NOTES FROM THE FIELD

What I Learned from Facilitating the Ceremonial Doulaship Immersion

IMG_0700.jpg

We live under the looming shadow of the current crumbling system of patriarchy, where most women everywhere have been deeply conditioned by cultural, societal and familial standards to compete and be envious with one another, rather than to mutually support and uplift, to fear from a place of lack rather than love from a place of feeling abundant, and to covet and desire from a place of feeling insecure and scarce rather than to give, share and serve from the true inner knowing that we are always provided for.  Living in such a harsh and arid spiritual climate, one’s feminine essence gets thirsty sometimes. 

IMG_0354.jpg

Women, do not despair.  There is a moist, healing elixir available to us, which when imbibed with discernment, nourishes our inner essence.  To gather together in circle, as has been done since time immemorial awakens and cultivates the remembrance of our true divine heritage.  To reclaim our right to birth our children peacefully, without unwanted intervention and to support each other in doing so is a form of radical activism under the current system we are living in. 

IMG_0367.jpeg

To be a birth keeper, is as intrinsic to our self sovereignty as is the knowledge of growing, foraging and creating our food and medicine, as is to be a healer so that your body and the bodies of those you love can experience health and be free from pain, as is to be a priestess, so that your spirit and the spirits of those you love can exist in peace and unbroken communion with Source.  Women, these ancient practices are the elixir, which heals the wounds of patriarchy.

I want to share with you a few of the many pearls I gleaned while facilitating the Ceremonial Doulaship Immersion last month, as I am still basking in the afterglow of the deep nourishment I received.  For those who may not know, 12 of us gathered from all over the world in counsel for 12 days at my sanctuary in the upper Peruvian Amazon to relearn and practice the Old Ways.  We were initiated into the path of being a birth keeper, one who supports another woman through the initiatic rites of becoming a mother. 

2ccaf831-9a97-4440-b66b-9d0622e53a42.jpeg

During the immersion I was flanked by two wise and experienced midwives, who imparted this transmission. To me, they represented the wings of Isis folding over my soul, protecting it with the wisdom and inner knowing of its true nature.  One of these birth keepers I consider to be my dearest ally and a treasure to my family, she has helped my husband and I to bring our daughter safely into this realm.  She is a devoted mother herself, a green witch, a servant of the Goddess, and midwife by her soul’s vocation, Sunshine Tresidder.  The other is an elder from the jungles of Amazonia, who successfully received thousands of babies in these parts over the course of 50 years despite continued pressure and persecution from the conventional powers that be.  I consider them both to be heroines in their own right.  Through them, we were midwifed into being doulas.

As for me, my role in the immersion was and is a bit harder to define.  While I shared techniques in folk medicine, Ayurveda, nutrition, bodywork and yoga, I consider the primary task I was entrusted with to be that of the ceremonialist and shamaness and to model what it means to truly hold space.  For me, to hold space is both an art form and a sacred privilege.  To hold space, one must embody the container.  To do this effortlessly and without agenda means that the container must first be emptied of the conditionings, outdated belief systems, fears, confusions and ideologies that fill it.  It is our eternal divine essence, which lies underneath these ephemeral layers, much like the lotus emerging from the mud, which defines our true power, grace and being.  To discover this dear sisters, is an ongoing process and the primary focus of my life’s work as well as what I endeavored to transmit during the immersion.

 There were several motifs that were woven into and throughout the immersion that continue to unfold their teachings in my life.  One of the main themes we deepened into is that we as women embody the chalice.  In fact, each of our wombs is the lost Holy Grail, the secret life-giving chalice of the Divine Mother.  To hold space for oneself and one another is to embody the chalice:  crystalline, clear spaciousness.

03D3D3D6-08AC-4A38-94D1-D4DA6FE31039.jpeg

The immersion began with us in circle, sharing about our birth stories.  There was a recurring theme of trauma that surfaced, of being taken too soon from our mothers, of our mothers being treated without respect at the hands of the conventional medical system, of our mothers being denied the right to experience their own birth process in a natural way and of interventions being forced upon them.  We cried for one another.  As each woman shared her story, she offered a small flask of water, collected from the land where she came from, into a clay vessel on our collective altar.  This was our first exercise in holding space for one another, embodied by the vessel in front of us, which was holding an amalgam of the waters of each of our stories.

IMG-0323.JPG

The recurrent theme of arriving into this sacred life feeling fear and separation emphasized the essential purpose for which we had gathered together in the first place:  to become harbingers of change so profound and far reaching that it could reset the future course of our species and its survival.  We each knew in our hearts that by holding space for a woman as she enters the birth labyrinth and ensuring that her child may arrive to Earth experiencing love and connection as the baseline frequency through which the nervous system and energetic body can attune itself, rather than fear and separation, is an act that truly has the power to shift our collective insatiable desire for war and domination to the realization that peace and unity are indeed possible and in fact our birth right and destiny.  We know that the current course our species is on, in which our very survival is threatened, can be rewritten one birth at a time.   This was why we had gathered.

So we spent 12 days in each other’s company, deepening into and reaffirming this truth within one another.  We created altars, we cried together, we danced, we sang, we purged, we lay on the Earth together, we imbibed sacramental plant medicines, we communed together in waterfalls and in the inner sanctum of the temples of our own hearts within the darkness of the night, held by Mother Jungle.  We studied the cervix, the cardinal fetal movements and stages of labor, lactogenesis, postpartum depression and mapped our fertility cycles.  We made herbal medicines and gave each other bodywork.  We attended post partum clients armed with nourishing homemade soups.  We made art, talked story, shared ideas, dreams and visions, we bathed one another with aromatic plant and flower baths, we anointed each other, meditated and breathed as one pod.  We prayed together in the most heartfelt way.  We prayed for ourselves, our families, our communities, our sisters that we haven’t met, we prayed for the waters and the Earth and our children and their future that it may be abundant and safe.   We prayed for you.  We embodied the chalice.  May you drink deep.

bio+aubrey.jpg

  Aubrey Bamdad's body of work bridges the fields of Ayurveda, yoga and their corresponding Vedic technologies with traditional Amazonian medicine and the shamanic realms.  She is a mother, writer, teacher and visionary, as well as an Ayurvedic practitioner, yogini, and contemporary vegetalista with decades of immersive experience in these respective wisdom traditions.  She has founded and co-directs the Sacred Motherhood Blueprint, the Eleusinian Mystery Field School, Qori Inti Amazonian Herbals, for which she also formulates and creates their product lines and co-directs Yacumaman Sanctuary for Integral Shamanism with her husband Dionisio Santos.  Aubrey is a sought-after and well-respected teacher the world over.  Her approach to motherhood is completely unique to her and stems from her experiences, studies and the result of a life lived passionately and spontaneously.

.

If you enjoyed this blog, please check out our Musings pagefor other related topics from the Sacred Motherhood Blueprint.  Our new course, Diet and Nutrition for Conscious Conception will be open for registration soon.  If you know any women embarking on the path of Sacred Motherhood who are looking for guidance in nutritional preparation and practices for conception, this course is the most comprehensive of its kind!

 

 

Transforming shame and disconnect into love and self acceptance through the power of art making.

How do we lose connection to our bodies?

How do we reconnect?

I was in my thirties before I realized my childhood of physical violence and sexual abuse had created numbness for everything below my neck coupled with shame for my pelvic zone.

As an artist my early work was about the earth, the curving landscapes, the layers underground, layers of atmosphere, etc. but their format was always rectangular.  And then at 32, I gave birth without drugs to a 9lb 3oz baby boy. This was the hardest thing I had ever done, and as profound an experience, on the other end of the spectrum, as when my brother was killed on a motorcycle. It changed me, opened me up and I started seeing circles in my art, mandalas. The birth also gave me the ground and self-valuing to begin work on healing my past.

Recovery work was a constellation of practices: talking with therapists, guided imagery, body work, release therapies, chanting, movement, meditation, visualization, a fire walk, homeopathy, a women’s group, therapy groups, Quaker Meeting, proprioceptive writing and more. The one practice that brought me back into my body the most was body casting. It started with a mask, then another and another and then a breastplate. Making a casting of my own body that I then had to touch, carry, sand and fill, seal, paint and decorate helped me embrace my own body. Finally I created this full torso casting, Unconditional Joy.

Unconditional Joy (outside and inside)

As a teacher, a distinct part of my healing has always been to be able to pass on what I had experienced. I started leading workshops in mask making and breastplates. When I had a lumpectomy and my mother had a mastectomy, it came to me in the silence of a Quaker Meeting that I needed to offer this work to women with breast cancer. To assist them in  making peace with their new bodies, women could create breastplates, decorate them, write about the piece and share them with others. It was a powerful healing experience.

Six hundred years ago I would have been burned at the stake because I see visions and hear messages.  One morning I awoke and in the half sleep state I saw a woman’s torso, with arms raised over her head and she was made out of ferns.  I knew this was a gift and decided to recreate the vision. I took a slide of ferns, projected that image onto a black surface, stood in front of it with the slide focused on my body and then had help taking a photograph of that projection in the dark. It worked. This led to my first book A Body Story, with 19 such images of nature projected onto me.

arlaart (4).jpg

After seeing my exhibit of these images  in life size, I realized that when we have an abuse history that separates us from our bodies, we lose the idea that we are sacred. But if we can see the sacredness of Nature, and then fuse with Nature, we have to see the sacredness in ourselves. I wondered if it would be healing for other women. I decided to offer it to incarcerated women and at-risk teens in a therapeutic boarding school. The results of that work became my second book Finding Ground: Girls and Women in Recovery.

portada.jpg

Experiencing these forms of embodiment through art making created a connection with my own body, starting with giving birth, which has continued to serve my life. I understand that my body is an antenna, receiving information that can work in partnership with my brain, but in no way is subservient to it.  To me, embodiment is fully inhabiting the body as the divine instrument of insight, communication, guidance and intelligence that it is.

 The Heart Math Institute has determined that the electromagnetic field around the heart is 60 times more powerful than the electromagnetic field around the brain. The magnetic field produced by the heart is more than 5,000 times greater in strength than the field generated by the brain and can be detected a number of feet away from the body.

The brain is made of neural cells. 60-65% of the cells of the heart are actual neural cells. This information furthered my reverence for the body and it’s intelligence. It also helped me understand why someone could die from a broken heart.

Godbody

Godbody

When I embrace the idea that my body is sacred, it only follows that birth is a holy miracle, for me the most magical event of inhabiting this vessel. I have never gotten over the miracle of my son, now a 6’4” grown man in his 30’s. Sixteen months ago, the miracle happened again when my grandson was born. Everyone warned me about the power of  “Grand” parent. It still didn’t prepare me for the overwhelming, grace filled love that washed over my heart and was then pumped out through every vein in my body. For grand parenting, there is the added joy and beauty of witnessing the power of the birth on your own child becoming a father and your daughter by marriage becoming a mother.

arla-patch-1426367726-medium.jpg

Arla Patch, BFA, Ed., MFA, is an artist, writer and “creativity midwife.” Using art as a tool for healing and personal transformation, she has facilitated many groups and individuals over her 40 plus year career.  These have included cancer survivors, at-risk teens and those recovering from sexual abuse, domestic violence, and substance abuse. For more information click HERE.

Who and what is a Doula?

By Sunshine Tresidder,

Midwife and co-facilitator of the Ceremonial Doulaship Immersion

Image taken from internet.

Image taken from internet.

 For me, the word doula is both a noun and a verb.

The question of who is a doula is easily answered.  A doula is one who shows up when the mother calls. Whether that is running to a birth that is happening in real time or returning for a home visit to assist a postpartum mother and 3-day old newborn in their precious moments of getting to know each other.  The doula is the one that is on-call, with the birth/postpartum bag already in the car.  A doula is a labor coach who has a voice that can soothe and empower at the same time.  A doula is trained to assist in postpartum healing and provides a watchful eye over the newborn´s critical first days. A doula is one that serves families as they grow, who has a basket full of complementary therapies to soothe labor pains, shift energy, and anchor peace. A doula knows to do the dirty dishes in the sink and fold some laundry for the mama as she sleeps. In return, doulas get to witness newborn milky smiles and oxytocin rushes.

How is doula a verb? Well to doula, is to offer yourself as a servant to the waves of birth. To doula is to plan your life around due dates, knowing that your full moon and new moons are potentially filled with babies. To doula is to weave a blanket of community support around the family. To doula is be compassion in action. To doula, is to pour every drop of energy you have into creating a peaceful, supportive and loving space for a child to be born into, then you watch over and protect that space with a heart full of reverence.

Image taken from internet.

Image taken from internet.

This of course seems to be a radical idea in the face of today’s rising maternal mortality rates in the US. Yet, scientific evidence has demonstrated that having continuous labor support from a trained doula significantly reduces the rates of cesarean sections and instrumental deliveries across all socio-economic sectors (Fortier, Godwin, 2015). In a recent study the researchers found that “Doula-assisted mothers were four times less likely to have a low birth weight (LBW) baby, two times less likely to experience a birth complication involving themselves or their baby, and significantly more likely to initiate breastfeeding. Communication with and encouragement from a doula throughout the pregnancy may have increased the mother’s self-efficacy regarding her ability to impact her own pregnancy outcomes” (Gruber, Cupito, Dobson, p.49, 2013).

Doula’s serve the parents by offering support, but also by being an advocate for their rights as parents. Doulas can help educate and illuminate the families they serve as to their rights and options while they navigate the daunting conventional medical system. It is this aspect of empowering families that has a ripple effect, which will continue to serve these parents as their children grow. 

Doulas are excellently placed to serve women of color that are oppressed by the  dominant paradigm. The DONA (Doulas of North America) organization carries an international vision for “a doula for every person who wants one”. Many doulas know that our role at births and in the postpartum sanctum are supportive and nutritive to the community as a whole. Serving women that are underserved by the current paradigm is a radical action that can only bring empowerment to the mother, her relationship with her child, the family unit, and the greater community. The power of this kind of support can have long lasting inter-generational effects. 

Image taken from internet.

Image taken from internet.

A doula’s primary responsibility is to the family she is currently serving. This means we doulas are always students of culture, we receive a unique cultural education with each family we serve. It is a doulas duty to meet and protect the family’s cultural needs and desires as they welcome their child earth-side. 

Nutritive, protective, and empowering; these are all aspects of the sensitive and responsible care doulas provide each and every family they serve. 

 References:

 Fortier, J.H., Godwin, M. (2015). Doula support compared with standard care: Meta-analysis of the effects on the rate of medical interventions during labour for low-risk women delivering at term. Canadian Family Physician VOL 61: June 2015, e284-e292

 DONA International, retrieved from: https://www.dona.org/the-dona-advantage/about/

 Gruber, K.J., Cupito, S.H., Dobson, C. F. (2015). Impact of doulas on healthy birth outcomes. The journal of perinatal education. Winter 2013, p. 49-58. 

unnamed.jpg

Sunshine Tresidder is a homebirth midwife, salt of the earth mama, herbalist, plant whisperer, and temple priestess are a few of the ways in which she expresses her essence. Sunshine has been practicing midwifery for over twenty years; facilitating the miracle of birth around the world from Haiti to Indonesia to Peru. She believes each family teaches a unique story about love and truth, and is an honored devotee to each and every sacred birth story she has experienced.  She incorporates massage and craniosacral therapy into her midwifery practice, which is located in a small rural community in Northern California. Sunshine is mother to two grown sons whom she birthed naturally on the land, and has lived off-grid in the Redwoods for over two decades. She considers the land, seasons, and moon cycles some of her greatest teachers. Sunshine offers sacred space to women during each new moon in her garden sanctuary, and is an ordained minister who has performed over 23 weddings. You can experience her wisdom and embodiment of doulaship at the CEREMONIAL DOULA IMMERSION

The Essence of our Holy Days

Photos, text and quotes by Aubrey Bamdad

dioniynahal.jpeg

I adore observing Nahal´s sheer joy at lighting the first advent candle. This is a beautiful tradition that brings us closer together as a family. We sit around the glow of hand rolled beeswax candles nestled within a circle of greenery, tell festive stories and offer song and prayer before heading off to bed.

1.png

December, for me, has evolved into a sacred time to readjust from my typically brisk pace of balancing mothering and family life with running businesses, seeing clients and tending home and farm to a more spacious rhythm that allows for lots of time with my daughter and husband doing whatever makes us feel good. It is within that spaciousness that I can assess my inner world and take stock of the lessons, challenges and accomplishments of the past year with detached, holistic vision. Knowing where I’ve come from, naturally yields perspective on where I am going.

20181214_111140.jpeg

Having young children in the home during the holidays invites a special opportunity to craft and create things from our hands. For me, the experience of doing so is less result driven and more oriented towards allowing ourselves to be absorbed into the process and immersed in the shared time together. We cook meals, bake and prepare delicacies, make felt ornaments, collage, sew, roll beeswax candles, draw cards and so much more. We try to involve as many people as who wish to participate, as we feels it adds to the magic of the season to share such activities.

Christmas

This year we decided to spend the holidays in Amazonia. Typically, we travel to North America to spend time with family and friends but staying home has allowed us to completely opt out of participating in any media driven or consumer oriented activities. In truth, I have been experiencing such a calm and inner fullness this season that I am attributing to being sheltered from modern society’s interpretation of holiday celebration, which oftentimes leaves us feeling drained.

20181214_112220.jpeg

Cultivating the feelings of anticipation and imagination in the hearts and minds of children is truly one of the gifts of Motherhood, in my opinion. A few years ago, we built this advent calendar and each morning there is a new satchel awaiting Nahal´s attention. I fill them with wonderful, handmade goodies such as painted stones and small ceramic figurines.

Christmas quote

There is such a wealth of information available on the web about how to celebrate holidays, which can be an excellent resource but also could potentially lead to feelings of competition and inadequacy which greatly detract from the essential objective that these extraordinary days bestow upon us.

20181214_111718.jpeg

There is something very special about a woven basket full of candles made from the wax gathered by local beekeepers and rolled with concentration and application by the fingers of our little ones. The energy that goes into something seeds the energy that we can receive back many times over.

4.png

This past year, my mother gifted me with a beautifully bound and illustrated almanac intended to record family traditions as well as special moments, milestones and memories. I’ve been making an effort to fill its pages with notes on the sweet, small and meaningful activities that make up our family celebrations as a whole and I look forward to passing this heirloom on to my daughter one day.

20181214_093352.jpeg

This is our seasonal altar during the second week of Advent. I’ve noticed when friends and neighbors stop by, they tend to pause in front for a while, as if absorbing something from it.

5.png

Cultivating the art of giving with our children, rather than over focusing on what can be received is a practice that yields abundant fruits on so many levels.

20181214_112507.jpeg

Its also an opportunity to share our values and ideals with others in an indirect, unobtrusive and nonjudgemental way. As a nutritionist, I love sharing healthy foods to inspire others. These are a sample of some raw, superfood chocolates and gluten free gingerbread made with homegrown ginger that we packed into tins for friends, neighbors, teachers and employees.

6.png

However you and your family decide to share these precious days, cultivate an experience that is nourishing rather than depleting, simple rather than overly complicated and relaxing rather than stressful. Joy will naturally come to and emanate from you and yours.

20181214_095513.jpeg

No matter your faith, culture, traditions or the holidays you hold dear, these essential principles apply to us all. May these dark, cold nights enliven your inner hearths and may warmth and light radiate from within to nourish the mandala of hearts and lives that surround you.

BLESSINGS FROM THE SACRED MOTHERHOOD BLUEPRINT

Defining the Seasonal Celebrations in your Family

Defining the Seasonal Celebrations in your Family

Growing up bi-racial, bi-cultural and bi-religious had its challenges, especially as a young girl in suburban New Jersey in the 1980s, yet I feel my unique family mosaic is a gift that allows me to continually expand my perspectives and transcend outdated beliefs, as I evolve, deepen and refine my spirituality.

Conscious Conception: My Initiation Into Motherhood

Conscious Conception:  My Initiation Into Motherhood

My personal definition of Conscious Conception: “The intention to call forth life onto this this earth, into a mother’s womb with the loving intent, consent and support of the father.  To agree as partners, to acknowledge the responsibility of caring for that life unconditionally in all ways and forever.  To do this as a partnership with united hearts and some type of connection to the Divine, Great Spirit, Creator, the Goddess… or whomever you connect with as a spiritual guide.”

Birthing Nahal Devi

Birthing Nahal Devi

In honor of my daughter’s 4th birthday on July 14th, I committed myself to revising and sharing her birth story.  This is something that has been on my to-do list for years, literally.  The more time passes, the more this experience becomes less vivid in my consciousness, so I felt an urgency to recapitulate it before it became a vague memory.  Besides, what better way to honor my darling daughter’s life than by remembering and rejoicing in her birth! 

Avoiding Stress in Pregnancy

Avoiding Stress in Pregnancy

This is a topic that I've been pondering since the time when I was pregnant with my Wilder, who is now 4.5 years old. After he was born, I wasn't totally sure if I wanted to have another child or not, but I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't do it again if I was experiencing stress and anxiety in my day to day life. 

Chinese Medicine and Conception

Chinese Medicine and Conception

The Taoist principles of Chinese medicine view the pregnant woman as the spiritual, mental, and physical vessel of the child.  Through the primordial dance of the vital essence of two separate beings coming together with a mutual soul contract, a woman’s womb becomes a sacred repository, which receives these essences and alchemically transforms them into one, which grow to fruition within her.  According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the intrinsic role of the pregnant woman is to nourish and protect the growing being within her, who has come from spirit to be made of flesh and bone. 

A Volcanic Birthing

A Volcanic Birthing

About 70 million years ago, Pele-honua-mea (Pele of the Sacred Earth); the goddess of fire, lightning, wind and volcanoes, left her homeland of Tahiti where she lived with her brothers, sisters, and earth goddess mother Haumea, on a canoe carrying the egg of her unborn youngest sister Hi’iaka. As she journeyed the seas, from land to land, she eventually came upon what we now know as the Hawaiian Islands.

How to Re-Set Your Day - For Mamas

How to Re-Set Your Day - For Mamas

This morning I’ve been thinking a lot about what we can do as mothers to reset our mornings, or reset our day. How many times have you wished to go back to bed and wake up and start again? Maybe you haven’t, but I certainly have had this thought many a time! I thought I would put together a little list of things I do to help re-start or re-set my mornings. 

BlessingWays: Honoring the Transition into Motherhood

BlessingWays: Honoring the Transition into Motherhood

I attended my first blessingway after I had already become a mother and was apprenticing with my midwife teachers. I was deeply touched by this ceremony.  It was so different compared to the baby showers I went to with my mother. Here I was in a circle of women who were all singing to a mother who was preparing for birth. We fed her with nurturing, nourishing goodness as we gathered to honor her and the nine-month journey of growing a child. We did our best to feed her spirit with strength and sustenance for the coming birth. We anointed her so she may walk fearlessly toward the initiation of Birth, a powerful rite of passage into Motherhood.