I teach my birth clients that labor and childbirth are not about resisting, avoiding, escaping, or controlling the expansions or the pain. Rather we must surrender, welcome, say Yes!, allow things to be just as they are, and move with the natural flow. In this manner no friction or tension is created, and the female body can very easily and efficiently do what it knows how to do, and give birth to a precious baby, in an atmosphere of joy, awe, gratitude, peace, and love.
In the same way, following a path of surrender, welcome, and saying Yes! to life, brings a natural ease, joy, and equanimity. When we let go of all the various nets of resistance that we daily become entangled in, such as anger, judging, fear, entitlement, control, conditioning, what if, analyzing, and etc., we find ourselves awakened to the truth of Heaven on earth, The Pure Land of the Buddha, and Niravana existing right here, right now.
Carrying tension and resistance only invites and creates pain and suffering, both in childbirth and in life in general. Imagine you are sitting on the lawn at an outdoor concert, in the company of good friends, with a beautiful picnic spread, wine, music, having a wonderful time. At what point does this experience cease to be fun? The moment you ask yourself, is this really fun, and then allow judging, analyzing, what if mind to take over. If we simply drop the story line in our head though, we find ourselves fully present, joyful, immersed in the experience of warm sun, delicious food, laughter and sharing with good friends, and the ecstasy of sublime music washing over and through us. This holds true in every situation. We are not victims of our emotions, thoughts or sense impressions. We have a choice of what we wish to focus on and entertain. We have the ability to let go and drop the story line, which is causing suffering, anytime we wish.
Recently my neighbors children and their friends were playing outside, yelling, screaming, laughing, and making a lot of noise. I was trying to write and the noise was distracting and disturbing me. Feeling myself growing bugged at the kids, I realized I had two choices of response. I could be the grumpy old woman, reacting to angry thoughts in my head, feeding my annoyance and irritation, and unleashing it on the children, which would result in hurting them, and hurting myself as well, or I could make a more compassionate, mindful choice. I chose to drop any story lines of annoyance or judgement, gathered up some sidewalk chalk and bubbles, and went outside to join in the fun.
At a birth I attended, there was a young nurse, newly graduated from school, never had children of her own, inexperienced, and yet determined to be in control, and to force her opinions and limited views on the laboring mother, and upon me as well. I noticed annoyance, anger, impatience, and frustration taking root in my mind,toward the young nurse. As she began to sense my resistance and irritation, she started to push back even harder, creating a very uncomfortable situation and being near impossible to work with. In order for the mother to labor and give birth well and happily, we needed a loving and peaceful environment in which she could do so. Something had to change. I knew I had no control over the nurses behavior, but I did have control over my choice of perception, as well as my thoughts about, and reactions to her behavior. I could control whether I was going to listen to the angry tales that Story Telling Mind was spinning in my head, causing myself and everyone in the room to suffer more, or I could let go. I chose to drop the story lines, and just be with what was in the present moment, with no need to resist or control. It was not that I chose blindness to the situation, or a bury my head in the sand stance. I noticed and observed the nurses attitude, inexperience, and attempts at manipulation and control. I simply chose not to enter into her idea of reality, or my own judging thoughts about it, and to reside instead in a more mindful, present moment awareness. No resistance resulted in no tension, and we were able to work together beautifully, as we served and supported this precious expectant mother and couple, in their transition into parenthood, and the welcoming of their precious new baby in great love and joy.
If you are a champion “awfulizer”, learning to drop the story line is very important. Suppose you are expecting a pay check to arrive, and you are notified that it will be a few days late. Does your mind stop at that information and let it be what it is, or does it take off in madly fabricating flight, allowing Story Telling Mind to devise a myriad of potential future doomsday scenarios, layering them one atop the other, piling twig, upon twig, upon twig, as if building a pterodactyl size nest of worry and anxiety in your hair?
“Oh no, my paycheck is late. The electric company will probally turn off the power so I can’t use my computer to work, so I will lose my job. All the food in my refrigerator will spoil and stink up my house just in time for the dinner party I had planned next week. The water will be shut off too, so I can’t take a shower, adding to the royal stench in my house, and ensuring the hot date I was looking forward to will be a dud. On top o f that, my mortgage company will instantly foreclose, and I will have to live in my car with my four cats and my Great Dane…”
And on and on, until we have spun ourselves into quite a state of depression, despair, fear, and suffering. What if instead, we were to recognize Story Telling Mind beginning his usual antics, and simply refused to listen, attach to, or become ensnared in his net? What if we simply sat with the initial news that our paycheck will be a few days late,and the physical sensations that might arise from thoughts about it, such as a queasy stomach, a tightness in the chest, a clenched jaw, a furrowed brow, etc.? If we resist and help our mind to run away into future doomsday imaginings, we both create and prolong suffering. If we just stay present with what truly is, within ninety seconds any fight or flight hormones that Story Telling Mind summoned forth, will pass from our system, and leave us in peace. We reach this place of peace by letting go of Story Telling Mind, letting go of obsessively spinning tales, and holding on to the anchors of our in breath and our out breath, and various physical sense impressions such as sounds, temperature, scents, etc., which help to shift our focus back to a state of present moment mindfulness.
It’s the old Buddha and the Two Arrows story. The Buddha asked a student, if someone is hit by an arrow does it hurt? Yes, the student replied. And if they are hit by a second arrow, does it hurt even more, the Buddha asked? Of course it does, the student answered. The first arrow is a physical sensation or event that we have no control over. The second arrow is one that we shoot from our own bow at ourselves, when we allow our runaway thinking mind to compound the problem. In the paycheck scenario, the first arrow is the news of late pay, and the second arrow is the thoughts of future apocalyptic results, and its accompanying emotions that we layer over top of the first arrow, thereby exacerbating the pain. We have a choice whether or not to shoot the second arrow. Remember this the next time you recognize Story Telling Mind building bird nests of woe and misery in your hair again.
In every situation, in every moment, we have a choice to become lost in thinking, Story Telling Mind, or to simply let go, let go, let go, and be fully, mindfully here and now, and realize peace. What will your choice be?
“You cannot prevent the birds of sadness from passing over your head, but you can prevent their making a nest in your hair.” – Chinese proverb