GLUTEN-FREE RECIPES YOUR FAMILY WILL LOVE
Ina May Gaskin The Godmother of Midwifery
Epidurals Are They
Worth the Risk?
Co-Sleeping Your Most Powerful Time to Bond
Stay-at-Home Moms THE CHOICE OF A LIFETIME
What’s Wrong With Youth Sports Programs issue 31 / fall 2011 / $7.95
please display until 12.19.2011
executive editor Jeanne Ohm, DC email@example.com associate editor Lisa Reagan copy chief Robert Staeger assistant editor / director of advertising Andrea Quarracino content editor Cynthia Overgard creative director Tina Aitala Engblom technical director Gabe Small web editor Jamie Dougan technical assistant Crystal Gloistein
on the cover gluten-free recipes...................................... 52 ina may gaskin.............................................. 12
circulation director Howard White Hwhite9611@aol.com
advisory board Claudia Anrig, DC • Sarah Buckley, MD Bruce Lipton, PhD • Stephen Marini, PhD, DC Larry Palevsky, MD
stay-at-home moms....................................... 40
Pathways to Family Wellness is a quarterly publication offering parents articles and resources to make informed healthcare choices for their families. Pathways to Family Wellness provides thought-provoking information from the holistic health perspective and invites parents to explore options for family wellness. The individual articles and links to healthcare information in Pathways to Family Wellness are based on the opinions of their respective authors, who retain copyright as marked. The information provided is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information. The publisher of Pathways to Family Wellness encourages you to make informed healthcare decisions based on your researched knowledge and in partnership with a qualified healthcare provider. Pathways to Family Wellness is provided to you by the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association in collaboration with the HPA: Alliance for Holistic Family Health and Wellness and Families for Conscious Living. All organizations are 501-C3 nonprofit status organizations and sales of Pathways to Family Wellness support their mission for public education.
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Erratum In the Summer 2011 issue of Pathways, we erroneously listed Dr. Jennifer Barham-Floreani as an M.D. in her byline and her author bio. This was an editorial error on our part, and was in no way the doing of Dr. Barham-Floreani. We deeply apologize for the error, and are taking steps to avoid errors of this nature in the future.
in this issue INA MAY GASKIN: There From the Start At a time when a third of American babies arrive by C-section, Godmother of Midwifery Ina May Gaskin is speaking out against medical practices that encourage couples to give up control of the birth process. In her new book, Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta, she calls for the access to “normal” birth to be recognized as a human right.
By Lisa Reagan
4 LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
40 FAMILY LIVING
6 THE CONSCIOUS PATH
Romancing the Mom By Christine Dubois
Seeking Wellness and Wisdom with Worldview Literacy, Part 2 of 2
42 WELLNESS LIFESTYLE
By Lisa Reagan
18 CHIROPRACTIC FOR LIFE
Epidurals: Facts, Implications and Alternatives
By Kate Engelhardt, D.C., DACCP
Eye on the Ball: Why We Need to Fix Youth Sports By Bob Bigelow
44 A MOMENT OF TRUTH
Too Many Things By Madisyn Taylor
46 TOUCH THE FUTURE
By Patrick M. Houser
The Missing Piece: Consciousness and the MotherBaby Bond
By Tracy Wilson Peters, CCCE, C.L.D., and Laurel Wilson, IBCLC, CCCE
Creating Learning Communities By Anna Jahns
Uprisings for the Earth: Reconnecting Culture with Nature
By Osprey Orielle Lake, M.A.
“If I Were at Home, I Would Have Died.”
By Erin Ellis, C.P.M., L.M.
30 In Honor of Midwifery By Frankie Condon, Ph.D.
Resolving Food Sensitivities with Good Taste By Debbie Johnson
56 GREENER PERSPECTIVES
Fence Rows and Gut Health By Edwin Shank
32 INFORMED CHOICE
Circumcision: Medically Unnecessary
58 HOLISTIC HEALTHCARE
By Georganne Chapin
36 THE OUTER WOMB
Finding Stillness to Cure the Illness By Leo Babauta
Co-sleeping as Nighttime Bonding
60 NEW EDGE SCIENCE
By Pinky McKay, IBCLC
Understanding Why We Change
By Cassandra Vieten, Ph.D., Marilyn Schlitz, Ph.D., and Tina Amorok, Psy.D.
Wholeness, Not Perfectionism
By Chris White, M.D.
letter from the editor, jeanne ohm, d.c.
hirty years ago, we had our first of six children. It was an unattended home birth. The word “unattended” wasn’t even in the birthing vocabulary yet. I can’t tell you how many times I got asked, “Home birth? Did that happen by accident?” The most common reaction when I answered “no” was a look of shock. Tom and I consciously chose home birth because we did not think of birth as a disease, but rather a normal, natural process to be respected and honored. Having had three major surgeries by the time I was 6 years old, I knew all too well the hospital experience, and it didn’t seem conducive to birth. The next three children we had were at home and unattended as well. We didn’t have midwives for the first two, because we didn’t know of any in the area. For the next two we tried to have midwives but they didn’t make it to the births. For our last two, we did hire midwives, and their presence and assistance was wonderful and appreciated. Preparing for our first birth, we took a brief course with midwives who explained the process of birth. We also read Ina May Gaskin’s first book, Spiritual Midwifery. It was a wonderful compilation of birth stories—all different from each other, all special. It inspired me to realize that birth is normal, natural, safe and intuitive, and that each woman and child, when allowed to birth together with no outside control, bring a unique experience of birth each time. Whereas I still credit the knowledge I was exposed to by the midwives and in Ina May’s book as so valuable, they really served as a catalyst to draw from within myself the strength, respect and conviction to trust my inner knowing and my ability to give birth. Very fortunately, I was surrounded by chiropractors throughout my first pregnancy, and their philosophical understanding and application of intuitive birthing was my true inspiration. It laid the path for me to also go within, seek resonance with these principles and apply the internal knowing of this philosophy in our lifestyle and choices. The major premise of chiropractic states: “A universal intelligence is in all matter and continually gives to it all its properties and actions, thus maintaining it in existence.” There are a total of 33 principles, but it was this major premise and the following two that we immediately committed to. Principle two states, “The expression of this intelligence through matter is the chiropractic meaning of life.” And principle three adds, “Life is necessarily the union of intelligence and matter.” In living matter, chiropractors have named this “innate intelligence.” These vitalistic principles resonated with our own core beliefs and values. Our decision, therefore, to trust my innate ability to give birth was strong. And the experience of this type of intuitive birthing strengthened our trust in these principles—strength to last a lifetime. Having a natural, inspired and intuitive birth comes about by surrounding ourselves with those who also hold these principles to be true. But beyond any birth care team we may have and the level of trust they embody on our behalf, it will always come down to the essence of our conscious choices, made from our deepest core values. With this and every issue of Pathways, I hope to draw you, our reader, into a deeper relationship with your inner knowing, and so offer you the opportunity to make your own strong, conscious choices in your life. Many, many blessings,
Jeanne Ohm, D.C.
pathways | issue 31
ÂŠ Zuzana Randlova / dreamstime.com
A universal intelligence is in all matter and continually gives to it all its properties and actions, thus maintaining it in existence.
issue 31 | pathways
Seeking Wellness and Wisdom with Worldview Literacy (Part 2 of 2) By Lisa Reagan
ou probably have noticed, even if you just flip through an issue of Pathways, that we’re not an average parenting magazine. Unlike a mainstream ad-driven magazine, Pathways states in its mission that we, as a nonprofit, are here to support your exploration of wellness and individual, informed choices. In building our local wellness communities through our growing Pathways Connect groups, together we explore questions like: •
What is wellness?
How can we discuss the many issues of conscious living and informed
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choice confidently and respectfully, and move beyond initial reactions of feeling overwhelmed or fearful? •
Can we learn to “see the forest for the trees”? Meaning, can we develop our capacity to see the Big Picture, the interconnectivity of life that naturally supports our wellness choices, and respect one another for our individual paths? (No How Crunchy Are You? Internet quizzes.)
Are there simple practices to develop our capacities for connecting inner wisdom to outer wellness?
In the first part of this column, I shared the early years of my “natural” mothering aspirations and my realization that, while my intentions were good, I was operating out of a culturally conditioned blind spot that left me despondent and exhausted. As I wrote in part one: “My unexamined, unconscious programming of performance, evaluation, and production was a value system straight from my formal education and work world—which was now the dominant, unsustainable industrial paradigm I sought to undermine with my ‘natural’ parenting efforts. Yikes! Echoes of Einstein’s famous quote rang like tolling bells through this new thought, ‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.’ Oh. Right.” As I shared in part one, a personal shift in awareness provided a foundation that allowed my “natural mothering” efforts to become “conscious parenting” insights. This ongoing and practical shift in awareness allowed me to make peace with my blind spot, or as I jokingly refer to it, my personal CNN: my Calcified Neural Network. Today, neuroscience shows us that 95 percent of our actions originate in our unconscious belief systems, which reside in our brains as physical ruts or calcified neural nets. These personal CNNs limit our ability to take in new information, and therefore limit our perception of reality. Collectively, these blind spots converge into cultural beliefs that are unquestioningly passed down through generations and even blasted through airport terminals and restaurants via our collective source of sanctioned information—conveniently also called CNN! Consider Ina May Gaskin’s interview on page 12. As Ina May states, women in the 1950s and 1960s submitted themselves to brutal medical birth practices because “they didn’t know any better.” The obstetricians, who had built a medical culture around birth as being abnormal and in need of intervention, were in truth impaired in their judgments by an academically reinforced blind spot. What happened when a few women, as Ina May says, shifted their worldviews and began to question the traumatic effects of the separating ritual of
© Gozzak / dreamstime.com
the conscious path
© Luca Vanzolin / dreamstime.com
The Worldview Literacy Project™ Core Tenets medical birth, and instead allowed birth to be the connecting and empowering event it could be? What would happen today if American culture woke up to the possibilities of “normal” birth? What other cultural blind spots do we share and reinforce with social acceptance or threats of social ridicule? Where does the path to wellness, for individuals or society, ever begin, if not with a shift in individual perceptions? Simply put, the Big Picture, the interconnected one that supports our life-affirming pursuit of wellness, is always available to us. Acknowledging and illuminating our personal blind spots/CNNs not only frees our inner wisdom to align with this greater context, but inspires those around us, including our children, to take up this challenge of conscious living as well. During the decade I spent as an activist for natural/holistic parenting, two of the coolest moms I have ever met were compiling their own research data into paradigm shifting, or, as they call it, Worldview Literacy. Clinical research scientist Marilyn Schlitz, Ph.D., president of the Institute for Noetic Sciences (IONS), and the institute’s director of research, Cassandra Vieten, Ph.D., released the results of their decade-long study of the most “powerful force of change” known in their book, Living Deeply: The Art and Science of Transformation in Everyday Life in 2007. The exciting revelations and insights of IONS Worldview Literacy Project (WLP) represent the true origin of the word education, whose Latin core educare, means “to draw forth that which is within.” Based upon the institute’s 40 years of research, the WLP’s purpose is to give individuals the practical tools to see the forest for the trees, to draw out the blind spots in awareness and to give us language to discuss this process with one another. The WLP currently works with teenagers, and has already had a successful pilot year as a drop-in course module in 15 high schools and four universities in California. In the coming months, Pathways will be collaborating with IONS to bring to our readers and
FROM NOETIC.ORG Our Consciousness Matters Consciousness mediates the relationship between inner experience and the outer environment. The way we receive, interact with, and direct our intention into the physical world invites us into our self-reflexive capacity and awareness of our creative potential. Each of Us Holds a Unique Worldview The convergence of our inherent characteristics and our unique history, including our life experiences, region, culture, religion, socioeconomic status, and family, creates our worldview. There are an infinite multiplicity of worldviews and more than one “right” way or perspective. Worldviews Inform and Affect Our Reality Worldviews, constellated by values, beliefs, assumptions, attitudes, and ideas, impact everything from how we understand the nature of reality to how we respond to the environment around us. Each person’s worldview influences their goals and desires, consciously and unconsciously shaping perceptions, motivations, and values. There Is Value in Paradox and Uncertainty There is value in uncertainty, in the capacity to hold paradox, and in learning to dwell in the mysteries of life and unknowns of the universe. It is from the place of not knowing that creativity emerges, and from which we can perceive the world around us from a place of awe, wonder, and reverence. There Are Multiple Ways of Knowing Perceptual lenses, including inner knowing, intuition, and direct experience, as well the insights of logic, reason, and scientific observation, inform our sense of value and knowing. Interpersonal dialogue and the open sharing of our experiences can help us to understand our own worldview and that of others, while also promoting an even greater celebration of our diverse perspectives. We Are Part of an Interdependent Whole We are each part of a complex, ever-changing, interconnected universe. What we do influences the world around us, and the world around us influences us, even when we are not aware of exactly how. Greater understanding of the interdependence of all life leads to a more complete view of reality.
issue 31 | pathways
the conscious path
The great frontier wasn’t the exploration of outer space, but really a deep and systematic inquiry into the nature of our
Dr. Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 astronaut and founder of IONS.
our Pathways Connect groups the insights and tools of the Worldview Literacy Project. In an exclusive interview with Pathways, Marilyn Schlitz shares with our readers IONS’ fascinating research into consciousness, including how we can break through our own calcified neural networks and open ourselves to our innate wisdom and capacities for life-affirming wellness. Pathways: What is noetic science? Schlitz: The idea of “noetic” is really very old. It comes from the Greek nous, which means direct knowing. It is that part of
pathways | issue 31
our experience that comes to us through our intuition, our creativity; it involves our belief systems, our worldview and, in essence, our consciousness. IONS was founded in 1973 by Edgar Mitchell, one of the Apollo 14 astronauts and the sixth man to walk on the moon. Dr. Mitchell’s job was to man the lunar capsule that went from the Apollo capsule to the moon and back. He has said, after his part of the mission was complete, he had the window seat on the way home and had the opportunity to look out at planet Earth suspended in the vastness of space. He had a sense that the kind of suffering we experience in civilization on planet Earth is nothing inherent in the Earth, but something inherent in us, in our consciousness and our belief systems. His epiphany was that perhaps the great frontier wasn’t the exploration of outer space, but really a deep and systematic inquiry into the nature of our own inner awareness.
industrial worldview to a holistic worldview. What is a worldview?
Pathways: IONS’ research over the past 40 years has tracked a global shift in consciousness—meaning thousands of individuals are discarding old belief systems. IONS’ Shift Reports succinctly lay out the hallmarks of the shift, from an
Pathways: In Pathways we have been exploring the worldview or paradigm of wellness for the past eight years. We’ve found that new parents are inspired to view the world differently and question their beliefs in ways they have not
Schlitz: We are alive at a time of enormous complexity. What we are experiencing is many, many weapons of mass distraction that are competing for our interest and attention. We are also experiencing the unprecedented convergence of different cultures’ ways of knowing about reality. In that process it can be very confusing for people: so much new information, so much complexity, and so many different paradigms and models of reality are coming into contact. The work of IONS is really to understand how we can create the inner resources that will allow us to navigate these outer complexities. In this educational leg, we have the Worldview Literacy Project. The idea is that literacy is a skill set or competency, and worldview is that lens of perception through which we view ourselves and the world.
couple © Mona Makela / dreamstime.com
own inner awareness.
“This most essential change, the one from which all other changes spring, is a change in your worldview and your perception of what’s possible. Transforming your consciousness may be the most important thing you can do for yourself and the world.” –Marilyn Schlitz, Ph.D., Living Deeply: The Art and Science of Transformation in Everyday Life
transform our consciousness to live in a world that allows us to feel more nourished and supported by the environment and each other. The Worldview Literacy Project helps us through this process.
considered before, especially as parents who want to make healthy choices. In working with parents, and myself, I have found it helpful to talk about our worldviews and how they support or create obstacles to wellness choices. How does someone discover their worldview or personal lens? Schlitz: This can be really tricky. It’s like the old parable about how fish swimming in water can’t see the water because they are so immersed in it. And I think that is true about all of us. We live in a culture— and subcultures—that characterize our daily experiences and we take a lot of things for granted. We were taught certain things in school and we are reinforced for those things through the media. So it is very hard, oftentimes, to take a step back and to question, “What are my beliefs? What are my views? What are my values? How are those values informed by the culture I am living in?” There is some fascinating work that is done in the area of cognitive science and social psychology, looking at things like inattentional blindness, which shows that we see those things that we expect to see, and that it is much more difficult for us to see things that are not part of our expectations. What are all of the things that are going on in the world that we are missing because our worldviews are priming us to only see part of the story? Our work at IONS is keenly interested in challenging those assumptions and looking at the tools and technologies that we might employ to help us to begin to
Pathways: What are the barriers that limit our capacity to make these kinds of transformations or shifts, especially toward wellness, in our lives? Schlitz: Asking these kinds of questions leads to very fertile ground for people who are trying to understand what it means to be a 21st-century citizen. In this transformation process we need to begin to ask, where are we being reactive? Where are things pushing our buttons and causing us discomfort? Where is it that we’re just swimming along with the current and not pausing enough to question: Is this good for me? Is this good for my children? Worldview Literacy is, first of all, recognizing that, like the fish in the water, we’re all embedded in different worldviews or paradigms, and that there are ways that we can begin to open ourselves to a broader set of understandings about what is beyond the surface of the water that we’re swimming in. So we are exploring this at IONS. Because your interest is in part around wellness, one of the ways we can see these worldviews or paradigms comes in our understanding of wellness. What does it mean to have wellness? What does it mean to be in a state of healing? Oftentimes we think of these as biological. Is our body self-correcting? Are our systems self-regulating? But it is often about the mind-body and the ways in which our consciousness and beliefs inform our biology and how our biology informs our consciousness. Recognizing the relationship becomes very important. For example, our response to stress is very much a consciousness-embedded
phenomenon. Stress is something that is ubiquitous and inherent in life. It’s just there. What causes us discomfort isn’t the stress, it’s our response to the stress. Once we realize we have control over that, and we can have control over our own reactiveness, and there are tools and techniques to help us, that provides a kind of shift. Pathways: How do our personal relationships and social environments figure into a desire to expand our worldviews? Schlitz: There’s the idea of wellness as our embeddedness in our social environment, whether it is our families or our work base or the schools our children are going to and the kids they are hanging with—all of those are part of what we would define as a wellness component of our lives. So are we functioning in a way that is optimal, thinking about all of the violence we are exposing ourselves and our children to on television? All of this becomes part of the water that we are swimming in. All of those things influence our worldview. They influence our values and our goals and our desires in ways that we are often not aware of. Pathways: What is the relationship between nature and a wellness worldview? Schlitz: There is this sense of wellness in relationship to nature and the broader environment—recognizing that there are so many ways that we are out of right relationship, and that this is hurting our children. You know, people talk about—in the context of the Holocaust, for example— that there are these ways in which successive generations carry the crisis that their parents and grandparents experienced. Well, there is also this way in issue 31 | pathways
the conscious path How is it that the paradigm we’re living in informs both the possibilities for us to grow into, as well as the limitations?
Pathways: Is wellness more possible with awareness of this lens that we wear— with less personal reactivity, an awareness of our social environment’s influence on our perceptions, a right relationship with nature and connection to the sacred, or innate intelligence? Ultimately, is worldview literacy necessary to create wellness? Schlitz: I think that’s right. We did a 10-year project on looking at consciousness transformation and how it is that people can move from these limited perspectives to one where there is a greater emphasis on our connectedness, wholesystems thinking, and really looking at what is the basis of our assumptions. How is it that the paradigm we’re living
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Pathways: Is there a practical process for changing our worldview? Schlitz: In the book, Living Deeply, we interviewed 60 world masters from different world traditions to ask them what do their practices involve that would help to make life-enhancing transformations. We found commonalities across all of these different practices that we share in the book and the WLP training program. There are four shared components of this process. The first is Intention: “I set an intention of coming into this place of interconnectedness and to see my relationship to the whole.” But intentions alone are not enough, as New Year’s resolutions show. So the second step is Attention—as in, where is it that we are placing our attention? The vast majority of the traditions we looked at had a process for helping people to pay more attention to what they are [already] paying attention to, and then to become more aware of what they
are not attending to. There’s a humility that comes when we realize that we aren’t seeing everything. These attention practices can look like meditation, contemplative prayer, walks in nature or turning off the TV and having some reflective moments with your family. The third step is to build a new routine with Repetition. We know from neuroscience that our brains lay down neural pathways and those become grooves, the habit-making grooves of our brain. Neuroplasticity is our capacity to rebuild those grooves in the brain so we can begin to think in new ways and to respond in new ways: less reactive, more grateful, more forgiving. And then there is the fourth piece which is Guidance. Guidance may be a teacher, or a book, or it is often some means of slowing down enough that we can shift our attention to our inner experiences and begin to trust our own guidance. To begin to listen to that voice, that noetic voice within us that can help us to calibrate what is true and useful for each of us. I like to think of those four pillars as wrapped in the arms of surrender. Because ultimately, transformation isn’t about everything changing outside of us, but more about our capacity to respond with resilience to what is so. It may not be that everything is going to be perfect, but we can create new responses to the challenges of our times. To listen to the full hour-long interview with Dr. Schlitz, visit Pathways’ website. For more on the Worldview Literacy Project, visit IONS’ website at noetic.org. To continue this discussion with a group of like-minded families, find or start your conscious choice community with Pathways Connect at pathwaystofamily wellness.org.
Lisa Reagan is the associate editor for Pathways to Family Wellness magazine.
© ©Peter istockphoto.com Factors / dreamstime.com / xxxx
which our children are experiencing that same kind of trauma around the relationship to nature. A lot of kids are really suffering in terms of what has happened with environmental degradation, and extinction of species. You know the kinds of conflicts that are happening there. Finally, I would say that wellness is also about how we hold our relationship to that which is greater than ourselves. You could call it spirituality or you could call it God. There are a lot of different names for it, but as people come into an awareness that our individual activities are embedded in something much bigger than ourselves, it allows us a tremendous set of resources that can help to facilitate that state of wellness and balance and health in our lives.
in informs both the possibilities for us to grow into, as well as the limitations? First of all, we looked at what were the catalysts of these transformations. It can be almost anything. People describe something as mundane as washing dishes or as profound as coming back from the moon as facilitators that would allow a moment of reflection that says, “Wow, I just feel like there is something more here.” Maybe it is an out-of-body experience, a neardeath experience, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, a divorce. All these things can be helpful in disrupting the steady state. I think it is beautiful when we can move a conversation about something that is traumatic into something that can help us to grow and evolve, because that is a worldview shift: how we define the situation. Is the glass half empty or half full? And, in truth, one person will see it one way, and another differently. How can we begin to own the power of our interpretation of that metaphor?
Host a Pathways Gathering Group and bring your community together Doctors, Practitioners, Group Leadersâ€Ś As a subscriber to Pathways, you have experienced the wide range of articles pertinent to the family wellness lifestyle. Many subscribers have asked how to reach more people with this valuable message. Pathways Connect is a compilation of resources, guidelines and implementation tools to utilize Pathways magazine as an outstanding community-based education program. By hosting Pathways Gathering Groups in your office, we can bring parents together and expand the family wellness vision. To sign up, visit our site and simply click on the Pathways bulk subscription link at: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/connect Order 50 ongoing copies of Pathways, and check the Pathways Connect box to receive many outstanding benefits, including everything you need to start your own Pathways Gathering Group.
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Visit icpa4kids.com or hpakids.org issue 31 | pathways
INA MAY GASKIN There From the
A Pathways exclusive interview with the godmother of modern midwifery By Lisa Reagan
n the midst of the baby boom’s promises of Twilight Sleep to conceal the routine use of episiotomies, forceps and brute force in overflowing maternity wards, Ina May Gaskin found herself surrendering to a traumatic medical birth and being separated from her infant, whom she “doubted was mine when they brought her to me.” She, like many women of her era, began to question what was going on behind the hospital screen and fear-based medical propaganda. This collective questioning, chronicled in proper public spaces like The Ladies’ Home Journal, grew into a national natural birth movement whose mission was to find and share the truth about birth and its promise of empowerment and connection, instead of trauma and separation.
Photo by Stephen Gaskin
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LEFT: Three mothers, of the thousands of married couples and families who delivered on The Farm, circa 1971. MIDDLE: Stephen Gaskin standing at the head of the caravan of 50 school buses that followed him on his 1970–71 speaking tour to 42 states before settling at The Farm in Tennessee. RIGHT: Ina May training two women from Guatemala and one from the South Bronx in midwifery prenatal care at the clinic. (Left and right photos by David Frohman; center photo by Gerald Wheeler.)
In 1970, inspired by women’s stories of homebirth, Ina May decided to become a midwife and started delivering babies while on a historic cross-country “caravan” with her visionary husband, Stephen, and 300 self-described “hippies” who founded the backto-nature community known as The Farm in Tennessee. With other midwives on The Farm, Ina May opened one of the first birthing centers in the country. Since then, more than 3,000 women have given birth there, and the C-section rates are an astonishing 2 percent, while the national average hovers at 32 percent and countries like Brazil are at 95 percent. (The World Health Organization recommends a C-section rate of less than 15 percent.) In 1975, Ina May published Spiritual Midwifery to share her insights into “normal” birth processes, a now-seminal work credited with saving the midwifery profession from the centurylong attack of the founding fathers of obstetrics. Her latest book, Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta (Seven Stories, April 2011), details the history of birth in America, and other countries, as a route to understanding how the shockingly high rates of maternal and infant mortality in the medical model came to be, despite equally skyrocketing maternity care costs; why America fell into a backward trend with regard to birthing (the U.S. ranks behind 28 other countries); and why the Midwives Model of Care is the wellness paradigm for empowering, healthy births. In Birth Matters, Ina May calls for the right to birth without medical intervention, as facilitated by midwives inside the wellness paradigm, to be formally recognized as a human right. Pathways: What stage of labor is the natural birth movement in the U.S. right now? Ina May: Oh, well, we’re still dilating! We’re nowhere near ready to push! Pathways: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said in May 2011 that homebirths in the United States are up 20 percent. Is this good news? Ina May: It sounds impressive, doesn’t it? But really that puts us at about 1 percent, which is where we were in 1989 before the dip of the 1990s, so now we’ve recovered the dip. So, 1 percent, yeah! Pathways: On the heels of the CDC announcement, the United
Nations released the results of its first systemic survey and Global Midwifery Report since 1976—one year after Spiritual Midwifery was published. The U.N. report declares a global investment in midwifery would save millions of mothers’ and babies’ lives. In the U.S., the trend is toward hospitals shutting down midwives and birth centers. It appears the rest of the world has a different view of midwifery than the United States? Ina May: The United States took a unique turn from where the rest of the world went in the early 20th century, when the fathers of obstetrics decided to wipe the profession of midwifery off the map. They were successful in doing it; it only took about 20 to 30 years to make it illegal in some states and disreputable with a big propaganda campaign. They depicted midwives as ignorant, unfashionable, dirty old women that might serve you rat pie when they came to take care of you. That was an actual phrase that was used. And they lied and said the European countries were following the same course, which they decidedly were not. So we live with the history of the early 20th century, when birth first started moving into hospitals. Pathways: What was the impact of this transition of moving away from a woman- and child-centered midwifery model of care toward birth in hospitals? Ina May: This is when medical students started getting training in hospital wards in large numbers. While in Europe there was a move to hospital births, the midwives still attended the births there. That made for a very different experience for those student doctors in European countries, who were not as apt to pick up forceps— or scissors for an episiotomy—because the midwives (who knew what a normal birth looked like) would say no, and advocate for the woman to birth without interference. European women, who are aghast at our medical births, have asked me since the 80s why American women would allow themselves to be cut, especially because they thought American women were strong. I told them U.S. women didn’t know it was being done to them, and you just found out about it afterward when the anesthesia wore off. When you replace midwives with obstetric nurses, who are not prepared or trained by midwives, they saw brutal births—pushing and pulling and routine episiotomies and lots of blood. They were not permitted to let the baby be born if the doctor wasn’t there, issue 31 | pathways
Ina May Gaskin calls for the right to birth without medical intervention, as facilitated by midwives inside the wellness paradigm, to be formally recognized as a human right. so they did a lot of preventing birth by holding women’s legs together. So we developed a culture of some pretty brutal practices that were taken for granted as the best that could be done for women, and women themselves had to accept this because they had no other reality.
were giving birth on gurneys in hallways. So, it seemed like a good idea to have midwives around again, but when the first nurse midwives from the American College of Nurse Midwives graduated they became a part of the teaching corps, and it was rare for them to attend births or for women to have a midwife-attended birth.
Pathways: In your new book, Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta, you write about the letter to the editor of The Ladies’ Home Journal in 1958 that an obstetrics nurse sent in anonymously out of fear of reprimand, confessing “this is what I have seen, and it is brutal.” The magazine was then flooded with letters saying, “yes, this happened to me and it was horrible.” This obstetric nurse’s whistle-blowing seems to be a key moment in the vitalization of the natural birth movement.
Pathways: You clear up a lot of mythologies around the history of birth in this manifesta, one of them being the cultural stereotype of homebirth and midwifery being a part of the feminist movement. In fact, because the feminist movement was conceived inside of the industrial paradigm and not a holistic paradigm, feminists advocated for the medical model of birth.
Ina May: That definitely fed the movement. There were also lecture tours by Grantly Dick-Read, the author of the classic Childbirth Without Fear; that and probably some university professor’s wives went to Europe and found out about Lamaze and midwives, and there started to be a little bit of awareness that birth could be something different. So it began to be known among a mostly educated group of white women. The Ladies’ Home Journal found itself in the middle of this controversy and kept on printing these letters because they poured in from all over the country. This was in the middle of the baby boom, when maternity wards were bursting around the country and women
Ina May: Yes, there was a huge push to get women into hospitals and to make birth really “scientific.” The reasons doctors wanted to do this at the time was because they knew practically nothing about birth. They weren’t able to know about birth when birth happened in the home or when the women were the boss. We know this from the 19th century textbooks that said to the student doctor—and many of them learned just from textbooks that anyone could buy from a catalogue—not to go into the birth room until the women call you because your presence there could stop the labor for hours or days. So, if you want to accomplish this birth, get your money and go home; you are best to stay out of the bedroom until the women call you in, and that will be at the last minute. So doctors even then did not get to see births, and because the woman was surrounded by her friends and family, the doctor was not going to be allowed to pick up a pair of scissors. A survey in 1910 showed that doctors did not know about births and wouldn’t know unless they could herd women into hospitals—and banish the midwife—so that laboring women could be teaching material for them. Pathways: And as you write in Birth Matters, what medical students learned was, Here is what labor looks like: woman is strapped down, woman is knocked out, woman is cut, baby is pulled out. And this became the norm?
From her early days at The Farm to the present, Ina May has delivered more than 1,200 babies and attended more than 3,000 births with her partners at The Farm. (Top photo by David Frohman; bottom photo by Tara Garner.)
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Ina May: That’s right. And there are photos of these hospital births, where the women look like torture victims, but I did not want to put them in the book because I did not want young women to see them and think of birth this way. One photo shows a close-up of a doctor’s hand in a woman’s anus to help push the baby’s head out. They show fundal pressure, a strong man pushing very hard, and the blood is so horrific it is a wonder these women survived. This is scary, when this is presented as normal instead of malpractice. I hasten to say, farm boys were better at birth back then, because they knew every animal needs quiet and respect for her to do her job most effectively and less painfully. Pathways: You talk in your book about women not knowing birth could be different as an obstacle of a cultural paradigm, which is a big idea for anyone to get their mind around. But here at Pathways, we talk about the wellness paradigm versus the cultural industrial paradigm all the time, and how we have to train ourselves to make informed choices and find holistic practitioners. Considering the context of the culture when you began to study birth as a lay midwife, your greatest achievement was to attend and document “normal” births and then to share your insights in Spiritual Midwifery in 1975. It seems like the term “paradigm shifting” doesn’t begin to describe your work! Ina May: Well, thank you for recognizing that, because I think a lot of people didn’t. They would just say, oh those mad hippies doing this irresponsible thing. I would have considered it irresponsible to go back into the hospital and endure such treatment again. I knew it was crazy. I knew the doctor didn’t need forceps in 1966 when I was giving birth to my first child. I knew he was wrong and that couldn’t be right. But I thought, how can I argue with a doctor? He’s probably seen 1,000 births. It didn’t occur to me to say, “Okay, you’re dismissed. I’ll get someone else,” because I didn’t think there would be doctors who would disagree with each other, because I thought it was a scientific area of work. (Laughs) I did get to experience an unmedicated labor before they came at me with the drugs, and got to experience a deep trance. I’d never been in a trance before, and loved it. I would not have
Ina May with one of her heroes, Margaret Charles Smith (left), a Southern midwife who delivered African-American babies at a time when it was illegal for their mothers to be seen by white doctors. She tells her story in Listen to Me Good: The Life Story of an Alabama Midwife. (Photo by Stephen Gaskin.)
described it that way, because when you are in a trance you are not thinking in words because you are experiencing. In my case, it was a colorful vision on a blank white wall to everybody else. It was beautiful and I was pretending to be an animal. Nobody told me to do that, it just occurred to me and it seemed to work. The only negative thing was the nausea from having been starved and not allowed to drink. My obstetrician had put me on diuretics during the pregnancy to keep my weight down. I just remember the scolding. So, this really wrong-headed doctor taught me by example how you should not treat anyone. When I finally saw my daughter, when she was a day old, I had doubts that she was really even my daughter. After this experience, I began to talk to other people who had decided to have homebirths. Because these women’s empowerment was so obvious in their whole being as they told their stories, I knew that was what I was going to do. After that I had three births the way they should be, and decided to become a midwife! Pathways: You wrote Spiritual Midwifery in 1975, and it is regarded as the book that not only saved midwifery, but put midwifery and natural birth back into the minds of Americans as a possibility. But looking back, it seems that this seminal work appeared just as medical technology began to take off, inspiring our high C-section rates today. I’m wondering if you ever felt like Cassandra, saying “Beware of Greeks,” and then the Trojan War breaks out?
From Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta: “Giving birth can be the most empowering experience of a lifetime—an initiation into a new dimension of mind-body awareness—or it can be disempowering by removing from new mothers any sense of inner strength or capacity and leaving them convinced that their bodies were created by a malevolent nature (or deity) to punish them in labor and birth. Birth may be followed by an empowering joy, a euphoria that they will never forget, or by a depression that can make the mother a stranger to herself and everyone who knows her.” “A society that places a low value on its mothers and the process of birth will suffer an array of negative repercussions for doing so. Good beginnings make a positive difference in the world, so it is worth our while to provide the best possible care for mother and babies throughout this extraordinarily influential part of life.” issue 31 | pathways
Ideally, the woman gives birth under her own power, and is able to move freely in labor and adopt the position that works best for her. Ina May: It’s a little like that. Things were so wide-open in the 70s; there was such fervor and a strong feeling across the country that we needed to get back to our natural ways. Lots of communities [like The Farm] were formed during that period. There were childbirth classes taking off, and a lot of reaction to The Ladies’ Home Journal letter, but obstetricians were taken aback by people coming in and wanting unmedicated births. And when I wrote Spiritual Midwifery, I had been in a hospital maybe three times, because women who birthed on The Farm rarely needed to go, so I was slow to know about epidurals and electronic fetal monitoring. These things almost sneaked up on me and were well-developed before I realized they were there. I started out in the 70s, when the C-section rate was only 5 percent, and I didn’t know anybody who’d had one. In 1980, I learned that C-sections were now 20 percent. I thought, That’s huge! But I think what happened is that you had women saying they wanted unmedicated births, but when they went into the hospital, they were put flat on their backs to birth. Then, hospitals were terrified women were going to have homebirths, so they started hiring nurse midwives and saying they had “birthing” rooms. So they would adopt some of the language of the counterculture movement and slap it on the hospital room. I think it worked to help people think things were nicer, but there was a backlash that built up, because people who went to a
hospital had no idea that the kind of birth we were talking about depended upon your freedom to move. Because I did not know about these things, I was not able to express them in Spiritual Midwifery. So I wrote a book for people who were frightened of birth (Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth) and believed that birth must have been designed by a malevolent deity and anything men created to deal with it must be better. This book came out of my evolution of studying how things developed in hospitals. Pathways: Is there such a thing as an ideal birth? Ina May: Yes: in a place where you are most comfortable. If you have a woman who is terrified of being at home, the birth ought to happen in a hospital. There, her needs for privacy and low lighting would be recognized. Her need to be nourished through her labor met. I’d like to see, in my dream world, that everybody would have a midwife, like the law in Germany that says there must be a midwife at every birth. Hopefully, these midwives would get to know you prenatally, so they know you well and you trust each other. Since a midwife has to have a life, too, there would be two women you would work with in case one has a toothache. I think it is good when midwives work in groups, small groups. Someone might also have a longer labor and wear out one midwife and need to have the other one spell her.
LEFT: Ina May Gaskin speaks at a Safe Motherhood Quilt Rally in Washington, D.C., following the 2011 Healthy Mothers Healthy Birth Summit. Activists also gathered in the nation’s capital to endorse the proposed Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2011. RIGHT: Ina May’s speaking tours connect her with midwives around the globe, where they can share inspiration, ideas and techniques. Here, she poses with two midwives she met in Japan. (Left, photo by Laura Gilkey; right, photo by Stephen Gaskin.)
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ABOVE: Ina May was one of
the many participants at the International Day of the Midwife 5K walk in Seattle, Washington, in May 2011. She continued the celebration with a lecture at Seattle’s Town Hall. RIGHT: Ina May Gaskin speaks to 2.2 million listeners of the Diane Rehm Show in Washington, D.C., in July 2011, about her new book, Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta. The Safe Motherhood Quilt is in the foreground. (Above, photo by Walter Zamojski; right, photo by Lisa Reagan.)
We help the mother physiologically through the labor. Any fears she has are addressed and eliminated, which is possible for skilled midwives to do. We let the woman’s body do things the way it does best. We don’t have a rigid protocol that governs how long women are permitted to labor. It doesn’t make sense to have this stuff all decided on paper from the beginning because some women dilate quickly and some slowly, so we are mindful of vital signs, not the clock. All women are different, so there are no cookie-cutter, rigid guidelines. Ideally, the woman gives birth under her own power, and is able to move freely in labor and adopt the position that works best for her. And then, we don’t whisk the baby away—we leave the cord intact and place the baby on the mother, who is the ideal warmer, and place them chest to chest, so the baby can drain any fluids with ease. We postpone all this weighing and measuring stuff, as the baby is not going to get taller. We recognize that the time right after birth is very important, not just for the mother and baby to bond, but because this time together is capable of preventing hemorrhages, with the least blood loss. It also helps the placenta to come. The mother and baby are left together, and the partner is able to feel a part of this experience. It is an amazing transformation that can take place in people when they find out the strength of birth and what an amazing source of information and inspiration it can be. It affects your life forevermore. How great it is to pull strength out of birth, rather than be the passive victim in a ritual of separation, which is too often what we see in the hospital—that people actually get driven apart by birth. When you look into the mammal world, birth is all about connection, and without all of that intervention, mothers and babies naturally connect and don’t have to be put back together again. We tell ourselves that we don’t have any instinct to birth, but we do this because we have all of this interference that makes it impossible to know what our inner impulses are when there are so many orders, procedures and things happening to us during the time when we should be allowed to flow with this amazing energy. I keep being amazed by the number of birth books that don’t even mention “energy” and the energy of birth. When I witnessed my first birth, on a school bus, the woman’s level of energy was, well, I’ll use the phrase a Japanese obstetrician uses—“mystic beauty”—when he sees a woman in her full power. That is what
I saw in my first birth. We miss that when the woman in labor is not given the amount of respect she needs in order to accomplish this work she is doing. Pathways: In Birth Matters, you point out that women are more afraid of normal birth than major surgery, hence the climbing C-section rates. You suggest that women and men counter this fear by learning what a normal birth is, by reading birth stories [see page 30 for a birth story] or by attending a normal birth. What other ways can we advocate for the human right of an intervention-free birth? Ina May: This book, Birth Matters, was written because a twentysomething-year-old woman at a publishing house asked me to help her explain to her family why she wanted to become a midwife. She wanted to show her family why becoming a midwife was a better idea than becoming an obstetrician. So I answered her questions, which were many, and ended up writing a manifesta! She is at midwifery training right now [this interview took place in June 2011]. The book answers all of our questions on why birth in America is the way it is, and how we can move out of the medical model and to a woman/child-centered model. As I end in the book, woman-centered care is a human right, but we don’t have enough midwives to meet demand, especially in the U.S. As the U.N. declaration states, we need more midwives. To find a midwife, visit the Midwives Alliance of North America at mana.org. To learn more about the Midwives Model of Care, turn to page 29 or visit midwivesmodelofcare.org. To listen to the full 90-minute interview with Ina May, visit our website at pathwaystofamilywellness.com. Watch Ina May talk about Birth Matters to Pathways Connect groups on our YouTube channel at youtube.com/user/PathwaysConnect.
Lisa Reagan is the associate editor for Pathways to Family Wellness magazine.
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chiropr ac t ic for life
labor pain carries an immense amount of strength. Once she enters a hospital, it becomes challenging for her. She exchanges her comfortable and familiar clothing for a hospital gown; she now becomes a “patient.” A patient, by definition, is somebody who is being given medical treatment. She finds herself in an institution that has among its key objectives the ability to “control pain.” That faint glimmer of strength starts to fade. Why does she feel the pain? No one tells her, but they can make it go away! The fetal monitor and IV are in place, waiting for a crisis to occur. Davis-Floyd likens this to a woman’s umbilical cord connecting to the hospital, essential for her survival. If you plan for something to fail, it probably will. In her book Birthing From Within, Pam England remarks that in a hospital the laboring woman regresses from the lead role in her labor and birth to a supporting character. As you can see, the perception of pain in labor and birth and the omission of this sensation have major psychological and physical detriments to a woman and her baby. Penny Simkin, P.T., author of Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn, states in her 2004 paper entitled “Update on Nonpharmacologic Approaches to Relieve Labor Pain and Prevent Suffering,” that “this model places the burden of pain control solely on medical professionals, and the woman’s role is one of passive compliance....Because the key to pain relief is held by others, the woman becomes more dependent and powerless, not only in managing her pain but in all other aspects of labor and birth. Self-confidence in the woman’s own resources and capabilities and a willingness to be an active participant in her care are not assets in this model.”
EPIDURALS Facts, Implications and Alternatives By Kate Engelhardt, D.C., DACCP
pidural anesthesia (EA) is the most commonly used method of pain relief during labor today. In fact, approximately 80 percent of vaginal deliveries involve EA, according to The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Epidural anesthesia is effective at pain cessation during labor, and may help a woman get through an exhausting and long labor by allowing her to rest. But other well-known and documented outcomes of EA include the following: It slows labor, leading to augmentation with Pitocin; it promotes ineffective pushing, leading to the use of vacuum extraction, forceps and excessive pulling by the birth provider; it often causes a significant drop in blood pressure, leading to the use of electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) for fetal distress; and it requires intravenous fluids for precautionary measures, which often restrict a woman to laboring on her back. Aside from the physical restraints a woman must overcome in order to manage pain during labor and birth, there is the psychological persona of a laboring woman in pain. I had the opportunity to hear Robbie Davis-Floyd speak at the 2006 Midwifery Today Conference. Her description of today’s typical hospital birth was as follows: A woman experiencing normal
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Chiropractic Implications From a chiropractic standpoint, EA can lead to serious consequences for a delicate spine. The World Health Organization reports that several reports and trials showed EA increased the number of vaginal operative deliveries, such as forceps or vacuum extraction. These methods are used for several reasons. A numbed bottom half kills the feedback mechanism to the brain for effective pushing at the right moments. Instead, a machine is read by a third party, who tells the woman when her body is ready for her to push.
facing page: © Darren Moser / istockphoto.com / this page: © Beano5 / istockphoto.com
“Because the key to pain relief is held by others, the woman becomes more dependent and powerless, not only in managing her pain but in all other aspects of labor and birth. Selfconfidence in the woman’s own resources and capabilities and a willingness to be an active participant in her care are not assets in this model.” –Penny Simkin, P.T.
A numbed bottom also prevents a mother from getting off her back and effectively pushing using gravity and strength. Her pelvic capacity becomes limited because of her inability to move around. A prolonged journey through an inadequate space is a recipe for significant stress on a newborn’s spine. Labor augmentation with Pitocin, commonly associated with EA, is frequently administered to make up for the ineffective pushing. The artificial contractions resulting from the Pitocin can place abnormal and unnatural pressure on the cervical spine of a newborn. The dance that mother and baby innately move through between natural uterine contractions during labor is now null and void. The newborn is forced to move with unnatural and forceful contractions. Should the baby not have enough time to move through the natural head flexion, extension, and rotational movements needed for restitution, cervical spine damage can occur. Ineffective pushing may also require assistance to get the baby out of the birth canal. Enter forceps and vacuum extraction. Both interventions place a significant amount of traction and pressure on the cervical spine, spinal cord and brain. What if EA is used during a vaginal birth, but vacuum and forceps are not? An eye-opening study entitled “Effect of Epidural Anesthesia on Clinician-Applied Force During Vaginal Delivery” from The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology showed that OBs applied a significantly greater force of pull on the baby’s head and cervical spine when EA was used compared to when it was not. The study used pressure-sensitive gloves to measure the obstetrician’s applied force during vaginal delivery. The peak force for delivery of the anterior shoulders was 7.1 +/- 2.7 pounds with EA, versus 4.3 +/- 1.3 pounds without. The peak force rate, which is described as the overall force used to deliver the baby divided by the time required to deliver the baby, was 30.6 +/- 18.9 pounds/second with EA, versus 13.3 +/- 5.8 pounds/second without. The study concludes that the significant difference in force pull was due to “ineffective
pushing” on the woman’s part (her fault!). This study validates the concern of the chiropractor, not only when forceps or vacuum extraction has been used, but also with the use of an epidural alone. Epidural anesthesia has been linked to an increase in cesarean births due to failure to progress. This is because the usual tactics applied after EA are a recipe for a “failure to progress” diagnosis. A cesarean birth requires no expulsive efforts on the woman’s part and complete reliance of pull and traction through a small incision in the abdominal wall and uterus. This undeniably puts a significant amount of tension on a newborn’s spine and has been linked to a host of newborn and maternal injuries, including nerve damage. Having your newborn’s spine checked after birth makes a difference in the function of his or her nervous system. Perhaps the most concerning of all is the fact that EA is so effective at what it is designed to do—eliminating sensation. Dr. Chung Ha Suh, Ph.D., professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Colorado, received the first-ever National Institute of Health grant for chiropractic research. His research showed that pressure from subluxation equal to the weight of a quarter can decrease nerve transmission by 60 percent. This pressure can occur without any pain, or other signs or symptoms. In other words, the vertebral subluxation complex, a condition in which there is abnormal and decreased movement of the spinal bones, often occurs without any immediate signs or symptoms. Although a newborn can exhibit signs of subluxation, such as difficulty turning his head or colic symptoms, it is very likely there will be no symptoms at all. Combine this with a woman’s inability to experience the sensations of birth, and she might assume that no spinal trauma to the baby could have occurred. The literature associated with epidural anesthesia clearly indicates the need for a close evaluation of a newborn’s spine soon after birth, and a discussion of epidural use during labor and birth as a must in the chiropractor’s office. issue 31 | pathways
© Lynsey Stone / dfwbirthphotographer.com
chiropr ac t ic for life
an epidural. Please do offer support, encouragement and love.” The Farm, a birthing center in Tennessee founded by worldrenowned midwife Ina May Gaskin, boasts amazing birth statistics by today’s obstetric standards. Of thousands of babies born at The Farm, 96 percent were without any medical assistance. This is quite an achievement considering the C-section rate in the United States is at about 32 percent right now, and has climbed steadily for decades. In her book, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Gaskin writes, “When you are injured and feel pain, its message is ‘Run away!’ Adding a doula, a labor support person, to the birth team has been or ‘Fight!’ You are being damaged. shown to reduce a woman’s request for pain medications and epidurThis is survival information. The pain of labor and birth has als, among other benefits. an entirely different message. It says, ‘Relax your pelvic Alternatives to Epidurals muscles. Let go. Surrender. Go with the flow. Don’t fight this. It’s There are many safer avenues a woman can explore for pain bigger than you.’” during labor in place of an epidural. In her paper “Update on Many women today learn to fear birth. It is an unpredictable Nonpharmacologic Approaches to Relieve Labor Pain and event. Therefore, anything that appears to control this and make Prevent Suffering,” doula and childbirth educator Penny Simkin it more predictable appears to be a good thing. Reflecting on discusses two different models of care: the medical model and her thirty years of practice, Gaskin says, “My experiences as a the midwifery model. The former usually involves actions done midwife taught me that women’s bodies still work.” Chiropractors to the woman to eliminate pain, while the latter focuses on the appreciate and support that women’s bodies are designed to elimination of suffering by understanding and respecting the work during childbirth and beyond. process of pain. Simkin also states that the elimination of pain has no bearing on the satisfaction of a woman’s birth experience. In fact, women who choose not to use EA consistently report a high level of satisfaction with their birth experience. The midwifery model of care offers “reassurance, guidance, encouragement, and unconditional acceptance.” Pain is seen as a normal experience, and not a sign of damage, injury or abnormality. Adding a doula, a labor support person, to the birth team has been shown to reduce a woman’s request for pain medications and epidurals, among other benefits. A woman can go into Dr. Kate Engelhardt practices alongside her husband, her labor and birth with certain expectations, which can quickly Dr. Jason, in their family practice in Lancaster, Massachuchange when she does not receive support and understanding setts. She holds a diplomate with the Academy Council from her caregivers. Discussing these concerns with the birth on Chiropractic Pediatrics. Dr. Kate is a frequent guest provider and the labor and delivery team is important. The hospispeaker in her community. She is passionate about her priority as tal staff are trained to be doers. And, while it may come with the a doctor to teach others. She and her husband have two children, best of intentions, often doing in labor leads to problems that Raegan and Nolan. While their births were without interventions, were hoped to be avoided in the first place. I remember hearing they still both received spinal checkups soon after birth. View article a doula suggest to a client to post a sign during her hospital resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness birth, saying, “Natural childbirth in progress. Please do not offer .org/references.html.
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mind – body– spirit
Morning Wellness By Patrick M. Houser
© Luceluceluce / dreamstime.com
n 1980, my then wife, Kathryn, and I were on vacation in Hawaii. She began waking in the mornings with nausea, although she was otherwise healthy. We had been eagerly working on having a second child. After a couple of days of this, reality dawned and we became aware she was pregnant. We were thrilled, but the nausea persisted. We wondered about dealing with the nausea using affirmations. We wanted to explore the nausea as a possible psychosomatic response to the pregnancy. Was there a conflict between her conscious and unconscious thoughts about having another child? We already understood that a possible emotional component to nausea had to do with “digesting new ideas.” We had worked with Louise Hay’s book, Heal Your Body, and were experienced with affirmations and their value in changing long-held beliefs. However, we had never tried using affirmations in order to resolve so immediate an issue like nausea. We were curious just how much influence they could have. Kathryn put pen and paper next to the bed, and when she awoke with nausea the next morning, she began writing. She wrote an affirmation and then paused and listened in to see if she had a harmonious internal response, or not. Her writing was an exploration of her thoughts, feelings and beliefs—not just the inputting of words or phrases. She wrote that she was happy about the pregnancy; her response was not an enthusiastic yes. She wrote that this was the perfect time to get pregnant; she discovered inner conflict. She also uncovered residual fear, based on the possibility of repeating the traumatic experience of giving birth to our first child. She wrote that she really wanted another child now…but she discovered hesitation. Keep in mind that Kathryn wanted another child. And yet previously unresolved issues were at work, unconsciously. Over the next few days she repeated this process first thing in the morning. Each day the nausea was less intense and dissipated more quickly. By the fourth day she awoke completely at ease and welcoming our new child. I have recommended this technique to many mothers since 1980, and they have reported a very high rate of success and subsequently expressed much gratitude. This is one of many examples of how what we think can affect our lives, even if we are unaware of the thoughts. There can also be physiological components inherent in what is called “morning sickness.” This is not to say that affirmations will be effective for everyone, or that they are to be considered a cure, but they are certainly worth a try. So let’s support mothers and their wellness, rather than the alternative.
Excerpt from Fathers-To-Be Handbook by Patrick M. Houser. Patrick is a freelance writer, keynote speaker, childbirth professional and parent workshop leader worldwide. He is co-founder of the Fathers-To-Be Initiative, online at FathersToBe.org. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness .org/references.html.
THE MISSING PIECE Consciousness and the MotherBaby Bond By Tracy Wilson Peters, CCCE, C.L.D., and Laurel Wilson, IBCLC, CCCE
ost information pregnant families access today is designed to prepare the family for childbirth and early parenting—detailing such things as nutrition, hazards to avoid, the anatomy and physiology of pregnancy and birth, breathing techniques, medications and medical interventions. Unfortunately, the most essential of all preparation, the awareness of the mind-body-spirit “motherbaby” bond, is rarely addressed. Cutting-edge research indicates that the experience in the womb and the early moments of birth and infancy are the most formative moments in our lives. These quantum moments shape all we become. Unfortunately, many professionals who work with families do not yet realize the significance of the motherbaby bond. In fact, the concept of bonding with the baby is rarely mentioned except for the postpartum and early infancy stages. With today’s increasing rates of medical intervention, cesarean birth, postpartum mood disorders, and the overall atmosphere of unconscious parenting, it is obvious that a missing piece of critical information isn’t being communicated to families. This missing piece is the motherbaby bond. In this technology-obsessed world of ours, it is easy for mothers to forget that the most important knowledge comes from within. In our society, it is rare for us to listen to our body’s cues and respond accordingly. How many pregnant mothers nap during the day when they are tired or get regular chiropractic adjustments for overall balance and function? We avoid listening to our bodies because we feel rushed, and don’t honor their signals as actual communication. The pregnant body is communicating what it needs all the time, and, believe it or not, the unborn baby is, too. All we have to do as mothers is learn to listen, give ourselves the permission to trust the connection, and take the time to respond. How Does the MotherBaby Bond Work? Nature is impressive in its design and prepares babies in the womb for the new world they will encounter at birth. Since each
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baby is born into a distinctly different environment, he must adapt quickly in the womb in order to survive and thrive at birth. The information a baby receives in utero teaches him to adapt to his new world. A mother is constantly communicating about her world to her baby throughout pregnancy, via special messenger molecules. The baby, interestingly, communicates back to his mother through the placenta with his own set of messenger molecules. Mom and baby are sharing information during each and every moment of pregnancy. This sharing is how the motherbaby bond begins. Mother and baby communicate by way of the placenta, using components such as hormones and neuropeptides. There are specific neuropeptides that are molecules of emotion, which communicate a mother’s feelings to her baby. When a mother has a thought, a “feeling” or emotion pulses through her body. These pulses are messenger molecules that deliver signals to the body’s systems. For example, if a mother smells something burning, she is likely to experience worry or fear. Her body starts to release hormones, such as adrenaline and other catecholamines, to pump blood to her limbs so she can get ready to move quickly and get her baby to safety. Her perception of the world (smelling smoke) creates a thought (“I smell smoke”) and emotion (worry/ fear), which then signals her body to prepare to get out fast (blood pumping to her arms and legs). This unique and remarkable communication between mother and baby is how the baby’s emotional intelligence is created. He experiences the world of emotions through his mother, and begins to become aware of life based on how his mother feels about her world. When she has a loving thought, he experiences love. When she feels joyful, he encounters joy, and so on. It’s an amazing process designed to give babies the opportunity to experience a kaleidoscope of emotions and develop a healthy emotional life that matches the emotional tone of his new family. This emotional tone becomes his way of coping with his world, known as EQ, or emotional quotient. Current research shows that a healthy EQ is much more important for long-term happiness and success in adults than a high IQ.
© Belinda Pretorius / dreamstime.com
Focusing on creating a healthy, happy baby in the womb leads to happier, healthier children and families. Mothers should be excited to learn we have this power—the power to build our babies’ brains.
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Pregnancy can be an opportunity to make a shift. It’s important for mothers to let go of attitudes that make healthy choices seem burdensome and embrace a new belief system where better choices are perceived as a loving gift to oneself and one’s baby.
The Architect of Your Baby’s Future Being aware of this motherbaby bond is critical if we wish to create a more peaceful society. Since mothers have an excellent opportunity to positively shape the personality and emotional intelligence of the next generation, mothers and fathers need to learn the tools necessary to enhance this connection. Prenatal education should focus less on the stages of labor and more on stress reduction, mindfulness techniques, and creating healthy and supportive relationships. Pregnancy is when conscious parenting begins. When babies are conceived in a trusting, peaceful, loving state they are literally formed in love. Early pregnancy is an ideal time for mothers to contemplate their habits and environment. It is also a time to be grateful for our relationships with our partners, our families and our friends. Being in a state of appreciation, rather than conflict, has an enormous impact on the birthing experience. Keys to the MotherBaby Bond The motherbaby bond can be enhanced with a few key concepts that help a mother foster a deeper connection to herself, her baby and her world. These concepts are designed to create a BOND:
Being Observing Nourishing Deciding 24
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Being relates to a mother’s consciousness, having an awareness of our thoughts and feelings. Thoughts and feelings shape our daily lives, affecting our health, stress levels, fertility and the growth of our babies. Pregnancy is a great opportunity to begin making healthy changes in lifestyle. These changes should incorporate activities that enhance “being,” like mindfulness techniques, breath work, thought awareness, appreciation, and taking quiet time to bond deeply with the baby. Observing means being in a state of mindfulness. Mindfulness encompasses being purposeful, conscious and non-judgmental in thought and action. What could be a better mindset for pregnancy? Observing provides mothers an opportunity to create change where it’s needed. To understand the world and the people in it, self-observation is the best place to start. Mothers who foster a healthy internal relationship tend to have nourishing relationships with the people in their lives. Loving, supportive relationships actually change a mother’s brain, heart patterns, and mental and physical health. The people in a woman’s life change her, for the better or worse. Emotions and attitudes are contagious. Choosing to be around people who contribute happiness and health has a profound effect on fertility and the growing baby.
Nourishing involves all of the generous and loving ways that a mother tends to her emotional and physical needs. Our physical health is more than what we eat, drink and do for exercise. It is about how we feel about our bodies and how we care for them. Pregnancy can be an opportunity to make a shift. It’s important for mothers to let go of attitudes that make healthy choices seem burdensome and embrace a new belief system where better choices are perceived as a loving gift to oneself and one’s baby. Remember, the body is always an expression of one’s internal emotional world. The keys to nourishing revolve around gratitude, body-mind awareness, making healthy decisions and practicing stress reduction.
Deciding is the experience of actively participating in creating your reality. What we think about, we bring about. Therefore, it makes sense to move through this world intentionally, especially when it’s known that our experiences as mothers impact the health and personalities of our babies. We can make decisions
pregnant woman © Niavuli / dreamstime.com
If all mothers knew this, we would likely spend more time doing things we loved and activities that reduced our stress instead of focusing on less important tasks like worrying over where to register for baby goods. Neonatologist Dr. Frederick Wirth referred to this as being a “brain architect.” He knew that focusing on creating a healthy, happy baby in the womb led to happier, healthier children and families. Mothers should be excited to learn we have this power—the power to build our babies’ brains. As we wrote in our book, The Greatest Pregnancy Ever: The Keys to the MotherBaby Bond, “Every orchestra has specific instruments and musicians, but you, the mother, are the conductor. You are writing your own symphony, you choose the music and the notes. If something is out of tune, you can change the music. You create the harmony. You are the maestro.”
that are in our best interest by being in conscious agreement. What is conscious agreement? Conscious agreement is the act of making decisions based on deep inner listening and coming to an intuitive mind-body-spirit agreement. It is making decisions that feel good at a gut level. Conscious agreement occurs when you are in collaboration with your inner wisdom, when every part of you says “YES!” You are in harmony with your own feelings. Before pregnancy, a woman’s consciousness appears to affect only her life. Once she conceives, she must acknowledge that her consciousness directly affects her baby’s development and emotional well-being. Therefore, all of her choices impact her baby—what she eats, who she allows in her life, what thoughts she chooses to have and what state of being she chooses to be in. These choices will attract her relationships and experiences. Every moment in life, we are choosing our emotional state of being, and thus affecting our baby’s experiences as well. Being in a state of conscious agreement during pregnancy (and even while trying to conceive) becomes crucial to the motherbaby connection. Easy steps for conscious agreement are: Separate from external influences. To make a decision based on conscious agreement, it is sometimes necessary to remove yourself from environments or people that may be distracting. This can be as simple as closing your eyes and taking a moment to connect to your inner wisdom. Get quiet and pause. Take a few deep breaths, allow your thoughts to calm and connect to your source. Your source can be defined as that which guides you—God, the universe, your spirit, your intuition, etc. Listen in. Think about the situation that has presented itself. What is your gut feeling? How is your body feeling? How is your body reacting? Do you feel drawn to the situation or person, or do you feel a sense of discomfort? How does this feeling affect your baby?
mandalas © Markus Gann / dreamstime.com
Decide and commit. Honor the feelings that are coming up for you and your baby. Make a decision that is in harmony with what your body, baby and intuition are telling you. This is truly honoring the motherbaby bond. Today’s mother is bombarded by technology, an endless array of choices and a medical community that has yet to recognize and honor the motherbaby bond. However, it is possible for every mother to tune in to the miracle happening inside of her. She can minimize the influence of her external reality and focus in on the internal world of the motherbaby bond. By moving into the states of Being, Observing, Nourishing and Deciding, she has the opportunity to truly BOND.
Tracy Wilson Peters, C.L.D., C.L.E., CCCE, and Laurel Wilson, IBCLC, CCCE, C.L.E., C.L.D., are co-authors of The Greatest Pregnancy Ever: The Keys to the MotherBaby Bond. The keys detailed above—Being, Observing, Nourishing and Deciding, as well as Conscious Agreement—are concepts from within the book. Tracy Wilson Peters has been a lifelong advocate for families. Tracy’s experience raising her own children led her to a love for supporting expectant families. This passion encouraged her to found and serve as CEO of CAPPA, the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association, the largest childbirth organization in the world. Tracy has appeared on many television networks, including FOX, CBS, NBC and ABC. With more than 16 years of experience, Laurel Wilson helps women connect with their inner resources to discover their true beliefs about themselves, their relationships, and their abilities to birth and parent their children. An educator, board-certified lactation consultant, and executive lactation director of CAPPA, she believes that the journey into motherhood is a life-changing rite of passage that should be deeply honored and celebrated. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/references.html.
“If I were at home,
© Stephen Mahar / dreamstime.com
THE TROUBLE WITH EXTRAPOLATING
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I would have died.”
HOSPITAL BIRTH EVENTS TO HOMEBIRTH By Erin Ellis, C.P.M., L.M.
© Tim Lee
midwife in North Carolina was recently charged with practicing midwifery without a license because her state does not license Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) and other direct-entry midwives. There was some local news coverage of the arrest and the ongoing efforts of North Carolina families to legalize CPMs. One of the local news stories included a mother’s birth story with a familiar perspective. “If I were at home,” she said, “I would have died.” When I hear statements like this I cringe on the inside. Being a midwife, I hear it a lot. Women love to talk about their birth stories. In the park, at moms’ groups, among new friends, birth stories are being told. When I hear a story with the “I would have died at home” perspective, I nod in empathy and say mmm-hmm. It’s a bit of a double bind. Midwives and doulas, you know what I’m talking about. In these moments, I strive to listen with deep gratitude, kindness and love. Every woman’s story is inherently valid and it is her story to tell, her journey. On the other hand, my inner advocate of truth and justice wants to illuminate the myths and realities of the hospital birth industry; very often the emergencies are caused by unnecessary interventions. The best I can do is to honor the mother’s feelings and experiences while side-stepping all the nuts and bolts of the “would have died” argument. That can get messy. But since it’s coming up again in the media and a larger audience of women is hearing such emotionallyA typical hospital birth hook-up: charged statements about Pitocin to speed up labor, epidural homebirth, it’s time to get medication and an IV bag. Pitocin messy. use in labor makes women more Why do women in the likely to hemorrhage after birth. U.S. die while giving birth?
No one knows with certainty, because our reporting methods for maternal mortality are abysmal. We think, based on fractured U.S. statistics and older studies, that the primary causes of death to women during birth or shortly after are thromboembolism, preeclampsia/eclampsia, hemorrhage, infection and anesthesia deaths. Let’s look at hemorrhage, because it is the most likely of these unlikely complications to occur in low-risk women birthing at home. Here are a few reasons why. Homebirth and hospital birth are supported by two divergent models of care. The homebirth model subscribes to the philosophy of Don’t fix what isn’t broken: Natural processes generally work best when they are not interfered with. The medical model subscribes to the (more profitable) philosophy of action: Pregnancy and birth are conditions that require fixing. All actions and interventions have consequences. Each and every one of the interventions in a typical hospital birth has the potential to cause complications, like hemorrhage. These interventions do not happen at home. New research demonstrates that women whose labors are altered by prolonged exposure to Pitocin are more likely to hemorrhage after birth. This is because oxytocin, our body’s natural hormone that Pitocin was medically created to mimic, helps the uterus to contract after birth and minimize blood loss.
The United States ranks 41st in maternal mortality among nations. That means in 40 other countries, women are less likely to die from pregnancy and birth-related causes. The CDC also states that half of the reported deaths were preventable, and that death rates are underreported by almost a third. issue 31 | pathways
Pitocin binds to oxytocin receptor sites, and over time the body becomes desensitized to it, preventing the uterus from contracting normally and leading to hemorrhage. Regrettably, we’ve gotten to a point now where most births in the U.S. are induced or augmented with the help of Pitocin. Homebirth midwives do not use Pitocin to start or speed up labor. In fact, using Pitocin for convenience without explicit medical cause has never been FDA-approved. Immediate postpartum interventions can also lead to hemorrhage. The period just after birth is a unique and potent time biologically for the mother and baby. A natural flood of hormones connects mother and baby physically and emotionally, and helps the mother safely birth her placenta. The mother’s hormone levels will never be as high as in this hour after birth, and when this flow is disrupted, the mother is more likely to bleed excessively. Interventions during this immediate postpartum time are routine in a hospital setting. They include failing to give the baby to the mother immediately, assessing the baby away from the mother, pulling on the umbilical cord, changing the mother’s position to suit the care provider, diverting the mother’s attention away from the baby, prematurely clamping and cutting the umbilical cord without good reason to do so, and more. Midwives honor the biological importance of the hormonal bubble after birth and do not intervene unless there is a medical risk that outweighs the risk of intervening. When you hear someone say “I would have died if I’d had a
In a typical homebirth, mother and baby are undisturbed after birth. The midwife does not unnecessarily clamp the cord, or otherwise interfere with the mother and baby during these precious minutes.
homebirth,” or “My baby would have died,” please remember that these are very emotionally charged declarations. Yes, tragic outcomes do occur in any setting despite the best possible care. However, in many hospital births, it is unnecessary interventions that have caused the complications that women and babies suffer from. In fact, the United States ranks 41st in maternal mortality among nations. That means in 40 other countries, women are less likely to die from pregnancy and birth-related causes. The CDC also states that half of the reported deaths are preventable, and that death rates are underreported by almost one third. You cannot simply cut and paste all the circumstances surrounding a given hospital birth, superimpose them on a homebirth setting, and predict the same outcome—or vice versa. The models of care are too divergent. Women can die from birth complications in any setting, and in the United States our hospital death rate from birth-related causes is indefensibly high. We know that lowrisk women are as safe, if not safer, birthing at home.
Erin Ellis, C.P.M., L.M., is a midwife and mother from Bozeman, Montana. She enjoys writing about birth, mothering and clinical and political issues in maternity care. Visit her website: erinmidwife.com. View article
AUTHORS NOTE: Due to the nature of the comments I received on this article’s original posting at erinmidwife.com, I would like to clarify this instance of the article by saying that I do NOT believe homebirths are categorically—in all instances—safer than a hospital births, nor am I saying that one is superior to the other. My intention here is to question the common premise that we can extrapolate outcomes from one setting to another.
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Birth photo © Abigail McGill
Flowchart by Cameron Ellis
resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness .org/references.html.
Nonprofits for the Midwives Model of Care American Association of Birth Centers. AABC was founded by Childbirth Connection and has has been the nation's most comprehensive resource on birth centers for more than 25 years. Birthcenters.org
The Midwives Model of Care™
Birthing the Future. The mission of Birthing the Future is to gather, synthesize, and disseminate the finest world wisdom about birthing and the care of mothers and babies from pre-conception to the first birthday. Birthingthefuture.org
The Midwives Model of Care is based on the fact that pregnancy and birth are normal life processes.
Citizens for Midwifery. The goal of Citizens for Midwifery is to see that the Midwives Model of Care is available to all childbearing women and universally recognized as the best kind of care for pregnancy and birth. Citizens for Midwifery also endorses the Mother Friendly Childbirth Initiative. Cfmidwifery.org
The Midwives Model of Care includes: • Monitoring the physical, psychological and social well-being of the mother throughout the childbearing cycle;
Coalition for Improving Maternity Services. The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS) is a coalition of individuals and national organizations with concern for the care and well-being of mothers, babies and families. Our mission is to promote a wellness model of maternity care that will improve birth outcomes and substantially reduce costs. This evidence-based mother-, baby- and family-friendly model focuses on prevention and wellness as the alternatives to high-cost screening, diagnosis, and treatment programs. Motherfriendly.org
• Providing the mother with individualized education, counseling, and prenatal care, continuous hands-on assistance during labor and delivery, and postpartum support;
Foundation for the Advancement of Midwifery. FAM is dedicated to increasing access to midwifery in North America through education, research and public policy. FAM receives its support from foundations and individuals who embrace the Midwives Model of Care. Foundationformidwifery.org International Cesarean Awareness Network. The International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) was formed more than 25 years ago in order to support women in their journey towards understanding the risks of cesarean section and with the purpose of helping them have healthy births and healthy lives after undergoing the surgery that changed them. Childbirth.org Lamaze promotes a natural, healthy and safe approach to pregnancy, childbirth and early parenting. Knowing that pregnancy and childbirth can be demanding on a woman’s body and mind, Lamaze serves as a resource for information about what to expect and what choices are available during the childbearing years. Lamaze.org
• Minimizing technological interventions; and • Identifying and referring women who require obstetrical attention. The application of this woman-centered model of care has been proven to reduce the incidence of birth injury, trauma, and cesarean section. © 1996-2007 Midwifery Task Force All Rights Reserved http://cfmidwifery.org/mmoc/define.aspx
Midwives and Mothers in Action. The MAMA campaign is a collaborative effort by the National Association of Certified Professional Midwives (NACPM), Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA), Citizens for Midwifery (CfM), International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC), North American Registry of Midwives (NARM), and the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council (MEAC). This partnership is now at work to gain federal recognition of Certified Professional Midwives so that women and families will have increased access to quality, affordable maternity care in the settings of their choice. Mamacampaign.org Midwives Alliance of North America. MANA’s goal is to unify and strengthen the profession of midwifery, thereby improving the quality of health care for women, babies and communities. MANA also welcomes student and midwifery advocate members as another valuable part of the organization. Mana.org National Association of Certified Professional Midwives. NACPM is a professional association committed to significantly increasing women’s access to quality maternity care by supporting the work and practice of Certified Professional Midwives. Nacpm.org
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In Honor of
By Frankie Condon, Ph.D.
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There was nothing forced in her treatment of me, nothing pressured, no sense of hurry—just an exceptionally mindful presence beside and with me. And that presence was an extraordinary gift. When I was pregnant with Lucy, my husband and I asked Dan what we should name the new baby. He thought about it for a while, then said with great conviction, “Spoon Cake!” We laughed and asked him why and he said, “Because that baby’s going to come out of your tummy like cake on a spoon!” We laughed some more, but the odd thing was that he was right. Lucy’s birth was hard work, but toward the end of labor things became very quiet, calm and smooth (especially after the midwife kicked the nasty, loud nurse out of the room). I remember one particular moment when I turned to Pam and said, “I think I’m going to push now.”
© Gene Lee / dreamstime.com
don’t tend to get nostalgic. Maybe it’s that I have enough not-so-nice memories of times past that I’d rather poke holes in myself with a pickle fork than go back in time. Or maybe it’s that I am perfectly happy in the present. In any case, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking wistfully about the past…until recently. My children, Dan, Lucy and Grace, were all born in the spring. My husband and I sometimes jokingly refer to the time between March 26 and April 21 as lambing season. Dan will turn 15 soon, and Grace will be 11. In a few more weeks, my middle child, Lucy, will become a teenager—she’s turning 13. During the last couple of days I have been remembering their births; well, more accurately, I’ve been remembering labor. And remembering labor has me remembering our midwife’s presence and support during all three of my children’s labors. Here’s what I remember: For those of you who don’t know, there’s sometimes this stage in labor when women get really angry or short-tempered. In fact, one of the ways you can read where a woman is in her labor—how close she is to birthing—is by taking notice of her emotional state. In any case, when Dan and I were laboring together during his birth, I hit the grumpy stage. And I remember looking over at our midwife, Pam, who was sitting by my bed, leaning forward, very, very still. I remember thinking, “What the BLEEP is she doing? Why isn’t she helping me?” And then I had this epiphany: She was helping. She was listening to me. I mean, she was listening to me so deeply—to my body, to the sounds of my labor, to my feelings. She was absolutely, without reservation, tuned in. And that, I realized, was exactly the help I needed. I could labor on my own with her attunement to sustain me. That realization was so powerful. To be listened to in that way was an extraordinary gift.
Left: The author with her family.
Pam, who was sitting by my bed, said quietly (and I think she was laughing a little), “Okay.” And I did. She let me lead and she trusted me to know when the time was right. There was nothing forced in her treatment of me, nothing pressured, no sense of hurry—just an exceptionally mindful presence beside and with me. And that presence was an extraordinary gift. Grace’s labor was the hardest. Not surprising to those of us who know Grace, she was all catawampus in there— facing backward and just generally bucking tradition. That labor seemed to go on and on. While my labors with Dan and Lucy were hard work, there was no denying that Grace’s was downright painful. At some point, Pam turned to Mike and me and asked us what we wanted to do. I was pretty out of it, but I thought at the time that she was asking us if we wanted intervention. Mike and I had talked a lot over the years about wanting to do things naturally, about my desire to have joyful labors rather than fear- and pain-filled ones. We’d talked about how, if I got into trouble, the question would come. We knew that if the baby or I were really in trouble, we’d be able to tell by the way the question was posed to us (if a question was posed at all). So, we just kept going the way we had been, with the hard work and the pain. And Pam stayed with us. She respected our choice and supported us when, I know, lots of other medical professionals wouldn’t have. Grace was born in her caul (a sign of spiritual significance, good luck, and often, as legend has it, future greatness). Only one in a thousand babies is born in its caul (mostly premature babies) and often doctors puncture the caul before the baby is born. Pam didn’t. And I remember—rather dimly from my exhausted fog—listening to her talk with Mike about what it might mean that Grace was born in hers. Pam stayed with us when we made the choice to take the hard road on principle rather than the easy one for expediency’s sake. She respected my right to make choices about my body and my life. Moreover, she was peaceful and calm during a difficult time and willing to let Grace come into the world within the protective membrane of her caul without trying to fix or correct what was, I really think, meant to be. I hate watching movies and television shows that contain scenes of women giving birth. I think they’re so bogus, so stereotyped; they play so coldly into the hands of interventionist (sexist and patriarchal) Western medical traditions. I am feeling nostalgic for my babies and, while I have no desire to have more
of them, I’m remembering with great fondness and a deep sense of wonderment, our labors and the deep matter you really can learn from midwives. There are ways of being with and for others in the world that I think I wouldn’t be able to conceive of were it not for Pam. I think I learned the power of attunement and the power of deep listening from her. I think I learned to trust the instincts of my friends, loved ones and students, and to be willing to follow when the time is right. And I think I learned that not everything that is happening needs to be controlled or fixed. Sometimes people need to choose the harder way, and when they do, I want to go with them as friend and ally rather than trying to make things easier. Today and for a very long time to come, I’ve decided I’m celebrating midwives and the amazing, empowering work they do for women who choose labors liberated from the lies and excesses of Western medicine, who treasure the right to choose when, where and how their bodies will be treated, and who hope for labors and births that are spiritually enriching experiences and not merely clinical ones. We haven’t seen Pam in almost 10 years. And yet, we remember her very, very well. And, I really think, somewhere in their bones, Dan, Lucy and Grace remember, too.
Dr. Frankie Condon is an associate professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Together, she and her husband, Mike, are raising their three children, acting as the primary caregivers to her mom, who has multiple sclerosis, and also trying to keep up with two dogs, a cat, two chinchillas and a bearded dragon lizard. They live active, busy and occasionally stressful lives, but also lives filled with joy, laughter and powerful sense of having been blessed with the opportunity to learn and grow in the care of one another. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamily wellness.org/references.html. issue 31 | pathways
infor med choice
here is no more precious moment in a mother’s life than that first gaze into the eyes of her newborn baby. The surge of love, the desire to protect—all of these emotions are part of the universal mothering experience. How strange then, that when that baby is a boy, one of the first things American mothers are asked to do is hand him over for an unnecessary, painful and inherently risky surgery that will take away a healthy, normal part of his body, forever. The surgery is called “circumcision,” and it is carried out a million times a year in the United States, mostly in hospitals or doctors’ offices, and sometimes in homes or other places. The American Medical Association calls it “non-therapeutic.” The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control have never recommended the surgery, having always maintained a neutral position because they know that the motivations underlying the surgery are not medical. However, for the past couple of years, both the AAP and the CDC have indicated that they might change their neutral stance on neonatal male circumcision, and instead recommend in favor of the surgery. Their purported reasoning stems from studies of adult males and the role male circumcision might play in retarding the transmission of HIV/AIDS. But while those studies, conducted in Africa, found some evidence that circumcised men contracted HIV at lower rates than uncircumcised men in control groups, no benefit was found for women, and neither has any benefit been found for male-to-male transmission. Extrapolating from studies of adult men in Africa to justify removing healthy, functioning tissue from infant boys in America
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on the chance those babies will engage in unsafe behavior decades into the future requires a blind leap over a huge ethical chasm. For one thing, while the African studies were conducted with presumably consenting adults, neonatal circumcision in this country involves babies, who cannot consent. And the medical ethics are clear: For an intervention as invasive as surgery to be justified, the procedure must carry medical benefit to the patient, and there must be informed consent. Parental consent is inadequate if the baby is not sick, and doesn’t need the surgery. There is good news, however. Parents in this country have begun to disregard the medical-industrial establishment, and are rejecting circumcision in larger and larger numbers as they learn the facts of just how unnecessary it is. In July 2010, a CDC researcher presented a report at an AIDS conference in Vienna, based on a survey of more than 6.5 million boys born in American hospitals over three years. It showed the rate of neonatal male circumcision had dropped precipitously— from 56 percent in 2006 to under 33 percent in 2009. When asked for confirmation, the CDC quickly tried to back off from the data, saying it had been collected for another purpose. But the CDC could not deny what growing numbers of health and human rights activists have known for years: American families are increasingly making their own choices about the health and wellbeing of their babies. “What we can tell you is that male infant circumcision rates have declined somewhat in this decade,” a CDC spokeswoman grudgingly told The New York Times. The change in circumcision rates, in fact, has been dramatic. Just 30 years ago, an estimated 90 percent of baby boys born in the United States underwent the surgical removal of their
© Rene Jansa / dreamstime.com
By Georganne Chapin
foreskins, whether in hospitals or in religious ceremonies. Now, the CDC’s most recent number tells us that the natural anatomy is becoming the norm for American boys. I am not shocked by how quickly the rate has fallen. After all, it only takes a moment to decline to circumcise your baby, and that moment is happening thousands of times a week throughout the U.S. In the two years since Intact America began serving as the go-to group for the anti-circumcision movement in this country, I have been interviewed by The New York Times, the Today show, The Washington Post, the Associated Press, the Chicago Tribune, FOX News, The Huffington Post, the Los Angeles Times and countless radio shows, including stations in Canada, England, Spain and Ireland. The call-ins, the mail, the exploding social media presence
Just 30 years ago, an estimated 90 percent of baby boys born in the United States underwent the surgical removal of their foreskins. Now, the CDC’s most recent number tells us that the natural anatomy is becoming the norm for American boys. of “intactivist” groups…all of this confirms that parents are getting the message that circumcision is unnecessary and harmful. And they are saying no. Contrast the falling rates—a result of common sense and the growing realization of just how remarkably well-designed babies are—with the persistent efforts of the U.S. medical establishment to justify and promote circumcision. The reasons for the latter are both simple and complex. They include “tradition” (i.e. conformity), money (doctors get paid for procedures, but not for leaving patients alone), and doctors’ fear of acknowledging that something they have done for years is useless or even harmful. Fact vs. Fiction So why are parents making their own decisions not to circumcise their baby boys? Perhaps it is helpful to look at some of the myths, and facts, about neonatal male circumcision.
© Dragoneye / dreamstime.com
STUDIES IN AFRICA PROVED THAT CIRCUMCISION PREVENTS THE SPREAD OF HIV/AIDS.
FACT: _ While the studies showed some evidence of a reduction in female-to-male transmission of the virus, the CDC reported that women in these same studies contracted HIV at a somewhat higher rate from their male HIV-infected partners who were circumcised than did women whose HIV-infected partners were intact! Further studies in Kenya had to be ended prematurely because of similar findings. Women in the studies were
contracting HIV at alarmingly higher rates from circumcised men than women in control groups—presumably because the men, believing the surgery to be some kind of protective “silver bullet,” were not using condoms.
CIRCUMCISING BABY BOYS IS SAFE AND
As with any surgery, cutting off part of a baby boy’s genitals causes pain and creates immediate health risks that can lead to serious complications, including infection, hemorrhaging, scarring, difficulty urinating and—in the inevitable cases of surgical mistake—partial or full amputation of the glans (head) or shaft of the penis. There are recorded cases of deaths linked to circumcision, including recent ones in New York, Kansas, South Dakota, British Columbia and England. Even a “safe” and “uncomplicated” circumcision causes the baby to experience pain lasting at least for several days—and, of course, the permanent loss of erogenous tissue.
MYTH: CIRCUMCISION IS JUST A “LITTLE SNIP.” FACT: The amount of skin removed from an infant in a typical circumcision grows to around 15 square inches (the size of a 3 x 5 inch index card) in an adult male. A typical circumcision carried out in a medical setting involves a doctor or nurse placing the baby on his back and strapping his arms and legs onto a molded plastic board. The baby’s penis is stroked to give him an erection, at which point the doctor inserts a metal instrument under the foreskin to forcibly separate it from the glans. The doctor then slits the foreskin to widen its opening, inserts a circumcision device which crushes the foreskin, and then cuts the foreskin off. This painful procedure takes at least 10 minutes—a very long time in the life of a newborn baby.
According to one legend, the famous Manneken Pis of Brussels commemorates the little boy who saved the city by urinating on a burning fuse while the city was under seige. Let’s extinguish these circumcision myths as well.
MYTH: THE FORESKIN IS AN UNNECESSARY APPENDAGE THAT CAN BE REMOVED WITHOUT ANY IMPACT ON BOYS. FACT:
The foreskin is not a birth defect or an “extra” or “useless” flap of skin. Perfectly designed by nature, it is a normal, sensitive and functional body part with nerves, muscles and blood supply. In infant boys, it is attached to the head of issue 31 | pathways
infor med choice
If a boy asks why his penis looks different
MYTH: CIRCUMCISING NEWBORN BABY BOYS PRODUCES HEALTH BENEFITS LATER IN LIFE.
from his father’s or his brother’s, he can be
told honestly that daddy or brother had a part of their penis removed, but that it wasn’t done to him because “we now know it isn’t necessary.” the penis and protects it from urine, feces and irritation. It also protects the urinary opening from contaminants entering the sterile urinary tract. Throughout life, the foreskin keeps the head of the penis moist and protects it from injury. The foreskin has an important role in sexual pleasure, due to its specialized, erogenous nerve endings and its natural gliding and lubricating functions.
A BOY SHOULD “LOOK LIKE HIS FATHER.”
Children differ from their parents in all kinds of ways, including hair and eye color, body type and, of course, size and sexual development. If Dad were missing an eye or had a large birthmark, no one would suggest removing his son’s eye or tattooing him with a birthmark. If a boy asks why his penis looks different from his father’s or his brother’s, he can be told honestly that daddy or brother had a part of their penis removed, but that it wasn’t done to him because “we now know it isn’t necessary.”
MYTH: ROUTINE CIRCUMCISION OF BABY BOYS CANNOT BE COMPARED TO FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION (FGM), EITHER AS A CULTURAL OR MEDICAL PRACTICE. FACT:
Rationales offered in cultures that promote female genital cutting—hygiene, disease prevention, improved appearance of the genitalia and social acceptance—are similar to those offered in cultures that promote male circumcision. Whatever the rationale, forced removal of healthy genital tissue from any child of any sex is unethical. All children have the right to be spared this inhumane, unnecessary surgery.
MYTH: OPPOSING MALE CIRCUMCISION IS RELIGIOUS AND CULTURAL BIGOTRY. FACT:
Many who oppose the painful and permanent alteration of children’s genitalia do so precisely because they believe in universal human rights. In our society, parents may raise their children in accordance with their own cultural and religious beliefs, but this right is not limitless. A parent does not have the right, directly or through the agency of a medical or religious practitioner, to inflict irreversible bodily harm on a child.
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There is no proven link between circumcision and better health. One would never recommend routinely removing a baby’s fingernails to prevent him from scratching himself, or pulling a child’s teeth to prevent cavities later in life. And study after study shows that only abstinence or use of a condom can prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
The Making of an Intactivist In 1980, when I held my newborn son, I knew I could not agree to have him circumcised. Little did I imagine that 30 years later I would be leading a national organization dedicated to ending this practice. My thinking then was that it made no sense that every baby boy needed immediate, painful surgery to “correct” his normal, natural body. We don’t do that to our daughters, so why on earth should we do it to our sons? When my son was 18, one day—out of the clear blue—he thanked me. He said, “Mom, I never told you how glad I am that you and Dad didn’t have me circumcised.” That moment was a huge eye-opener for me, and the beginning of my activism. Over recent years, the intact men I have spoken with about this issue express similar gratitude for having been spared. As the executive director of Intact America (intactamerica.org) I am much in demand as a speaker and resource on the topic of circumcision. Every time I do a radio interview, every time I give a talk in public, women and men come up to me and tell me their circumcision stories. I have met mothers who still cry 10, 20, 30 years later when they recount how—because of their ignorance, and under pressure from doctors and hospital staff— they handed their newborn sons over for a “quick little snip,” and received back an exhausted, wounded child. One mother said, “His pain was so obvious; how could anyone say that babies don’t feel pain?” While, thankfully, many men do not consciously remember or dwell on the loss of their foreskins, I have also heard from hundreds of men who are acutely aware that they are missing something important, and wish they had been given a choice. Maybe, just as war is too important to be left to the generals, deciding whether to leave a baby boy or girl genitally intact is too important to be left to a medical establishment that profits from expanding the number of surgeries. In this case, parents—not a doctor—know best.
Georganne Chapin is the executive director of Intact America (intactamerica.org). She holds an undergraduate degree in anthropology from Barnard College, an M.Phil. degree in sociomedical sciences from Columbia University, and a Juris Doctor from Pace University School of Law. To watch Pathways’ interview on circumcision with John Travis, M.D., visit Pathways Connect’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/user/PathwaysConnect.
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out er womb
Nighttime Bonding By Pinky McKay, IBCLC
udging by my e-mail inbox and the conversations I share with parents and health professionals, infant sleep has become a veritable industry. An industry, it seems, that is driven by fear—particularly the fear that if we dare to respond to little night howls with too many cuddles (or, heaven forbid, cuddles in parental beds), our babies may never learn to sleep alone. When my own babies were small, neither social ideology nor wakeful babies caused me a lack of sleep; my babies slept snuggled up with me at night. My choice to co-sleep wasn’t based on research studies, it was simply “best practice” for our family… and how we all got the most sleep. Now there is a plethora of research about infant sleep, and I find it fascinating to compare this research to my own experience. Recently, as I searched for some long-term evidence on the benefits of parent-infant co-sleeping, I came across a study by James J. McKenna and Thomas McDade called “Why Babies Should Never Sleep Alone: A review of the co-sleeping controversy in relation to SIDS, bed-sharing and breastfeeding.” The study, which involved college-age subjects, found that males who had co-slept with their parents between birth and 5 years not only had significantly higher self-esteem, they experienced less guilt and anxiety and reported greater frequency of sex. For women, co-sleeping during childhood was associated with less discomfort about physical contact and affection as adults. The co-sleepers had higher self-esteem than those who slept alone as children. Although I am uncertain how to objectively validate my own (or my kids’!) experience in terms of this research, I concur with the wealth of evidence that supports co-sleeping as an integral part of mother-infant bonding. (In this article, co-sleeping is defined as mother and baby sleeping within sensory proximity of each other. This includes but is not limited to bed-sharing.) Science confirms what instinct has always sung in the hearts of mothers: Nature prepares mothers and babies to be able to commence their attachment as soon as the baby is born. Immediately after a natural birth, certain hormones that are part of the birth process remain at high levels within the mother’s
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and baby’s bodies and play a crucial role in the formation of their relationship. If this delicate balance of hormones is allowed to function in the very first moments after birth—by keeping mother and baby warm, in skin-to-skin contact with each other, and free of distractions—they are exquisitely, chemically, primed to fall in love with each other. Two of the major players in this hormonal cocktail are oxytocin, the hormone of affectionate bonds—also known as “the love hormone”—and prolactin, a hormone critical for the initiation of lactation, which is often referred to as “the mothering hormone.” Oxytocin is involved in whatever facet of love we consider—it is released during lovemaking and also has been shown to evoke maternal behavior if injected into the brains of virgin rats. Oxytocin itself is part of a complex hormonal balance. A sudden release of oxytocin creates an urge toward loving, which can be directed in different ways, depending on the presence of other hormones. This is why there are different types of love. When oxytocin is found with a high level of prolactin, for example, the urge to love is directed toward babies. Fortunately, whatever the birthing experience, it seems nature allows more than a single chance to cement the foundation for a loving relationship and to reinforce the bonding process. Learning to love is an ongoing process for mother and baby, and hormones continue to play an important role, day and night. As a woman breastfeeds, for instance, she receives doses of oxytocin (which stimulates the milk ejection reflex) and prolactin (which has a calming effect on her as she breastfeeds). Endorphins, the hormones of pleasure and transcendence, are also released during breastfeeding and encourage the mother to continue. In turn, endorphins are transferred through the mother’s milk to her baby, giving the child a sense of contentment as he or she breastfeeds. Since prolactin levels are highest during night feeds, it makes sense to consider that proximity to her infant at night would elevate the love a mother feels for her infant. Perhaps, without pressure to teach their babies to sleep all night as soon as possible, mothers could appreciate night-time breastfeedings as an extra opportunity to bond with their babies.
composited with images from dreamstime.com
© Jason Wadsworth, courtesy of Sonya Green
• Do not sleep with your baby if you or your partner is under the influence of any substance, such as alcohol or medication (even if prescribed), that could induce a deeper sleep and reduce awareness of your baby.
For any mother snuggling a baby against her body, nuzzling her face into her infant’s baby-fine hair and smelling that sweet newborn breath, research verifying that mothers and babies feel best when they are close to each other would hardly seem necessary. However, there is indeed scientific evidence that mothers and babies are hardwired to the experience of togetherness. One argument in favor of continuous mother-baby togetherness maintains that infants get to know and bond with their mother through all of their senses—eye contact, the sounds of the mother’s voice, her touch and smell. Attachment, the process of learning to love, is a behavioral system that operates 24 hours a day. It does not deactivate during sleep, where infants spend up to 60 percent of their time. As obstetrician Michel Odent observes, “It takes only the most elementary observation to see that a baby needs its mother even more during the night than in the daylight. In the dark, the baby’s predominant sense—sight—is at rest. Instead, the baby needs to use its sense of touch through skin-to-skin contact, and its sense of smell.” According to Professor James McKenna, director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame, co-sleeping is a safe and even potentially life-saving option, as long as parents provide a safe sleeping environment (see sidebar). Professor McKenna has extensively studied mothers and babies both co-sleeping and sleeping separately and his research demonstrates what co-sleeping mothers will attest to: When mothers and babies sleep together, they tend to get into the same sleep cycle. The mothers, even in deep sleep, were aware of their babies’ positions and would move to avoid lying on them or impeding their breathing. Although the co-sleeping babies spent less time in deep sleep and aroused more frequently (though not necessarily waking completely), their mothers actually got more sleep than the mother-baby pairs sleeping in separate rooms. As a researcher in SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), Professor McKenna explains that these small transient arousals may lessen a baby’s susceptibility to some forms of SIDS, which
• Do not co-sleep if you or your partner is a smoker. • Sleep on a firm, flat surface (not a waterbed, couch or sofa). • Keep baby’s head uncovered and do not use padded blankets, to avoid overheating. • If you have long hair, tie it back, and consider that very large breasts or extreme obesity may reduce awareness of your baby’s position.
are thought to be caused by failure to arouse from deep sleep to re-establish breathing patterns. The babies in his studies who sleep with their mothers also tend to sleep on their backs or sides and less often on their tummies— another factor that could reduce the risk of SIDS. Professor McKenna advises, “From an evolutionary and biological perspective, proximity to parental sounds, smells, gases, heat and movement during the night is precisely what the human infant ‘expects,’ and in our push for infant independence, we are forgetting that an infant’s biology cannot change quite as quickly as cultural child-care patterns.” For mothers who enjoy sharing sweet dreams with their babies, the research is affirming: Touch and proximity are essential elements of bonding; the hormonal status that enhances bonding is at its most effective during nighttime breastfeeding; continued breastfeeding maintains the release of hormones essential for mother-infant bonding; and breastfeeding is more likely to be successful for a longer duration when mothers and infants co-sleep. If, despite the evidence, you are facing criticism (“You will never get him out of your bed!”), take heart: My children are no longer sleeping with me. However, now that they are of college age, according to research, it seems they could well be sleeping with somebody else!
Pinky McKay is an international board certified lactation consultant, infant massage instructor, mother of five and the author of Parenting by Heart, 100 Ways to Calm the Crying, Sleeping Like a Baby, Toddler Tactics and her baby massage DVD, Gentle Beginnings. Based in Melbourne, Pinky regularly holds workshops and is available for mothers groups and conferences. Visit her website at pinkymckay.com.au. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness .org/references.html.
issue 31 | pathways
not Perfectionism By Chris White, M.D.
“Do not doubt your own basic goodness. In spite of all confusion and fear, you are born with a heart that knows what is just, loving, and beautiful.”
ometimes when I speak about the importance of wholeness, I see signs of fear and stress appear in parent’s faces. For some, preserving wholeness is just one more thing that they have to do in their already busy lives. For others who are really doing their best to give their son or daughter everything that they themselves never had as a child, it’s another place where they may “fail” and cause harm to their beloved children. It is heartbreaking to me, and the last thing I want to do to is precipitate fear in you—possibly the most conscious generation of parents the world has ever seen. So let me make a few things clear. First, Essential Parenting is not about trying to be perfect. Perfectionism is the attempt to make reality conform to some belief we have about how things should be. This approach causes a lot of suffering in our world—for ourselves and the people around us. There is a difference between intentionality and perfectionism, which has to do with our relationship to reality and that relationship’s effect on our body-mind.
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In perfectionism we stand against reality, judging it as wrong, and set about trying to fix the “wrongness”—be it in our children, ourselves or something in the environment. In standing against reality, our bodies and minds contract into a more reactive state of consciousness. In this state, we become less aware of many streams of vital information that we need to successfully surf the changing waves of reality—somatic information, other emotions and desires, insights and intuitions, and verbal and non-verbal communication from the people we are with. Over time, this pattern of perfectionistic thought and behavior results in rigidity, and a nervous system that is constantly irritated by all that is wrong with life. Intentionality (as I see it) is different. Here we start with acceptance of the way things are. We open our minds and bodies to the truth of what is happening—right here, right now—and from this more thorough contact with reality we then add our deeper intentions and desires to the mix and let the entirety of the
© Lisa DeNardo / LKDphotography.com
—Jack Kornfield, The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace
he next time you are at the playground watching your child express his or her wonderful and limitless
“Who, then, is the doer? Is it the infant
energy, take a few moments to reflect on how you have been
who brings her mother through the
changed by this process called parenting. In what ways have
veil of self-concern into limitlessness?
you been asked to go beyond your limits? At what points have
Is it the mother, who chooses to hold
you been in tears after being pushed beyond your capacities?
sacred her infant’s needs and surrender
What are some of the things you now know about yourself,
herself? Or is it the One, which weaves
or about the nature of life, that you didn’t know before your child was gifted to you? Feel the truth of your observations as they reverberate throughout your body. Let any currents of emotion arise
them both through a spiraling path toward wholeness?” –Vimala McClure, The Tao of Motherhood
freely, and open yourself to be affected by them. Conscious reflection and attention changes us again, allowing a deeper integration with each new experiencing of the truth. Share your observations with a friend or your lover, or write them in a journal after the Great Mystery has wound your little one down into a deep and restorative sleep.
situation guide our behaviors and interactions with our children. This is a more integrated state than perfectionism. It’s more effective, and much more fulfilling for everyone involved. Parenting is not about getting it right, doing it correctly and succeeding. Rather, it is a process by which we can learn about ourselves and human nature and be changed by what we learn. In this way, parenting becomes the new arena of our lives where we can be challenged, make mistakes, come up against our limits and be transformed. Some mysterious process has chosen us and our children to participate in this transformation together. The dynamic intelligence of life believes we are ready for this training, and that we are the right holding environment for our children’s maturation. Wholeness is our birthright and our destiny. Relax back into the loving arms of the Mystery and trust yourself. You are exactly what your child needs.
Chris White, M.D., is a pediatrician, parent educator, life coach and father committed to supporting the psycho-emotional and spiritual growth of families. He is the creator of The Essential Parenting Home Course, which is an attachment-based and mindful approach to raising children. Visit him at his website, essential parenting.com. View article resources and author information here: pathwaysto familywellness.org/ references.html.
issue 31 | pathways
fa mily living
MOM By Christine Dubois
’m meeting an old lover today. He sounded great on the phone: successful, influential, professional. All the traits that attracted me to him in the first place. A string of “what-if’s” float through my mind. No, it’s not a man that’s setting my pulse racing. It’s an office. The office I left to stay home with my son two years ago. I’m here to discuss a consulting project with a department manager. I clutch my briefcase tighter as I step off the atrium elevator onto the third floor. It’s abuzz with action. Sales reps pound out memos, managers huddle in private conference rooms, secretaries in tailored business suits juggle blinking phone lines. Instantly I’m caught up in the romance of it all. I feel again the sweet, heady intoxication of being at the center of the action, the thrill of being successful and important. Only now I watch from outside, like a child with her nose pressed against the candy store window. Teresa has a private office now. A photo of her 6-month-old daughter—who spends the day with her grandmother—sits on her desk. As we chat, a woman rushes in with bad news from the printer. They’re out of purple ink. Will Tuesday be all right? Teresa pulls out a notebook. We need it by 2:30, she says. The woman rushes off again. Farther down the hall, Judy slips me a copy of the confidential memo she’s writing. Enrollment is down. Again. As chair of the Disenrollment Task Force, she’s one of the few people in the company who knows why.
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Eileen has been promoted to manager and supervises a dozen people. Thinner now, and with a new perm, she radiates self-confidence. I pull in my stomach to try to hide the 10 extra pounds I’m still carrying. I turn left four rows from the window to look for my old cubicle. It’s still there. Someone else’s name is on it now. Back home, I wipe another cup of grape juice off the kitchen floor and read Little Duck’s Moving Day for the fifth time in a row. I’ve traded my business clothes for jeans and a rumpled sweat shirt. Here there are no promotions, no end-of-the-year bonuses. Not even the bathroom is private. And I wonder: Have I thrown away my chance for success? A voice at my knees interrupts my thoughts. “Hug Mama,” says Lucas, wrapping his chubby arms around my legs. I lean down and squeeze him back. The infatuation fades. Suddenly the office seems as illusory as the false fronts of a Hollywood ghost town. Here on the front lines of the Mommy Wars, it’s not hard to see where society has marshaled its heavy artillery. Money and prestige reward those who make the politically correct choice to rejoin the workforce. Yet the politically correct choice isn’t always the right choice, for us or our children. The bottom line is that there’s more to life than the bottom line. Business is the opiate of the American people. The smell of fat paychecks dulls our senses and makes us incapable of listening
The choices women face today are complex. But we can’t afford to let
society define success for us.
to our best selves. Give me an office with my name on the door, and I’ll gladly sell my soul and throw in my first-born as well. For women, the rewards of success are all the more seductive because they weren’t available just a generation ago. We’re eager to escape from lives of domestic drudgery and do something important. But, let’s face it, a company Blackberry is hardly a lasting contribution to world peace. Much of what happens in corporate offices is simply busy work—glamorous busy work to be sure, but busy work just the same. I could go back to my job and feel I hadn’t missed a beat. For all the STATs and ASAPs, nothing’s really changed. I remember cleaning out my files after I resigned, tossing stacks of URGENT, CONFIDENTIAL and TOP PRIORITY correspondence into the recycling bin. One weighty file was devoted to the Communications Strategic Planning Task Force. Six months of meetings, memos and resolutions. Then the vice president who chaired the task force was laid off, and the project died. I had nothing to show for it but a file I couldn’t quite bear to throw out. On the other hand, six months of rocking, nursing and changing diapers produces lasting and noticeable results. In six months, an infant sits up. Another six months, and he’s beginning to walk. Six months more, and he’s starting to talk. Suddenly he’s not a baby anymore. My son is a different person than he was two years ago. And so am I. I’ve witnessed the everyday miracle of human
development, been part of the wonder of discovering Lucas. I’ve fed and dressed, worried and laughed, comforted and cared. But most important of all, I was there. The choices women face today are complex. But we can’t afford to let society define success for us. We must shake off our infatuation with the business world and learn to listen to our hearts. After two years away, I still feel the lure of the conference rooms and business suits. But I can honestly say I’d rather talk to Lucas than meet with VIPs, rather read Humpty Dumpty than study a top-secret memo, rather eat peanut butter and jelly than dine in the company cafeteria. So if you see my old lover, tell him this is good-bye. He wasn’t really my type anyway.
Christine Dubois is a widely published freelance writer who works from her Seattle-area home. Visit her at christinedubois.com. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/ references.html. issue 31 | pathways
wellness lifest yle
EYE ON THE BALL
Why We Need to Fix Youth Sports By Bob Bigelow
icture the typical youth sports game—a blur of motion and sound. Some parents are busy cheering or just chatting among themselves, enjoying the day. Others are prowling the sidelines. The prowlers mean business. These parents become field generals, barking orders and commanding their children to excel. In this world of high volume and hyperventilating, one parent stands out. You can hear him from the parking lot. “Mark your man!” he screams to his little boy. Red-faced and nearly breathless, this father runs up and down the sidelines, keeping pace with every play. “Get to the ball,” he growls. The louder he screams, the more he seems to expect from his son. Just then, an opposing player steals the ball from his son, dribbles around him and heads straight toward the goal. Score! He is the reason his wife doesn’t enjoy going to the games anymore. This is too often the case in youth sports. More dramatic and disturbing examples of how far adults stray from their proper roles in youth sports occur every day—from assaults on coaches and officials to brawls among parents. There is a disconnect between what adults say and what children need to hear. What adults want and need from youth sports is often not what children want and need.
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Today, more than 35 million children ages 4 through 14 participate in some form of organized youth sports. The vast majority of programs are staffed by very well-meaning volunteers. Yet more than 70 percent of kids drop out of organized youth sports by age 13—missing opportunities for socialization, character development, exercise and fun. While kids do migrate to other activities as they get older, the number one reason children drop out is pressure from adults, and no longer finding their sports experiences fun. Kids need exercise, and the fun and values participation in sports brings. The high drop-out rate only contributes to America’s problems with childhood obesity. The solution to these problems is not for children to figure out how to meet adult expectations. Rather it’s for the adults to look at youth sports through the eyes of the children, and to serve their wants and needs while they are being children at play. This will require not only a change in adult attitudes, but changes in the very sports systems themselves. I don’t offer this guidance lightly or without the credentials to back it up. I was a first-round draft pick and played in the National Basketball Association for four years, toe-to-toe and elbow-to-elbow with the stars of the game. Before that, I played basketball at an Ivy League college, in high school and in the driveways of my hometown, where children of my generation got the best education in sports there is: from each other. Today I’m a lecturer, an occasional professional scout, a youth sports coach and an administrator. I’m the father of two sons who have played youth sports since first grade. These days I travel
Adults are focused far too much on winning at the expense of meeting children’s needs. Most children are simply concerned with playing and having fun. the country talking to parents, coaches and other youth sports administrators about what is wrong and how to give youth sports back to our children. I also take what I have learned from the best people in physical education, sports science and child psychology. I apply their work to what is happening in the gyms and on the playing fields all over America. I travel to wherever schools and sports organizations can find a room. I look parents and coaches right in the eye and tell them much of what they are doing is wrong. Not only can the youth sports systems controlling our children’s lives ruin their fun, but also they often deny individual children fair opportunities to reach their full potential through excessive use of elite teams. With the cruelest irony, these systems can rob us of young athletes who, had they been given a fair chance as children, might have been terrific players as high school seniors or as adults.
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The Need for Real Change There are frankly way too many serious youth sports issues that have been well documented in the major media over the past 10 to 15 years. These include recent articles in Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, The New York Times, research publications by many organizations such as National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS), and books including Just Let the Kids Play (which I coauthored with Tom Moroney and Linda Hall) and Dr. Bruce Svare’s Reforming Sports: Before the Clock Runs Out. Some of the more serious issues include: • Adults are focused far too much on winning at the expense of meeting children’s needs. Most children are simply concerned with playing and having fun. A landmark 1992 study of 26,000 children by Michigan State University’s Institute for the Study of Youth Sports showed kids put fun, socialization and learning new skills as their top reasons for playing. Winning is secondary in importance. Programs that overly emphasize performance and winning put greater pressures on youngsters, and can lead to high drop-out rates. • Parents and coaches often behave inappropriately. The overemphasis on winning causes problems for everyone. Parents worry excessively about their children’s performance. Coaches and referees yell at each other and at the kids. These heightened emotions have even led to outright violence and abuse. • Children are over-specializing at ever younger ages. Today, kids who play the same sport risk over-use injuries as the same muscles and joints are used continuously. Pediatric groups report an alarming five-fold or more increase over the past decade in joint, muscle and tendon injuries, and the associated surgeries that are often needed to correct these. Understanding the Root Causes The root cause is simply that too many adults who watch or are actively involved in youth sports experience the tension of watching their children perform “on stage” every week. They eagerly hope their child will perform well and succeed
(what parent doesn’t?), and dread that their child may fail. Parents experience strong and natural parental emotions, in the context of their children in a competitive situation. This often brings to the surface the innate and intense emotions many parents (and parent coaches) feel on behalf of the most precious things in their world, their kids. This is articulated in Dr. Shane Murphy’s watershed book, The Cheers and the Tears. I believe that simply overlaying a “veneer” of training and behavior pledges does not reduce the primal feelings that occur as parents and coaches see their children “on stage.” This very consideration is absolutely crucial to identifying the real solution! Rather than Band-Aid fixes, the solution lies in changing the way youth sports programs are run. The current focus on using competitive adult sports models for kids is just not in their best interest. More games, tournaments and play-offs do not make for better kids’ sports. More emphasis on learning new skills, participation, fun and properly managed competition is what will best meet children’s needs and keep them coming back! A Sporting Chance The vast majority of today’s efforts to improve youth sports involve educating parents, coaches and administrators, with the hope that education will change behavior. While of value, I believe changes must be made to the very way youth programs are structured—that is, by changing the very play models. This conclusion is based on the continued proliferation of problems in the face of more than 20 years’ worth of education and training programs, my review of numerous studies conducted by key youth sports researchers, and pilot programs that I have been involved with. These all provide very insightful perspectives on why parents and coaches become over-involved in youth sports and what the real solutions must be. I truly believe that changing the way youth sports programs are structured will minimize adults’ underlying emotions, and much of the resulting over-involvement will disappear. In addition, the kids will learn better skills and have more fun!
Bob Bigelow is one of the foremost youth sports speakers in the country. He advocates fully meeting the needs of children as the top priority in youth sports programs, and provides new approaches for positive change in youth sports. Bob is a former NBA first round draft choice and played four years for the Kansas City Kings, Boston Celtics, and San Diego Clippers. He played collegiately at the University of Pennsylvania for Hall of Fame coach Chuck Daly. He has devoted several thousand hours researching and lecturing about organized youth sports and its effects on children—and adults. Since 1993, he has conducted more than 2,500 talks and clinics worldwide. Adults throughout the country have used his 2001 book, Just Let the Kids Play, to reflect on how they can give youth sports fun back to the children. He can be reached online at bobbigelow.com. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/references.html. issue 31 | pathways
a moment of t rut h
ÂŠ Angela Santiago
Too Many Things
When you spoil your children with material goods, is the motivation coming from your own inner child?
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By Madisyn Taylor
ne of the greatest things about children is that they have the ability to entertain themselves for long periods of time with something as simple as a cardboard box or a set of measuring spoons. It makes you wonder why we feel the need to buy them so many toys—so many that they won’t even have time to play with them all before they grow out of them. Often, if we take the time to question our compulsion to constantly give our children new toys and clothes, and to spoil them with food that is not even good for them, we will find that we are trying to fill up the space to avoid our own difficult feelings and pain. If you feel yourself wanting to spoil your child with material possessions, take a moment and see if you can feel where your motivation is coming from. We may be inundating our children with things they don’t need out of a desire to create a feeling of abundance that our own childhoods lacked. Or perhaps it’s out of a need to feel liked by our children. Both of these motives tend to be unconscious, stemming from unresolved issues from our own upbringing or even our adult life. These unresolved feelings naturally come up when we find ourselves in the role of a parent, often as our child reaches the age we were when these traumas were most pronounced. But spoiling your children will not save you or make your pain disappear. Only acknowledging and working on your emotional issues can do that. What our children really need is for us to provide both a sense of safety and a sense of freedom and love, of which there can never be too much. If we are able to do this well, material possessions need not take center stage. We all want to provide our children with a good and happy life. But most of us know, deep down, that material possessions play a very small role in that. We confuse our children when we seek to make them happy through buying them things. When we do this, they take our cue that happiness comes in the form of toys and treats, rather than in the joy of being alive and surrounded by love, free to explore the world.
Madisyn Taylor is a bestselling author and the cofounder of the popular inspirational website DailyOM (dailyom.com). A recognized leader in self-help and New Thought spirituality, Madisyn has more than 15 years of experience in personal development and alternative healing methodologies. When not working, Madisyn can be found meditating in her garden and communing with nature. She lives in Ashland, Oregon, with her husband, Scott Blum, and their son, Oliver. Reprinted with permission from DailyOM—Inspirational thoughts for a happy, healthy and fulfilling day. Register for free at dailyom.com. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/references.html.
issue 31 | pathways
touch t he fut ure
Freeing education to create a sustainable cooperative society By Anna Jahns
“If our earth is to survive, we need to take responsibility for what we do.Taking control of our education is the first step.” —Heidi Priesnetz
Education Shapes Our Future When we imagine the kind of future in which we’d like our children and their children to live, most often we imagine one in which we have finally found ways to further the viability of our biosphere and to live in harmony with each other in a sustainable way. A crucial step for this to happen as a global society is that we must collectively learn to think
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T Creating Learning Communities
homas starts the day just like any other child who sets the pace for his own learning. He wakes up with a grin on his face, eager to greet the day that stretches out before him—relatively unscheduled, yet full of learning opportunities just waiting to be discovered. Before he has even rubbed the sleep from his eyes, he is curiously inspecting the progress of the chemistry experiment he stayed up till late in the night concocting, then wanders into the kitchen to meet his family for a relaxed shared breakfast. They all pitch in to finish the chores around the home and garden they have created together, before Thomas and his mother head down to their local resources library to research the solar panel system the family is constructing, and to prepare for his science study group in the afternoon. Children like Thomas, who are learning naturally outside of the confines of the traditional schooling system, are an emerging group drawing a great deal of interest from those seeking answers to society’s problems. These young people learn to interact with the whole world as their classroom, their parents and others serving as chosen guides, mentors and facilitators. Research proves that these children grow up to be independent thinkers who perform academically ahead of their schooled peers, and have a solid sense of self esteem. A large percentage of them go on to be self-employed, leading fulfilling lives actively involved in their community. Some choose to attend OTEN (Open Training & Education Network) for their higher education, or enroll in university later in life; others prefer to just get on with following their interests into their chosen careers. The lives they go on to lead are as diverse as the learning paths they have chosen to take them there, but one thing they all have in common is a passion for lifelong learning. With thought processes unfettered by seeking out only the predetermined “right” answers, and free of the fear of being monitored, judged and tested, self-directed learners are free to explore creative ways of problem-solving and of finding information to answer the questions that are meaningful and relevant to their own lives. Parents of self-led learners discover time and again that children really don’t need to be taught in order to learn; learning is a self-actuated process of creating skills, discovering knowledge and satisfying one’s own natural curiosity. As a way of learning, it is built on—and teaches—the inherent right and responsibility of every individual to set her own standards and to live accordingly. As a way of thinking, it instills and fosters respect for the dignity of each individual.
in new ways, or we will not be able to transcend the interrelated set of problems facing us today. In this age of information, an era of increasing unpredictability and accelerating change, learning how to learn, and how to fluidly adapt and transfer knowledge and skills to novel situations, will become critical. The ability to process and source information is a far more important skill to be honing than rote memorization of outdated facts and theories. More important, perhaps, is the ability to interact with other
Our fundamental assumption—that learning is something that can only happen in schools—is “like confusing spirituality with religious institutions, or wellness with hospitals,” says Priesnitz. The fact is that children do not need to be taught in order to learn.
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human beings with an implicit understanding and respect for our diversity, and to co-create sustainable possibilities for our evolving global society. Most sociologists seem to agree that schooling plays a primary role in reinforcing the social and economic tone of a society. So what tone is being set by our schools today? In her book Challenging Assumptions in Education, Wendy Priesnitz illustrates that the system of education our children are being indoctrinated into today is fundamentally the same as it was 100 years ago, when it was designed to prepare factory workers for an industrial culture oriented toward manufacturing consumer goods and winning political and economic wars. Through competition, self-repression, standardization, and strict obedience to the clock, it teaches authoritarianism and unquestioned faith in the experts. It’s a billion-dollar industry in and of itself, which by all accounts is ineffective, outdated, disempowering to the individual, and unable even to produce a fully literate population after years of compulsory schooling. “Let’s face it,” Priesnitz writes, “the majority of the problems facing society today—pollution, unethical politicians, poverty, unsafe cars...the list goes on—have been created or overseen by the best traditional college graduates. Whether these problems were created by design or accident, we cannot fix them by continuing the status quo. We need to create a society that chooses action over consumption, that favors relating to others over developing new weapons, that encourages conservation over production. And this just won’t happen unless we de-institutionalize learning.” Challenging the Assumptions Priesnitz explores the main basic assumptions in education that must be challenged if we are to envision a more sustainable approach to learning and living. Our fundamental assumption— that learning is something that can only happen in schools—is “like confusing spirituality with religious institutions, or wellness with hospitals.” The fact is that children do not need to be taught in order to learn. Priesnetz goes on to describe how institutionalized schooling
shapes young people’s attitudes toward themselves and the world they live in. “From kindergarten, young people are robbed of their basic human rights and treated as legally minor. They are forced to attend an often unfriendly—sometimes threatening— place, where they are obliged to dismiss their own experiences, thoughts and opinions, substituting the opinions of a textbook author. They may learn about human rights in their social science classes, but are not allowed to experience—let alone practice— these vital components of good citizenship.” Their experience is instead one of disempowerment, with teachers allowed to exercise a kind of power over their students that we only see matched in jails. Schools then measure a student’s ability to regurgitate a prefabricated curriculum on an increasingly standardized scale, with no consideration given to the individual’s aptitudes or developmental readiness. At the end of the school assembly line, with a large part of their lives already spent being processed for a life as producers and consumers, students with little authentic knowledge are bumped out into the adult world and suddenly expected to make mature decisions based on the distorted, disassociated information they have been drilled and indoctrinated with, largely from textbooks and TV. Through this very process, we lose the power to think for ourselves. “Maybe that’s why so few of us challenge the premises of nursing homes, television, day-care centers, schools and the global economy,” suggests Priesnitz. “These things are received ideas, not the result of individuals thinking about what would make their own lives—and those of their families and communities—better on a day-to-day basis.” The solution to this crisis of learning is to put learning back into the hands of the learner—and to put the learner back into the community where he or she lives. Priesnitz echoes the voices of countless other education revisionists and deschooling pioneers, from John Holt to Ivan Illich, in proposing that a more relevant public education system should be diverse enough to accommodate learners of all ages, interests, abilities and styles. It would put individuals in charge of their own learning agendas, beginning by identifying interests issue 31 | pathways
touch t he fut ure
...every aspect of the community can be involved—as it already is—as a real-life part of the self-learning program: museums, parks, health clubs, shops, banks, businesses, town offices, farms, factories and even the streets and the environment itself.
and providing the means to develop them. Communitybased databases could connect those who want to share their knowledge and skills (with or without university degrees) with those who want to learn. Our communities are already rich with people whose skills, knowledge and talents could be shared. The same databases could be used to coordinate volunteers and apprenticeships for community services and learning desired skills. Young Canadian entrepreneur Heidi Priesnitz (daughter of Wendy) describes the function of MAX, the Mentor Apprentice Exchange she initiated in 1994. “The apprentice offers hands-on assistance in exchange for the mentor’s skills and wisdom, which is an exciting and inexpensive way to learn. This barter can take place in any field of activity, between two people of any age. It’s a holistic approach that allows for greater integration of business, education and community.” Libraries are already ready-made learning centers that could expand and prosper. With a few modifications, they could provide the usual services of a library as well as those of a meeting space, office space, music hall, youth center, arts center and free school, all rolled into one. People would continue to come and go at will, whenever they find it necessary, all day long. They would use computers to access information, reference resource publications or simply relax and read. Perhaps they would access points of view not carried by mainstream corporate media. The learning centers could host meetings, classes and guest speakers, or participate in or patronize art shows, craft sales and exhibits. In fact, every aspect of the community can be involved—as it already is—as a real-life part of the self-learning program:
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Evolving Movement Around the world, self-directed learning movements are spontaneously self-organizing with exciting innovations in the possibilities for creating learning communities. The Coalition for Self-Learning is an ad hoc group of writers, innovative educators, homeschoolers, autodidacts and educational pioneers with a common interest in the future of learning. The coalition is giving voice to the enormous potential of these experimental models, through its book, Creating Learning Communities (available free online at the coalition’s website, creatinglearningcommunities.org). In the beginning, only a couple of decades ago, self-directed learners were homeschooled in autonomous family units, each one setting its own curriculum and providing its own supplies and services. Homeschooling alone evolved into homeschoolers getting together to exchange information and provide support to one another through informal get-togethers or organized activities. These meetings give kids a chance to meet other homeschoolers, and to join into study projects together. Groups started newsletters publicizing activities and exchanging books, equipment and other materials; home-based curriculums and materials began being developed, along with organizations to help homeschoolers with legal and legislative matters. Closely associated with the homeschooling movement are a broad variety of alternative schools that are moving in the direction of child-centered education. From the original Montessori and Steiner schools to free schools like those based on the Summerhill and Sudbury models, the explorations and experiments with alternative forms of education have taken as many diverse turns as the people who have forged them. Some innovative educators have demonstrated that when we shed conventional assumptions, schools can become dynamic, exciting places of learning that are responsive to students, families and communities. Some have explored different ways of implementing school-based community learning centers. Still others have explored learning in other community settings, such as the emerging virtual world of the Internet. Learning Centers An exciting new phase of homeschooling and self-learning has started to emerge in the U.S. and the U.K. in the last few years, as local homeschooling networks and self-learners have started providing themselves with new forms of support programs. The Coalition for Self-Learning is taking an active interest in developing these models, which are being called “cooperative
© Lisa DeNardo / LKDphotography.com
museums, parks, health clubs, shops, banks, businesses, town offices, farms, factories and even the streets and the environment itself. Learning becomes a service to the community as future citizens become locally involved, taking part in all kinds of community activities that are meaningful and relevant to their learning process. In the words of homeschooling advocate and author Beverley Paine, “Self-directed learning builds community from the center out, by nurturing the individual, the family and the community, and thus the world.”
© Lisa DeNardo / LKDphotography.com
Occasionally the center brings in outside instructors to teach specific classes based on the children’s interests. Elective classes include things like papier-mâché, nutrition, math games, newspaper, paper-making and drawing. community lifelong learning centers”—places where learning is respected as an act of self-volition, which is integrated into community activities. These learning centers are cooperatively organized by the member families. Parents pool their talents, resources and expertise, often providing mentoring as well as classes and workshops, using all aspects of the community for education opportunities. Learning communities as diverse as the Pathfinder Learning Center in Amherst, Massachusetts, for homeschooling teenagers, and the Community School in Camden, Maine, whose “relational education” approach has demonstrated striking results with socially challenged individuals, are presenting sustainable models for viable alternatives to institutionalized schooling. The North Star School & Homeschool Resource Center outside Seattle is just one model of a democratically governed homeschool resource center. The center provides a place for families to meet, share ideas and study together, with a food buying co-op and babysitting exchange available. Although there is an abundant supply of high-quality games, manipulatives and art supplies, the core belief is that the basics are best covered by the homeschooling parents and their children individually. Occasionally the center brings in outside instructors to teach specific classes based on the children’s interests. Elective classes include things like papier-mâché, nutrition, math games, newspaper, paper-making and drawing. By popular request, the center also offers chemistry, geology, theme unit studies, writers’ workshops, drama and community service projects, which appeal to older students. Some of the coalition writers believe that community learning centers could replace schools as the primary educational agency in a truly democratic, collaborative, sustainable society. More specifically, many believe that diverse expressions of openended, evolving, community-based education are replacing fixed and hierarchical school systems. CSL spokesperson Ron Miller asserts that authentic communities are able to enhance their own development while at the same time enhancing that of each individual in the community, thereby promoting both freedom of personal choice and a sense of responsibility for the whole. Evolving Global Society Bill Ellis, general coordinator for the CSL, points out that the emergence of so many community-learning models reflects much more than a change in educational practices. It is a transformation of the whole mindset of the value of knowledge, and the value of the person in society. “The theme of the learning community is fully integrated with the evolving paradigm we
are witnessing in civil society, which is beginning to see human beings as interdependent entities, systems within systems in a grand and mysterious holonistic cosmos.” To illustrate, he points out how around the world grassroots organizations (GROs, sometimes called nongovernmental organizations or NGOs) are proliferating and empowering people at the local level and promoting community self-reliance. People everywhere are solving local problems with local skills and local resources, taking over where governments and “the market” have failed. In our food system, organic gardening, community-supported agriculture projects, farmers’ markets and co-op food stores suggest that a new localized agriculture and food system is emerging. In hospitals, acupuncture, nutrition, mind-body healing and a long list of other alternative health concepts and practices are being accepted. In housing, intentional communities, co-housing, eco-villages, solar building and other technologies and techniques are gaining acceptance. In economics, local exchange and trading systems (LETS), socially responsible investing, local scrips, cooperatives, community land trusts, community owned corporations, peer lending and credit unions are among the ideas taking root. Transformations in the ways we organize transportation, communications, religion and all other elements of society have similarly started creating a post-industrial world. “Networks of networks of cooperative community lifelong learning centers could well become the foundation for this global transformation to occur on an even larger scale,” envisions Ellis. “If our future is to be based on mutual aid, belonging, caring, cooperation and community, our future citizens should start their lives belonging to caring, cooperative communities involved in mutual aid.” We must first begin with trust and respect for our children, their learning processes and their place in society. We can find ways to put the process of learning back into the hands of the learner, and learners back into the communities they live in, knowing that they will grow into adults who will live in the world as well as they have learned.
Anna Jahns was Kindred magazine’s Spirit of Learning coordinator. Currently Anna and her children are involved in co-creating Children Here and Now, a holistic learning exchange and community. Visit them on Facebook! View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/references.html. issue 31 | pathways
Uprisings for the Earth
Reconnecting Culture with Nature
ersonal transformation is critical to mitigating our global crises. Educators and psychologists, artists and activists, elders and leaders have all asserted that at the core of our global, societal and environmental crises is a need to change our fundamental personal values, and what we consider meaningful in our lives. While we teeter on a precipice without knowing the outcome, it’s encouraging to remember that unprecedented changes have occurred throughout history—positive shifts that at one time seemed impossible. Many of us have drawn upon examples of these shifts for inspiration: from the abolishment of slavery to the achievement of women’s suffrage; from the end of Apartheid in South Africa to the fall of the Berlin Wall; from passage of the Clean Air and Clean Water acts to the emergence of green technology. And although we still face ongoing struggles, we can see and experience the worldwide benefits of these paradigm shifts as they occur. Yet these changes came about in our human realm only because the problems’ root causes—the suffering or imbalances— were first recognized by individuals who changed their minds, thus changing the world around them. The outer geography of our human presence on Earth will change on a larger scale only when our internal geography changes, and not before. We require a new cultural story and societal dream in order to formulate Earth-honoring choices as we journey down this road less traveled. Thomas Berry articulates this in his landmark book The Dream of the Earth: “It’s all a question of story. We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story.
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We are in between stories. The old story, the account of how the world came to be and how we fit into it, is no longer effective. Yet we have not learned the new story.” To find new cultural and personal stories, and to learn from their subtle sensibilities, we must first hear them. Through deeper listening, we can become present to an alive world, one in which we can learn something new. Maybe we can find something we have been searching for, something that comes to us because we have been listening to the stories of woodlands and creeks, glaciers and deserts, polar bears and honeybees. Scientists’ warning of imminent biological doom makes it clear that we need to choose wisely and act quickly. To draw upon our full potential as a conscious and conscientious species seems imperative at this critical juncture; to do so requires not only external information but also knowledge from our innermost being. Taking time for inward reflection is not only intelligent, but also gives us the necessary vision to move forward. To paraphrase a Japanese proverb: Vision without action is a daydream; action without vision is a nightmare. This kind of envisioning, or inward contemplation, begins with quietude so that we can listen to a deeper, more mature voice inside, and to the natural laws and rhythms of the Earth. When we allow ourselves to be intimate with nature, we can remember that we are inseparable from the community of the rivers, forests and animals around us. We can remember that all people, all species, share one sky. This intimacy with our living planet is one of the most crucial components in generating deep care of the Earth and each other,
© Lawrence © istockphoto.com / xxxx Weslowski, Jr. / dreamstime.com
By Osprey Orielle Lake, M.A.
The natural world offers us enduring lessons in design, sustainability, balance and ecological health while also echoing
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back to us our sacred place in the greater community of the Earth.
and it may be the very inspiration that fuels the “collective will” that climate leaders are telling us is necessary to make the change to new lifestyles, new values, new justice, new legislation and a new, post-carbon economy. The natural world offers us enduring lessons in design, sustainability, balance and ecological health while also echoing back to us our sacred place in the greater community of the Earth. With insight gained in the stillness of the mountain, desert or forest, as well as in a city park or home garden, we can be more certain that our actions will address long-term and enduring goals. This larger vision is bound to bring us deeper satisfaction, and not just immediate, superficial fixes. When we sit with the quiet of nature we are reminded of time: that it can take hundreds of years to grow a mature tree, thousands to make a mountain, but only a day or a year to destroy them for short-term gain. It is here in nature that we can best learn the practice of foresight—of actually seeing ahead—and adopt the long-term goal of care for “the seventh generation,” an elegant concept of sustainability long held by the Iroquois Nation in their Great Laws. We need laws
that will not harm future generations. What would happen if meetings held by world leaders and decision makers were to take place over a slowed-down, two-week period in a wild forest or mountain wilderness—instead of within the insulated urban chambers of the most frenetic cities?
Osprey Orielle Lake, M.A., is an advocate of environmental justice and societal transformation. She is the founder/director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Caucus, which works to foster a post-carbon energy future and resilient communities. She has traveled to five continents studying ancient and modern cultures while making presentations at international conferences and universities. Her book, Uprisings for the Earth: Reconnecting Culture with Nature (White Cloud Press), won a 2011 Nautilus Book Award. Visit her online at osprey oriellelake.com. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamily wellness.org/references.html.
From Uprisings for the Earth: Reconnecting Culture with Nature by Osprey Orielle Lake (White Cloud Press, © 2010; reprinted with permission). This material was excerpted from Chapter One, “The Big Quiet,” and Chapter Ten, “Around the Fire: From Global Warming to a Renewed Hearth.” issue 31 | pathways
nut rit ion
Resolving Food Sensitivities with Good Taste By Debbie Johnson
early 60 percent of the population has some degree of celiac disease, or gluten intolerance. Meanwhile, diabetes is becoming more and more prevalent, especially among children. Now doctors are also diagnosing both diseases in many people, finding a link between celiac disease and type I diabetes. Recent findings show that at least 10 percent of people with diabetes of any type also have celiac disease. With the way most people eat today, it’s not surprising. Because of the link with diabetes, it’s not a great idea for people with celiac disease to eat high-glycemic foods. If you read the labels on the gluten-free prepared foods available, you’ll discover they’re loaded with starch, which breaks down into sugar. That can be too much for someone at risk for diabetes. I’ve noticed that progressive doctors, like Dr. Raj Patel in the San Francisco Bay Area, are healing everything from ADD to autism with gluten-free and sugar-free combined diets. Using a diet of allergen-free foods plus a few specific supplements can help so many conditions. Letting go of sugar may be a factor, too. It’s my humble opinion that anyone who eats both gluten-free and lowglycemic will be healthier and happier. I’ve seen it in myself and in the many people who have called to thank me for my gluten-free, refined-sugar-free, lowglycemic, allergy-friendly cookbook. Can you imagine what a mostly GF/LG
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diet can do for those of us who are not at risk, but just unwell? I do not have celiac disease and I’m not diabetic, but I always wanted to eat as healthy as possible, so I simply cut out wheat a long time ago as a staple in my life. I almost never eat it anymore, and have only gluten-free grains in my home. I have worked for decades to come up with fun, delicious and, most important, satisfying ways to eat healthy food. I enjoy the creative process of developing recipes that thrill the palate but keep people healthy or make them healthier. The recipes I’ve developed for my own use and my former restaurant are very alkaline, as well. Several books are available on the subject of alkaline foods, which also increase health. One is entitled Alkalize or Die. Not my favorite way of putting things, but that certainly says it all! A definite plus: Even my menopausal symptoms are better without gluten or any kind of refined sugar. I don’t know anyone who has 100 percent perfect health, but I do know people who are very healthy and have lots of energy by eating low-glycemic and gluten-free. Okay, so what to do about a family with several different kinds of allergies or health conditions? You don’t want to make five different meals, no doubt! And you don’t have to. All you need is a base that’s friendly to everyone—vegetables! Then add sauces and other fun and crunchy stuff.
Golden Chalice Pesto Un-Pasta
Photography by Lisa DeNardo / LKDphotography.com
I used to love pasta, but since eating “un-pasta” for so long, it doesn’t even appeal to me anymore! Now I love vegetables in their most flavorful outfits. Our guests at The Golden Chalice loved this dish, too. Serves: 2 people. Ingredients 1 medium organic spaghetti squash - cup thinly sliced organic red onion - cup julienne (cut into thin strips) organic red bell pepper 2 tbs. unsalted ghee or virgin coconut oil 1 cup organic zucchini slices, julienne 3 tbs. organic classic pesto sauce (see recipe below) Process 1. Cut spaghetti squash in half and clean out the seeds. (If you don’t have a sharp enough knife to do this, simply bake whole and clean out the seeds after baking. 2. Drizzle one tablespoon of unsalted ghee on each half (or grapeseed oil, if vegan). Cover and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes or more, depending on whether or not you like your un-pasta “al dente”—a little more chewy. (The longer you cook it, the more tender it will get.) Scoop out two cups of squash, which should now look somewhat like spaghetti. It’s easier to keep in strands using a fork to take out. 3. Sauté onion and pepper in grapeseed oil or organic unsalted ghee. 4. Add zucchini to above and continue to sauté. 5. Add spaghetti squash and pesto sauce and blend in well. Success Secret: On all amounts and measurements in this or any recipe, please adjust to your personal taste. * Organic Classic Pesto Sauce: Use a blender to combine the following: 1 cup loosely packed fresh, washed organic basil leaves . cup pine nuts . cup shredded organic Parmesan cheese (vegans may substitute vegan non-cheese or simply use added salt) - tsp. Himalayan crystal or Celtic salt . cup organic cold-pressed, virgin olive oil Variations These alterations are the key to meeting different eating needs. 1. Top with toasted or sprouted pine nuts (soak for at least four hours, then rinse) and grated Pecorino Romano cheese (from sheep) or organic goat feta cheese just before serving. 2. For meat or seafood lovers, you may want to add sliced grilled or sautéed organic chicken or shrimp. Have cayenne or crushed red peppers available as condiments for certain friends who love it hot! 3. If you are in a hurry or do not like squash, feel free to use exclusively julienne vegetables, such as zucchini, red and yellow bell peppers, onions, etc., for the base instead of spaghetti squash. 4. For vegans and dairy-free diners, add sprouted nuts and seeds or another protein of choice. Use nutritional yeast or almond cheese, available in health stores, in place of cheese.
issue 31 | pathways
nut rit ion
Golden Chalice Carrot Cake I’ve been asked for this recipe more times than I can remember, as everyone loves it. The key is the moisture, which is obtained by the high oil content—it’s healthy oil, so stay calm! This cake is very moist and tastes delicious by itself, but a Cream Cheese Frosting recipe is included on the next page, as well as Sweet Cashew Cream for vegans.
hat about dessert? That’s the hardest thing to get good at with GF/LG and allergy-oriented households. Think fruit and stevia. Stevia is known to be good for the pancreas, particularly in its more natural forms, such as powdered leaf or whole-leaf liquid extract. Then add whipped cream or cashew cream, or even coconut milk (which is very thick and creamy, and available at health stores). But if you have a special occasion that calls for a cake, the Golden Chalice Carrot Cake is sure to satisfy.
Ingredients 1- cup almond meal flour (health food stores carry this; check labels, or you can grind almonds finely in blender or food processor. Measure after ground). If nut-sensitive, use any gluten-free flour, such as the flours listed below—then cover 5 minutes after baking so it stays moist. - cup organic quinoa, coconut or amaranth flour, or a combination of these flours 2 tsp. aluminum-free baking powder (health store) 2 tsp. organic cinnamon . tsp. organic allspice . tsp. organic cloves 1 tsp. Celtic or Himalayan sea salt 1 cup virgin coconut oil or unsalted ghee (or 1/2 cup of each) - tsp. sweet leaf stevia or raw, powdered stevia leaf 1 cup raisin sauce (see recipe below) 1 tsp. organic vanilla extract or flavor (celiacs may not tolerate extract) 3 cups grated carrots (try to get sweet carrots if not adding sweetener) 4 eggs - cup chopped organic walnuts (optional) Process 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 9 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. 2. Mix together almond meal or flours, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and salt. 3. Blend in oil or unsalted ghee, vanilla extract, stevia and raisin sauce. 4. Add grated carrots. Then eggs, one at a time, beating well after each time. 5. Blend in walnuts (optional). 6. Bake 30-40 minutes, or till done. Cool and cover after five to ten minutes to maintain moisture if using flours other than nut meal. You can frost with cream cheese frosting or cashew cream for vegans and those with non-dairy requirements. Personally, I like it just as well unfrosted. You get all the spiciness—yum! 7. Serve warm if not frosted, or at room temperature with cream cheese frosting. Refrigerate if not serving until next day, or leftover, but return to room temperature to serve. Success Secret: When you combine fruit (such as raisin sauce) and stevia to sweeten recipes, it tastes more like sugar. I’ve never had anyone notice the stevia flavor when I've done that.
* Raisin Sauce: You can keep this in the fridge for weeks. Place 1 cup raisins in jar with 1 - cups water (or less, for more concentrated sweetness). Refrigerate raisins overnight or longer. (If in a hurry, boil raisins in water until soft.) Blend in blender to make paste. pathways | issue 31
Golden Chalice Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients 8 oz. softened organic cream cheese 1 tsp. organic vanilla extract or flavor (celiacs may not tolerate extract) 1 tbs. organic pure maple syrup or . cup raisin sauce - tsp. sweet leaf stevia Process 1. Mix together all ingredients until smooth. Spread immediately on cooled cake, or store in the refrigerator. if refrigerated, let warm up to room temperature before frosting cake. 2. Optional: Add a little purified water to stretch and make the frosting softer, easier to blend and frost cake with.
Bon Appétit! These recipes have evolved over many years of work and play in the kitchen. I’m excited about sharing them with families who need something more than what they can find at the store for their loved ones. Now that I’ve been eating gluten-free and low-glycemic for years, I truly believe that eating this way has kept me younger, stronger and healthier than I would have been otherwise. The interesting thing is, I really don’t want to eat any other way. It actually disgusts me to think of eating a sugar-coated doughnut. And believe it or not, after years of filling my body with wonderfully healing food, I get excited about fresh vegetables and their gift to the world! When I see colorful, crisp new vegetables in season, like sugar-snap peas, I feel a thrill. Can you believe it? It all depends on how your food is prepared—or even left alone, like my sugar-snap peas. Just think of flavor, color and love!
Golden Chalice Sweet Cashew Cream For those who like a smooth, creamy alternative to dairy creams. Ingredients - cup organic cashews, germinated (soaked for eight hours and rinsed well, these become 2⁄3 cup after soaking. Use within two days, rinse daily) . cup purified water 2 dashes Celtic sea salt or Himalayan crystal salt 1 tsp. organic vanilla extract or flavor (celiacs may not tolerate extract) 1 tbs. organic maple syrup or . cup raisin sauce - tsp. sweet leaf stevia Blend all ingredients in blender or food processor until smooth.
Debbie Johnson is the bestselling author of Think Yourself Thin, and the former owner and executive chef of The Golden Chalice, a GF/LG, allergy-friendly, vegan-to-meat establishment. She loves experimenting with recipes for special diets and recipes she developed for more than 20 years. Her cookbook, based on recipes used at The Golden Chalice, is Fun with GF/LG Food. Visit her at glutenfreefun.com. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/ references.html. issue 31 | pathways
greener per spec t ives
Fence Rows and Gut Health A Macro Look at Microflora By Edwin Shank
he similarities between diverse ecologies never cease to amaze me. One area of life may seem to be totally unrelated to the next, but upon reflection, we notice that an extremely simple truth connects the two. Observing and understanding the simple and visible helps us grasp the complex and obscure. So it is with fence rows and gut health. I recall with some chagrin my days as a young farmer in the early 90s. My wife, Dawn, and I took over the farm from my parents immediately upon returning from our wedding trip in August of 1990, and as a still wet-behind-the-ears 20-year-old, I naturally looked to those older and more educated for answers. Agricultural university experts, extension agents and the always helpful Monsanto reps seemed like trustworthy sources of information and advice. Since they all agreed, there seemed to be no need to look further. And in relation to fence-row management, they did all agree. It was all about achieving the most perfect kill. Monsanto’s patented glyphosate herbicide Roundup was the most effective killing agent to be had. No grass or weeds were too tough. Roundup would kill everything—which was great, because vegetation, especially thistles growing on the fence line, was the enemy. They were “pathogenic” plants, and had to be eradicated. This was progress! We were defeating the enemy through anti-vegetation technology. And the fence rows became vegetation-free zones, just as we wanted them. At least at first they were just as we wanted them… until we began to notice a disturbing trend. Where we once had an occasional thistle on the fence row threatening to overgrow the fence and short out the current, we now had a major problem. All around the farm, thistles were becoming more problematic as the years went by. There were some sections of fence line where thistles had pretty much taken over. We would spray them and they would dutifully die, but in a few months, the fence row would be full of thistles again and it was time for another go-around. Here is what was happening: The Roundup was doing its job. It was killing everything. For a few weeks after a dose of spray, there would be a 2-foot wide swath of vegetation-free soil directly under the fence. And this
pathways | issue 31
bare, competition-free ground is exactly what thistles need to really take over. Opportunism Knocks Thistles do not compete well with other plants. They are opportunistic plants which thrive in the absence of beneficial plants like grass, dandelion and clover. They love bare ground. If you have ever noticed how vacant lots and construction zones so often erupt into a rip-roaring thistle bloom, you know what I mean. While we meant well (who can fault thistle killers?) we were inadvertently preparing the perfect seed bed for a real thistle patch. What a tragedy that we were misguided to miss such an observable truth for so long. Thistle seeds floating on the warm summer air were delighted to find a welcome mat of bare, competitionfree soil already prepared for them. I’m sure they were laughing up their leaves. I wish I could say we woke up one morning and saw the futility of this management-by-killing paradigm. Instead, the wake-up call came much more slowly and in a roundabout way. As our family became increasingly frustrated with this and other aspects of our then highintensity conventional farming, we knew there had to be a better way. We decided to step out in faith and convert the farm to an organic farm. Even while doing this, one of our biggest fears was how to control the thistles on the fence rows without the aid of herbicides. We were sure they would be a major problem. We mentally prepared ourselves for weeks of string-trimmer work on the fence rows. Here is what actually happened. When we stopped spraying, the grass and other native vegetation, including thistles, filled in the bare ground along the fence. No surprises there. The first year we did do a lot of string trimming, but as the second and third years rolled around, the grass, clover and other beneficial plants began to grow with a renewed lushness…and the thistle population, almost as if by magic, began to die off. The more we encouraged and supported the beneficial plants, the less problematic the pathogenic plants were. And it was not because there were fewer thistle seeds in the environment.
composited with images from dreamstime.com
The realization came out of the blue. Thistles just cannot survive in any great number where the beneficial plants are healthy and strong. It was like a light bulb came on in my mind. (I might have shouted, “Eureka!”) It’s exactly like a healthy gut! Thistles are like pathogenic bacteria. The opportunistic, pathogenic microbes just do not have a chance to proliferate when your gut is populated with beneficial probiotic microflora. Populate Your Gut Right over this time I was studying a lot about the amazing, almost bulletproof immunity-building power of raw milk and kefir. Especially of interest to me was the concept of competitive exclusion. I realized with a smile and renewed understanding that I had observed, in my humble fence row, the amazing process of competitive exclusion that happens invisibly in our gut when we make sure it is populated naturally with powerful probiotics. But I am sympathetic. Because of my fence row learning experience, I can see how easy it is for worried moms and dads to fall into the Monsanto-like pharmaceutical mindset of killing bacteria as the perfect solution to illness. It seems to make so much sense. Who can fault bacteria killers? Many well-meaning people have concluded that bacteria are the enemy and so have set out to kill them at all costs. They sterilize themselves and their environment. “Kill all the bacteria!” they cry. “Fight BAC!” They buy Purell, and put a dispenser in every room. They get antibacterial soap, and use antibiotics for every sniffle. They pasteurize nuts and almonds, and outlaw unpasteurized cider, as well as raw milk and raw-milk cheeses. These foods may contain pathogens! There is only one problem with these bacteriophobic actions and reactions. In spite of their best attempts, in spite of living in constant fear of the microbe and in spite of increased food safety regulation, these people will someday find that a stray bacterium has penetrated their sterile bubble—and their artificially protected, flabby immune systems will have no defense against it. It’s already happening. Just go online to Food Safety News (foodsafetynews.com) and search. People are falling ill from pathogenic illness in alarming numbers and from increasingly unheard-of sources. Here is just a 30-day sampling, from March, 2011.
78 sick, 2 dead, salmonella, from a bakery in Rhode Island
Hazelnuts: 7 sick, E. coli O157:H7 Walnuts:
12 sick, E. coli O157:H7
8 sick, salmonella from a church breakfast in Thurmont, Maryland
217 sick, salmonella
Folks, this is not normal. I don’t know how to say it strongly enough. This is a powerful wake-up call of immune suppression in America. This is a symptom of a gut that is the bare-ground seed bed under the fence line just waiting for the everpresent thistle seeds. This is a symptom of a food safety program and a healthcare program that are focused on killing all bacteria—pasteurizing, sterilizing and irradiating the food supply rather than feeding and seeding probiotic bacteria in the gut. We never will be able to eliminate all pathogens or thistle seeds from our environment. It is a delusion and an exercise in futility. But we can work to make sure that when the thistle lands in our fence rows, or the pathogen in our gut, that they find a protective blanket of healthy, thriving, bio-diverse flora and microflora that makes it impossible for them to proliferate. Think about it!
Edwin Shank is a grass-based, organic, dairy and chicken farmer. He and his family go beyond simply organic to farm with a deliberate attempt to recreate and imitate the ecosystem as God designed it. As Edwin often says, “When we take God’s idea, His plan and His design, and just respect it and work with it, why should we be surprised that the food is a taste of heaven?” Visit Edwin and his farm at yourfamily cow.com. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/references.html. FDA DISCLOSURE STATEMENT Edwin Shank is an organic dairy and chicken farmer, not a health professional. If it is a medical opinion you seek, by all means, call a doctor. This information is intended to challenge, or even provoke you to explore beyond the conventional food and health system. Please note: Any statements or claims about the possible health benefits conferred by any foods have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
issue 31 | pathways
holist ic he alt hc are
“Silence is a source of great strength.” –Lao Tzu
Find Stillness to Cure the Illness By Leo Babauta
t’s a busy day, and you’re inundated by non-stop e-mails, text messages, phone calls, instant message requests, notifications—interruptions of all kinds. The noise of the world is a dull roar that pervades every second of your life. It’s a rush of activity, a drain on your energy, a pull on your attention—until you no longer have the energy to pay attention or take action. It’s an illness, this noise, this rush. It can literally make us sick. We become stressed, depressed, fat, burnt out, slain by the slings and arrows of technology. The cure is simple: Stillness. Pause. Take a minute out of your busy day to do this little exercise: Pause in the middle
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of all you have to do, all that’s going on around you. Close your eyes, and sit still. Breathe in, and breathe out, and pay attention to your breath as it comes in and goes out. Just sit still, for about a minute. This stillness might seem like inaction, which we’re taught is a bad thing. It’s lazy, it’s passive, it’s against our Puritan work ethic. And yet, this simple inaction can change our world. Stillness calms us. It gives us a small oasis of quiet that allows us to hear our thoughts, that allows us to catch our breath, that gives us room to breathe at all. It is the antibody to the stress and rush we feel daily. Stillness has a calming effect on the world around us as well. By becoming still, we cause others to pause, to pay
attention. Our quiet also quiets others. We set the mood for those who work or otherwise interact with us. When we rush and set a frenetic pace, it stresses others and inspires them to rush frenetically too. Stillness has the opposite effect. It slows the world down, allows us to focus, and gives us time to contemplate what matters most. It takes strength to be still when others rush. It takes courage to be different, to go against the stream. But while others might think us weird at first, that’s OK. Sometimes it’s the weird ones who make the most difference. And soon, as our stillness inspires others to find stillness of their own, we won’t be the weird ones— we’ll be the ones with wisdom. It takes strength to find stillness when
“Activity conquers cold, but stillness conquers heat.” –Lao Tzu “Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
© Isabella Engblom
the world around us is a chaos of activity, but it’s a strength that’s in us, and we need only to find it. Paradoxically, it’s stillness that will allow us to find that strength. Be still, look within, and it will be there. Find Stillness. It’s pretty simple, really, and you don’t need me to tell you to do this: To find stillness, you just need to take the time to sit still, every day that you can. Find a time in the morning, when the world is still fairly quiet. Don’t do anything. Don’t plan your day, don’t check e-mail, don’t eat. Just sit, and learn to be comfortable being still. In practice, we’ll gradually find that comfort, and we’ll become good at it. If
mornings are no good, find time during your lunch break, or after work, or just before you go to bed. Find a place to be still. It can be a chair in your house, or a front porch, or the roof. It can be a park bench, or the beach, or a path in the woods. Let this be a ritual that you come to look forward to. From this small place of stillness, calm will carry to the rest of your day, radiating like a soothing force. You’ll be calmer throughout the day, and learn to find little pockets of stillness everywhere: when you first start your work day, when you’re ready to sit down and create, when you’re about to eat, when you’re ready to exercise. During a meeting, even. Practice, regularly. Practice, and learn. Practice stillness, and the stillness
becomes a canvas upon which you can paint the masterpiece of your life.
Leo Babauta is a simplicity blogger and author. He created Zen Habits, a blog with 200,000 subscribers that Time magazine listed in its Top 25, as well as mnmlist.com, and the best-selling books Focus, The Power of Less, and Zen to Done. Babauta is a former journalist of 18 years, a husband, and the father of six children. He lives in San Francisco, where he leads a simple life. View article resources and author information here: pathwaysto familywellness.org/references.html.
issue 31 | pathways
new edge science
I to we
Becomes all about me
Forget “we to me”
Living deeply Deny the experience
Life as practice
The Noetic Sciences Change Model Whether it happens to an alcoholic hitting bottom, a soldier on the battlefield, a mother who has lost a child, or a businessman seized by a moment of wonder in nature, our research has identified a set of common factors in the transformative process—clues indicating
that while the process may be complex, it is not completely random and unpredictable. A transformation in consciousness begins long before most people are aware that anything is changing. Genetics, environment, peak experiences, numinous or mystical moments, life transitions—all these primers, even if not directly experienced as transformative, lay the groundwork for what is to come. Even when people can point to a pivotal moment in their transformative journey, they can often identify, in retrospect, what might be termed “destabilizers”—a combination of factors that set the stage. The result is a specific episode, period of life, or series of experiences that culminate in an aha! moment. Whether an encounter of stunning beauty or one of deep pain or loss, this “moment” challenges people’s previous assumptions, leading them to change the way they see the world. Attempts to fit the new experiences or realizations into their old perspective fail, often forcing their awareness to expand to make room for the new insight. This can lead to redoubled efforts to protect against further destabilization, but it can also lead to an entirely new worldview that is capable of giving meaning to what happened. Some find religion, others convert to a different religion, and others reject religion altogether. They may move toward spiritual or philosophical inquiry, find a teacher who is familiar with this kind of experience, or join a community of like-minded people with whom it is safe to talk about what happened. Some get obsessed with continually chasing after new epiphanies, driven by a desire to repeat the original experience, always looking and never finding. However one responds, it often leads to the discovery of a set of practices that help to integrate new insights as the transformative path unfolds. These practices can take many forms, but include four essential elements: attention toward greater self-awareness; intention
ow do people change? How do they make significant and long-lasting shifts that affect every aspect of their lives? Learning something new, taking a different approach, or engaging with someone with a different perspective from your own can cause noticeable changes in your everyday life. Even just watching a movie or reading a book can alter your outlook to some extent. But change with a capital “C”—the kind that changes your beliefs, motivations, behaviors and general way of being across all aspects of your life—seems to boil down to an essential shift in worldview, a fundamental transformation in consciousness. Psychological theories have something to offer about how people change, but we may have something to learn from spiritual and religious traditions as well. Embedded in these traditions are sophisticated models and methods for cultivating positive change that are unfortunately inaccessible to many because they are often entrenched in, and sometimes limited by, a specific esoteric philosophy or religious dogma. One solution to this problem is to find out what commonalities exist across many different spiritual traditions, as well as across people from all walks of life who have experienced such dramatic changes, in hopes that some essential truth about the pathway toward positive change will emerge. In a series of studies, this is what we’ve done at the Institute of Noetic Sciences. For more than a decade, our research at IONS has investigated transformations in consciousness. How do they happen? What are the facilitators? What are the barriers to transforming? We believe that the more we learn about this complex and mysterious process, the more successful we’ll be in helping to cultivate positive transformation in individuals, our communities, and our institutions. To this end, we have engaged in a series of studies that included analysis of individual narratives of personal transformations, focus groups, in-depth interviews with 60 representatives of ancient and modern transformative traditions, surveys of more than 2,000 people, and longitudinal studies of people engaged in spiritual and transformative practices. This research led us to develop a working model of consciousness transformation. While they are limited in their capacity to adequately address the complexity of an issue, models are useful because they provide a representational map of a phenomenon of interest. Just as geographical maps facilitate in-depth exploration of specific territories, this working model provides one way of framing the transformative process that we hope will guide further study.
Practice becomes end rather than means
Find a practice
Bring to community
CONSCIOUSNESS TRANSFORMATION MODEL
By Cassandra Vieten, Ph.D., Marilyn Schlitz, Ph.D., and Tina Amorok, Psy.D.
toward personal growth and benefit for the community; repetition of new behaviors; and guidance from trusted people who are experienced in the practice. At this point in the cycle, people often immerse themselves in the practices, and over time face the challenge of finding ways to integrate these practices into everyday life. During this period, people are often tempted to isolate their practice from the rest of their life, but in doing so, they can inadvertently stall the transformative process by not allowing new patterns of thinking and behavior to suffuse each moment of each day. As the cycle continues, life itself eventually becomes the primary practice—whether or not a formal practice remains a part of the process. The next common challenge is that even when practice becomes integrated into everyday life, the process can remain a personal quest—all about ourselves or about achieving some outcome for personal benefit. In a goal-oriented culture, this is completely natural, but for growth and development to continue, true transformation appears to require that the process move from “I” to “we.” In other words, as my practice infuses my life, I cannot help but wish for and actively work toward the transformation of my community. Altruism and compassion born of shared destiny, rather than duty or obligation, often emerge here. At the same time, people can become so immersed in a sense of oneness and shared responsibility that they lose sight of the complementary movement from “we” to “me.” The results of this can range from a cult mentality to becoming so fatigued by helping others that people forget to care for themselves. Equally important as serving the community is discovering how best to channel our own unique combination of talents, resources, experiences and
PERSONAL NOTES INDIVIDUAL TESTIMONIALS OF CHANGE
d I tried committing suicide and was found. That same year I started to do a 12-step program and some seminaars. I worked with people who helped me have an awakening, where I heard a voice say to me that I am divine. Now I totally understand that I am a divine being having a human experience—and my life is oriented around service to my community. –John, 45
skills in a way that serves our own well-being. Once that sweet dance between self-actualization and self-transcendence, formal and informal practice, and receiving and giving comes more naturally, people report an experience of existence that we call “living deeply.” From equanimity in the face of life’s challenges to a daily sense of wonder and awe, even the most mundane aspects of life become sacred in their own way. And this way of living makes personal transformation contagious. As people share their experiences and their presence of being with others, a collective transformation that is more than the sum of its parts begins to emerge. Individual transformations combine to create collective transformation, which in turn stimulates more individual transformations and so on, in an ever-widening expansion of our human potential. To watch an exclusive interview with IONS research director Dr. Cassandra Vieten, visit our YouTube channel at youtube.com/user/PathwaysConnect.
Cassandra Vieten, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, director of research at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, and associate scientist at the MindBody Medicine Research Group at California Pacific Medical Center’s Research Institute. Marilyn Schlitz, Ph.D., is president and CEO of IONS. Drs. Vieten and Schlitz co-wrote Living Deeply: The Art and Science of Transformation in Everyday Life. Tina Amorok, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist and past research psychologist at IONS, where she and Dr. Schiltz co-edited Consciousness and Healing: Integral Approaches to Mind-Body Medicine. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/references.html.
d …As I left the group and stepped onto the balcony, I walked into a world of unbelievable beauty. It was a brilliant day, the sun reflecting off the surf that broke on the rocks below. The shoreline extended south for miles, rock, sand and waves, with the occasional seal. It was a breathtaking vista, completed by mountains just beyond the coast. I felt like the whole scene was smiling at me, awaiting my arrival, and I was flooded with contentment and the joy of feeling whole, of being blessed. It was as though I had walked through a sci-fi energy screen into a new world. I am not a religious person. I am a very successful, highly rational businessman, but at that moment I experienced a profound spiritual awakening, an awareness that I was in a markedly altered state of being, a different reality. My awakening was this: We are all part of a single entity. I was part of all others and all others were part of me. I soared into this new awareness, losing all sense of myself as an individual. There is no me alone, only a universal us. This great realization has vitally affected my life. Today, some 40 years later, I am open to thoughts and moments of beauty and love in ways that I wasn’t in my early life. I joyfully participate in the world of service. I speculate on spiritual questions and the mysteries of God and the universe. I am amazed by the majesty of the heavens at night and wonder at the magic of existence. I still live a full life as husband, father—and now grandfather — businessman, and social entrepreneur, but now I am also often awed by the marvel of being alive. –Richard, 70 issue 31 | pathways
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There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.
Pathways Magazine provides vital resources for family wellness. Our articles give parents the necessary information to actively participate...
Published on Sep 15, 2011
Pathways Magazine provides vital resources for family wellness. Our articles give parents the necessary information to actively participate...