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SEPTEMBER 19, 2016

Slaying the Demons.

In labour, when all the demons of terror and overwhelming pain threaten and attack a woman, we need to bring in the monster-slaying-big-guns.

We can either put them to sleep with an epidural, although the demons will continue to lurk un-confronted in the hidden depths of our unconscious, or we can slay them with the incredible Power of Gentleness.

A soothing touch, a soft word, a sure warm presence of reassurance destroys the fear that feeds the demons. They will initially loom very large and then will gradually shrink to a size where the woman can find her own strength. This empowers her to move through the gateway of fear guarded so fiercely by her demons, and to surrender into the mighty power of her labour.

So it is in the maternity wards, where the demons of frustration, resentment and obstetric violence lie waiting in the hearts of burnt-out midwives, ready to pounce on an unsuspecting HIV positive teenager, or a refugee from Somalia with no common language to communicate her needs. Once again the knight-in-shining-armour with the most power to slay these demons is called ‘Gentleness’. The demon that is fed by compassion fatigue shrinks away to nothingness when confronted by the gentle, listening ear that belongs to someone’s open heart. When the midwives felt listened to, valued and appreciated, their capacity to endure the intensity, responsibility and demands of a twelve-hour shift in labour ward grows in leaps and bounds, and given time, their frustration is most likely to melt away.

Treat the demons well. Invite them in for tea and scones. Listen to their anger and their fear. A powerful process that was developed within the Buddhist tradition is called ‘Feeding the Demons’. When they come knocking on your door, welcome them with a friendly face and open arms. Do not be afraid of them, simply listen to their stories. Underlying all our anger, rage, bullying and aggression lies fear, and all the fear ever wanted in the first place was to be gently loved and listened to.

It does take great courage though to face demons, both our own and those of others, because they are likely to feel threatened when we see them for what they are. Initially they will spit, strike and hiss wildly. The reason demons and dragons spew fire is because as an archetype that is their defence. The demon storm is likely to get wilder before it subdues. And it is hard to face it down with gentle strength. The root of the word ‘courage’ is ‘couer’ or heart. To maintain an open heart when the demons gather in armies and turn on us requires integrity, truth, authenticity and great resolution. Sometimes when the power of gentleness exposes the demons they can get very big and very angry.

It might sound patronising but we are all just children having tantrums in the supermarket because we’re afraid we won’t get the sweetie we want. Recently I felt under attack from a woman who in my eyes had turned into an ogre whose only mission was to make my life hell. I had so many stories running through my head about what I would say to put her in her place. I was mad and angry and bristling with aggression.  When I invited my own monsters in for tea, it became very clear that she was simply mirroring my own insecurities back at me. In fact she was giving me a gift to work through them. I still don’t like to think of it, and I need to be very gentle with myself to hold the image of me that she evoked.

People like Donald Trump are the biggest babies of all. He has too many toys and not enough real love. Confront him and his posturing grows out of control. If we had patience and really listened to his fear, his demons and those of his cronies would initially get bigger and angrier, but when demons have nothing to feed on in terms of reaction from us, they must eventually deflate. He would probably not have very much left to say other than “Duh”, because all of his rhetoric is based on fear.

I once asked Mother Mary in meditation how she healed people. She smiled and said, “I don’t heal them.” “Huh?” (or “Duh?” I sounded a bit like Donald.) Not the answer I expected. I looked at her for clarification and she replied, “I understand their pain.” In two simple sentences this Archetype of gentleness whose open heart has the power to slay demons more effectively than an arsenal of nuclear warheads, gave me enough wisdom to last me a lifetime.

by robyn

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JULY 8, 2016

Where did all that Primordial Bliss go?

From the womb our unborn babies show us glimpses of the primordial nature of their souls. They show up in various forms and are often oceanic, golden, timeless and filled with a spacious quality of unending love.

It is the nature of life on Earth that at birth we contract down into physical form and disconnect from this sea of primordial bliss. Then it becomes our life task to search for it again. There are endless choices for how to go about this search. We might choose to find our connection through having innumerable love affairs, through tantric sex, through taking mind expanding drugs, through eating chocolate, snowboarding down cliff faces, driving Ferraris, yoga, gardening, marathon running, sitting quietly doing nothing, helping and loving others, playing chess or having babies. We might try to reach enlightenment through ascetic practices, through fasting, through becoming breathatarians, through meditation, through channeling Ascended Masters, or through loving kindness practices.

Some of these are more effective routes back to our True Home than others, but one of the most basic drives of the human spirit is to find the connection again that we lost at birth. And there is something to this Hero’s journey of loss and regain that is more valuable than staying in the primordial bliss in the first place. It seems to be like the tempering of iron. The place of enlightenment that is the end goal of the search has a wisdom that is deeply nourishing for the collective soul of humanity and possibly the Universe. The primordial bliss that babies emerge from is like an IMAX super surround sound version of the love that they exude after birth, but the enlightened bliss of a Wise One is whole and understands the entire package of life on Earth without rejection. Really wise beings are fun to be around because they make me see this world I live in in an expanded way.

However it is particularly hard at this stage of our Earth’s evolution for me to scrabble out of the mire that is my experience of life here. I mean I don’t make it easy for myself, because so much in my lifestyle is geared towards contracting me down into a version of reality that is separate, divisive and self serving. Junk food makes me groggy, TV violence hardens me, road rage disconnects me from any peacefulness I spent hours of meditation time developing, bank queues, concrete, smog, and security checks in airports make my eyes glaze over and my heart contract. Some of that stuff is unavoidable, but I seldom have the capacity to cruise through it whilst smiling benevolently at grumpy security checkpoint agents or grid-locked traffic. Although I do know a few very gorgeous people who can do that. At least some of the time.

But when I look at the big picture, I think that a seriously good place to start changing the status quo so that my great-grandchildren might one day cruise benevolently through life, is at birth itself.

When I watch babies coming into their bodies at the moment of birth, there is a contraction and an arrest of this natural movement into retaining a broader consciousness, that is caused by the harshness of the birthing environment.

A foetus has an energy field that can be massive. The mother’s job is to funnel that energy down into her baby at birth. She is like the bridge between primordial consciousness and embodiment for her baby. The birth partner is like the struts of the bridge. The birth team and the birth keepers are the foundation rock for the bridge.

Her job is to make this bridge as wide and soft and open as possible, so that as much of the primordial nature of the baby as possible can descend into its body. The wider and softer and more open that she is, the easier labour is likely to be, both for her and her baby. So her job in labour is to connect to her baby, whose vast energy field can carry her into a place that is so expansive that she is way bigger than her physical form. The hormones of labour naturally support this process, as do partners and birth-keepers that trust in it.

When she holds a truly expanded level of consciousness that aligns with a high frequency of energy, the baby is not forced to separate off from her own primordial nature in the same way. Birth is not nearly as traumatic, and in fact can be ecstatic. Imagine the world we could begin to create when we are birthing beings whose energy is large enough to encompass it. Imagine how many more of us would potentially reach enlightenment. Imagine the wisdom and the love. It would be a challenging ride for those of us who are already here, because these babies would require that we address every issue that is keeping us small and constricted, but just think of what an amazing roller coaster of joy it could eventually become.

Whoo hoo, sign me up.

by robyn

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JULY 8, 2016

Stretching our Hearts Wide Open.

Gratuitous violence on TV is like maize meal and yams in Africa. Staple diet stuff.

So much of life is unquestioned and entrenched into my worldview, and much of it is violent. It is so ‘staple diet’ that I forget, that like yams, it has very little nutritive value.

I hear statements like ‘Birth is traumatic’, ‘Babies must cry at birth’, ‘Doctors know best’ all the time. They anchor my awareness in the profane, mundane material world, whilst simultaneously divorcing me from the larger reality that is steeped in sacred awareness.

I often take the worldviews of the collective consciousness for granted. Battery chicken and factory farming, or our use of pesticides or the addition of carcinogenic chemicals to 90% of the produce in a standard supermarket are issues I seldom lose sleep over.

There is a certain amount of lying that unconsciously goes into the creation of these worldviews, in order to promote the agendas of the medical institutions or the agro-chemical businesses or the powers that be.

I am dismayed by TV violence, not because it is so awful but because I know that the moviemakers sign contracts that explicitly require them to include a high percentage of violent encounters per episode in order for the movie to make more money.

My heart sinks like lead when doctors think that it is normal for all babies to scream and be terrified at birth, because they don’t realize that their lack of awareness is causing the sensitive hearts of these babies to contract in fear.

The unconsciousness that goes into and comes out of food production and packaging and marketing it makes me want to weep for our world.

The “Leave’ vote politicians lied to the populace about what it would mean for Britain to ‘Brexit’ the EU. The Brexit result is depressing because it highlights the narrow mindedness of so many people voting from a constricted viewpoint that couldn’t see beyond their own picket fences.

I have no idea if the same unexpected result will happen with Trump in the US elections.

And yet the paradox remains that no matter that the outcome of the Brexit vote was a shocker, the EU and almost all political parties also have agendas that I can’t even begin to get my head around. The lies and deception go so much deeper than the distressing issues that are being exposed around fear of foreigners. Central banking systems don’t make decisions in the interests of commoners, they design policy to widen the divide between rich and poor. And the central banking system of the EU is a BIG bank.

I hurt most when the violence that permeates every stratum of our society is unconsciously perpetrated or is hidden in lies and deceit.

So wherever possible it makes sense that I look deeply to understand the motivations behind how my human mind operates.

However. That is only half the story.

Truthfulness is a tricky issue. When someone tells me the truth about my own unconscious and discriminatory behavior, I tend to tighten my defenses, batten the hatches, squint back at them with a glowering expression on my face, and feel hurt, unheard and misunderstood.

It all seems to come back to not only seeing deeply, but also to listening deeply. Great politicians know this. They are masters of the art of making people feel good so that they will come and sit down nicely at the negotiations table. And it takes great courage and wisdom to be this open hearted.

Concepts are easy to figure out as concepts, but so difficult to implement in practice. This one of opening my heart wide enough to understand the thoughtless behavior of the people and institutions promoting divisive practices stretches me way beyond my limits. It means I need to listen deeply enough until I understand where the makers of TV violence are coming from; that I look into their hearts until I recognize that they are afraid of poverty or that they probably weren’t very loved when they were babies. Or something!

I know that my midwife and doula friends will resonate with the stretch that it takes to open our hearts wide enough to understand how the business of birth got so … businesslike, and how and when it lost its soul. It includes stretching beyond our frustrations into a place where we can love the people and policy makers in the institutions enough that we entice them to the negotiating table.

Opening our hearts wide enough to birth the truth beneath the suffering and avarice in our world requires that I understand the pain in the closed down hearts of the chicken farmers and the lying politicians and the people who govern Monsanto. I don’t think my heart is big enough. I don’t think I have the capacity. But I do think there is a seed of a good idea in there that has the power to sprout into a tree that looks like the Tree of Souls in Avatar, with roots deep enough to infiltrate the power structures and an energetic matrix that can permeate the hardest of hearts.

by robyn

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MAY 2, 2016

The Missing Element in Addressing Obstetric Violence

 

Obstetric violence is a global phenomenon. Nowhere is it more frequently observed and recorded than in South Africa. It is a violation of human rights that requires urgent attention.

Suggested remedies range from punitive measures, to teaching the perpetrators (usually the midwives; obstetricians are mistakenly presumed to know this already) how to treat women in labour well.

The interventions are not making a deep enough impression. Midwives report that training in patient care is just one more requirement on a back-breaking to-do list, where they themselves still remain unnoticed. Abuse has not abated significantly. Drastic measures are called for. And the most drastic measure is the recognition that the missing element in the equation is love.

On a continuum of love, with unconditional love placed on one end, it is not hate that we find on the other, but fear. Love versus fear. We live in a fear based society, and nowhere is this more prevalent than in maternity.

Mothers are terrified of pain. To let go of pain they need to let go of fear. To let go of fear they need love and support.

Midwives are afraid of retribution for mistakes made. They hold fiercely onto control. The control of ordering women around and of seeing efficiency as the gold standard of maternity care. While efficiency is important in busy hospital wards, it happens at the expense of feeling. To let go of this control and the fear that drives it, the midwives need love and appreciation for the wonderful work they are doing.

Obstetricians hold the final responsibility for maternal and neonatal outcomes on their shifts and in their wards. It is natural for them to be afraid of mistakes and poor outcomes. Birth can be dangerous, and obstetricians have to pay the highest malpractice insurance premiums of all doctors because things do go wrong at birth. Nobody wants our mothers or babies to die. Once again the response to this fear is one of looking for ways to maintain control. The best way to control labour is to intervene with inductions, vacuum extractions and caesarean sections, even though evidence shows that overuse of interventions leads to negative outcomes. Interventions reduce fear though, so their use continues to rise. Once again, the best way to let go of this fear is through love.

All care providers in maternity, including the obstetricians, need to be respected, listened to and loved enough to allay fear that is deep seated and suppressed under layers of control and years of training to put their own feelings aside. This fear is often not even recognized until it is squarely faced. Like racism, religious intolerance and gender discrimination, the fear at the heart of maternity is an unconscious shadow. It is the pervasive and underlying demon at the heart of obstetric violence.

When did we lose the sacred, awe-inspiring love that is the birthright of every baby? If we bring joy and love back to the birthplace for both the perpetrators and the victims of this violence, then and only then do we have a real chance to slay the monster of fear.

 

by robyn

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From Womb to World

 

During pregnancy our wombs develop, in the words of Rudolf Steiner, a ‘cosmic orientation’ that is held in place by the placenta and the amniotic body of fluid enveloping our babies. Many indigenous cultures honour the placenta as the keeper of spiritual wisdom, and as the baby’s spiritual mother.

Our exquisitely sensitive cervixes are the guardians of this sacred space, ensuring that our babies can develop undisturbed.

To breach the cervix by forcing it open through induction or through ‘stretching and sweeping’, is damaging to its psyche. Unnecessary interference in the natural process of birth sends a message to our bodies that they are not to be trusted and that they have no idea of how to protect and take care of themselves or the baby that they have spent nine miraculous months creating.

When the foetus gives the cervix the sign that the time is ripe, its role is to surrender and let go of its guardianship and become the gate that honours the passage of the newborn out into the world.

Our hormones are the messengers between the foetus and the cervix. Send the wrong messages – of fear and resistance – and the cervix does what it is primed to do; it closes down to protect its beautiful baby within. If the messengers are ones of love (oxytocin), and well-being (beta-endorphins) – it gracefully moves its guards aside and open its gateway to the external world.

If it understands its role well enough, through good communication with the endocrine system, the cervix can embrace the role of opening with a fullness and an instinctual knowing that can be ecstatic.

 

by robyn

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MARCH 7, 2016

Balancing the Power in the Maternity system.

 

I find it hard to work in hospital maternity wards. In the South African private sector, the majority of obstetricians who are in charge of all the deliveries, not ‘births’ but ‘deliveries’, are autocratic in their decisions to ‘cut’ (doctor speak for perform a caesarean), vacuum, slice episiotomies or to induce their patients. Not ‘clients’ of course, but ‘patients’. There is little consultation or discussion, the patients are told, jovially, because they’re paying, that doctor knows best, and that they’re exceptionally fortunate to have a healthy baby. We all know that scenario.

In the public sector, where the births are also referred to as deliveries but are overseen by midwives, the lack of parental autonomy is even more pronounced. ‘Patients’ are seldom greeted by name, and abuse ranges from patients are being slapped across the face in labour, yelled at that they will kill their babies if they don’t behave, punished by being left on their own to birth their babies, or told to clean up their own ‘mess’ after giving birth.

My initial reaction is inflammatory. The balance of power must be addressed, the victims of the system need my help. We, who know better, should rise up and address these issues with sirens blaring, guns firing on semi-automatic and grenades exploding. David and Goliath stuff. Except that Goliath wins almost every time.

Albert Einstein, bless him for his wisdom, said ‘No problem can be solved by the same level of consciousness that created it’.

I need to draw far enough away from the situation that my incendiary reactions are not sparked by what close up can only be termed obstetric violence. From a distance I see victims and perpetrators caught in an unhealthy power dynamic in an over mechanized system that dehumanizes everybody, ‘patient’ and doctor alike.

You can’t have a rapist without a victim of rape, a bully without someone more vulnerable to abuse, a dictator without an oppressed populace. They feed one another. The midwives who are abusive to laboring women pick the most vulnerable women to be mean to; the teenagers, the refugees, the HIV positive women, the sex workers. For all that these women might be screaming or whimpering in pain in labour, they are voiceless victims in the system.

If I look deeply into the continuum of power, an interesting pattern around masculine and feminine archetypes emerges. These are not gender classifications. I know plenty of aggressive women and many wimpy men. In Chinese medicine the archetypes would be referred to as yang and yin. In the West the archetypes are probably clearer in their masculine and feminine forms. On a continuum of power from the extreme exploitation of the tyrant through balanced equity of power down to the total disempowerment of the victim, the negative masculine energy holds the most power and the negative feminine energy holds the least. Positive masculine and positive feminine qualities sit balanced in the center.

Power traits

Negative MasculinePositive MasculineBalance of powerPositive FeminineNegative Feminine

Abusive

 

Dictatorial

Tyrannical

Raping

Killing

Autocratic

Closed hearted

Judgmental

Wise

 

Providing

Protecting

Intellectual

Rational

Grounded

Warrior energy

Benevolent

Transcends emotions

 

 

Standing in Truth

 

Integrity

Authenticity

Equanimous

Respected

Respectful

Loving

 

Maternal

Nurturing

Tender

Abundant

Fertile

Peaceful

Listening

Serene

Intuitive

Victimized

 

Manipulative

Secretive yet Gossiping

Scheming

Martyr complex

Helpless

Pained

Vulnerable

 

 

 

Victims and abusers feed one another within this dynamic. By fighting for the oppressed, or trying to torch the system, the problem doesn’t go away, the dynamic remains the same. We have simply switched sides. We are still caught in a negative feedback loop where nobody is happy.

Unequal distribution of power is killing our planet through plunder and extinction of species and greed for more power. It is also killing the heart of the maternity system, because it is so hard to stay open hearted in the midst of so much fear and passive aggression.

What would Albert Einstein, Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, Martin Luther King or Aung San Suu Kyi do?

They would step out of the oppressor/oppressed loop and stand in their own balanced power in the center. Nelson Mandela was considered a fool to engage in dialogue with the Afrikaners and British Colonialists, who were responsible, either through their actions, or through their ignorant disdain, for imprisoning him for twenty-seven years for challenging the Apartheid regime. After his release, he didn’t trust that what they had done to him was acceptable or good; he simply trusted in the underlying goodness of their souls, beneath the fear that caused them to incarcerate him for all those years. He said, “The best weapon is to sit down and talk.” Our response to his trust was a global, unanimous love for the man. He imagined the best in his oppressors and brought out the best in them.

A centered place of power is a place of wisdom, truth, authenticity and clarity, but it is also a place of love and the ability to listen deeply to everybody.

If we think that it is only the women who are being slapped in labour who are in pain, we are caught in judgment and are not yet looking deeply enough. The midwives who are yelling at them are in pain too. No-one listens to them, they are undervalued, overwhelmed, emotionally overloaded and burnt out.

If we think that the obstetricians who don’t recognize the emotional needs of patients and infants are too focused on golf or on the latest technological gadget, we need to look deeper. They have insurance premiums that require that they attend a minimum of thirty births a month if they are to survive financially. Try doing that without a few cesareans a week! And in too many academic institutions worldwide, the hearts of medical students are forced closed during their training, as an unspoken part of the curriculum. They are taught that they have to hold it together at all costs and never show their feelings. They are taught to become authoritative and to give the impression of knowing it all, under the mistaken illusion that this will make patients feel safe. It is a lonely, often frightening place to be, where there is no debriefing and no skills training in compassionate care for themselves or their clients. They too need to be heard, they too want a better world for everybody. They too, hurt deeply under their masks when their patients are in pain or the midwives are abusive.

The doctors might think that a better world is one where they have more technology, the midwives might think that a better world is one where they have more power than their peers and can become like the doctors, the patients might think that a better world is one where they never have to see that midwife again and where they can seek retribution for their violent birth experience. All those things matter and are good. They need to be taken seriously.

But they will not change the system.

Let’s move into the center of our power. Let’s become like Mandela. Let’s be wise and listen to all sides of the story with equal interest and empathy. We are all in pain, and we all need love.

 

by robyn

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JUNE 16, 2015

The new way of being in the world

 

This new form of consciousness that we’re birthing into the world at the moment is phenomenal in its expansiveness. It’s quite unlike anything that the world has known as a collective consciousness prior to this time.

Martha Beck, bless her wild, wonderful way of being, calls it Wordlessness, perhaps because it is either pre-or post-verbal in its expression. Ken Wilbur terms it the Super Human Operating System.

What both of them are referring to is an Integral consciousness, an experience of being in the world whilst interconnected with all other beings. It is a sense of Oneness consciousness, and an experience of understanding the ‘World Without’ on a deeper level of perception. It is a merging with the ground of all being which is experienced as unconditional love whilst simultaneously maintaining optimal lines of intelligence and an ability to be grounded in Earthly existence.

Soul Integration fits beautifully into this map of inclusive Consciousness. It is at its most powerfully transformative at birth. This is because it makes such a difference to birthing babies to have a soul connection to their parents through the journey of birth. Birthing mothers and fathers can maintain this connection optimally when their awareness is expanded into a place of Witness and Oneness consciousness during labour. The intensity of labour and the hormones of labour facilitate this process. Doing so makes labour so much less painful that it is worth maintaining for the pain factor alone. Oneness consciousness (and this fits in with Martha Beck’s description of Wordlessness) is a state of being that unborn babies resonate at, they live in Wordlessness. Birthing into an environment that resonates with them on a soul level makes babies happy.

 

Although babies are also connected to their physical bodies, and their emotional and felt sense perceptions whilst they are in the womb, unborn babies are much more than that. They are still conscious of being entirely merged into a place of deep spiritual awareness, their spiritual bodies are vast and their sense of being merged with Oneness is uninhibited.

Babies can experience trauma while they are in the womb, and this trauma does have a long term impact on the deeper levels of their psyche, in fact it moulds and shapes the way that they are in the world. However, the real impact of prenatal trauma only really hits them at birth and beyond. Babies in the womb report through the unborn child sessions that they’re not as deeply affected by it. This is because they are not yet fully attached to their physical and emotional bodies which are storing these traumatic memories.

At birth a baby moves into his or her physical body, into his or her emotional body and at the same time becomes somewhat disconnected from the experience of Oneness consciousness. The less the birth team and the parents’ awareness is placed on the baby’s ability to maintain connection to Oneness, the more disconnected he or she becomes from it.

It seems that it is only possible for babies to actually hold onto a perception of still being in Oneness consciousness after birth if they are supported to do so by their environment that they are moving into. If their parents can be in a place of Wordlessness, and can have integrated this fully into their beings so that they’re holding that space of still, clear awareness during labour and birth, then their babies are able to remain connected to Oneness through birth and beyond.

 

This is tremendous in its implications. If the babies can maintain their connection to Oneness consciousness, this means that we can begin birthing a whole generation of entirely different beings. We’re already doing this through remembering how to be in Wordlessness ourselves. However it is one thing healing our previous wounds in order to move into Oneness. And it is a whole step towards breeding a new category of human if we are able to provide the circumstances for babies to remain completely connected as they come into the world. They would then be born directly into what Ken Wilbur terms the 2nd tier of awareness. At the moment Wilbur says we are born at the bottom of the 1st level and we grow through different stages of consciousness. We move higher up through these stages if we consciously choose to evolve, until we reach the 2nd tier of development which is the birth of this new form of consciousness. However as part of this paradigm of potential, if we birth babies directly into the 2nd tier, they would work through the stages of development from a different perspective altogether because they would remain immersed in Oneness consciousness whilst they are simultaneously growing through all the usual stages of development.

 

by robyn

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Hope springs eternal in the human heart

‘I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death’. Robert Fulghum

In the past months, when I wake up in the mornings, there is this strong flow of hopeful, resilient connection to something deeper and wiser than me streaming through my body. I know I’m not alone in this, although individuals have different ways of expressing or perhaps of experiencing the same thing. When I ask others how they would express it, Shafeeka says ‘it feels like a big sunshine bursting out my belly saying “yay it’s a new day, it’s faith alive”. There is just endless, unlimited passion.’ Ruth says, ‘Yesterday I got great joy from planting a granadilla bush. In looking at my life, especially how difficult things have been lately, what has been a very growing experience, and a driving force, has been learning to tap into my voice, my essence and following that. And when I do that I’m happy and I see that it doesn’t matter what my circumstances are, because they don’t seem to matter as much. For me the big learning curve has been giving myself permission to listen to that inner voice, and to actually follow it. And it may not make sense to people, like living in a one bedroom house with four children doesn’t make sense to people, but its easy to clean, and means I’m able to spend more productive time with my children.’ Zephne knows when she gets ‘kiepvel’, or goosebumps, she needs to be very conscious of what is being said by whom, or the surroundings, ‘because it is not me, it is The Great Spirit.’

The hope that exists for all of us is tremendous – we have access to such power and potential now; power that feels more available to us than ever before. But to believe that we are hoping for an ideal, perfect life without challenges is erroneous. This hope springs from a deep well of sorrow at the awful mess we’ve created in our lives and on Earth. To use the title of Charles Eisenstein’s beautiful book[1], we hope for ‘The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible’.

It is the same kind of hope that inspired Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor, to acts of deep compassion and caring whilst imprisoned in various concentration camps during World War II. He subsequently wrote the highly acclaimed Man’s Search For Meaning which was originally published under the title Nevertheless, Say “Yes” to Life: A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp. The book chronicles his experiences as a concentration camp inmate, which led him to discover the importance of finding meaning in all forms of existence, even the most brutal ones, and thus, a reason to continue living.

It is the hope that inspires octogenarians, nonagenarians and centenarians to go sky-diving, rollerblading and pole-dancing because, despite their crumbling bodies, the joy bubbles out of them so strongly they can’t repress it so as to become as sedate as their contemporaries.[2]

I am referring to the hope that inspires me when I meet Sister Abegail Ntleko, who is in her eighties and still has numerous adopted children, whose parents died of AIDS, living with her. I met about 12 of them, all delightfully well-spoken, but there are another 8 at least who are grown now, not to mention the other sixty or so who still live in the orphanage she used to take care of. She received the Dalai Lama’s ‘Unsung Heroes’ award for her life of extending her heart out to wherever it was needed, whether it was staying up for nights on end tending to sick patients as a nurse, or delivering babies on the kitchen floor of her two room shack whilst her orphans slept in the room next door. As she descried it, ‘First I raised my bed onto cinder blocks, so that some could sleep on top and some underneath. A second bed on the other side of the room was also raised and the space underneath it used for storage. Those who didn’t fit on the beds would sleep in the small space between the bedroom and the kitchen, or on the kitchen floor. At night, a child’s body covered practically every spot, so you didn’t know where to step.’ When I chat to her, Sister Abby is soft spoken, warm and as patient as the Drakensberg mountain planted solidly behind her. Not only does she find the time to laugh, she also described how in the Apartheid era she used to attend all the church services on Sundays in the very conservative community of Underberg, even though they catered for ‘whites only’. It was a friendly act of activism emerging from a deep belief in human dignity and rights and a powerful ability to stand in her truth.

The human spirit is indomitable. I frequently hear stories from people who value life events even when they are difficult. Linda is a friend of mine who works in the prisons with a group of maximum security inmates who were incarcerated for crimes ranging from armed robbery to rape or murder. She worked with sixteen men who formed an inspirational syndicate in the prison called The Group of Hope. Linda is their interface with the outside world, and she assists them to have a significant voice that is changing the face of rehabilitation in the prison system. The men themselves were responsible for the creation of the group and for the ideas directing it. They initially started with growing vegetables to feed other prisoners with AIDs. When they had too many vegetables they sold them to provide support for AIDs orphans living outside the prison. Then they set up a sewing workshop to make quilts to keep the orphans warm in winter. They made so many extra quilts that they sold many of them to provide the educational fees for the orphans. They eventually managed to ‘adopt’ many of these kids, and these days they make beautiful hand-rolled jewelry out of recycled paper which buy the kids birthday presents, school clothing and occasional parties. The Group of Hope also runs workshops for correctional services on AIDs awareness. But the most remarkable thing about them is their spirit. All of them live with roll calls, prison politics and prison protocols ruling their lives, yet they are amusing, warm hearted, down to earth men who support one another, and appreciate life as fully as they can within the limiting, tiny cell they are all sharing. Even outside the prison they are making a difference. Sihle Tshabalala, now on parole, an ex-armed robber, describes life outside. “People in the townships have lost their dignity,” he explains. “Ex-offenders know the struggles that take their dignity. So we can give it back. We can give hope.”

This hope isn’t ‘out there’. These people are not extraordinary as much as they are slightly ahead of their time. They are simply tapping into a wealth of strength and power that belongs to the collective and that resonates at a frequency of unconditional love. It cannot be used for personal gain because its energy is that of joy, peacefulness, serenity and compassion. This power is so close to us. It is one breath away, right here. As we spiral into circumstances that are incompatible with survival, so it moves us closer and closer into our hearts. This source of wellbeing and potential for real health is pressed up against our noses, strengthening our backbones, and burbling into every cell of our bodies in an irrepressible fountain of joy.

[1] Charles Eisenstein. The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible. North Atlantic Books 2013. Charles Eisenstein relates real life stories that show how small, individual acts of courage, kindness and self trust can change our culture’s guiding narrative of separation, which, he explains, has generated the present planetary crisis.

[2] Vladimir Yakovlev’s ‘Age of Happiness’ project features retirees who are young at heart, taking up new hobbies in their 70s, 80s and 90s. https://www.facebook.com/theageofhappiness

 

by robyn

 

Liminal Living. The Way of Soul Integration.

Liminal Living. The Way of Soul Integration.

We are trembling as a species.

Poised at a defining moment of being either on the brink of wiping ourselves out, or of transforming to a higher level of consciousness collectively, we are momentarily hovering in the space between. It is as if life has become transparent. This offers us the potential for more clarity, since we can see through the density at last, yet at the same time reality has become more ephemeral and has lost some of the reliable solidity of material existence. We still perceive it as solid, but the solidity is not reliable since our link to it has been made tenuous through the ecological crisis we are in, and because we have awakened to the power that our external environment is only a mirror for our internal experience. The recognition that we can change who we are, that we can raise or lower our vibrational frequency, that we can change our environment through our intentions, makes our world lissom, supple, or more graceful.

It also makes it more scary. More unknown. More astonishing.

We have moved into liminal space. Liminal means ‘between’. It is a threshold, either between being asleep and awakening, life and death, or the breakdown of an old order and the establishment of a new one. When a liminal state exists it allows for fluid boundaries and creates malleable situations. Out of this dissolution of being neither here nor there, or in both places at once, new institutions and customs can emerge. It is the necessary ‘gap’ that we need to fall into in order to create a new world order that is less hierarchical, one that is more aligned to being in tune with the Earth. Tibetan Buddhists refer to the liminal state as the ‘bardo’. Traditionally the bardo states refer to the time between one life and the next. In liminal lands we are transitioning between realms, one foot in dream space and one in waking consciousness, or one foot in our present way of life that is destructive to the planet, and one foot in the hopeful resonance of a more integrated consciousness where solutions to the ecological crisis that we are facing can reveal themselves. This space of liminal awareness is the pivot point. The new form of conscious awareness we are birthing on Earth of collaboration and inter-being arises from this point.

The feeling we tap into through liminal space is one of being poised, hesitant, vulnerable, and simultaneously bursting with potential. Liminal spaces are this and that, here and there, both and neither, they are in-between. They present the opportunity for massive transformation and yet they are delicate as unfurling butterfly wings. They makes demands of a different sort of us, requiring that we stop our daily distractions, notice their luminous, transparent quality and breathe anew.

 

Today is a Sunday, a meditative restful day of allowing some space for stillness to arise. This morning I wore my pyjamas and dressing gown till long after morning was a distant memory. This afternoon I went for a walk and the recent rains had caused moss to grow on all the pathways. This evening I made pumpkin fritters with large yellow squashes because I didn’t have any pumpkin. Mostly though I spent the day meditating, settling and letting go. Extraordinary beauty emerged in everything as the day progressed. It arose from opening my heart to the stillness within, and the stillness overflowed into everything around. I revelled in the grace arising in this unpretentious place.

Stillness is.

The movement of stillness is not more inward than outward, because stillness is quiet and without movement. We move inward to access stillness, but in stillness we rest, and out of that resting, form grows naturally and effortlessly. Pure stillness is a liminal space. It is the creative potential at the point before bursting forth into manifestation.

Moment by moment turning our awareness inwards into this point of pure being, the brilliant kaleidoscope of life emerges like water from a spring.

At this pivot point out of which our direction arises, we settle into the natural order of things, and into flowing in harmony with the Way of the unconditional and unknowable source and guiding principle of all reality.

This still point resonates with love, serenity, joy and compassion. It is the level of awareness that we must birth into if we are to find solutions to the present ecological crisis we are facing on Earth. As Albert Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

Our responsibility is to know that from centering in the pivot of liminal space we create these worlds of experience on Earth, and to become the puppeteer rather than the puppet we must first become the still point at the centre.

The easiest time of day for me to tune into this point is on waking. Each day I play with noticing how long I can maintain my balance in this luscious moment by moment experience before falling forward into directing and controlling my life again.

It is entirely possible for me to preserve my equilibrium whilst brushing my teeth, showering, meditating, eating breakfast, walking, seeing clients and working in my garden. But sitting in front of my computer where I spend a lot of working time, usually zaps it, as does talking on my cell phone, being in a rush, or being stuck in traffic jams.

Hypnogogic awareness

My son Nix and I once attended a weeklong lucid dreaming retreat with a young teacher, Charlie Morley, at Bodhi Khaya, a retreat centre near Stanford in South Africa. We all got to drag our mattresses into the shrine room and use sleep as a meditation exercise. Charlie is a Master at lucid dreaming, and he experiences his dreams as more real than everyday life. Because he is consciously aware in these dreams, he can direct his subconscious to resolve many of his deep seated issues. Much as I admired his skill and wished I could lucid dream every night, I wasn’t in fact very proficient at lucid dreaming. However I came away from the retreat with a deeper cognitive understanding of the still, centred place I’ve been referring to above, because I learned that it is created by aligning my brain waves to higher amplitudes. This piece of information was like a central puzzle piece onto which many other puzzle pieces could attach to form a clearer sense of myself in relation to the world.

Charlie described the twilight zone that we move through prior to falling asleep as the hypnopompic state, and the one of emerging into wakefulness as the hypnogogic state. At these times our brains are resonating at about 7.5 Hz or at the border between alpha and theta waves. We can learn to balance ourselves in this space between sleep and wakefulness, and doing so boosts our creativity, reduces stress and energizes our minds and bodies. I instantly recognized that Charlie’s descriptions of moving into and out of sleep were synonymous with my experience of the still point.

 

Liminal delight

Unlike normal dreaming where I lose consciousness for the most part, in liminal space I am hyper-aware. I need to remain clear and focused to not only remain for longer periods in liminal consciousness, but also to function in the world whilst holding my awareness there. I can only harness the wisdom and insights of liminal space if I’m fully conscious when I’m there.

It is not difficult though; because liminal space is so delightful that it is magnetic too. When I am enveloped in a liminal world the bird song outside my window is sweeter, my early morning cup of hot water is more hydrating, and my heart buzzes with gratitude.

A few years ago I wrote about the feeling of waking into liminal awareness. I dug around in my dusty computer files to find it, and extracted this short piece:

The Universe made love to me again last night,

My body sparkles, deeply quiet.

Within the womb of my blue-grey duvet

Whole worlds unfurl.

The liminal art of transitioning between worlds is like bridging Heaven and Earth. Liminal living is not an escape into a heavenly realm and away from this one, but rather an experience of pure presence. It includes bridging the astral planes that hang between the two. The astral plane is often filled with emotional gunk, so to access the delight of liminal space we also have to be very open to clearing away the sticky stuff that we carry as our emotional baggage.

There are many ways to access liminal space depending on our choices, interests, personalities and our passions.

Zoning into the liminal

Being ‘in the zone’ is another description of the liminal experience, and the ways to access the ‘zone’ are many and varied. Jenny cycles to enter ‘the zone’, Anne sees clients, Alan runs marathons, Bob gardens, Shafeeka goes to trance parties and dances with her two young children, Jazper creates culinary masterpieces, Cecil fixes cars in the hot Botswana sun, Pat teaches horse riding to disabled kids, Oonagh laughs with autistic ones, Malika tells stories, Sarah slams poems, Karen delivers babies and Maf sings and writes lyrics. Sometimes all I do is lie in bed and smile at the ridiculous deliciousness of it all.

Movement arising from a liminal space

Another way to describe liminal living is to notice how life passes us by when we stand in the centre of it. Like a movie made up of single images spliced together to form a landscape rolling past the moving car that is filming it, when I walk in liminal space, the bushes, grasses and trees move past on either side of me as if I’m in a movie. When I’m in my centre, life flows past me even though I’m the one who is actually moving.

This is an enticing exercise. We simply put one foot in front of the other whilst our peripheral vision allows the world to flow by as we move. It is walking meditation as a fine art. It feels like a state of grace and it occurs to many pilgrims when they walk the Camino or go on Haj. Being in the zone, entering this higher stream of consciousness or being in the flow is merging with God.

Beloved Afghan poet Rumi was a Sufi who belonged to the order of the Whirling Dervishes. He used the movement of pirouetting to take him into this still point in the centre. Instead of this being a one way flow where the still point creates the dance, as described by T S Eliot’s poem “… except for the point, the still point, there would be no dance, and there is only the dance”, for Rumi the dance also created the still point:

“Dance, when you’re broken open.

Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.

Dance in the middle of the fighting.

Dance in your blood.”

Credo Mutwa, a Southern African sangoma has a clear understanding of dance and its relationship to the liminal. He says, Dance is used for many purposes – all of them positive!  In the old days there were massive migrations along exactly the same migration paths year after year.  The animals were actually migrating along powerful ley lines and reacted as if the earth is singing to them.  These migrations vibrated the earth.  Nowadays the natural migration paths have been disturbed, so we need to dance.  By dancing you scratch the earth where it is always itchy!!  Through movement the earth comes alive, heals itself and in turn heals you!”   

Friedrich Nietzsche also understood this still point, and he recognized that to some of us, it is so foreign as to seem confounding. He said, “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”

 

The nada sound that arises in liminal space

A small part of the music of the spheres that we tune into through liminal living is that of the ‘nada’ sound, which is sometimes called ‘the sound of silence’. It is in fact a high-pitched ringing tone, sometimes misdiagnosed as tinnitus, which resonates with the hum of Universal energy. From Sanskrit, ‘Nad’ means to flow. The etymological meaning of Nada is a process or a stream of consciousness. Generally, the word Nada means sound. There are yoga schools that base their meditation on this technique. Kabir, 15th Century mystic poet described it thus,

“Nada is found within.

It is a music without strings which plays in the body.

It penetrates the inner and the outer

and leads you away from illusion.”

The nada sound is a manifestation of the experience of bridging worlds. This sound brings us into an awareness of higher planes of consciousness.

The Way of the Tao

Liminal living is kin to the ‘Way’ as expressed by Taoists. The ‘Tao’ describes the Unknowable and Ineffable, yet even though we can’t grasp it directly, through it we become manifest. The Way of the Tao holds the quality of effortless effort, it is sometimes called the Watercourse Way. Water flows around obstacles, it follows the path of least resistance, yet over millennia it wears away rocks and mountains.

Liminal living is the art of standing poised between the Tao and the material world, bridging the two. It is neither and both, it is doing and non-doing.,

Kari Hohne’s poetic interpretation of the Tao Te Ching, written by Lao Tzu in the 4th Century BC, describes the Way of the Tao thus:

“… we rise like an ocean wave

called forward by the moon.

we breathe into the wind

the way winter changes into spring.

we do,

not with expectation

but because the night sky

is suddenly filled with light.

And like the bird who sings

without knowing why,

every step is taken with gratitude.

Who can be patient

until life returns us to its dance?”[1]

 

The liminal awareness of babies and children

Babies live in liminal space, they have not yet entirely left behind the world of dreams and cosmic consciousness and yet they are fully immersed in the fascinating exploration of living in a tiny, rather uncooperative body. My son Rory drops into this liminal space when he plays with his toddler Caetano. Rory’s face softens, he becomes enchanted and captivated when he sees the world through Caetano’s eyes where even cracks in the dusty Lima pavement can be fascinating areas for investigation.

Time disappears for children playing endlessly in liminal space. The play that children love best is the play of working. Driving boats, trains or fire engines, pouring tea into fairy sized cups, mothering baby dolls, or building bridges and roads and empires and castles is all work which children love to do. When did we adults lose our love for work? Often I hear radio presenters complaining about how it is only Tuesday, so far away from the weekend, as if we all know that work is something to be endured, but never enjoyed.

When did we lose our connection to the living, breathing Earth beneath our feet? When did we forget how to bridge worlds? How did we become so very disconnected? This separation, this division of Heaven and Earth, of body and being, of ourselves from unconditional love, of soul and spirit, of play and work, is the root cause of worthlessness, depression, wars and environmental degradation on Earth.

Meditation on liminal space

The liminal land is fleeting and elusive. To capture it requires stealth and patience, like a lion intent on its prey. When the sun is hot and fierce, a warm breeze ruffles its mane, flies twitch the skin on its back, but nothing disturbs its focus. The lion’s intention is so pure that even the birds hold their breath. Watch how it prepares itself. Feel its stillness and absorption. Every muscle is alert, the marrow in its bones tingles in anticipation, its paw-pads hold the earth steady. The lion’s breathing is slow and sure, its eyes do not waver, its ears quiver this way and that, listening to every shifting moment.

Wait like the lion. Your prey is this very moment. Let nothing distract your watching. Not your cell phone in your bag, a mosquito on your neck, or an ache in your shoulder blade. Gather your attention like the lion. Hold this moment in your awareness as if your life depended on it. Become still and absorbed. Allow each muscle in your body to relax into responsive alertness.

Just so. The waiting is the capturing. You will not find it elsewhere. This very moment in time is the point of it all.

Soul Integration into the liminal

We can also access the liminal lands through Soul Integration sessions. They are one of many different modalities for diving into the deeper layers of our consciousness to discover creative solutions to our problems, or to retrieve insights on global ones, or to meet soul to soul with our loved (or hated!) ones to align with the true purpose of our relationships.

Working in the liminal realm acknowledges the wisdom of our inner knowing, and aligns with that to delve into deeper levels of consciousness to clear what is contracted and resistant to life. Process work, Karuna sessions, Hakomi or Transpersonal psychology are other modalities that trust the truth of the body and the soul to develop more clarity in our lives. However I only have in depth experience of Soul Integration work, and it is profoundly powerful.

In a Soul Integration session we use active imagination to travel into the liminal lands where the underlying ground of our being, experienced as unconditional love, is tangible. Once we’ve tethered our consciousness to the wisdom inherent in this love, we can explore the murky filters that we have created that impinge on our ability to live authentically and to be truly present to our lives in a wise, serene and loving manner.

The role of the facilitator is to hold a trustworthy enough space for clients to anchor their awareness to their inner wisdom. We call this inner wisdom the Higher Self, and it serves to protect the client during the session. The Higher Self knows exactly where we need to delve to discover and release the roots of our problems, but it also knows to only show us that which we are ready to release at any given time.

Lisa is a Soul Integration facilitator. She works with gentleness and a sense of the sacred; a deep honouring of life. Lisa has passion for the wildness of soul and the art and adventure of its uncovering. She says, “The evidence of the mystery and the power of the work and the wisdom of the soul and psyche of each client are deeply meaningful and wonderful to witness.”

 

Stream entry

Each time I have an “Oh wow!” insight about life through dropping into this mystery, whether through Soul Integration work, through meditation or through eating a fine plate of mushroom risotto, I am always gratified to notice that many people are having identical breakthroughs in their awareness elsewhere in the world. It is as though the lightness of liminal living is beginning to shine through all the cracks that are breaking up our existing, more constricted world-views.

We need this light desperately, because metaphorically, we can hardly breathe any longer in the stale, dense, atmosphere of our very damaged societies. People worldwide are searching for radical reform and are waking up to alternative solutions that have always been waiting in the ethers ready for downloading when the time was right.

At the same time that I describe the delicate balancing act of centering my awareness on the pivot point between intuition and rational thought, many other people are describing or experiencing liminal living in myriad alternative ways. They might arrive at their insights through being irritated by the tinnitus created by the Universal hum, or through being overwhelmed by the separation from God consciousness that, whilst a trait of the human condition, is also more strongly prevalent in the hopelessness of 21st Century life. They might describe their breakthrough as ‘presence’ or ‘inter-being’ or ‘the birth of a new form of consciousness’, but the most inspiring part of these shared insights is that they exemplify what Buddhists for centuries have termed ‘stream entry’[2], and this ‘stream’ is becoming a flood. It is awe-inspiring. However ‘awe’ isn’t always the easiest emotion to deal with. The flood is washing away the crumbling hierarchies of the existing world order. And this flood is likely to turn into a tsunami soon enough. It is time to wake up to it, because we don’t have a lot of time left to learn how to surf.

 

 

 

[1] Kari Hohne. ‪Tao Te Ching: The Poetry of Nature. Chapter 15. Way of Tao Books, 2009

[2] ‘Stream entry’ or ‘Sota-apanna’ literally means “one who entered (āpanna) the stream (sota)”, after a metaphor which calls the Noble Eightfold Path, ‘a stream’ which leads to Nibbana or Nirvana. Stream-entry (Sota-apatti) is the first of the four stages of enlightenment.

 

by robyn

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