Last week I spent three days as a doula, helping a friend give birth. It was exhausting, extremely challenging, at times demoralizing, and ultimately hugely rewarding when baby finally made it out.
I’m left with a loud echo in the chamber of my think tank: How do we empower without calling up shame? If I am told that I have the power to change, or to affect change, or that I can have a different experience, and I don’t know how to change or embrace that experience, I’m left feeling like the inability to change is somehow my fault or choice.
My Rolf Movement training tells me that our beliefs, often shaped in formative experiences long ago, guide our current experience in a profound way, and that our beliefs also limit our experience. As a Structural Integration Practitioner, it’s my job to help you hold those beliefs gently while opening up to the possibility that new experiences are also attainable– that while your beliefs are not wrong, there are other truths to be held as well. This can be as simple as learning to use an ankle that was once twisted badly and then favored unconsciously ever after, and as challenging as re-evaluating and nourishing your entire self-image. From personal experience, I can tell you that opening into new truths is extremely challenging, and when accomplished, extremely gratifying.
I notice that for me, I can be conscious of that ankle when I’m well rested, can be kind to my self most easily when general circumstances are mild and I’m feeling physically well– these are naturally expansive situations. When things start to get a little rougher, when sleep is at a premium and the situation is more demanding, I revert to what I know and tend to dig in, to contract.
These days I notice the contraction from a relatively neutral place, a place where I can generally be kind enough to know that I’m doing the best I can, and that I will learn from this experience if I am open to learning later.
Birth is one of the most powerful experiences of opening into pain that I know of. You are literally contracting so that you will expand, a confusing and difficult trial that takes a great deal of faith to withstand. If your basic trust in the rightness of the universe has been deeply shaken, this is a faith that may be out of your reach. If you have withdrawn from your body as a means of basic survival, then dropping back in to allow it to take over might be next to impossible. Birth is the crucible of belief systems, burning away intellectual impositions and getting down to what you REALLY hold true. It will transform or reinforce your personal truth like few other things, a uniquely awe-inspiring and reductive grind that puts you in communication with your elemental self: step forward, hunker down, or both.
Thankfully, in my office, it’s nice and warm but there’s no fire under you. You can choose to engage in this dialogue or not, and to take all the time you need to get the results you desire. Change is hard, but satisfying, and I’m here to help as best I can.