Birth Invites Mindfulness
"Finding our center during birth is a primal form of mindfulness .... we are encouraged by the power of birth to come into the present moment."
Recently a mother in our practice had a baby vaginally after a previous cesarean section. She moved through her labor powerfully but she was surprised by the pain. She stated a few times that she wanted to go to the hospital for pain relief, forgetting that she had chosen to birth at home with us and knowing that pain relief was not an option. We and her supportive husband held her and soothed her through her contractions. At some point in the active phase of her labor, she calmed and quieted. She stopped saying she couldn't do it. She rode the waves of pain and cessation of pain with grim determination. When the urge to push hit her, she again fell back into doubt that she was capable. It took her a few contractions to once again find her rhythm and trust in her body to release and let go to the process.
And she was rewarded. She pushed out a healthy, lusty crying boy who was interested in nursing immediately. He was so present in his body and he let us all know it. Sometimes babies need to be encouraged to breathe and cry. It's not unusual. But this child was fully here and wiggling in his mother's arms. We kept saying, “You did it! You did it!” Dad shed a few tears.
Finding our center during birth is a primal form of mindfulness. Birth can reveal deeper truths about ourselves; forbearance, courage, strength and letting go are some of those qualities. Regardless of our unique labors and deliveries, mindfulness is always available. In fact, we are encouraged by the power of birth to come into the present moment.
The day our children are born is a day we never forget.
By Beth Coyote, LM, she/her
Mindfulness Altars for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting
“We can slow down enough to enjoy our morning tea or a hug from our child.”
Waking early this morning, a brilliant sunrise illuminated the far mountains and the near greenbelt that is part of my back yard. Before the we begin our busy day, we can take a pause for silence and meditation. In the morning hours before work and school and breakfast, before kid and pet care, we can find a quiet corner where we have perhaps built an altar. Lighting a candle, we are invited to close our eyes, take a few deep breaths and settle into the stillness. Soon enough our thoughts will fill with daily activity. But for these few precious minutes, we can set intentions, offer gratitude, and enjoy the sustenance of our practice.
Mindfulness practice calls us to be here in the present moment. Perhaps we awoke feeling agitated or confused. Morning meditation can soothe the worried mind by bringing kindness and compassion to our thoughts. Anticipating a busy or challenging day, we can support ourselves with the foundation and invitation to be in the moment instead of three (or thirty) steps ahead. We can slow down enough to enjoy our morning tea or a hug from our child. As they say, 'stop to smell the roses,' because the roses or the tea or the child are here in the present moment. And we impoverish ourselves by not seeing what is directly in front of us in our hurry to get to the next thing.
An altar can support our practice. Some folks build elaborate altars, others can be as plain as a candle with a few objects or photos. Whatever reminds us to take a few breaths, or encourages us to bring mindfulness into our lives throughout the day can be an altar object. Along with photos and images of my teachers and loved ones, I have a few Quan Yin statues, a being who is said to generate loving kindness, 'she who hears the cries of the world.' For me, it is a reminder to leave my heart open to suffering in all its forms. As Pema Chodron calls it, our 'soft spot.' With mindfulness, we are asking to see clearly what is before us, to inhabit our actual lives, to live authentically with what is.
By Beth Coyote, she/her, LM