Friday, February 13, 2015

Introduction to Hunyuan Birth

There is a short, yet insightful work attributed to Confucius, The Great Learning (Da Xue), that illuminates the end and beginning in the course of the cultivation of the Heart. In summary, he says the beginning is with investigating the natural world, from which knowledge to cultivate the Heart is acquired, when the Heart is cultivated, the physical body is naturally nurtured, when the physical body is nurtured, the family is naturally cared for, when the family is cared for, society is benefited. With society benefited, the family is benefited, when the family is benefited, the physical body is benefited, when the physical body is benefited, the Heart is cultivated, when the Heart is cultivated, knowledge has been acquired. With this passage, Confucius is not only showing us where to begin with cultivation, but also directing us to notice the dual directionality of human life; the individual must cultivate oneself to benefit society and the individual is cultivated when the society is benefited. This is the unification and separation dynamic of the Heart within the human body; nature unifies with us in our Center to create the spirit of life for another day, and then we separate outward with that spirit to live and gather nature from the exterior to unify into our Center once again.

Where life exists, there is always an in and out motion; we have many examples within the physical body—lungs, heartbeat, food and water—and the same is true for the spirit. We must first unify ourselves and our Heart in order to separate outward into society, and only once we have separated can we unify once again. This endless cycle, in and out, unifying and separating, is the foundation for life and the basis of how to understand pregnancy, fetal development and birth, all part of the endless cycle. Once we begin to observe and identify this motion in the natural world, and then within ourselves, it becomes easy to translate it across all natural phenomena, including the unseen depths of the womb. Western medicine can take pictures of the fetus inside the womb, see the heartbeat, count the fingers and toes, identify the gender, but beyond these physical factors, seeing the development of the spirit and life of the human being is beyond current technology’s capability, but not beyond our reach if we do the work to acquire the knowledge and cultivate our Heart. The development of a human life is a continuous thread that is constantly vibrating, not a series of steps and stages, nor a single snapshot; only by understanding the true principles of life can we find clarity concerning the continuous development of human life and what is needed to bestow it with as much life as possible.

Confucius lived during a time of great unrest, much like what the obstetrical field is experiencing today. During times of change such as this, true principles often become obscured. It is easy to lose track of what is right and what is wrong, what is beneficial and what is harmful. Yet, if we can see through the external shroud, hear beyond the biased words, we find the simple, unwavering true principles that are always at Heart and able to guide the way if we do the cultivation work to see it. True principles found, and Heart cultivated, no amount of  shrouding or biases can tempt us from the true and correct path.

As a childbirth educator, my job is not to teach women all the hard facts of labor and birth, the orchestration of hormones, memorization of numbers and time lines, how far the baby descends in each stage of labor, nor to inform them of every potential negative experience they may encounter during childbirth. These are facts that doctors, midwives and nurses learn in their medical training and should stay with the medical staff; it is the kind of information only related to external factors, not the thoughts that will be in your head or the emotions in your Heart during labor. Focusing on external factors separate women from what is happening within, where birth is truly taking place. What I find most beneficial for the mothers I teach is exploring what happens within the Heart, the mind and the body and the purpose of the whole event for the baby, as they transition from one (mother and baby united) to two (baby separated from mother). Breaking the process into tidy, sectioned pieces--the cervix dilates x number during this stage, the uterus is this size at this stage, the baby should be in this rotational position at this time—is not reflective of how we live or how we understand life; creating stages and pieces is not seeing life for the continuous thread that supports it, it is birth  viewed from the outside, merely a series of snapshots that don’t reveal the whole story.

I hope this class inspires mothers to be excited about their birth, as they leave equipped with the skills to build inner strength, increase trust in their ability to birth and provided with information reflective of the experience from the birthing mother's perspective. The topics are taught in a manner that is easy to understand and apply, not only in pregnancy and birth, but throughout life. Birth is an important event for both mother and child as we can see when we understand the true purpose of it and the true principles of life as preserved for thousands of years, now brought to the forefront once again through Hunyuan medicine.

“The best way to manage a difficult labor, the Chinese male physician declared, was to prevent it from happening in the first place.”[i]

[i] Yi-Li Wu, Reproducing Women: Medicine, Metaphor and Childbirth in Late Imperial China (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2010), p. 181, hardback, ISBN: 978-0-520-26068-9.

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