Archive for February, 2011

The Face of Shame, Hidden Issues Behind Infertility

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Shame, regret, guilt, and remorse are energetic contractions that negatively bind our energy in unhealthy ways. I work with many women who have hidden issues of shame around their inability to conceive. It may show up as feeling unworthy to bear a child or become a mother. Sometimes there are past issues which feed this contraction – like past abortions, past missed opportunities to become a parent; but oftentimes it is just a deeply suppressed feeling of somehow being flawed or wrong.

The feeling of being innately flawed reminds me of the Christian idea of original sin. I remember the Lutheran liturgy we recited at church every Sunday that began with, “We confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean, and have sinned against Thee by our thoughts, words and deeds.” It is as if we could clean up our thoughts, words and deeds, we would somehow be worthy of grace. Somehow there was an ambiguous message here – that we needed to clean something up in order to receive grace.

I like the true meaning of sin – missing the mark. We all feel separate; and in that there is a sense of not measuring up. Not being worthy. But we don’t earn our way to hitting the mark; it’s something that we open up to. Not through effort, but through being real. Being who we are; not who we think we ought to be. When we are trying to measure up to some external standard of being:
a good mother,
a good wife,
a good daughter,
a good friend,
a good Christian/Buddhist/Hindu/Muslim,
someone who wouldn’t get an abortion,
someone who wouldn’t have thoughts of envy, greed and anger every time we see a pregnant woman,
someone who can’t become good enough…
we reinforce the contraction of shame.

The emotional binding pattern that occurs is one of anger, worry, fear, and regret. Each of these emotions has a different directional hold; hence the difficulty in overcoming this complex mix. Physically, the diagnostic expressions can be a combination of kidney deficiency, spleen qi deficiency, liver qi stagnation, and blood stasis. Let’s open up each energy, and comb out the different energetic facets.

Anger – a powerful upward and outward dynamic moving us forward into new opportunities. When anger is at self, it holds this mighty force inward. (Liver Qi Stagnation)
Worry – an internal cycle in the gut of trying to think our way out of a situation.
(Spleen Qi Deficiency)
Regret – a fierce holding that stems from believing the illusion that the past could have or should have been different.
(Stasis)
Fear – a downward pull that holds us back from life.
(Kidney Deficiency)

We have powerful processes in retreat for releasing each of these strands, so that the concept of “shame” dissolves on its own. We cannot know our inherent honor, our inherent worth, without experiencing its polar opposite, shame.

I watched a movie last night where a woman was telling her story of shame. She actually got what she wanted through an act that felt shameful. But, she mused, perhaps honor is another face of shame. Perhaps we shouldn’t be ashamed of shame.

HOW DOES LIFE BEGIN?

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

What are we doing here?
What determines the origin of life?
Do we choose to be here?
Do we choose our parents?
Is life just random?
Do we have souls? What is a soul? When does the soul enter the body? At conception, at the embryo’s first heart beat? When the fetus starts to move? At birth?

These questions come from my fertility patients. They can’t help but bubble to the surface in women who are encountering difficulties conceiving. When life seems not to be playing according to our expected rules or as planned, we naturally want to make sense of it, put it into perspective, and somehow manufacture a sense of fairness about the process. Our brains demand ‘fairness!’This is one mystery we can’t figure out. Perhaps this is one area where medical science, research, and rational logical thought just can’t touch. I hope we never can.

I hope we never get to the point where we play God so much that we are the ones that answer these questions. Perhaps we just aren’t meant to know. I believe that the origin of life, conception, and the manifestation of material being from seeming non-being is meant to be a mystery. The answer is mingled somewhere within the answer to questions such as “Who and what is God?”

I grew up severely Lutheran. My personal life experiences and the church left a huge, gaping abyss. My questions that weren’t answered by the church seemed to be answered more by science. I looked for my truth there. I studied medicine, the height of scientific thought. Yet eventually, the gap between Life and Science left a void as well. Life isn’t religion; life isn’t science, either.

Look at the evolution of human development.
There was a time when nature, wisdom, and life were synonymous. Yet we were more crude back then. Eventually we learned about power. And we wanted more control.
Then humans used mythology to answer some of the looming inquiries about greater meaning. Finding appeasing the many Gods wanting, we turned to a different type of religion as the answer to explain and make sense of life.
It appeared something like this,
There Is One God, and there are certain ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways to have a relationship with this all powerful, Man-in-the-heavens deity. Over the last millennia, we have been questioning this view as well. This male, control, and power-oriented, organization isn’t providing the solutions relevant in the 21st century, either.

Most of my patients are either subjugated by religion, science, or both. I see their minds grappling to make sense of their predicament either with their logical rational minds, or become resigned to the horrific possibility that perhaps their unworthiness to have a child is God’s will! They come to me looking for a scientific way to improve upon their physiology first, and secondly to make themselves worthy in God’s eyes so they can be granted the gift of a child.

Both religions and scientific ‘reasoning’ seem wanting when confronted with infertility.
Is God trying to control population through making people infertile? When I bring up this topic on retreat, a majority of my patients pay increasing attention, as they have thought of this question before, but are afraid to really say it out loud. What if it were actually true…. Then what? Well, why, then, aren’t more people in Africa infertile if God were making these grand determinations from the sky?

Highly charged, debatable life issues like premarital sex, birth control, abortion, stem cell research, cloning, etc., are put into a better perspective when we step outside the realms of science, religion, and politics.

I heard a Catholic Priest explain at a Resolve meeting once, that the reason infertility treatments were a moral sin were because the man has to masturbate in order to produce sperm. That was the funniest thing I had heard in a long time. Does that mean that if the infertility issue involved failure of ejaculation, or required surgical extraction of the male germ cells that it would be okay? What kind of sense does that make?!? What kind of God would think that?!?

I can get caught up into the rightness and wrongness of what I do as well. I can think opinionated thoughts like this:
That through medical intervention we can achieve babies through desire and means alone. If we want it badly enough, and have enough money, we can force a child into being. I call these our modern-day, technological ‘trophy’ children. Even if we are too old, too scarred up inside, have egg problems or sperm problems or uterus problems, we can use donors and surrogates and clinics and lawyers to make these our children.

Yet, opinions are just meaningless brain data that we have latched onto and called our own. Everyone has them and they are subject to change based upon experience to the contrary.

I fully immerse myself, body, mind, life, spirit, and soul into what I do. I meditate on it. I am not allowed to help people unless I am pure with it. I am not allowed to enter the realm of really helping another soul to heal unless my soul is clear. I give this a lot of attention. Maybe too much. My opinions don’t matter. My truth does.

This is what I know to be true. This is not handed down through beliefs, bought truths, or placebo-controlled, double blinded studies. This is what I know when I come from a place beyond thought; when I tap into the wisdom that defies rational understanding, this is what I know from the inside out.

I am aware that we are at a critical point in our evolutionary development where we are being shown a deeper truth. This deeper truth is not defined by wants anymore. Infertility brings women down. Most women that I treat will do anything in order to have a child of their own. And yet, for those that come to me, they have done everything, and still have no babies.

They have always been taught that if you want something bad enough, you will get it. Be good, study hard, think right thoughts, gather all the available information, process it, find the right husband, doctor, clinic, and medical protocol, and you will succeed. Yet they have done all those things, and are still not rewarded. This defies all rational understanding. Doctors say statistically, blah, blah, blah. Old eggs, poor sperm, thin endometrium, blah, blah, blah. Use a donor. Use a surrogate. Some do everything recommended to them, and yet, it still doesn’t work. Now they are at a critical point of despair, brought to their knees in sometimes suicidal hopelessness.

Okay, here it is – this is where the miracle of the story comes in. When they say, Screw it! Life sucks. I can’t take it anymore. I’m going to adopt, forget about children, leave my stressful job, my husband, kill myself, whatever. Something happens inside, and it’s called a number of names, like letting go, surrendering, abandon. There is a shift deep within. They know what to do, or what not to do. It may be to adopt. It may be to allow the child in that has been waiting for this state of abandon. It may be to do our true work in the world. They have found the place of wisdom. The place of no control.

I silently laugh when women I work with say, “But I’m really trying to let go.” There’s no trying involved. This is in the not trying, the not doing. The answer comes in the quiet of meditation, in facing the undeniable and sometimes horrifying truth that….
WE CANNOT CONTROL LIFE!!!

We can’t make sense of this one. We can only get close to the miracle, the point at which life is allowed to emerge, but we can’t fully get there because we are in material bodies being governed by this mass of gray matter called a brain, which is still material in existence. Truth is beyond that. Life is beyond that. Yes, even new lives.

We can control what we put into our bodies. We can control what jobs we take, what stressful situations we put ourselves into or don’t put ourselves into. This is what I teach during retreat: Everything physical, mental, and emotional that we can control to put our bodies into a point of receptivity.

Then the rest of it is magic. It is in the huge beauty of unknowing, the unleashed miracle that we are teeny-tiny beings in a magnificent universe that we will never comprehend, no matter how much quantum physics or string theory we understand.

We are at a critical point of knowing vs. not knowing. We have advanced from a point of sheer survival to one of controlling our environment to one where we think we have all the answers, to……..

The knowledge that we don’t!
We now must live through spirit. We must tap into that deeper wisdom that defies understanding.
We must admit that we don’t have the answers but we must take full responsibility and live through our hearts, not through our minds. That’s where the real answers are.

I have reached the point in my own understanding that I don’t think that an outside God controls my destiny anymore. I don’t think that living according to a moral code of right and wrong is making the world a better place. I don’t think that by understanding the natural world we can control or dominate it. It is a critical point of knowing that we know only as much as our minds allow us to wrap our little accumulations of neurons around. No more. Thought only breeds more thought. Answers come from a place of no thought. No morality. Of WISDOM.

God isn’t a man in the sky. Heaven isn’t a place where we go. God is everything. Heaven is everywhere. Now. That understanding puts us in the place where miracles occur. This is a place where we become energetically aligned with the miraculous place where the souls of the next generation will be allowed to come in and make a difference on this planet of ours. And it usually takes a process of coming to ones knees in the horrifying acknowledgement that we must live from the inside out. According to the laws of nature, which are within our very cells; that tell us that this planet will cease to exist unless we drastically do things differently. Everything.

We can’t reason this through science or through religion. They both keep us stuck by their own laws, their own inertia. We must break through to a new level of being, of awareness; of throwing a good number of our opinions and beliefs out the window. And walk upright in the wondrous state of sheer, incredible, unknowing wisdom. Deep down inside, we know what to do. We can’t afford to live like we have been anymore. This is the wonder of life. Of acknowledging that we are visitors here, and we aren’t entitled to anything more than our own life. This isn’t about what we want out of life anymore. It’s about what life needs out of us in order to continue.

We must allow the souls of the next generation in. And they won’t arrive simply because we want them. They need to do a little bit of work on us first.
It has begun.

COMING THROUGH GRIEF

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

No grief so great as a dead heart.
—Chinese proverb

When you’re in the midst of pursuing a baby, everything is overwhelming. All you know is that you want to be a mother, and you can’t be. For women who have been on the infertility “treadmill” for years, the choice to stop is almost impossible to fathom. While the end of our fertility is something all women must face eventually, it is only natural that you feel a sense of loss and sadness, mourning the children you will never have. When you have wanted children and not conceived them, making the decision to stop can feel like death. The grief is real. The greatest loss a woman can ever experience is losing a child, whether it is a live child or a child she has carried in her womb and miscarried. When you are trying to conceive, your menstrual blood again and again represents the loss of the hope of a child. For a few weeks each month, you feel hopeful. Maybe this time, you think, only to feel disappointment wash over you when your period then appears. And when you fail to conceive month after month, disappointment becomes grief.

Grief, sadness and depression are difficult emotions, especially in a culture like ours that prefers us to do our mourning tidily and quickly. What’s more, few people who have not experienced infertility firsthand can understand how much grief the unsuccessful pursuit of children engenders. After a woman miscarries, well-meaning friends may tell her, “Well, at least you can start trying again right away.” But before she creates another baby, she may need to acknowledge the child she has just lost. Others may ask an infertile couple why they would spend every cent of their savings, even borrow money, for yet another IVF attempt. “Maybe you’re just not meant to have kids,” they’ll say. “Have you thought of adopting?” These and many other comments can trigger new recriminations and fresh rounds of grief in those pursuing parenthood at any price. And what’s worse, showing our grief and anger to friends will usually result in blank stares or embarrassed looks–more discomfort for everyone.

For your sanity, you must be allowed to feel your grief and mourn the potential children you have lost. The biggest disservice you can do yourself is not to acknowledge your grief as you are experiencing it. Denying these feelings or bottling them up until you can’t any longer will prevent you from dealing with and releasing them. As Kim Kluber-Bell wrote of her experience with infertility, “…if you can’t feel your grief, you can only move on by shutting a part of yourself down…. Although feeling your sadness won’t kill you, not feeling it can harden your heart.… [W]hat will enable you to move on with an open heart is allowing your sadness to come and go as it pleases, rather than keeping the door locked tightly against it.”

It is far better to experience the grief along the way as it occurs, to take the time to acknowledge your true feelings and their importance, and keep your heart moist and fertile in the process. Let your monthly blood represent tears shed by your body to memorialize the passing of another opportunity. If you miscarry or fail to conceive after an ART procedure, start trying to conceive again immediately if you want, but create the space in your heart to mark what you have lost.

Ask your partner to support you in the grieving process. No matter how much he may want children, men generally do not feel the visceral level of loss that women feel. But still remember that he has lost something too. In your shared loss, you may find consolation in each other, possibly even find each other in a new way again.

Above all, remember to take care of yourself. Often we’re so busy taking care of the part of us that’s going to make a baby that we forget we need to care for the rest of ourselves, too. Pamper yourself with treats you enjoy. A manicure and pedicure, bubble bath, massage, aromatherapy and so on can make you feel like a whole, vital woman. Get the emotional support you need, whether it be talking to friends, or not talking to the ones who don’t understand, seeing a professional counselor or even screaming into a pillow if that helps. Go for walks in nature. Ground yourself to the earth beneath your feet and breathe in clear Qi. Nourish your heart and soul in as many ways as you can.

Remember that if you are blessed with a child, he or she will require that you are the best mother you can be. If you are not blessed with a child, life will still demand that you are the best person you can be. Mother yourself and the world with all your heart, as you would have your child.

Letting The Management Go

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Anyone who works in the corporate environment these days has been impacted by cut backs in personnel and management. The personnel change often gives rise to a sense of insecurity, fear, chaos and resulting overwork.

The energetic impact of this type of change, where the status quo has been upset, is multifaceted.

Wood energy builds.
Metal energy maintains structure.
Earth energy provides a sense of continuity.

These three form the horizontal plane of existence in the cross of the five elements; or the management:

Fire

Wood Earth Metal

Water

Water energy provides the chaos so a new order can be established.
Fire energy allows the fullest emergence of new possibility to be expressed; as long as one is not trying to force the previous horizontal structure. When the attention is given to the chaos of the unknown, new and higher possibilities are allowed to emerge. First, however, you must recognize two things: that previous management has not been successful; and that prior methods of control must be relinquished.

The same is true of the body-mind. When a dynamic physical entity is struggling to achieve something in a way that is outmoded, the result is great tension, stress, and frustration. The psychic and physiological results are:

Frustration over the inability to get what we want: Liver Qi Stagnation (wood)
Worrying about how the mind will come to a solution: Spleen Qi Deficiency (earth)
Great difficulty in letting go of control: Intestinal Holding Patterns (metal)

Most of us are deathly afraid (Kidney Deficiency – water) to drop into the chaos of the unknown so that new possibilities (heart fire) can emerge. There is great reluctance to let the old way die. But we must allow the old ways to be extinguished in order that new, healthy patterns emerge, allowing the great wisdom of life’s full potential to be expressed.

A woman in upper management came to a Fertile Soul retreat, the theme of which was “Letting Go.” She admitted that she had no intention in letting go – how could she ever hope to conceive if she let go of it?! That is precisely the problem most women have in their pursuit to become life givers – their reluctance to relinquish the reins of management. Yet, the old management must be let go so new ways of being can come forth.

Life comes through the vertical, not the horizontal plane of existence. Life does not come into being because of our great desire, manipulation, worry, or control. It comes in spite of our greatest efforts. If we put baby-making into the horizontal plane of goal attainment, we will forever be disappointed.

We cannot control life. Life lives us. Babies emerge through us – when we are living in accordance with the laws of the universe. Does nature struggle? Does nature set goals and go about trying to attain them? No. Nature lets life emerge, even through some desolate and sometimes desperate conditions. Check your breath. Do you need to manage your breath? Doesn’t your mere attention to its movement make it appear a little bit clumsy? You can control your breath, but it operates even better when you are not trying to control it.

The Fertile Soul retreat process is not one of merely “letting go.” A new order must be established by allowing new, healthy patterns to emerge as we let go of the old. Although this isn’t a complex process, it isn’t easy or for the faint of heart. It calls forth great courage to go into the fear of the unknown. See if that courage isn’t already within you. See if it strikes a cord of resonance within your heart. You already have what it takes – maybe you just need to be shown how to put down the tools, and play the instrument.