There is a moment in a Breathwork session when I realise that the sacred and mundane has met within the one I am witnessing. It is a gentle moment when I feel my own soul soften with the mystery unfolding, followed by the rising of a movement within me to bow deeply to the other, “I recognise you”. It doesn't always happen, yet often does.
I realise that the sacred and mundane are not dualisms. Yet the meeting point of each, the interstices where these move together, is recognised within me in a profound way. It is like the crossing over point of the infinity symbol. There, in that movement there is much and nothing. Words are not right in this space. The master is the breath. The body in front of me is the instrument. It is beautiful beyond words and very very normal. There is absolutely nothing to do.
This place is recognised by me also when I support women through labour and birth. Not always, but often. There is a time when the shamanic midwife in me bows to the woman labouring or birthing in front of me. There is nothing else to do. I am humble, I am not bigger than this process nor this birth nor this mother. I bow to her, and yet I am also bowing to the one who has arrived from within her.
I often wonder where these movements deep within originate from. It feels like a bowing to the unseen mystery, to the divine mother and to the emergence of life. Yet even more so it is likely a deep original recognition of the human relationship with the divine. The teacher is in the room. We are not bigger than. We take our place, and bow.
At these times I realise that the work we carry out as ‘midwives to the awakening of the soul in the other’ is just that – the midwife. We don’t know what is unfolding, who don’t know who is unfolding and we never know exactly when. We just witness and, at some point, we bow.
I continue to meditate with this (un)knowing in my practice, I stay with the mystery and I also feel held by it. I feel blessed that this is my work.
Becoming a Shamanic Midwife
Clients sometimes thank me for supporting their birthing or their personal transformation in a way that imagines I have ‘done something’. And it’s just not true. My wish is that I do nothing; that I continue to do my own work so that I am ready; that I witness; and that I sit with a sense of integrity and honesty and unwavering trust so that I can be truly open to recognise that which makes me bow. This is my work.
The work of learning to midwife birth and breath is a lifelong apprenticeship to spirit. It is not taken lightly. It is overseen by human teachers and the masters who have come before. It is rewarding- beyond words.
In 2015 in Canberra we have a new Doula student group who are starting this journey and soon I will start this journey with those wishing to midwife breath. I know deeply however that the ‘Training’ is just the beginning. In 2015 I have organised a number of breath retreats to take the work further and have agreed to mentor those who wish to continue the apprenticeship with spirit. I wish to encourage and support those who are called to midwife the awakening of the soul, to do so.
Those called may also wish to join a ‘village’ to support them. Here in Canberra we have a Doula community largely organised by the students and graduates who hold and support each other. In Breathwork we have various lineages and the umbrella of the Australian Breathwork Association – those who hold each other.
I support you reach out, participate and ensure that your apprenticeship is held and nourished and normalised – ensure that it grows you.
For further details, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
www.risingvines.com and www.thebirthyurt.com
 Plato “The greatest privilege of a human life is to become a midwife to the awakening of the soul in another person”
Yes, this is me - UNCOMFORTABLE!
And yes, Microbirth is an excellent film - I highly recommend it!
And, after seeing Microbirth this week, my body is still screaming. It's a woman's scream, a shamanic midwife's scream. I just can’t be quiet anymore about the fact that we don’t need any further research to show that women’s bodies give birth vaginally and that this is best for both mother, baby and our humanity.
I am so darn angry, that our human kind let science go so far as to doubt our bodies. I am angry that women as a collective didn’t stand up to say ‘no’ to research. Our bodies and our babies are play things for science who in the end, after all the trauma, all the interventions trying to ‘save us’, all the times they got in the way in the name of ‘safety’ (to appease the dominant overpowering fear of death – a pathological fear which should be named and be worked on in the first place) – in the end, they tell us that its safer for women’s bodies to give birth vaginally, to leave our babies with us (rather than take them away), and for all women to breastfeed if possible. SERIOUSLY?????
That is the conclusion to decades and generations of torment. That we should now continue what we already knew?
So, my mind turns to ‘what purpose’? Why do we as a society here in Australia, and elsewhere (though not everywhere) require science to tell us what we already know? What is the value here?
I wonder, for what purpose do women put themselves in the hands of professions who try to dominate them (tell them they ‘can’t do this and that’), who are rude, disrespectful, think they know more about the woman’s body than she does, who medicate and numb them to the experience of peak transformation, who don’t believe that they are magnificent, who don’t bow humbly to their ability to conceive, grow and birth life – for what purpose is this on-going trauma? There must be one, otherwise we wouldn’t have done it. And I think it’s worthwhile thinking into the answer.
If we know what we know, for what purpose do we pretend that we don’t? Or for what purpose is it that we want our knowing validated by people who, even after decades of research continue to say ‘we don’t know enough’ we must continue to study and know more, in order for us to support you in birth. I am nervous about people who are not comfortable supporting a woman to give birth just as she is. I mean, considering that for the entire existence of humankind women have been delivering babies – this would have to be one area that we have down pat – it’s not new!!
So, although Microbirth is fantastic, brilliant and a must DVD see by all. I largely think so because it counteracts all the other ‘research’ and gives perspective to those who want to challenge vaginal birthing.
My point however, is that it’s time to start simply honouring women, to apologise for interrupting what she already knew, for not trusting and not listening, to apologise for taking their babies away and assuming you were better placed to handle them, to apologise for shaming women to breastfeed so that women no longer were able to witness it outside of their homes, and to apologise for drugging woman and assuming that she ‘can’t ever do it’ without you. Just apologise! That is what I want research to go into – how can we as a society deeply and humbly apologise and start the healing with women so that we don’t continue this nonsense into the future? How can we heal as a species, how can we normalise birth again? That…. would be very good research.
Happy to hear your thoughts x x Rachel Vines
So you are thinking about Doula Training? How wonderful!
There are a number of consideration to think about when engaging Doula Training. The first is: Why do you wish to become a Doula? What is your passion? What is your end goal? What is it that you would need to grow in you in order to be present for women? Are you willing to witness life or do you want to be involved in it (are you willing to know the difference)?
Answering these questions will go some way in assisting you to work out what your training needs are.
There are a number of Doula training options in Australia - in-person and on-line. Some include practical work, workshops, self development or are more tailored to external tools and knowledge or even just paper based learning.
Doula Training is about learning to be in service to women. It is about moving out of your own 'stuff' and being able to be fully present for another. It is the deepest holding of self and other, witnessing with great humbleness the emergence of life.
It may be a surprise to learn that Doula work is not about the heat packs and the positions of labour and about knowing how birth 'works'. YEP! In fact no one couple has ever said "I really like the way you use that heat pack!"
The Doula 'mothers the mother'. And given this, it is primarily about relationship. It is about learning to mother yourself first so that you can then mother another - without taking, without rescuing - and seeing her as already capable.
A Doula course that is on-line or is strongly tailored to the practical 'doings' and 'knowings' misses the one key essential element of becoming a Doula: that we learn through relationship and engagement and connection - not simply through ego knowledge. Doula learning is embodied knowing. Ask yourself: 'How will I get that?'
A Doula student must be willing to learn through relationships what she needs to learn in order to grow, transform and finally birth herself as Doula.
A Doula student at the Birth Yurt has the opportunity to grow personally and professionally.
She is supported and challenged around held beliefs, assumptions, her own history and story, her fears and drives and her knowing of woman and birth. The first step in the journey is unlearning all that we already 'know'. For when a Doula knows too much then we are not present and we are not witnessing of the other. We risk being bigger than the mother and birth. A Doula student needs to learn within her self a right relationship between knowing, being and the miracle of life which unfolds on its own terms and independent of us personally.
A Doula must learn her self how to stand in the fire and not shrink back. She needs to learn how to hold the intensity of life without trying to numb it out or make it pretty or more 'bearable' to watch. She needs to learn how to 'not do' in the first instance.
A Doula student must learn to use all of her sensory knowledge and draw on tools and resources from within her, rather than rely on her external tools and environment.
A Doula student must learn the difference between held shame and courageous authenticity - to be who you are right now and that this is enough.
She must learn to 'be' the mirror for the pregnant and labouring mum, and to do this she has been mirrored herself by the Doula Trainer. She allows herself to be seen - she takes off her mask, she is vulnerable, - she too is unfolding during this time and she is held in this way by the trainer.
The Doula student at the Birth Yurt witnesses the work of a professional Doula and is mentored through on-the-job training so that the skills can be utilised and practised. She is mentored so that these skills are refined and strengthened within her.
At the end of the day, the Birth Yurt student knows when she is ready to be born as a Doula. She just does. It does not come from the head, from the ego mind or of 'doing enough births'. It comes from an inner knowing deep within her. It might be still a little nervous and a little afraid and that is a good thing because in that way she agrees to continue life long learning and growth and knows that she will always be transforming through relationship with life and with woman. The knowing is in the belly that 'yes, right now I have travelled the path inwards and I am ready to come out to stand as a Doula and be in service to woman'.
So women! Consider what questions you ask when you are wanting to train as a Doula. What is it that you REALLY want? Who do you want to serve? What are you willing to let go of within you, and grow within you, in order to have it?
For more information about the Birth Yurt Doula Training see The Birth Yurt.
Breathe well, Rachel
Dearest Birthing Women,
Just imagine: What if, just for today, you chose not to ‘manage’ your labour?
What if, you decided that you were not going to learn to breathe, be calm, be relaxed or ‘be’ anything?
What if, in fact, I told you that you don’t actually need birth classes, labour preparation, breathing and relaxation techniques, practice positions, use of drugs, nor find ‘alternatives to drugs’?
What if I told you, that you are being lied to about needing to ‘do’ anything at all?
Women! You are being coerced into believing that you need to manage your body in order for it to be o.k.
What if I told you that the truth is, that your management techniques make it easier for support people to witness you, because it is deeply painful for them to witness the sheer magnificence of the intensity of life being birthed through your body? What if the concern with control and management is ours as a community, and it was never yours at all?
And what if I told you, that in order for us to witness you more easily, we have taken from you, time and time again, one of the most incredible transformative experiences of your human life. It is shameful to me, that we take too much from you in order to make birth o.k for us to be with.
For, what if I told you woman that all you need is to show up to birth you.
Women, ask yourself: How would it be if the witnesses refused to take from you anymore.
Can you imagine a world where your support learn how to manage their own witnessing of you birthing, and that they took classes to learn breathe and let go. Imagine that they learned to listen to their own body. How would it be if the witnesses, we medical and lay support, go to classes and prepare ourselves for your personal unique birthing? What if we promised we would not let you down?
How would it be if your village, support and your family knew without reservation that you are magnificent right now, and that they stood ready to hold, listen and recognise you fully as life comes through you? What if they were courageous enough to see you; bow deeply to your body and not shirk from their responsibly to reflect back to you your power and the immensity of who you are.
Show up! That’s it. No more and no less. You have been lied to that you need to do or be anything else.
You do not need or have to manage your labour, you don’t need to understand it. You don’t need to know more or do or be or create or design or plan. You don’t need to be calm, or fearful, or ecstatic or joyous. You don’t need to feel anything other than what you feel, in the very present moment of your birthing. Because, I will tell you one thing:
You will birth anyway.
You just will.
It is exactly right, just as it is.
And in that moment of your labour and birthing, you have already managed. You just do. In fact, there has never been any other way of birthing, and you are already doing it.
Your witnesses are learning to manage birth, and you have taken that responsibility on. Let go, that is their job to look after from now on.
You are already doing yours. It’s enough.
With love, Rachel
"The shamanic midwife knows that at this time what is needed is the call for humbleness in order to put birth in its place again. We need a renewed honouring of those women in service to continuing the human race through their bodies. And we remember that this is not just the responsibility of women or parents.
It is the community who need to hold a bigger space for welcoming and integrating this new life in their world - and they are not doing their job.
At the time of birth birthing women are in deepest service - both to the child, as well as to you, the community. They are responsible for consciously bringing in new life who will contribute to you, their community. It is a service that they gift to the continuation of human kind.
I can think of no other role that is quite as important. It is bewildering that we we choose to negate this".
Join us, as we learn more about the shamanic midwife, midwifing breath, spirit and the birth/rebirth cycles.