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wp3b965a7e_1b Having attended a long birth a few nights ago, I’ve come back into daily life where I’m living by the rhythm of the sun again.  I’ve been writing today, winding my way through a logical sequence of thoughts and images, moving through a vinyasa of words.  Writing is Yoga where the invisible takes shape, where silence becomes sound, where thought becomes vibration.  It is a creative act that mirrors the original one of Birth. 

 The sensation of following the thread of my thoughts reminds me of the Greek myth where Ariadne holds onto the end of a ball of thread that her lover, Theseus, unspools as he enters into the heart of a labyrinth.  There he meets and kills a half- human beast.  The thread guides him back out.  He begins and ends his journey in love.  On the way, he loses his fear.

Giving birth  is like this.  You go to the centre of what you are. You touch the heart.  In fact, there is an ancient yantra (a Tantric symbol of cosmic unity) given to labouring women that is in the exact form of a labyrinth.  It’s called a Chakravyuha but it is identical to labyrinths drawn for thousands of years on the walls and floors of caves, temples and churches worldwide. The pattern is woven into baskets in South America. It is carved into the grassy ground in England.  It is built out of stones in Scandinavia.  

In a Hindu birth ritual a yantra is traced in saffron.  The birthing woman mentally walks through the yantra and then the saffron is washed away with water.  The water is collected and given to the woman to drink.   Her body absorbs the substance of the  rhythmic pathways of her mind and she is free to move into the uncharted territory of Life.  There is no difference between her and love.

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may26xpace

                                                                                                                                                                                             We make sense of our experience by telling stories about it. The performance piece I attended last night played with our  impulse to attach narrative to everything. It did this with lightness, intelligence and  humour.

My daughter and I had dutifully brought our headphones and plugged them into one of the four monitors placed in the corners of the performance area. Each monitor played a different spoken narrative that played as two dancers moved. At the end of the story, the audience shifted places and moved to the next monitor for a new narrative and a repetition of the same movement. How we weave meaning into the overlapping of words and action became a very conscious experience, often funny, sometimes very moving.

I spoke with one of the writers, Caylie Staples, after the show. She said each writer watched the choreography once and then wrote while it was repeated. So often, dancers choreograph to text; reversing the process created a new relationship between the two which I found interesting. It gave the choreography an autonomy and a sense of spaciousness that felt very free. 

Leaving the gallery, we walked into the night along Queen Street. I thought of the stories that have become embedded in me, weary soundtracks to fresh experience. And I thought of how some of these anthems are lifting off of me, leaving space between them and pure experience. This is one of the effects of Yoga practice. I witness the same thing in the birthing women I accompany. We have so many tales embedded in the pain we feel. During labour, our songs have the opportunity to rise up from our anatomy and leave us free to be in what is brand new and full of life.

The show, called Draft Four, was conceived and choreographed by Alicia Grant and Cara Spooner. It runs two more nights, this evening and tomorow at 8:00pm. Admission is free. Bring your headphones!

XPACE Cultural Centre
58 Ossington Ave M6J 2Y7
www.xpace.info | 416.849.2864
Tues – Sat 12 – 6PM

 

Ina May Gaskin and Isabel Perez

Ina May Gaskin and Isabel Perez

 

Isabel Perez has been my friend over the last fifteen years. Her life encompasses the ancient and modern, the rural and urban, South and North America. Birth has always been at the centre of Isabel’s life. She lives within an effortless recognition that the seen is evidence of the unseen, that heaven and earth are one condition.

Isabel was born in Guatemala to Mayan parents. Her great-grandmother was a nodrisa, a traditional midwife. Her father was a shaman. After the devastating earthquake in 1976, Isabel, her husband and children were brought to the U.S. by Ina May Gaskin, a pioneering midwife, now world renowned. Isabel trained and worked with Ina May for four years on The Farm in Tennessee. She contributed to a community whose way of handling birth resulted in a caesarean rate of only 1.4% amongst 2,028 women from 1970 to 2000. Home was the environment for 95.1% of the births. Isabel then moved to Toronto where she practiced midwifery until it was integrated into the Ontario health care system in 1993. Subsequently, Isabel has worked as a doula.

What follows is some of the conversation we had in her kitchen this past May. The sounds of living accompanied our talk: splashing water running from the kitchen sink, rice being washed, boiled and stirred; tea being poured; spoons touching bowls; our swallows. Isabel cooked and shared a breakfast of rice pudding while she carried the thread of her narrative. These sounds place her story in the current of daily life. Hear them as you read!

Crescence Krueger What is the most powerful thing that you bring to a birth?

Isabel Perez Confidence. Peace. Love. And trust. Those are the words my clients use, eh? So I’m just repeating them. I have a very simple personality. And that works for me almost everywhere. It’s very simple, the way that I work. Very simple. You have seen.

CK  That’s what I love.  Read the rest of this entry »

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