“Learn about the pine from the pine, learn about the bamboo from the bamboo” – the dictum of our teacher means that you must forgo your subjectivity. If you interpret, “learn” in your own way, you will end up not knowing. To “learn” here means to enter into the object; then if its essence reveals itself and moves you, you may come up with a verse. Even if you seem to have described the object, unless it has an emotion that comes out of it naturally, the object and yourself will remain separated, and the emotion you have described will not have attained sincerity, because it will be something made up by your subjectivity.”
Hattori Toho writes here of his master, the famous Japanese poet, Basho, and his teachings on the writing and creation of poetry. Even so, I read in the quote not merely instructions for becoming one with the object of poetic musings and devising verse, but also an important way of relating to the world, and to each other. “Learn about the pine from the pine, learn about the bamboo from the bamboo.” Laying aside ourselves, our ego, and our automatic habit of judging and labeling, is the only way to truly see and know another. With too much “small I” or ego in the way, we merely glimpse a colored reflection of our own subjective interpretation, and may miss entirely the beautiful truths of the one who stands before us. Letting go of the subjective walls we build between us, which serve to separate and divide, allows us to enter into and join the natural flow, inviting true nature to be revealed. You cannot know truth or Tao as long as you stand separate from it. To realize truth and natural flow, you must let go, stop resisting and striving, which only creates friction, and instead, join with and move as one.
This is true in all of life, and in birth as well. So long as we struggle to remain staunchly in control, attached to our views, fears, ideas, judgments, what ifs, worries, and ideas of how things should, or must be, we miss the reality of how things truly are, or the potential fullness, joy, or beauty of how they might be. In order to fully enter into life, (or our birth) we must let go our preconceived notions and desires, and have a beginner’s mind, which is ready and open to new avenues of thought, experience, or action, allowing for the natural unfolding of whatever may arise in the moment. We must be fully present, truly listen, truly see, “learn about the pine from the pine, learn about the bamboo from the bamboo”, simply let things be as they are, allowing them to reveal their own true nature, absent our subjective reflections, if we wish to know the full joys and potentials of birth or life.
During our pregnancy, this would mean spending time practicing mindfulness meditation, learning to be in, and bring ourselves back to, present moment awareness. Faced with a cloud of unknowns hanging over our head, especially for first time mothers, it is easy to get lost in stories our mind conjures of potential scarey, future scenarios. If we practice and learn mindful breathing techniques, we will begin to become very adept at recognizing that we are simply having anxious thoughts again, and it will become a natural response to let them go, and focus on our breathing. This present moment focus will help us to recognize that our fear is coming from manufactured, “what if” stories, which are not a true part of our reality. We then can learn to be as a pond of calm, cool, clear water, which notices the clouds that float overhead, and in recognizing them, even reflects their image momentarily, but allows the clouds to float by, without attaching to, or refusing to let go their image. In other words, we don’t continue to muse on or awfulize about anxious thoughts, we just let them be as they are, arising and passing away. Once we can recognize and let go these stories, and focus on our breathing to bring us back to present moment awareness, we can allow fear and tension to drift away like leaves on a stream, and awaken to the truth of what is actually happening right here, right now. If we practice these techniques during pregnancy, then in labor, when scarey thought monsters try to rise up and hold sway, we can simply say to ourselves, “oh yes, thought monsters again”, and let them stomp and snort their way on by, while we stay anchored to, and calm within present moment awareness. In this way there will be no need for us to remain hypervigilant, anxious, and straining to force our labor and birth to go as we desire, or to seek to control events so our fearful thoughts do not become reality. Instead we can allow ourselves to just be, to have an open, beginner’s mind, ready and willing to become one with the natural flow, letting our labor and birth unfold as it needs to.