It’s been a great week in getting ready for baby. We’re now two weeks into our Birthing From Within childbirth classes, and I’m loving the discourse they trigger and the focus on how, really, this is a way of life, not just a way to approach birth. This week, we practiced non-focused awareness, a technique I had started playing with last year that I simply love. It’s a way of noticing what’s around you, what your body is experiencing moment-to-moment, without judgment.
You can practice this technique any time, anywhere, and the more you do it, the more easily you can slip into it. While it definitely works as a pain management technique, it also works as a walking meditation, something you can take into your day that increases your experience of the world and decreases your judgment of it. To begin, I recommend closing your eyes, and starting with a few moments of breath awareness. Then, allow your awareness to reach out from your breath. As I sit here, I can hear the whir of my computer fan, the singing of the birds outside my window, the music playing softly in the other room, the sound of my fingers striking the keyboard as I type, the difference between the sounds made by the letter keys and the space key. I can feel the cool tile underneath my toes, the edge of the desk cutting into my elbow, the support of the chair beneath me, the feel of my robe on my skin, the subtle movements of baby adjusting inside me. If I open my eyes just a smidge to allow some visual sensations entry, I notice the grain of the pine of my desk, the bright red of my mouse pad, the quality of the light in the room, the striking contrast between the white of the computer screen and the black of the rest of my computer peripherals.
The version we practiced this week includes cues, so your partner finds a rhythm and gives you cues to help you shift your awareness from one modality to another to help with the flow: Breath. Touch. See. Hear. Touch. Breath. Hear. See. And so on. At first, I found it distracting for someone else to determine my rhythm, but as I got used to it, I found it meant that my attention was always being brought to something new. This meant that I didn’t end up “following” a single sensation. For example, we were using holding ice in class to give us a discomfort that we could practice with. The cue “Touch” inevitably brought my attention to the strong sensation of the ice in my hand at some point during that awareness cycle, but it couldn’t linger there, turning from awareness into “Oh wow, that is really uncomfortable” into “Oh my god, that really hurts!” It was just another body sensation to be observed, much like the feel of the carpet under my feet or Sean’s hand stroking my arm.
The best part was putting this into practice out of the blue when one night this week, I was feeling really nauseated, my body’s response to being overtired these days, and I was complaining about how I felt like I was going to throw up. My attention was so tied into what I was feeling I was literally making it worse. Sean said “Breathe,” and for a moment I was annoyed, thinking he was trying to dismiss what I was going through, but a beat later he said “See,” and my whole body relaxed as I figured out what he was doing and went into my practice. Within a few seconds, the queasy feeling in my stomach was a non-issue. It didn’t disappear, but I just wasn’t paying it any attention. I was able to finish what I was doing from a place of consciousness, and enjoyed the remainder of my evening instead of being sucked into an icky place of not feeling well. Small example? Perhaps. But still a powerful reminder for me that this works when you practice it, and that life truly is a practice. Namaste.