It is not uncommon nowadays for me to hear people tell of their birth or of their uterine life, as memories of their own, which they have never forgotten, or forgotten and remembered ‘spontaneously’ in the course of psychotherapy, a ‘freak out’, a psychedelic episode, or some form of primal or radical therapy. Thousands of people in every walk of life, of both sexes, in all income groups, of all ages, claim to remember their birth and before, or to go through experiences, which seem to them to be re-experiences of, and transforms of, natal and prenatal experiences. For a long time I was put off these stories somewhat by my sense of their antecedent improbability. But… I have to report that many of my contemporaries feel that what has happened from their conception to and through birth has a relevance of some kind or other to them now as adults. These feeling patterns deserve serious attention.
As the infant is linked to its mother in a profound participation mystique, even to such a degree that it will absorb, and thus inherit, her tensions and anxieties, so has mankind been linked to the moods and weathers of its mother Earth.
It is often quite a shock for people when … they begin to find out that actually the body has ideas about us. The body has things it wants to accomplish, and the body has a kind of very definite sense, intelligence, and intentionality toward us. It has an agenda that, unlike ours is always changing and always up to date. It has its own pace and is most skilful in the ways in which it works with us. All we have to do is begin to actually listen. The purpose of the somatic work I teach, then, is to provide—not exactly techniques, but gateways so that we learn, over a period of time, to connect with the awareness going on in the body, discovering the body as a living, breathing, communicating subject.
When does the individual self, or the soul, manifest within the ever-changing cellular turmoil that leads us eventually toward birth? It is as absurd and random to say that the soul enters the living mass of cells at birth as it is to say the soul enters the body at age of one month, three days and twenty-eight minutes. However, it is not absurd to surmise that the soul is engaged in meaningful processes of its own during the earliest crucial events of the preconception journeys of the gametes, during the powerful events of conception, during the many biological milestones of the first trimester and during birth. Anyone who has been present at an infants birth can see that the soul is already manifest in the baby, often trying to regain its saturation in the body after experiencing such a traumatic event.
The body is the physical expression of an individual soul connected to the Soul of the World and, as such, it is – like Nature – a citadel of metaphors.
Civilization will start on the day when the well being of newborn babies will prevail over any other considerations.
The consciousness of babies, as remembered by adults and older children, appears to be vaster than that of most adults. The capacity to understand and communicate without language, out of the body experiences, altered states and experiences of the collective unconscious all seem to belong to the repertoire of the newborn and prenate. Mostly these attributes seem to disappear around the age of 3 years old. Researchers in the field of pre and perinatal psychology cite numerous accounts of very young children revealing experiences and knowledge that conventional theories of consciousness cannot explain. Babies, then, have a lot to teach us about the nature of mind and our potential as human beings to be in contact with our inner depths and the wider cosmos. This also raises the question as whether the loss of this deeper contact is a function of nature or enculturation. My own personal sense is that it is largely the latter.
Yes – the history of man for the nine months preceding birth would probably be far more interesting and contain events of greater moment than all the three score and ten that follow it.
In our culture we desperately need to stop blocking the disruptive aspects of personal growth and development. We especially need to find deeper understanding of the turmoil which young people often go through when they seem to be impelled upon a path that deviates from the comfortable norm… the Native American vision quest deliberately encourages a young person on the threshold of adulthood to discover their own special giftedness, whatever it may be. This is not purely a narcissistic quest, but a process which is part of tribal spirituality, one which feeds back directly into the community, so that the individual’s specialness is also a means of contributing and belonging to society.
The word ‘spiritual’… more often than not… seems to imply a reaching out to some higher principle outside and beyond nature. Nature is cast as a lower order to be conquered and manipulated, to be worked against and raised above. If, instead, spirituality referred to the living principle within nature, then children could only ever be regarded as spiritual creatures, for in children we encounter our nature at its most alive and spontaneous. We talk of people as being ‘spirited’ when they are animated by life and spiritual when they renounce life. Somewhere along the line it looks as if the concept of spirit has been removed from life, where once it was an expression of the embodiment of life.
Don’t try to improve nature. Try, instead, to understand and protect it.
Ultrasound observations of behaviour in the womb reveal that fetuses can show strong emotion. Observations made between 16 and 20 weeks of gestation during the procedure of amniocentesis have revealed fearful reactions including extreme fluctuations in heart rate and withdrawal from normal activity for a period of hours or even days. With increasing use of amniocentesis, women and doctors have witnessed aggressive actions toward the needle itself as babies attack the needle barrel from the side! Similarly, observation of twins via ultrasound have uncovered body language including holding hands, kissing, playing, kicking and hitting each other. This communication before birth was not predicted in psychology and medicine.
Most people around the world don’t think about the possibility of children being so highly sensitive and easily influenced at such an early stage of life, but they certainly are – even while they are in the womb. In fact, most think that when children are hurt they will not remember it when they grow up. On the contrary children will store all the hurt and have a hard time healing later on n life unless these wounds are addressed earlier in life… We can bypass lots of ills in our world if we look at how we handle our children’s births. We have nothing to lose and probably more to gain than we can imagine. Planning for a better future starts at birth – not ten years later.
Whenever I quiet the persistent chatter of words within my head, I find this silent or wordless dance always already going on – this improvised duet between my animal body and the fluid, breathing landscape that it inhabits.
Most of us have become separated from our natural instinctual selves – in particular, the part of us that can proudly, not disparagingly, be called animal.
In the final analysis, we count for something only because of the essential we embody, and if we do not embody that, life is wasted
A rigid and frightened personality becomes terrified, split off from nature, and cannot believe that a Self or a body consciousness exists that organises behaviour once ego rulership is given up.
Here the basic premise is that the self is first and foremost an intersubjective bodily self in a social matrix and cultural setting. How the infant eats and is fed, how it states its distress and anxiety and desire are recognized, regulated, understood or ignored becomes part of the experience of self and other which is encoded in the body.
When you don’t punish or condemn yourself, when you relax more and appreciate your body and mind, you begin to contact the fundamental notion of basic goodness in yourself. So it is extremely important to be willing to open yourself to yourself. Developing tenderness towards yourself allows you to see both your problems and your potential accurately.
Within that cerebro-pinal fluid there is an invisible element that I refer to as the ‘Breath of Life.’ I want you to visualise this Breath of Life as a fluid within this fluid, something that does not mix, something that has potency as the thing that makes it move. Is it really necessary to know what makes the fluid move? Visualise a potency, an intelligent potency, that is more intelligent than your own human mentality.
How a mother sees a baby’s body, whether she perceives it as beautiful or “good”, or cute, just like her first child’s body, or awful and greedy like her own body, or inconsolably discontent or graceless, is a crucial feature of the transformation of the way in which organs, cells, muscles, bones, tone, smile, transmute into body sense.
[Tzutujil] babies were not measured by how much they weighed, but by how welcome they were made to feel.
Our bodies are wild. The involuntary quick turn of the head at a shout, the vertigo at looking off a precipice, the heart-in-the-throat in a moment of danger, the catch of the breath, the quiet moments relaxing, starring, reflecting – all universal responses of this mammal body. They can be seen throughout this class. The body does not require conscious intellect to make it breathe, to keep the heart beating. It is to a great extent self-regulating, it is a life of its own. Sensation and perception do not exactly come from outside, and the unremitting thought and image-flow are not exactly inside. The world is our consciousness, and it surrounds us.
Birth is not one act: it is a process. The aim of life is to be fully born, though its tragedy is that most of us die before we are thus born. To live is to be born every minute.
If man is a being of mind and body, then embryonic existence is the manifestation of a spiritual Being as well. During embryonic existence a human being is expressing himself (herself). The soul or spirit is primary, the body is secondary, at least in the sense of the dualistic point of view in which spirit (soul) and body are in opposition to one another. But one could also consider it in a more monistic way, paraphrasing the philosopher DelaMettrie: “The embryo is not getting a soul, it is soul as well”. A human being is coming into appearance. To understand what is expressing (one could say ím-pressing) itself then, it is necessary to consider the growth gestures and Gestalt as serious (human) behaviour and to describe them as such. This might teach us. something about a human Being.
The body is the present history of all the bodies we have lived, from the egg-sperm implosion, through all the embryonic stages, through childhood to the present. This body keeps elongating itself throughout our life. But our past lifestyles can still be seen in the present shape of our bodies. The history of our past emotional satisfactions and dissatisfactions leaves its mark.
I believe that an archaic consciousness begins with the first cell – a cellular consciousness, as it were. This cell can store information, react and [attempt to] avoid noxious stimuli. When billions of cells get together we have a most complex and intricate consciousness, but the dynamics of that consciousness lie in the plasticity and reactivity of that single cell.
But how naïve, how innocent to imagine no trace will remain; that one could emerge unscathed, unmarked, from such an experience [as birth]. The scars are everywhere: in our flesh, our backs, our nightmares, our madness, and all the insanity, the folly of this world – its tortures, its wars, its prisons.
There is no reality except the one contained within us. That is why so many people live such an unreal life. They take the images outside them for reality and never allow the world within the body and mind to reveal itself.
Body consciousness… is characteristic of children who live in the world of the body and its feelings and adults who retain a close connection to the child they were and still are inside. A person with body consciousness knows what he feels and where he feels it in his body. But he can also tell you what you feel and how he sees it in your body. He senses you as a body and responds to you as a body; he is not misled by the ‘emperor’s new clothes’.
The mind’s first step to self-awareness must be through the body.
When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in
There is a road in the hearts of all of us, hidden and seldom travelled, which leads to an unknown, secret place. The old people came literally to love the soil, and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of being close to a mothering power. Their teepees were built upon the earth and their altars were made of earth. The soil was soothing, strengthening, cleansing and healing. That is why the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of propping himself up and away from its life giving forces. For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly. He can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him.