Birth Dharma

The female body holds sacred mysteries. She offers up teachings on cycles, pleasure, nourishment, release, gestation, blood, emergence, involution and dare I say she holds secrets about the great beyond; she can take us to the precipice of wild no-mind and spit out new life.

These observations rest on the good fortune of finding myself in a female form and on many years of witnessing the ways of pregnancy and birth. With or without giving birth or being present at a birth, or even living in a female body, the lessons are rich and available to all.

We all conceive. The word itself shares root meaning with the word accept. Conception is the alchemy that transpires when seed meets fertile matrix. When an idea is sparked and begins to proliferate and find acceptance in a fertile psyche, like the thought of building a bridge, writing a song, going to school to learn plumbing, beginning a relationship or even a desire to liberate oneself from bondage. Where does the spark come from?

We all gestate. Seeds are planted, sometimes aborted willingly or lost with great sadness. Most often seeds are planted and then take on their own life. When “pregnant,” we feel the draw of energy that is demanded by our seedling. We ride waves of excitement, nausea, anticipation and doubt. And at some point, inquiry arises as to why we are doing what we’re doing. What’s this all about? Who’s in charge here?

We all give birth. New seasons of our lives, art, relationships, projects, careers, even freeing ourselves from caught places all come into being. Yet before they emerge there must be an opening. When observing human birth, one is drawn into the dance between contraction and expansion, the rhythms of yielding and efforting. How many times have I heard myself say to a birthing woman there’s no controlling this process, it’s all about letting go. Yet there is a call for strength, endurance and labor in this shape-shifting experience. These qualities arise naturally to meet the moment in which they are needed.

With each contraction the uterine muscle thins and opens below and gathers strength at the top until eventually there is a passageway for descent and emergence. A generous amount of muscle has collected at the top of the womb for bearing down on the baby. Most folks who aren’t in the birth world are surprised to learn that the uterus does a significant amount of the work of pushing a baby out. The mother’s amazing body involuntarily begins pushing when she needs to add her own efforts. I’ve assisted with hundreds of births in which the mother was never coached to push …. pushing happens when it needs to happen. Giving birth requires no fancy thinking or doing and in fact is often hindered by these very assumptions. The dharmic principle of effortless efforting is on full display when observing a mother give birth instinctually. She is transported into a wild flow. Analysis and discursive thinking give way to surrender, release, intuitive knowing and often rapture. It’s just unfurling all by itself and resistance to what is happening only creates more discomfort and suffering.

Can you feel these truths as you move through this experience of being human? Myself, it helps me to remember that contractions are also expansions, that stretching is uncomfortable and sometimes even excruciating, but essential to opening. That natural urges to put forth effort can be trusted. Also, that I can honor my urges to pause, to yield, to groan. And that ultimately letting go is not optional.

Naki (Kim James) is a retired midwife and retired Buddhist who is currently devoted to practicing the art of flow.

7 Responses

  1. Every sentence makes me want to hear more! More about your witnessing of the birth process and the ways it renders us into our deepest vulnerability and simultaneously our deepest most unshakable truth. You write beautifully and with embodied insight, Dear Naki! I look forward to more of your unfurling wisdom in “birth dharma” and whatever you birth next!

  2. Beautiful observations from an obvious felt sense of deep understanding and participation. All of the words about contraction, expansion, letting go, unfurling through the experience of being human. Yes and No and Maybe and Sometimes and Always, No Never, Not on Your Life, Intuitive Rapture, Yes Pleeez….. All good reminders. Thanks so much for this, Kim Naki.

  3. So beautifully expressed. My favorite line “ there’s no controlling this process, it’s all about letting go. ”

  4. What an absolutely beautiful reflection on the truth of our unfolding . Coming to know that each moment will come whether I let go into its flow or suffer as I try to hold back the tides.
    Thank you for the reminder that wonder lies in the surrender to what is.

  5. I felt like being pinged as a sound on the water reaching out and finding a point of receiving in a vibrational dance of going out and settling in on a resonating spot. Thank you Naki for making such sense and offering such completion with the analogy of births. I appreciate your apparent love of the language and how one paragraph moves into the next offering an ever expanding understanding. Can I apply this to the intricacies of life’s ever expanding spirals of experience? Your writing says a resounding yes and carries a light to go by. I especially liked the ideas of letting go which you couple with a strength , endurance and labor. Thank you dearest!

  6. Dear Naki, this is such a beautiful reminder of the Dharmic principle of effortless efforting. Giving birth so vividly expresses that there can only be an opening into the flow of life when there is no resistance. That everything is here when needed. Faith, letting go, love.
    Thank you for pouring this deep seeing into words and giving it to the world.
    Beate Maaß

  7. Love this so much. When first arrived in my inbox, was feeling lots of contraction and, no coincidence, lots of resistance. Returned today to revisit as this theme of expansion and contraction has been showing up very much. And resting in that space where both are welcome and unfold in their own rhythm and time and naturally has given birth to possibility. I’ve been a nurse of many kinds for the past 30 years. My favorite of all was labor and delivery at a University teaching hospital and before I, myself, had experienced this particular giving birth. I laugh to remember (with some chagrin) how we would tell women to wait to push until the doctor came. That particular culmination of expansion and contraction simply happens.

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