Tag Archives: meditate

Discover #28 ways meditation improves your life: Turn off the autopilot

                 ~ Day 20 ~
~ Friday, January 2nd, 2015 ~
Turn your car into a mobile classroom, a university on wheels.
– Brian Tracy

Cheyenne-
Completely my anchor habit for 20 minutes. I meditated on the qualities I need to become, repeating them 3 times each. Did back bending poses from Om Yoga. Held bridge pose, and bridge pose with one leg up both for 10 breaths. Finally held my headstand for a full 10 breaths!

Today’s action: Identify some passive time in your daily routine that you can put to better use,  be it by meditating, being mindful, focusing on gratitude or solving problems, or listening to something educational or uplifting. Then get set up, whatever that entails: downloading podcasts to your iPod, learning a meditation routine, etc., so that beginning today or tomorrow, you can start putting that passive-mind time to good use.

I already spend my time meditating during my drives to and from work! I shouldn’t be too proud, it’s not like I do it every day. But I recently mentioned to my partner Remy that I would like to focus more on meditating while driving. I said, “I feel like I spend more time being mindful than I do driving mindlessly on my way to work, but on my drive home I spend more time distracted by far. Isn’t that interesting? I’ve been trying to be more focussed and sustained in my meditation during my drives, because I feel like I do have some mental energy to expend. When do you have “autopilot” time that you could be using in a focused way?

I’ve also been listening to books on tape since October, including The People’s History of the United States, which I’ve really been enjoying.  It’s a history from the people’s perspective, the subjugated and oppressed rather than the conquerors. The story is inspiring, sad, empowering, and uplifting.  Back to Wake Up – 31 days to take charge of your life, I really like Matt Frazier’s encouragement to balance productivity and down-time. He says, “Again, I’m not overlooking the necessity to “just be” sometimes…” which is important to remember. He isn’t encouraging us to spend every single moment being productive, he is encouraging us to be mindful of how we spend our time – be it meditating, or listening to an audiobook or music. Most people need more “just be” time, and I really respect a plan that encourages time to just be with yourself.

Learn #15 Things: Let others be

                 ~ Day 19 ~
~ Thursday, January 1st, 2015 ~
Push Through the Dip
Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.
– Epictetus

Cheyenne-
Completed my anchor habit for about 20 minutes with Remy. Led a great sitting meditation, then warm-up, then sitting poses from Om Yoga. Felt great to do it together… But then afterwards Remy told me honestly that he doesn’t like it when I ask him to do yoga the night before – it makes him feel obligated and cranky about it in the morning. He shared that he’d prefer if I simply told him in the morning, “I’m going to do my practice and you’re welcome to join me if you like.” I guess I can understand not wanting to do yoga out of requirement. I would always prefer to do yoga when I feel it’s my choice rather than something I have to do. I want him to feel good about yoga so I’m going to try to take this approach moving forward.

We can all learn something from my interaction with my partner this morning. We can make people feel negative thoughts or positive thoughts simply by demanding or leaving the opportunity open. Small differences in tone, demeanor, and word choice can make all the difference. When do you guilt someone you love into something because you don’t think they will do it unless they feel obliged to you?

Today’s action:

Do what it takes to keep your motivation strong. You’re over halfway through this program, but there are still a lot of actions to complete and changes to make. Catch up, get organized, review what you’ve done so far, and give yourself a dose of inspiration or an external reward.

Today I reviewed my notes and journals, and updated my business journal. I feel good about my progress, and I hope to do my weekly review this Sunday! I also took a nice shower and prepared for tomorrow by packing and organizing my work bag! Feelin’ great.

Engage in #24 acts of kindness: Forgive yourself

                 ~ Day 18 ~
~ Wednesday, December 31st, 2014 ~
         Perform an 80/20 Analysis
Learn how to separate the majors and the minors. A lot of people don’t do well simply because they major in minor things.
– Jim Rohn

Cheyenne-
Completed my anchor habit for 37 minutes. Meditated on the qualities I need to become – see Day 11 – for 5 minutes, then started my yoga. Decided to do a strength routine today, which included 3 sun salutations, the balancing poses (for Wednesday), boat post, some inversions, and twists. Boat pose is especially challenging for me. Most poses I tried to hold for 5 or 10 breaths, which added another layer of strength to the routine.

Warm-up and sun salutes each took 5 minutes, and the rest of the routine lasted 22 minutes. Did headstand instead of forearm stand and fell out of it the wrong way. Hurt my fingers. Made myself get back up and come down the right way before moving on. Was kinda scared I would hurt my fingers again. Did it anyway. Felt good.
______

There’s a productivity principle borrowed from economics known as the Pareto Principle, which says that 80 percent of results come from about 20 percent of activities. Common examples:

✦ 80 percent of your business comes from the top 20 percent of your clients

✦ 80 percent of your fitness gains come from the most effort-filled 20 percent of your time in the gym or your running workouts

✦ 80 percent of the work you accomplish in a day comes from 20 percent of your work tasks

✦ You can clean 80 percent of your home in 20 percent of the time it takes you to do a full, detailed cleaning

The idea, then, is that you can drastically reduce the amount of stress in your life and time you spend on work, fitness, and just about anything else by focusing only on the 20 percent of activities that produce 80 percent of your results.

Today’s action: Use your 24-hour time inventory from a few days ago to figure out which 20 percent of your activities are responsible for 80 percent of your results in a given day as they pertain to your goals. For each of your one-year goals, identify the half dozen “majors,” and consider how you can increase the time and focus you spend on those activities, while eliminating, delegating, or at least reducing your time and energy expenditures on the “minors.”

80/20 Analysis

I feel like this is a little redundant for me. When I am focused I am usually focused, and when I’m not I’m not… And because of that I liked yesterdays exercise better: focus on what time you spend procrastinating and could cut out. I can do that. 80/20 is definitely true for my life, I probably do spend about 20 percent of my time getting 80 percent of my useful things done, but I spend ALL of that 20 percent on focused work. I just need to increase the percentage of my time spent on focused work… which is what yesterday was all about. I guess I can say generally that I am more productive at the beginning of the week, and after long spurs of unproductivity. I am more productive in the late morning and when I am home alone. There’s nothing I can really outsource… chores are really the only thing I do each day and we also can’t afford a housekeeper so I can’t cut that out. The other things like TV time and smoking can simply be eliminated, and I should have plenty of time with that alone. I don’t know if I’m thinking about it right but I just don’t get it. I’ll keep thinking on it though…

….

After feeling bad for a few days for not really doing the above journal, I ultimately decided to forgive myself for not doing it. It’s okay if every single topic in this book doesn’t resonate with me, and I am proud of myself for writing what I felt. Sometimes we just have to offer ourselves kindness and not force things that don’t feel productive or joyful.

Discover #27 ways yoga improves your life: savasana

                        ~ Day 17 ~
~ Tuesday, December 30th, 2014 ~
 Identify & Destroy Procrastination
Procrastination is the foundation of all disasters.
– Pandora Poikilos

Cheyenne-
Completed my anchor habit for 15 minutes. Did Standing Poses from Om Yoga. 2 minutes meditation, 10 minutes yoga, 3 minutes savasana meditation. Savasana meditation after yoga has been feeling so good lately.

Do you end your personal yoga or yoga class with a savasana meditation? It’s wonderful. You can practice this pose in bed at night to help you get to sleep too. You simply lie down on your back with your palms facing up, letting your feet fall apart, and you can focus on your breathing, or you can  focus your attention on each part of your body slowly from your feet to your head. It can be very relaxing, but it is also a very challenging pose.

Savasana, or corpse pose, is practice for death. It is very easy for them in to wonder during corpse pose. It may wander to an earlier time in your day and relive a conversation or jump forward to things you need to accomplish. Then come the worry that you might have said something wrong, or your might forget that thing you need to get done. Sitting with that discomfort is where the real magic takes place. After a while you will have a thought that you enjoy, or perhaps dislike, and you won’t want to stop having it for whatever reason. This is were the rubber really meets the road: once you realize your mind has wandered, bring it back to your breathing, or your body, and come back to savasana.

Commitment:
If I gave up my iPad time (except for Wake Up), and limited my chatting and TV time to 30 minutes per day I could save 5 hours per day, which is 35 hours per week, 140 hours per month, and 1680 hours per year. That’s a whole 70 days of my year.

I could really use 70 days to commit to my business, finances, and future. And I bet you could too! Who doesn’t need 70 days? My goal is that by the end of the January 2015 I will limit my TV watching and smoking time to 30 minutes per day, and I will not use the iPad except to do Wake Up and whatever else I choose to do intentionally for 1 hour each day.

What do you spend too much unconscious or conscious time doing each day? What could you use that time for instead? Are you ready to be intentional about how you live your life? Comment below. ❤

Learn #15 things: I was right all along!

Woohoo! Today I didn’t learn anything except that I was right all along about… Bathrooms! Yep that’s right… This may seem totally off on a tangent but bear with me hear and you too could learn something today! With any luck you’ll have been right all along too!

So I was just watching Mythbusters and this new episode in season 14 really caught my interest!

Down and Dirty/Earthquake Survival (Season 14 – Episode 3) was full of bathroom myths, and the one that caught my attention was related to the most used and dirtiest bathroom stalls in public restrooms. The myth postulates that because people think the first stall closest to the door is the dirtiest, they avoid it, or because of privacy reasons people will be more likely to choose the stall furthest from the door. They tested their hypothesis at a public restroom using ingenious door counters on the stalls. They tested for “dirtiness” by thoroughly cleaning the bathroom beforehand and then hilariously swabbing the toilets afterward.

So needless to say I paused the show and turned to my partner of 6 years and said, “this is a really important episode for me. I always do the same thing in public restrooms probably because I assume everyone thinks like me.”

“Oh yeah?,” He said, “what do you do?”

“Well I walked in there once a long time ago and thought, ‘I don’t want to use the first one, everyone uses the first one, so I’ll go in the second one, it’s probably the cleanest.’ Only right after I had that thought I had another one, ‘Oh but if you think that, so do other people! Everyone probably actually uses the second one!’ And ever since then I’ve always used the first stall, privacy or no. I believed it was the cleanest.”

And since you’ve probably guessed since the title of my post was “I was right all along” that I WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG! but…

The results of the Mythbusters study was that not only was the first stall closest to the door the least used, but it was by far the cleanest. The 2nd stall was the most used and the second dirtiest, the third was the next most used and the dirtiest, and the last one was the second least used and second cleanest.

So to sum it up for you, your best bet is using stall number 1 (closest to the door) or stall number 4 (or the last stall) in a 4-stall restroom! Probably don’t use the second stall!

Mythbusters data was as follows:
Stall 1 – 23 users – 168 colonies bacteria
Stall 2 – 38 users – 267 colonies bacteria
Stall 3 – 34 users – 290 colonies bacteria
Stall 4 – 24 users – 231 colonies bacteria

Read #20 Books: The Mindfulness Sampler

Book: The Mindfulness Sampler: Shambhala Authors on the Power of Awareness in Daily Life

Author: Shambhala Publications

This book is a delightfully arranged sampling of writings on mindfulness, Buddhism, and just plain living your life in general. From the very well-known to the relatively unfamiliar, this book of authors on the publications list at Shambhala Publications covers topics from the precepts of mindfulness, to communication, to addiction, and to relationships. It’s a great excursion into the different writers and writing styles on the subject and I recommend it for everyone – including those new to mindfulness and those with years of practice.

In the first chapter, Thich Nhat Hanh – in “Happiness and Peace Are Possible” – explains the fundamentals of mindfulness and how it can be nurtured in our own lives. He describes the healing miracle of mindfulness. As a gardener I am especially drawn to his vivid imagery:

If you look deeply at a flower, at its freshness and its beauty, you will see that there is also compost in it, made of garbage… The flower is also going to turn into garbage; but don’t be afraid! You are a gardener, and you have in your hands the power to transform garbage into glowers, into fruit, into vegetables. You don’t throw anything away, because you are not afraid of garbage. Your hands are capable of transforming it into flowers or lettuce or cucumbers. The same thing is true of your happiness and your sorrow. Sorrow, fear, and depression are all a kind of garbage. These bits of garbage are part of real life, and we must look deeply into their nature. You can practice in order to turn these bits of garbage into flowers.

He speaks beautifully and simple of things that are very complex and can take a lifetime to truly understand. He speaks of using nature as a bell to call us back to mindful awareness the way a crying baby calls it’s parents to attend to it. He softly encourages us to drive with awareness and avoid the autopilot effect. Such simple images convey that by small actions we can come to understand how to transform suffering into well-being. His path seems beautiful and full of joy, so it doesn’t seem to matter when I arrive.

In another favorite chapter – chapter 3 – zen teacher and pediatrician Jan Chozen Bays discusses meditation as the practice of ordinary life. She said that when the mind ” checks out” it tends to go one of three places, the past, the future, or the fantasy realm. “Is this bad?” one might ask. Well, Bays says it’s not something to feeling ashamed or guilty about, but perhaps it’s sad that “when we spend a lot of time with our body doing one thing while our mind is on vacation somewhere else,” it can mean that we aren’t really present for much of our life. “When we aren’t present,” she says, “it makes us feel vaguely but persistently dissatisfied.”

Mindfulness helps us become aware of the mind’s habitual and conditioned patterns of escape and allows us to try an alternative way of being in the world… Anxiety is fueled by thoughts of past and future. When we drop those thoughts, we drop anxiety and find ourselves at ease. How do we drop thoughts?  We drop thoughts by temporarily withdrawing energy from the thinking function of the mind and redirecting it to the awareness function of the mind.

So all in all it was a wonderful book and I learned a lot and you should definitely read it… blah blah blah

Now for your mindfulness exercises for the week, from this book!

EXERCISE
Use Your Nondominant Hand

Use your nondominant hand for some ordinary tasks each day. These could include brushing your teeth, combing your hair, or eating with your nondominant hand for at least part of each meal. If you’re up for a big challenge. try using the nondominant hand when writing or when eating with chopsticks.
Remind Yourself: Put a bandaid on your dominant hand and when you notice it, switch hands and use the nondominant hand. Or put a small sign on your bathroom mirror that says “Left Hand.”

EXERCISE
Leave No Trace

Choose one room in your house and for one week try leaving no trace that you’ve used that space. The bathroom or kitchen works best for most people. If you’ve been doing something in that room, cooking a meal or taking a shower, clean up in such a way that you leave no signs that you’ve been there, except perhaps the odor of food or fragrance of soap.
Remind Yourself: Put a sign in the room you’ve chosen that says, “Leave No Trace.”

Today after completing this book I meditated for 5 minutes using these beautiful bells. If you’ve never done this before, simply sit comfortably and breath and watch your thoughts. If you catch yourself completely drawn into your thoughts, don’t judge, simply bring your awareness back to your breathing and watching your thoughts. When the video ends with a slightly higher and quicker bell slowly blink open your eyes, wiggle your hands and toes, and mindfully continue with your day. Namaste.

Learn #15 New Things: Where Is Your Time Going?

                ~ Day 16 ~
~ Monday, December 29th, 2014 ~
Find Out Where is Your Time Going
The essence of self-discipline is doing the important thing rather than the urgent thing.
– Barry Werner

Cheyenne-
Completed my anchor habit for 50 minutes today. Did recipe for morning routine including sun salutations. 4 minutes mindfully making cards of yoga flow to put up on the wall. Sitting meditation for 6 minutes on the qualities of the person I need to become. 2 minutes offering up my practice, 2 minutes chanting Om, and 10 minutes doing daily warm-up. 26 minutes of yoga and daily relaxation. I did the whole sequence from Om Yoga today, and even did a recipe that included head stand, shoulder stand, and back bending poses in addition to the sun salutation sequence. Felt good to hold my headstand for 9 full breaths and my shoulder stand for 10. Also, it’s 11:30 am and I’ve journaled for the day! Hooray! I think this is the earliest in the day I’ve been all caught up on journals. Thank you solitude and winter break!

Tonight after failing to find the new DharmaCore location Remy and I meditated at home in my new meditation room! I meditated on the qualities I need to become, reciting “I am…” Ten times for each quality. I feel like I have been focusing on organization and responsibility a lot this this week
______

Today’s action: Carry around a small notepad or piece of paper today, and record, to the minute, how you spend your time. When you’re done, group similar tasks and total up the time you spend on them.

My Day

Slept until 9:15am.
Went to the bathroom
Sat on the couch talking with Remy until 10am
Took the dogs out, sent Remy off 10:05am
Turned on oven to make hash browns
Cleaned off yoga mat with wipes and spray until 10:30
Made yoga flow cards, got hash browns, ate mindfully and started yoga 10:35
Yoga until 11:25
Finished anchor habit journal 11:30
Wrote about Day 16 until 11:37
Turned off Fetlife notifications 11:37-11:40
Called The Current 11:40-11:43
Unsubscribing from emails 11:43-12:48 (1 hr 5 mins)
Emailing Rachel until 1:18 (30 mins)
Unsubscribing from emails 1:18-1:48
Lunch while reading Artemis Fowl 1:48- 3:00
Email/Facebook check 3:00-3:10
Folding laundry 3:10-3:30
Talk to Remy on the phone 3:30-3:40
Folding laundry 3:40-4:35
4:35-4:38 Got a snack Dill-o
Put away and hang up laundry 4:45-5:15
Put away dry dishes/unload dishwasher/reload dishwasher 5:15-5:45
Preparing dinner/talking with Remy 5:50-6:20
Eating dinner/watching Clarlie Jade 6:20-6:50
Washing hair in sink and drying/styling it 6:50-7:05
Watching Charlie Jade 7:05-7:20
Driving to DharmaCore 7:20-7:30
Groceries at Aldi and Seward 7:30-8:30
Put away groceries 8:30-8:40
Prep for meditation 8:40-8:43
Sitting meditation 8:43-9:03
Prep mini-hot dog snack 9:03-9:12
Texted with Crystal from TCDP 9:12-9:15
Watching Charlie Jade/snacking 9:15-10:00
Prepping Remy’s lunch 10:00-10:15
Watching My Little Pony, updating this 10:15-11:15

Categories

Grooming: 15 minutes
Yoga: 50 minutes
Meditation: 20 minutes
Chatting: 2 hours
Chores: 4 hours 5 minutes
iPad: 3 hours
-Writing: 1 hour 12 minutes
Cooking/Eating: 2 hours 15 minutes
Talking on phone: 16 minutes
TV: 3 hours

Discover #28 ways meditation improves your life: Trash Your To-Do List!

                ~ Day 15 ~
~ Sunday, December 28th, 2014 ~
Kill Your To-Do and To-Read Lists

Cheyenne-
Completed my anchor habit for 30 minutes. Sitting meditation for 2 minutes to begin, followed by 4 minutes of warm up poses. Did restorative yoga poses from Om Yoga for 24 minutes. Read “What Now” by Ann Patchett during my poses and got to page 40!

I’ve been feeling a strong sense of joy and accomplishment this weekend. I got caught up on both my weekend tasks and am totally on track for the week! I also got a little over an hour of housework done, and read an entire short book: What Now? By Ann Patchett! Feeling super productive and proud of Remy for being so productive, responsible, self-disciplined, and mindful too! We’ve gotten to spend a lot of time together since getting back from visiting family, and I’m feeling super close!

Started my creativity brainstorming habit today and brainstormed for 30 minutes.

Tonight before bed I spent thirty minutes cleaning up the study and readying my new meditation space for daily practice. Next I spent 35 minutes mindfully writing the qualities of the person I need to become on notecards and sticking them to the wall where I can see them. Then I meditated on the qualities for 15 minutes. I repeated each phrase “I am… ” ten times and pictured myself embodying that quality. Got tired at the end but finished anyway.

Did my new habit for the first time today: creativity brainstorming. On Day 12 I scheduled new habits and today was my first day to do creative exercises. I didn’t get to it until today, but I did about an hour of it today! See creativity journal for more.

Today’s action: It doesn’t matter what form your list takes; the solution is the same.

Kill your list.

Really. Trash it all. If you can’t bring yourself to do something so extreme, ruthlessly cross off items that don’t interest you anymore. In the case of reading, ask yourself: which would be more exciting, going to the store or the library to choose a new book, or reading one from your current backlog? If it’s starting a new one, you can guess what I’m going to tell you to do.

The best to-do list has one item on it. Three max. If something is important and lasting, you’ll remember it. It’ll make its way onto your list. Use today to look at your lists, and if you can’t throw them out completely, at least limit them drastically. Your creativity, curiosity, productivity, and enthusiasm about life will all thank you.

I can’t believe I trashed my to do list! It was really difficult for my type-A personality, and I’ll admit I didn’t trash it entirely… but I did slim it down to three items, and I feel great!

Keepers

  1. SPIRAL Collective
  2. Twin Cities Doula Project
  3. Aerial class
  4. DharmaCore
  5. Wed/Sat Yoga class at Svasti
  6. Dinners with Remy
  7. Daily TV time Taper off: 2 hours per day to 1 show/movie per day
  8. Daily yoga
  9. Daily meditation
  10. Weekly “chore day”
  11. Reading Circle
  12. Queer Vegan Dinner

Discover #28 ways meditation improves your life: Letting Go

                ~ Day 14 ~
~Saturday, December 27th, 2014 ~
       Take Back Your Time
No more yes. It’s either HELL YEAH, or no.
– Derek Sivers

Cheyenne-
Caught up on all my Wake Up tasks for week (I didn’t do anything but journal since Monday). Completed my anchor habit for 35 minutes today. 8 minutes sitting meditation followed by 27 minutes of yoga. During meditation I reached a wonderful state of relaxation and mental clarity within the first 5 minutes. Even though I only got 7 hours of sleep last night I felt alert and well-rested. When, after a few minutes, my mind did go off on a tangent, it was about the birth I attended recently.

Within the past week was my first ever birth as a doula, and it was beautiful. Mom was a first-timer, and I was right there with her for every contraction. It was a wonderful birth and I left the parents very satisfied with me, and more importantly, their own efforts. But what drew me away from my meditation was one small thing that I had said during the birth; in response to her question, “They don’t really do episiotomies anymore do they? Wonder why not?” I said, “it’s better to tear than to be cut because it will heal better”. Seemed innocuous early on in labor but by the end, after an epidural caused her to have to push for 2+ hours, and she wasn’t getting the baby out she did end up getting and episiotomy. I wondered today if this might have in any way contributed to a negative birth experience for her. I thought about how I didn’t want to express judgments like this again, which reminded me that this is a learning process, and I thought, “I am already becoming a better doula.” Then I gently let go of these thoughts and went back to my meditation.

This is what meditating truly is – or so I am finally learning. Meditating is not about forgoing thought, the absence of thought, or the idea that thinking is “bad” and you are a “bad” meditator for thinking. Mindfulness is simply being aware of our thoughts. And when possible, not simply getting caught up in the endless flow of thoughts. We are so caught up in our day-to-day that we are almost always riding our thoughts from one to the next, without ever stepping back and looking at the wave of thoughts we’re riding. Are we acting or reacting? Are we thinking mostly of the future, present, or past? Are we irritable? Impatient? Happy? Relaxed? Stressed? When we don’t take the time to sit and be with our thoughts then we can become a slave to both our thoughts and the emotions they incite. Many of my friends are slaves to their everyday thoughts. I too am a slave to my strong emotions, and when one of these strong feelings – such as anger – comes over me I am often unable to resist the urge to convey a spiteful tone or say something disrespectful.  Meditating is like practice for releasing your emotions in more effective ways. Sitting and releasing your need to follow your thoughts where they lead you can increase your ability to act and react mindfully in challenging situations. How can we ever hope to calm ourselves down when we are enraged if we can’t even resist the urge to get up and write down a thought we have while we’re meditating? Practice letting go is practice for life.

Once I found a deep state of relaxation again for a couple minutes I gently brought my awareness outward and started to do my yoga very mindfully. It was a wonderful. Long, slow routine today. Did Inversions from Om Yoga. Held my headstand for 10 full breathes.

 

Today’s action: Take out a piece of paper and, down the left side, list out every existing time commitment you can think of that you’ve made to other people. This list should include:

✦ Standing coffee, lunch, and dinner dates
✦ Weekly or daily phone calls
✦ Meetup groups
✦ Exercise appointments
✦ Clubs in which you participate
✦ Sports or coaching you do
✦ Any work-outside-of-work appointments
✦ Any TV shows you consistently watch

Once you’ve got what you think is a complete list, make another column on the right side of the page. This is your “keep” list. One by one, go down your list of commitments and decide if this commitment really deserves to take up your precious time, and if it fits in with the image of the person you’re committed to becoming. If it does — and some certainly will — write it down in the “keep” list. But for each commitment that doesn’t belong in your life, axe it.
-Matt Frazier

Commitments

  1. SPIRAL Collective
  2. Twin Cities Doula Project
  3. Aerial class
  4. DharmaCore
  5. Wed/Sat Yoga class at Svasti
  6. Dinners with Remy
  7. Daily TV time
  8. Daily yoga
  9. Daily meditation
  10. Weekly “chore day”
  11. Reading Circle
  12. Queer Vegan Dinner

Attend #3 Births: Baby Theo

I attended my first birth for doula certification last week! It was an amazing experience. I wrote a birth essay to encapsulate the experience. Here is my essay for certification, with names removed.

Birth Essay – Baby Levi

Mama called at 10:30am. She was admitted to the hospital after a scheduled visit that morning showed a low fetal heart rate. The physician warned mama of the possibility of a cesarean section – but wanted to monitor and see if this could be avoided. We spoke again at 12:00pm and she happily told me the baby’s heart rate had stabilized and they were planning an amniotomy at 1:30pm. She said she would call me when labor began, and at 4:00pm I was invited to join them. I arrived by 4:45pm and assisted with her ever-intensifying contractions. We tried a variety of position changes and coping techniques during this time. Mama’s birth plan included her openness to an epidural, and at around 7:00pm she asked for one. She was tired and wasn’t keeping fluids down so they introduced IV fluids. Afterward she did not feel her contractions at all, but her nausea continued. She expressed tremendous gratitude for my aromatherapy techniques. At 10:20pm her cervix was checked and she was told to push, although she wasn’t feeling the urge. Beginning at 10:42pm she pushed for 2 hours (the nurse timing her contractions) before deciding to labor down while the epidural wore off. By 1:15am the urge to push was strong, and she began pushing again. After 30 minutes of pushing, her baby was born at 1:42am. Mama and baby experienced skin-to-skin contact immediately and were nursing within 45 minutes.

My role at this birth was to provide a calm, collected presence and offer suggestions for the father. Early in labor they had some questions and appreciated having me present for distracting conversation. When Mama experienced nausea and vomiting, dad and I took turns swapping and cleaning out vomit trays for her. I suggested essential oils on a damp washcloth and showed dad to hold it near her face during bouts of nausea, which really helped. I also suggested a variety of position changes; those she found most helpful were the birth ball, swaying, sitting, and semi-prone. Mama was not set on avoiding pain medications, and my role was to provide information and nonjudgmental support for her decisions. When she asked for an epidural I encouraged her to take some time to think about it and make sure it was her decision. I reminded her of other coping strategies we could try, and when she wasn’t interested I reminded her that she had the right to make this decision for her birth.

When Mama was admitted earlier that day she was nervous for the baby’s health and a c-section. We spoke briefly about this over the phone and she said that she accepted if this needed to happen, but she hoped it could be avoided. She was extremely grateful to hear that she could proceed with a vaginal birth and seemed to take this as a good sign. When I arrived she was talkative and chatty between contractions, but liked to go inward during contractions.  She seemed to be coping well for a few hours, then as her contractions intensified she asked, “is this contraction going to end?” and I reminded her to focus on her breathing. Breathing and counting really worked for her as a ritual, but in-between contractions she had difficulty relaxing. Dad and I took turns massaging her shoulders and helping her release the tension. Once she got the epidural she was surprised by how good she felt. She said repeatedly how glad she was for the opportunity to rest and seemed satisfied with her decision. She was pleased that she “only needed the epidural and nothing else”. During pushing she said, “I thought this was going to be the easy part!” but she pushed like a champ anyway and kept her spirits up for many hours until she had her beautiful baby. Immediately after the birth she experienced shaking and chills for an hour. She said, “thought it would be over once he was out” and that she felt guilty that she wasn’t “enjoying him yet”. I reassured her that this was normal, that she didn’t need to feel guilty, and talking about it seemed to help. Within an hour she was visibly happy and enjoying her nursing baby. Afterwards Mama said she was especially grateful that I was there to help her relax and focus on her baby during this time immediately post-birth. Overall she seems tremendously proud and satisfied with her experience.

The main thing I learned during this birth was the power of flexibility to enhance the birth experience. Mama went into her birth well-educated, with a vague outline of what she wanted, and a lot of flexibility and openness to the experience. Her openness to pain medication and interventions helped her feel successful and powerful in her decisions regarding her birth. She didn’t view it as a failure when she ultimately felt she needed an epidural. I learned that being an effective doula isn’t about avoiding medications and interventions, but providing nonjudgmental support for someone to experience a great birth the way they define it.