Rites of Passage

This blog post has been a long time coming. Perhaps when the intensity of a situation is so strong, some time has to pass before you can express your experience clearly in words.

I am a birthkeeper, meaning I hold the sacredness of this rite of passage near and dear to my heart, and I do what I can to bring light to the world of childbirth. When the #1 word that comes to mind when women think of  birth is “pain,” (way ahead of “baby” btw) there is plenty of light needed.

The past six months I have spent a lot of time in the presence of the opposite rite of passage, death. The experience of watching a beloved family member get sick, fade and pass before our eyes in a matter of months was heartbreaking on so many levels.

The birthkeeper in me also found it completely fascinating. Why? Because despite the intense sorrow there were many moments that were so profound, so full of love, so real and palpable that the sensation of grief in my body was tinged with something else.

It’s a feeling that I hesitate to call ecstasy because the context is so very different from how I usually talk about ecstasy.

Or is it?

Birth and death are the most pivotal rites of passages that we live as human beings here on this planet, both wrapped in the mysterious essence of our condition. Where do we come from and where do we go?

rite of passage

As we witnessed the passing of my father in law, my son was turning 13 and we were preparing for the ritual that would mark his emergence as a man in our community. Not long after that, there was a wedding in the family, another rite of passage.

I could feel the mirroring throughout all of it: birth, life, death, the rites of passages in our lives. This was such an emotional time in our lives yet I could feel a part of me paying very close attention. I was intuitively aware that as a witness to these rites of passages, I was soaking something in that would undoubtedly inform the work I do here in this space.

These are the gifts I’d like to share now, to the best that I can articulate–

  1. Ecstasy is not a result of a specific set of conditions outside of ourselves, but an alignment with the deepest truth that we are living in each and every moment.
  2. Our truths are not always pretty, but their expression is our path to joy and a sense of freedom.
  3. The full spectrum of our e-motions (energy in motion) are meant to be expressed and flow through us. When we hold on too tightly we block the energy flow in our body and our life force. This is the primary cause of suffering, not the emotion itself.
  4. Circles of love and support are invaluable. Asking for or allowing help is not a sign of weakness but a way to be stronger than you can possibly be on your own.
  5. Fear is best diffused in the presence of someone who can hold a calm and steady tone of love for you, even (or especially) when you flail.
  6. These sacred moments of life and death, the intensity of rites of passage, bring forth the essence of it all, LOVE.

All of this has been such an affirmation of the work I’ve been doing with women in preparing for childbirth, a rite of passage which can easily be packed with fear and pain…  or it can be one of the most transformative, empowering, and potentially pleasurable experiences in a woman’s life.

I’d prefer all our new moms to experience the latter, wouldn’t you?

(That’s why I created the Ecstatic Birth Training Sessions)

 

 

Sheila