain.
But here goes anyway. If we have a childhood event, long ago that was particularly strong. It affects us strongly. We start to believe something about the world. It has changed how we see, show up and act in the world. We get creative, make strategies to cope and deal with the new information and life goes on. Over time we forget.
But the once clean lens that we came in with to see the world has got a smudge on it. Enough times of coming up against it in life and it gets scratched even broken.
We begin to believe the world is unfriendly. That we are no good and that maybe it is us who are broken.
We shut down, pull away from the world, stop dreaming.
Has this happened to you? Are you playing smaller than you could? In birth or in life?
Sometimes these memories are so ancient that we don't have any conscious memory at all. Our own birth into the world is the big one.
Our huge first life transition that has impacted each and every one of us profoundly even though few of us remember consciously.
For many of us in the West this would have been a tough, challenging time. Today about 30% of women report some trauma in the birth of their children. If you as a mother are experiencing it so is your child.
This is at the core of the work I do at BirthEssence.
Right now I am focusing a lot of energy on my Birth Blueprint Reading and Healing sessions for women. Where I look at what your own birth reveals about your soul's journey and work to heal any damaged lenses , re-imprinting the patterns that were laid down in your own birth experience so that you can show up fully , firing on all cylinders no longer holding back on your dreams in life,
Interested? Prices start from £60 Email me at charlotte:birthessence.co.uk for more details.
For me ignoring my intuition cost me my computer- my lifeline to my business destroyed in an instant of madness.
For others it is the confident birth experience they dream of and have been planning for months.
How many times have you heard someone say, "I knew. I just knew somewhere inside that something wasn’t right." or "I knew I just knew somehow that it would be ok."
If I had a penny for every time I hear from mothers who intuitively knew before the doctors what was going on with their baby, growing inside their own body, I would be rich. Sadly, many times the story continues with the mother not being believed, leading her to question and doubt her own feelings and sometimes ultimately go along with what she is being recommended against her instincts.
What is upsetting is when the woman feels she has no voice and no confidence to speak up through fear of ridicule, dismissal (not unfortunately an irrational fear at all but that’s for another post) and not trusting her feelings over the other person’s perceived expertise.
Often if it comes to something for the baby’s safety you will persevere, even when you have to push back against deaf ears and eye-rolls. Even if it’s a fight and you hate conflict and normally shy away from all arguments. Because when you know, you know and this is your baby’s life at stake.
But it shouldn’t be so hard and such a fight. Sometimes, and especially if we know the baby is ok and its our own comfort or dreams that are at stake, we don’t have that confidence to go up against someone who is holding all the perceived authority and information. We downplay our intuition and play it off against our rational logic that says, 'Oh it will be ok, the doctor must know best.' Or we keep quiet and play along knowing in our hearts that the concern is unnecessary because all is well but not wanting to rock the boat too much. We end up compromising on what we truly want because it is too scary to go against the flow of the establishment or our friends and family’s beliefs. You diminish your pain and disappointment, rationalising it away with, "at least he is here safe and sound." A sentence that tends to get universal approval from all around as it puts a soft blanket over the uncomfortable feelings and patterns that for another day you will not have to face. It may make you feel better but doesn’t lift the unacknowledged pain in your inner world where all the programming happens. Where your subconscious reality is running the show. You can’t fool your inner world, just shut it down and numb it out temporarily.
What we can know through intuition is incredible.
Here’s an example from a friend of mine:
When I was pregnant with my first child I *knew* he wasn’t ready when they wanted to induce me, so I said no. While birthing I also *knew* I was going to tear before I did, I even told them! When I was "overdue" with my second I *knew* she wasn't in the right position not because it felt any different to me, it was just a *knowing*. I booked a local doula to come and rebozo me and she did the most enormous flip (made me feel like I was going to be sick actually) and I went into labour four hours later and she foetal ejected into the pool 4 and a half hours after that
In this case my friend stayed strong and true to her intuition despite the pressure to be induced both times. She took action based on her inner knowing. Her conviction and strength meant that her babies came when they were ready and for her second helped her daughter get into a better position for a smooth easy birth.
It is not just what we can know, it is when. There is a recent study conducted on premature infants in Nepal that was looking at benefits of kangaroo care versus their standard care. A point that came out of this research was that mothers who were carrying their baby with monitors attached at the same time, often knew something was wrong with their baby before the machines did. They knew before there was anything to measure scientifically. This is contrary to the common tendency to trust the machines blindly without taking into account the mothers intuition and feelings. Just to be clear I am not saying the machines are always unnecessary or wrong just pointing out a reliance on something that cannot see the whole picture and can only measure what is showing up to be measured. Machines have a certain level of sensitivity and are programmed to measure clearly defined signals. As humans we assess and measure far more and subtle signals and this skill is relatively little understood or trusted.
And the truth is we know. When we tune in we always know. When we practice and learn to trust this as its own science we can use our instincts as a guide to what steps to take. Whether that be in birth planning and which kind of birth is right for us, or when to transfer, or to ask for checks if something feels wrong, we will get the guidance we need.
The constant overriding our intuition with rational thoughts and downplaying the important role it plays and I would go as far to say the science of intuition makes me scream with frustration. Even and especially when I catch myself doing it still.
Ignoring that little voice inside is how I come to be writing on a new computer. Ok so having a new computer is super fun, and the old one needed replacing. But having to replace it because I found it swimming in half a pint of water that my two year old had gleefully poured over it and then pointed it out to me -‘look, water mummy,’ is not the way I would have gone about it!
And I knew better. I knew when I saw him come into the room with a bottle of water that I should take it off him and put it high up and far away. But did I?
No. I didn’t. Surveying the ruins of my computer sadly I checked in with myself with what had been going on inside that caused me to ignore that clear but quiet voice. Firstly I was rushing around trying to juggle too many balls , work and prepare for the school run at the same time. Point one SLOW DOWN. We all need to hear this. Slow down, take some deep breaths, and then continue mindfully with what you are doing one thing at a time.
Secondly, also overrode the wisdom automatically with sneaky fast thoughts that got under my radar and passed through before I noticed partly because I was rushing around.. What i discovered when I slowed it down and unpicked what was going on was interesting. The crazy stories that don’t add up – like 'oh I’m so cool and an experienced mother and I can catch him before he does that and in the nick of time then I will look so good and impress everyone at how good I am.' Seriously. I see this as some of the crazy ways we internalise the archetype of the good mother which gets really warped when it comes into play with low self esteem issues or similar wounds that so many of us carry,
This is why inner work and exploring what is going on is always worth it. It can be as simple as stopping when you notice you arguing with your intuition , checking in with your immediate resistant thoughts and asking asking if they are true. Often they are so ridiculous you can drop them just like that.
Other times you may need to take out your tool box and do some deeper enquiry and clearing work. There’s always in my experience some kind of version of a wounded part acting out whenever something like this happens where there is a clear intuitive hit or guidance then you don’t follow it. When you check in with what is going on at a deeper level you have an opportunity to clear out the saboteurs, to heal the wounds. This leads to the freedom and confidence that will allow you to heed that voice and act on it.
In the words of my friend:
Always listen to your body. Never "rationalise" those feelings. I never believed it when I was told in hypnobirthing that I would just *know*. I was a first time mum, I thought I knew nothing but I couldn't have been more wrong.
You do know. I really want you to hear that. You know, and your concerns always matter. Your intuition matters and you have the right to be heard.
There is one more step to this- Practice. You will have heard the phrase practice makes perfect right? It’s true of course. Practice builds your intuition muscle. Practice on smaller things, have some fun and then when the chips are down you will have built a new habit that will serve you well as you come to stand by the birth you want.
Let’s give it a go right now. You may place your hand on your heart or your womb and intentionally connect to the wisdom there. We are so used to going to our brain and mind for information. In some cases this is a perfect place. Finding our way for example, remembering the shopping. But when it comes to making decisions, we always make them from an emotional basis in the end.
So, place your hand over your heart or womb and ask a question. Wait to hear what answer you get. It may be in pictures or feelings, it may be in words or just that inner knowing. Notice how it shows for you as this is your inner language you are learning. This is how your body talks to you. It is different for everyone.
Intuition and the role it plays in preparing for your birth is just one of the subjects we are talking about in the Free Online Birth Confidence Summit that is running for 30 days from 1st of November. This is a summit unlike others you may have been on . It has value and content you would usually find on a paid course. It comprises 30 days of Journal prompts, tips and energetic healing and block clearing classes in a private facebook group, set against the backdrop of 20+ of the most knowledgeable and experienced birth professionals and mothers I know.
Sounds interesting? Ask your heart and womb if this is the next step in your birth preparation and then act on the answer you get.
If it’s a yes click right here
Incidentally research points to roughly 30 days being the amount of time it takes to build a new habit to the level it becomes automatic. Come and join us for the summit and use it to build your confidence muscle so you can really enjoy your pregnancy and go for the birth you want, not the one you are settling for.
I stare at the computer screen biting back the tears. Telling myself to hold it together, that maybe it will work this time…. But No. My plugins won’t update and until they do I can’t write anything on my website.
The dam bursts and I can’t hold it in anymore. I am gulping with enormous sobs as I break down completely. I have been trying fruitlessly for two hours to update my plugins. The ‘idiots guide’ my brother created for me is not idiot enough for me I think despairingly. I am trying to cry and not wake the baby at the same time, I sound like a strangled pig and even if I don’t wake him I have 15 minutes left until the school run anyway.
My brother comes to the rescue and fixes what took me two hours to fail at in about ten minutes. His kindness overwhelms me further. My heart is breaking. My mind is in overdrive telling me how I’ve wasted this precious time. The precious time I have precious little of these days. A blip like this derails my whole schedule.
I must look crazy from the outside I think, getting this upset over such a small detail that is now fixed. I try to reassure myself that it will be ok. Tomorrow is another day. But the less kind inner critic is having a field day. Perhaps she hopes to solve my problems by demoralizing me further but it just adds to the overwhelm bearing down on me from all sides.
Right now, in the thick of it the pain is all consuming. Acute and raw. I cry and I cry. I can’t do anything else but cry. And this is how it is. A small seemingly trivial event that has even been resolved has the power to tip me over the edge into despair. A pit from which I can see no solutions only hardship. A dark place of sadness where I secretly believe myself to be completely useless and no good to anyone. The way I am feeling bears no resemblance to the size of the fairly ordinary event.
I feel trapped. No way out, nothing I can do, panicking as time ticking loudly and ominously away reminding me of all I’ve not done yet.
Except there is one thing I can do. One thing I know to do. The NPA Process.
So I take overwhelm through the words to the NPA Process ( a simple 6 line spoken word process that you can find here)
I say the words and I sit allowing my experience of the energy of overwhelm to unfold with the gentle support of the NPA energy.
Relief floods my body. “It’s not just the computer” I say out loud and I start laughing. In a nice way.
Somehow the simple statement that it is not just the computer that is causing me to feel overwhelm has the power to unlock the whole thing. I feel the tension and stress flowing out of me. I see myself at the centre of a misty landscape surrounded by all the important people and jobs in my life. I can clearly see how much I have going on and why I have ended up in such a state of overwhelm. Anyone would. It is not because I am more useless than anyone else. It is because I have so much going on and I fell into the trap of pushing relentlessly to get it all done. Telling myself it had to be now and this way caused me to feel like the world was ending when life had other ideas. Too much self induced pressure. Rigidity.
As I continued to watch space began to open up around me. The events had space around them and from me. I could breathe again and felt myself relax. Somehow this simple process has caused me to see I am overwhelmed and I am still ok.
I sit some more. Witnessing the experience.
Then it is gone. Just like that. I am no longer overwhelmed.
I have just as much to do and no idea how I will make it work but it no longer has the power to crush me. I am OK, I know everything is going to be ok and its time to pick my kids up.
So I gather up my son, dirty nappy no shoes and all and leave overwhelm behind. I let the relief carry me up the hill instead. I feel free, clean, empty. Even though my son yanks my hair hard and continuously yelling goal each time I am ok, Tomorrow really is another day and for today I am ok. This is the simple power of NPA.
So what does this story have to do with pregnancy and preparing for birth?
Well the last time and on a few occasions previously that I got to this point of overwhelm, where the slightest issue could trigger a complete break down, I was pregnant.
Now you are pregnant you have just added a whole new level of activity to your daily life, that goes on under the surface 24/7. As it carries on without your conscious input it is easy to be slightly less than conscious with how we treat our hard working bodies. We keep going. We push our bodies and our selves to keep going at the same pace we did before we were pregnant. We try to be superwoman.
But creating a new human being takes some serious energy expenditure and as with our financial budgets what goes out has to be balanced with what comes in. When we don’t do that, when we don’t take extra time and space for self care, overwhelm and exhaustion are soon to be found tagging along at our heels.
When we are pregnant we are different in other ways too. More emotional. More vulnerable. More intuitive. These are all qualities that enrich our connection in pregnancy and support us to grow our baby. And they are all the qualities that are not particularly valued in a world that prioritises the masculine experience. A paradigm that expects constant output in a steady rhythm regardless. A paradigm that does not take account of our fluctuating rhythms. That shames our emotionality and vulnerability. That does not understand intuitive knowing and prefers scientific facts that can be measured.
So we succumb to the status quo and to the ancient, unconscious conditioning that our lives run on. We accept the pressure to keep going and not complain. We hold it together like we have been doing for centuries. Too often we leave ourselves and our needs to last or even out of the equation altogether. Until we reach breaking point as I did at the computer.
My question to you is do you recognise yourself in my story? Do any parts of it hit you on some level?
Perhaps you have been getting into a state over what your inner critic says are just small events that you should just get over and get on with it.
Perhaps you are finding yourself arriving home from work too exhausted to do more than put your (swollen) ankles up on the sofa? Falling asleep to wake ( if you are lucky enough to get unbroken sleep) to start the whole cycle over again. But you have not had the time to reflect on the craziness of this and make a change and in the mean time is flying by.
Perhaps you are shy to admit you are struggling, Perhaps you have not noticed as you keep going relentlessly, feeling guilty to ask for more breaks or rest time ‘just’ because you are pregnant.
These are all signs. Hints by your body, by the universe, by your soul that you need to make a change. If you have not noticed that you are running on empty and you are still running, running running…. It is time to stop and re-evaluate your priorities.
My invitation to you today is to stop. Take a little time to enquire of yourself? Am I looking after myself, am I honouring this body and this pregnancy? Ask your body how she is doing and what she needs. Then take her advice. Take some time this week to do something different, something restful and regenerative just for you. Just because.
Please feel free to comment and tell me what you choose to do. I would love to hear and celebrate with you.
If this story has awoken your curiosity in NPA , (the incredibly useful and versatile tool that helped me shift quickly out of overwhelm mode into a kinder, gentler state in which ironically much more is getting done with less effort) then please check out this ( affiliate) link where you can download the NPA Process sheet for free and have a go yourself.
Feeling stressed, overwhelmed or burnt out and want to take some direct action with personalised support?
My mother Nurture Massage Treatments are the perfect antidote to overwhelm and are a very enjoyable way to create space and time for you in your life.
My birth confidence Sessions are best for you if know your life is too busy and you are suffering from overwhelm or burn out but you can't bring yourself to make the changes you need on your own. Deep transformation awaits for you if you choose to invest in this option.
I will be back next week with more on the theme of overwhelm and what to do if you recognise you are either in overwhelm or fast heading towards breaking point.
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.
I was so touched by the personal messages of thanks that many of you posted in response to my last blog post (about my recent miscarriage and my journey through grief.) I was nervous before posting such a personal post but felt that sharing my story may help others because miscarriage is so common. I hardly know anyone with children who has not experienced at least one, and if they haven’t, someone close to them has.
Common it is, yet it can nevertheless be a devastating experience and one that is not talked about so much. People can feel uncomfortable, wanting to offer support but not knowing what to say. Sometimes the wrong thing gets said. We may hear statements like, 'at least it happened early, you will be ok, you can try again and have another.' We may take longer to recover than those around us expect. We may not even have told anyone we were pregnant and so people and employers may not realise what we are going through.
And when we don’t have a chance to voice and release our pain and disappointment it can linger. It can be stored in our bodies and affect future pregnancies. We can carry those fears of loss right through as we prepare to welcome a new baby. A new baby learning about the world they are coming to through immersion in our inner-world and learning about the world they are coming to. Growing in an atmosphere of fear and grief is not what we want for the souls we wish to welcome to the world.
So today I am offering something a little different from my normal posts. A short compassion exercise using one of my healing tools called The Compassion Key. This exercise is for you if you are going through or have ever experienced a miscarriage and are still experiencing sadness and grief even many years later.
Make yourself comfortable and place your feet on the floor. You can be either seated with your back straight or standing, whichever feels best to you. Take a few deep breaths into your belly and let your focus drop down into your heart and solar plexus area. Imagine sending a bright beam of loving compassion inwards to your own heart and womb as you repeat the following phrases out loud.
Pause slightly after each phrase and allow any feelings to rise and pass through then move onto the next. Some may feel stronger than others, some may not feel so true for you but this is ok. The loving compassion energy will dissolve what needs to be healed and pass through if it does not apply to you.
I am so sorry your baby died inside you.
I am so sorry your baby was only here for such a short time.
I am so sorry it wasn't their time.
I am so sorry you miss them.
I am so sorry you didn’t want them to go.
I am so sorry you don’t know if you will see them again.
I am so sorry it hurts so much.
I am so sorry your grief is unbearable.
I am so sorry your grief is never-ending.
I am so sorry you worry it may have been your fault somehow.
I am so sorry you wonder if there was something you could have done differently.
I am so sorry you feel so alone.
I am so sorry no one understands how much pain you are in.
I am so sorry you can’t tell anyone.
I am so sorry you are taking a long time to heal.
I am so sorry you are sad.
I am so sorry you can’t move on.
I am so sorry you had to push your grief down to carry on.
I am so sorry you kept your sadness hidden inside.
I am so sorry you didn’t have time to grieve properly.
I am so sorry you had to be strong for your family.
Take a few more deep breaths and allow yourself to integrate the shifts. When you are ready feel your feet on the ground again, take a few sips of water and thank yourself for taking this time to support and nurture yourself.
So my lovely readers. How did you find this compassion exercise? I would love to hear from you about what challenges you face going through miscarriage and how this exercise has helped you.
'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.