LABYRINTH OF BIRTH:
Creating a Map, Meditations and Rituals
for Your Childbearing Year
by Pam England
New Book to be Released May 2010
New Labyrinth Classes and Workshops
coming in 2010
The labyrinth is an ancient symbol representing our journey through life, ordeals and transitions. Its single, convoluted pathway begins at the opening, leads directly to the center, and out again. Walking or finger-tracing a labyrinth invokes a sensation of turning inward, then outward, perhaps reminding us of our first journey from our mother's body into the world.
One of the oldest universal symbols found the world over, the labyrinth has been discovered on cave walls, on pottery, in weavings, and in centuries-old European churches. With renewed interest, you may be able to walk a labyrinth in your community.A woman's psychic and physical journey from maidenhood-to-motherhood during pregnancy, labor, and postpartum, is surely labyrinthine.
Parents experienced in birth, without exception, enthusiastically confirm that their internal of labor and postpartum was exactly like moving through a labyrinth. Encouraged by the lively dialogues that accompanied making labyrinths in class, I began to add two important symbols to the labyrinth drawing: the Threshold and Footprints (symbols that are described in the book). Years ago, we began referring to this unique labyrinth as a Laborinth (TM).
How Labor is Like a Labyrinth
Mothers experience labor as a labyrinth, a LabOrinth. “Ready” or not, with the first contraction, or when the water breaks, they are catapulted across an invisible, but felt, threshold. Once in labor or in the labyrinth, steady progress is made by taking one step at a time until the Center is reached. The Center represents the birth of the child, the birth of the mother, the birth of the family.
You could be blindfolded and still reach the Center by feeling your way through the path. You don't need to study the path before you enter it. You don't need a birth plan or a cell phone to call for help! There is no time-line.
Unlike in a maze, you cannot get lost in a labyrinth. You can get lost in a maze, which has more than one entrance or exit; there are choices to make and dead-ends. You have to plan, remember, and think to avoid getting lost (not unlike the medical model of birth).
Get the book or take a workshop!
- Learn about childbirth labyrinths and labyrinth meditations from other cultures.
- Learn how to make your own LabOrinth
Ancient LabOrinth Rules
1. No unnecessary talking in a labyrinth. Hold your question, intention or prayer in mind. No laptops or phones, especially cell phones.
2. You can rest in the corridors. Catch your breath. Smell the earth. Even cry, tears falling into the thirsty earth. In the labyrinths of old Europe, there were benches in the hairpin turns for people to stop and contemplate.
3. There are no clocks or shortcuts in a labyrinth. Once you enter a labyrinth, never cross lines to get to the Center or to get out quickly; if you do, you will get lost.
Once I was in a seven-day winter Zen training; it was grueling. With only five hours to go, I decided to "jump over a few lines" and get out of the pan before I was cooked. I packed up and tried to leave quickly before my Zen teacher saw me. I was sneaking up the hill heading toward the parking lot with my backpack, thinking I'd gotten away unnoticed. Down the hill he comes, Seiju in his black robes, walking like a brick in sandals. I told him my rationale for “crossing the lines” and leaving early. He listened. I doubt he heard a word I said. When I finished, he said,
"You can leave, but wherever you go, you still have to breathe."
With this, he nodded and kept on walking. I just stood there. I didn't know where the lines were. I didn't know whether to go up the hill or down the hill, because I stepped out of the labyrinth.
Before you freak out and step out of your LabOrinth, stop! Remember, "Wherever you go you still have to breathe."
In labor, this means that even if your labor is not what you expected or wanted, even if it's taking too long, or there are interventions that might make you feel like you've lost control, or a cesarean becomes the “next best thing”...the one thing that can't be "taken" from you is your determination to be loving and mindful.
Even in normal labor, you may feel you are trudging through the trenches of your LabOrinth and living your determination in breath awareness. In doing what needs to be done next, and nothing extra, again and again, you are birthing as a Love Warrior.
Breath by breath, you will reach the Center; your baby (and you as a Parent) must be born.
This article and all images are copyright 2004 by Pam England, and may not be reproduced without written permission.<!